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Danish Audio Design DAC 05 and DAC 10 Review Print E-mail
Wednesday, 18 May 2011
Article Index
Danish Audio Design DAC 05 and DAC 10 Review
Listening and Conclusion


I spent several weeks with the DAC 05 and 10, which allowed me ample time to hear each in the same system and configuration. I connected first the DAC 05 – and subsequently 10 - to Emotiva’s ERC-1 CD player, to compare the two DACs. The units I received were built just weeks before they arrived at my door, so Nielsen advised giving them a couple weeks burn-in before critical listening. 
My first impression of the DAC 05 working with the ERC-1 was that the music had a slightly richer tonal palette and the crisp edges were softened but not dulled. The ERC-1 is a very detailed player, but can sound a bit dry with some recordings – even powered by tube gear. I can’t say I was blown out of the water by what I first heard, but I soon would be. 

One of my “Ah-hah” moments with the DAC 05 came on a Saturday morning when my wife put Blondie’s The Best Of Blondie CD into the player. I had always appreciated Blondie’s music but would not consider myself a fan of the band. Yet as songs including “Heart Of Glass” and “The Tide As High” flowed from the speakers I couldn’t deny how engaging and full the music sounded. The music was airy, clean and dynamic, and revealed how good this Redbook CDs can sound. I would compare it to a cross of a very good vinyl recording and SACD. If it didn’t make the hairs on my neck stand up, it certainly got my attention. The musical and textural detail was outstanding. And it was the musical texture of this and many other recordings that I came to appreciate more and more listening with the DAC 05 in place. Revisiting Cheap Trick’s terrific 2006 recording, Rockford, what struck me was the depth of the arrangements of tunes such as “If It Takes A Lifetime” and how much fun it is hearing all the musical kibbles and bits with the polish of a main course. 

I’ve said before that one characteristic of a really good component is that it makes you want to keep listening to music. A fine component can also reveal the magic in a song that you may never have truly appreciated before. That happened several times for me with the DAC 10. Irish blues-rocker Rory Gallagher is one of my favorite guitarists and I’ve heard most of his recordings dozens of times. I have my shortlist of what I consider Gallagher’s top tunes, but that list grew ever longer as I listened again with the DAC 10 in the audio chain. One song that jumped out at me was “Continental Op,” from the 1988 Defender album. Beyond the joy of hearing this master play his Fender Strat, I heard Gallagher’s singing in a new light. His voice had a confidence and muscularity that made the recording sound almost like a remix – like a live remix. Gallagher’s star shone brightest on the concert stage, and it’s hard to imagine a “definitive” performance of “Continental Op” coming from anywhere but a live venue; here was a sonic argument for the studio version to be strongly considered for such an accolade. And those rich tonal colors flourished no matter the music I played. 

What distinguishes the 05 and 10? For me, the DAC 10 has a bigger, broader and more analog-like sound. It also has better dynamics and separation of instruments and voices. Compared to another Scandinavian-designed DAC that I reviewed earlier here on - Hegel Music’s HD10  - I would describe the Danish Audio DACs as slightly warmer sounding, with the 10 providing overall better dimensionality and larger soundstage. The DAC 05 and HD10 were more comparable and similar in sound. Where the Hegel – and other DACs – may have the upper hand is simply the versatility afforded by additional digital inputs such as USB and Optical, and if you want up-sampling options. Otherwise…

Danish Audio Design DAC 05

Final Thoughts

The DAC 05 and DAC 10 are straightforward and effective models that would work well in most mid- to upper-end systems and for those looking for a “set-it-and-forget” component. The DAC 05 is a plucky music maker that captures the intensity and drive of recordings while exposing their nuances in an impressively large soundstage. The DAC 10 can take your music collection to new places. Its big, dynamic, emotionally satisfying sound creates a vivid musical picture of the pieces and piece as a whole. Either way, either DAC, Nielsen’s approach is refreshing in an audiophile world that often takes itself too seriously and puts the machine ahead of the music. We should all remember that it’s about music, not technology. Right?

System Setup

Danish Audio Design DAC 05 and DAC 10
Grant Fidelity A-348 Integrated Tube Amplifier
Yamaha DV-S5770 DVD-Audio/Video/SACD Player
Emotiva Audio ERC-1 CD player
Better Cables Premium Anniversary Edition Speaker Cables (3 meter/bananas) 
Better Cables Silver Serpent Anniversary Edition Interconnects (1 meter pair)
Snell Acoustics Type K loudspeakers
Plateau STS-30 Speaker Stands

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