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Joël Chevassus
Financial Interests: click here
Sources: Apple iMac, Squeezebox Touch modified + Welborne Labs PSU, 3D-LAB SACD-DVD Drive, Jadis JD2 drive, Yamamoto SoundCraft YDA-01, Audio GD Ref 5 [on loan], Trends UD-10.1.
Preamps: Wyred4Sound STP-SE, SPL Volume2
Amplifiers: Orpheus Lab Three Monos, Trends TA-10.2, Hiraga Le Monstre
Speakers: Triangle Magellan Duetto
Cables: Legato digital cable, Naturelle Audio digital cable, Naturelle Audio interconnects Live 8 MK2, Audio Art SC-5 SE speaker cables, Legato Precision speaker cables, Legato Fluidita interconnects, Audio Art Power 1 SE power cords
Stands & room treatments: DIY, Triangle TS400 stands, Vicoustic panels
Review component retail: €3.100 as kit (boards for stereo DAC, power supply and stereo buffer system). €3.850 fully assembled

TotalDac is a new French company founded by Vincent Brient. Vincent works as a telecommunications engineer and decided some time ago to develop a second activity in audio engineering. For more than ten years he has developed radio and audio equipment for critical environments like trains, cars, buses and mobile phones. His first home audio product exceeds simple DIY realisations and is fully assembled in an ISO 9001 certified factory in France.

Of course like the majority of DIYers, Vincent Brient has an immodest passion for sound and a religious zeal for zero-concession solutions. This his own system illustrates quite nicely. If you’ve read my RoadTour feature on AudioNec you should at least recognize the Janus widebanders inside the straight bass horns.

Vincent is a qualified engineer and radical audiophile. His D/A converter is made from only carefully selected components identified after several critical listening tests. Due to his telecom expertise he has access to unconventional parts and specific digital solutions. The TotalDac converter is unusual for including parts that are rarely seen due to their excessive cost. Here one plays in the big leagues where direct competitors seem overpriced by comparison. That’s one obvious benefit of Vincent’s small-scale operation and direct sales.

As a broad-scale DIYer, Vincent Brient thought on how to further integrate his DAC with his own system. An integral digital crossover is thus available for those who need to separate bass, midrange and treble feeds for active loudspeakers. Both converter and crossover are available also as electronic boards to allow other DIYers to use their own enclosure. Since the box used by Vincent remains deliberately basic on aesthetics, don’t expect big price cuts for rolling your own. Still, this modular solution could be of interest to solder slingers who simply love making their own or want to go after seriously fancy casework.

To understand the genesis of this project, one ought to know that Vincent worked his way through many industrial DAC chips from Analog Device, TI, Philips, Cirrus Logic, Wolfson and AKM. Some were NOS flavors known for their mellow sound like the TDA1541, TDA1545 (used in the CD723), TDA1543, PCM56, AD1852 (Teac VRDS 25x), CS4328 (Helios Stargate) and the PCM1702 and 1704 popular with many highly aspirated CD players of the past.

While he enjoyed some of them, he was never completely happy with their accuracy. Whenever possible Vincent tested them with and without oversampling. His digital filter of choice was the Pacific Microsonic PDM100 HDCD, one of the best available. He also listened to many newly minted chips from TI and Analog Device in particular. This required micro controller programming most of the time. He often considered their sound slightly metallic.