Now armed with my very own MP-D1 we go to the rolling of tubes from the stock (still good sounding as previously noted) NOS Bejing 5670s to the American manufactured GE 5670 Black Plate tubes. Wow! There is a noticeable difference in PRaT, and impact of the bass on Court and Spark. Vocal cohesiveness is much improved as well.
Jennifer Warren’s ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’, track 5- “Ain’t No Cure For Love”; removing the GEs and replacing them with the stock tubes resulted in a softer sound and introduced a slight harshness to the vocals which seemed to lose some tone. The soundstage was shallower as well.
Going back to the GEs, on Feist’s Metals, track 6- “The Circle Married the Line”; everything just sounded smoother, improved PRaT, and expanded, wider and more defined soundstage, the guitar having better tonal quality, and Feist’s voice sounding slightly warmer and now possessing a slight resonant quality that I didn’t notice with the stock tubes.
The Musical Paradise MP-D1 can certainly benefit from experimentation with different tubes! This flexibility is a big advantage over other very good DACs and is worth considering for this reason alone. Remember, I already thought that the MP-D1 with stock tubes was a significant and worthwhile improvement over the well reviewed TubeDAC-11!
Okay, of course now I have to compare the MP-D1 with the GE tubes to my analog source, a Marantz TT-15 which is basically an up-graded Clearaudio Emotion that has the very well regarded $1000 Virtuoso cartridge and has a $1275 Clearaudio Satisfy tonearm. Set up properly, I find my turntable is one of the best I’ve heard for under about $4000. A fellow that I spoke to said it sounded better than a very well regarded mega-buck ($30K) turntable that he’d heard! It’s my belief that this particular mega-buck table may not have been well set up. Regardless, I like my TT-15.
Anyway, in comparison to my new digital system, my TT-15 wins with its noticeable improvement in PRaT, adding a sweetness to the sound with a deeper, wider, better defined soundstage and air around the voice and instruments. To my ears, vinyl remains a more musical medium. How the MP-D1 converted sound would compare to a more modest turntable would be another question. For the cost of a decent CD transport and the price of the MP-D1, a turntable of equivalent cost may very well lose.
Interestingly, I played my vinyl copy of Gino Vannelli’s Powerful People and the CD equivalent. On this particular album, the CD sounded almost identical to the vinyl on the tracks that I listened to. I even sync’d a few songs so I could switch back and forth and other than the level matching, the CD was able to keep up with the sound of the vinyl extremely well! I started wondering, at least on this particular album, how a mega-priced DAC could possibly improve on the Musical Paradise MP-D1! Well done!
Further experimentation with a different TOS-link cable and/or digital coax interconnects might well bring me closer to audio nirvana with digital media in general, but as it is, I’m very happy with my new Musical Paradise MP-D1.
To sum up, I’d say the Grant Fidelity TubeDAC-11 yields a significant improvement over the built-in DAC of a normal player. I also found similar or the same improvement on a few other decks that I had on hand, so I’d say that as long as you use a good transport, these DACs would yield similar results of increased musicality.
To those of you that wonder about whether an external DAC is worthwhile, I’d say give it a try. Based on my admittedly limited experience using an external DAC, I don’t think you’ll be sorry.
I’d say the stock MP-D1 makes as much difference over the TubeDAC-11 plus a noticeable margin more vs. the TubeDAC-11 over the straight player. With the GE 5670 Black Plates rolled in, it’s a level above and I’d expect it to compare very well to some of those much higher-end ($2000 +) DACs that are out there. I heard a $2000 47 Laboratory DAC yesterday along side an MP-D1 and thought overall, the MP-D1 was miles above. The 47 Lab had been plugged in for a short while and I’m told it sounds much better after it’s warmed up for a week +, but I didn’t get the chance to hear it this way.
I’m really happy with my Musical Paradise MP-D1 which now brings my digital listening much closer to my love of music as played on vinyl!
I’d recommend checking out the other Musical Paradise equipment offerings as well. Other reviews are starting to appear that suggest Garry Huang’s products could be one of the lesser known bargains in the audiophile world, comparing well to other equipment 3-4 times the asking price!