A recent trip to the Artist Gallery Music Store made me to take a look at my much neglected, 13 years old system which consisted as the following components.
- Arcam Alpha 7 CD Player ( None SE version )
- Arcam Alpha 8 Integrated Amplifiler
- Arcam Alpha 8P Power Amplifier
- Mission 752 Floor Stander ( Non Freedom version )
- Cable Talk Interconnects
- Bi-amping with Cable Talk Talk 3.1
Sock Peng picked up the CD : You Are My Angel (Bevlyn) and passed to the Counter to test it out… both of us instantly loves the Album so much and bought it. After got home, we loaded it to our system and OMG… what had happened that the sound is so horrible, flat and just not appearing.
I went through the system setup.. stripping off the oxidized cables, reading a lot on the web, redo the system placing especially the speakers and finally got a huge improvement on the long loss / forgotten performance of the system.
During this period of time, it also triggered me to start looking at some affordable DACs in the market since my CD Player does not handle 24bits96kHz audio at all. The 4 items that I am looking at are
- Some DIY DAC from China’s – http://us.hifidiy.net/ or http://www.hifidiy.net/
- Cambridge Audio’s DacMagic – http://www.cambridgeaudio.com
- Musical Fidelity’s V-DAC – http://www.musicalfidelity.com
- Beresford’s TC-7520 – http://www.beresford.me
As usual, there are a lot of mixed reviews out there that arguing which is better than which and blah blah blah. I finally made the decision based on the following.
- Budget of about MYR1000
- Having multiple input sources do helps
- Pretty well information / reviews that I can find on the net
- Availability if I am going to get one.
The Beresford fit in the first 3 requirements being having multiple input source as the main deciding factor when comparing with similar price range, V-DAC. With the decision made, my friend who is in Singapore helped me to make the purchase from MusicLink and passed it to me last week when he returns to Penang for holiday.
One notes that I need to highlight here is that, Steve from MusicLink informs that the original price of the unit does not come with the special DPS power supply shown on the Beresford’s webpage and it cost extra SGD38 if I want to upgrade to the DPS shown on the product page. He also said that a lot of the customers do not realized that since it was not specified on the official website. So, do take note on this if you are making a purchase.
The Beresford’s TC-7520 does not came with any fancy packaging materials and also bundled with 2 low cost cables ( 1 x 75 ohm Coaxial and 1 x Toslink ). I didn’t measure the cables but I think they are 1 Meter cables. I also came with a folded User Manual which you can download from the official web.
I thought I am well prepared to see the items expecting it will not be in high quality shape after all the reviews I read online, but since I have not really saw any of these information on the web before, I was still having doubts at the moment I received the package from WK who helped me to make the purchase… I started to question myself if I have made the wrong decision to get the TC-7520.
I took my time to hook up the system, using the bundled Coaxial to the Alpha 7 CD player (Arcam Alpha 7 CDP has only Coaxial out), connecting the Toslink to a Pioneer DV-585K DVD player. Pops in the You Are My Angel (Bevlyn) CD and play it.
Honestly, I was having very high expectation before I start playing the title as I was using a 13 years old CD Player vs the brand new DAC that is made 13 years later… I am expecting for a WoW factor which I had to say, I am a bit disappointing when the music came out. There are no obvious different from what I am already hearing from the original setup. ( I do not have a pair of professionally trained ears and neither good in speaking Audiophile languages… so don’t expect you will find it here )
I further did an A/B switch for comparison, there are a slight different noted, the mid and the bass are a bit ( very very little ) different. The vocal still sounded the same.. The basses are now became unreal.. very digitally sounded, the vibrations that came from the drums are gone when I switched to Kitaro’s Matsuri. Pops in the London’s Symphony Album playing the Final Count Down on track one.. I noted I lost the few notes of the beginning of the tracks.. The music started only after probably couple of milli-seconds, it is very distracting as I am missing the starting part of the music even-thought it is just a maybe minor couple of hundred milli-seconds.
I sent an email to Stan Beresford and also MusicLink asking if this phenomenon is normal. Stan replied me on the 2nd day saying it was due to the DAC only will unmute the output after the Clock is synced and Steve is on the other hand saying I am probably not using a true 75 ohm coaxial cable to hook up the system which will results to this behavior. Does this meant the bundle “75 ohm coaxial” is not a 75 ohm coaxial as described ? I shall bring the cable + the TC-7520 to my work place to perform a TDR measurements for its impedance and also run an eye test on the cables with a 32 bits PRBS @ PCM datarate ( Which I doubt is useful as at this datarate and cable length… I don’t expect to see any problem on it ). In addition to this, if it is possible, I will bring the Alpha 7 + the TC-7520 to the work place to hook up both devices’ Analog out to capture the signals on an oscilloscope for Channels to Channels comparison and vs the Digital sound files to see which has the better reproductions of the sources.
In general, I have not regret on getting the TC-7520 for now as I can finally use my DVD player as a transport to play my mp3 collections on DVD and I am expecting to setup a Media PC soon in my living room having the TC-7520 being the medium connecting the Media PC to the Stereo system. Furthermore, I am still running-in the DAC and hopefully it will improves over time since a lot have reported running in the DAC for couple of hundred hours will improve the performance… so, Stay tunes for future updates.
Added on September 30th * I forgot to mention that, there are also possibilities that the rest of my system setups are limiting the performance since it is a 13 years old system after all. Every components from the Integrated Amplifier to Power Amplifier, from Interconnects to the system layout may also be a potential bottle neck preventing a better sound from heard. The easiest and most scientific way of finding this out maybe through instrumentation measurements apart from what sounded best for my ears. *