This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

Sound - a selection of recordings used during auditions: Audio Accessory - T-TOC Records High Quality Data Master Comparison, TDVD-0002, DVD-R (2011), 16/44.1, 24/96, 24/192 FLAC; Random Trip, Nowe Nagrania, 005, CD (2012); T-TOC Data Collection Vol. 1, T-TOC Records, DATA-0001, 24/96+24/192, WAV, ripped from DVD-R; Al Di Meola, Flesh on Flesh, Telarc, 24/96, HDTracks, FLAC; Ash Ra Temple, Ash Ra Temple, MG ART/Belle, 101780, SHM-CD (1971/2010); Ashra, Belle Aliance Plus, MG ART/Belle, 121914-5, 2 x SHM-CD (1979/2012); Brenda Lee, Let Me Sing, Decca/Universal Music Japan, UCCC-9111, "Decca 70th Anniversary, No. 30", (1963/2004); Charlie Haden & Antonio Forcione, Heartplay, Naim Label, 24/96 FLAC; Chris Connor, Chris Connor, Atlantic/Warner Music Japan, WPCR-25163, "Atlantic 60th", CD (1956/2007); David Sylvian, Sleepwalkers, P-Vine Records, PVCP-8790, CD (2011); Frank Sinatra & Count Basie, Might As Well Be Swing, Universal Music Japan, UICY-94601, "Sinatra Society of Japan, No. 17", SHM-CD (1964/2010)...

...Jim Hall Trio, Blues On The Rocks, Gambit Records, 69207, CD (2005).; Judy Garland, Judy in Love, Capitol/Toshiba-EMI, TOCJ9656, CD (1958/2005); Lars Danielsson & Leszek Możdżer, Pasodoble, ACT Music, ACT 9458-2, CD ripped to FLAC; Metallica, Metallica , Warner Brothers Records, FLAC 24/96; Miles Davis, Tutu, Warner Brothers Records, FLAC 24/96; Portishead. Dummy, Go! Disc Limited/Universal Music [Japan], UICY-20164, SHM-CD (1994/2011); Radiohead, The King Of Limbs, Ticker Tape Ltd, TICK001CDJ, Blu-spec CD; SATRI Reference Recordings Vol. 2, Bakoon Products, FLAC 24/192; SATRI Reference Recordings Vol. 1, Bakoon Products, FLAC 24/96; Schubert, Lieder, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Gerald Moore, "Signature Collection", EMI, 55962 2, 4 x SACD/CD; Sonny Rollins, Tenor Madness, WAV 24/96, HDTracks; The Montgomery Brothers, Groove Yard, Riverside/JVC, JVCXR-0018-2, XRCD (1961/1994); This Mortal Coil, HD-CD Box SET: It’ll End In Tears, Filigree & Shadow, Blood, Dust & Guitars, 4AD [Japan], TMCBOX1, 4 x HDCD, (2011); Vangelis, Spiral, RCA/BMG Japan, 176 63561, K2, SHM-CD (1977/2008); Yo-Yo Ma & Bobby McFerrin, Hush, Sony Music/Sony Music Hong Kong Ltd., 543282, No. 0441, K2HD Mastering, CD (1992/2012).

The press feeds on preferably dichotomous differences which can be emphasized, turned inside out, vivisected and after everybody is finally bored, casually negated. The press including our audiophile variant needs constant fuel to carry across a very basic message that's primarily based on left/right, up/down, hot/cold polarity and opposition. It may sound cynical because it relies on the needs and habits of readers to not always be pure and noble. That's reality though. If it provides a meaningful way to get across something extra to leave a better impression—or even any at all—I am all for it though.

Source: Compact disc transport, 16/44.1 PCM, RCA input: The opposition that sprang to mind after connecting the Vaughan to my system was cold/warm. If we consider the Mark Levinson N°.512 warm, the DAC under review must be cold. Compared to the Levinson its tonal balance clearly is shifted up. This characterization by contrast would probably survive every audition and each intermittent change of opinion since it remained in place to the very end of my review. The only issue with any such statement is that it says precious little about the device itself. It obscures the truth in the same manner that calling the Levinson warm distorts the perceived image. That's because once we call something cold, it often gets associated with more negative connotations like clinical and devoid of emotions to be dismissive from the start.

That's why I must begin with the explanation that the Vaughan does not sound cold per se. Here common terminology fails us. Listening for example to Frank Sinatra and Count Basie's Might As Well Sing or other great singers like Chris Connor, Judy Garland, Brenda Lee or even the latest Random Trip from Nowe Nagrania i.e. club and trance music, I could point at no single aspect that was overemphasized. Vocals were incredibly precise, well placed in space and within the musical continuum. I will go further yet and say that all of these vocals had very nice timbres and were exquisitely differentiated. The emotions associated with singing so important with the above vocalists were easy to read and pleasant to experience.

Precision then played the most important role in this presentation. It's key to this sound. It may also lurk behind the cold description because any artificial warmth, withdrawal or smoothing would create a pleasant sound which I don't mind. But one then must be aware that something will always lack by way of a constant interpretation whose goal of a peacefully relaxing mood involves actual data loss. If that's what we're after, the Vaughan will immediately drop from our shopping list as the question becomes a plain why bother?

The Italian converter occupies its very own place without ready-made labels. To integrate it within one’s system undoubtedly requires a different set of compromises. The term no-compromise audio by the way is an empty expression with no reference in reality. It only exists in the creative minds of PR people working for manufacturers and distributors or in some dark corners of the minds of sadly moronic audio journalists. The Vaughan sounds incredibly fast and clear. Its dynamics are far above par and on the level of rather pricier CD players if not beyond. Differentiation across all dynamic hues is top-shelf. The Levinson for instance is an absolutely brilliant player yet invariably presents recordings in a similar vein - outstanding but nonetheless too similar. The Vaughan never plays the same thing twice unless we repeat the same album. The compromise mentioned above simply requires taking a stand on personal requirements about how tangible image outlines should be. The Vaughan’s sound is rather distanced because it would be impossible to express its sort of dynamics whilst throwing images at the listener. That would only work at low playback level. These dynamics only work if we cast everything well behind the speakers' base line and slightly reduce lower midrange saturation. Then we get exactly what the Vaughan delivers.