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DAC - DAC Lite-83
DAC Lite-83



Serial number of the reviewed unit: 201 2032522x (*)
Reviewer:
Nounours
Associated equipment: see. Reference System #4 → :
Source: Metronome Technologie T2A Signature with Reference Power Supply, DAC Counterpoint DA-10 fully upgraded by Mike ELLIOTT, Digital cable Stereolab
XV2-Ultra with BNC connectors
Preamp: Threshold Fet-10 He upgraded Level 1
Amp: Threshold SA/6e 125W class A monoblocks
Speakers: ProAc Response 3.8
Subwoofer: based on Audax 33cm, PR330M0
Modulation cables: Tempo Electric Silver/Teflon with Eichmann Silver bullets, Signal Cable Silver Resolution with Eichmann Silver bullets
Speaker Cable: Element cable
Power cable: Jorma super power cord x 4, custom cable based on Belden 83802 with Furutech connectors
Power conditioner: System and Magic, model Blacknoise Six
Stands: Target Audio
Accessories: Euphonia D-30 cones under everey device
Retail price: 1.100$

(*): the last digit is replaced by "x" to protect privacy.


I-INTRODUCTION.

The Lite-83 DAC is the head of DAC range of the manufacturer, and has been creating the buzz on Internet over the past months, the various feedbacks being largely positive and emphasized on the following qualities:
  • exceptional musical performance at this price point
  • exceptional manufacturing qualities at this price point

As you can expect, Threshold Lovers wanted to verify if the buzz is justified !...

Lite is a Chinese manufacturer, meaning that it usually does not generate a high interest from us... You will have to refer to our local importer to get information as the Lite Website is very well hidden.


II-GENERAL PRESENTATION AND SPECIFICATIONS.


The external look of the Lite-83 is impressive, and the device comes in 2 parts: the main cabinet and the external power supply.

Lite-83_external.jpg


The DAC unit weights 8kg whereas the power supply weights 5kg: this gives you an idea of the manufacturing quality, at least you can be sure that the chassis are robust: if you unscew the chassis, then you get a confirmation, and the main cabinet is particularly thick, clearly the most robust we have seen in this price range (and above...). We could expect a "Mde in USA" or "Made in Germany" sticker provided the thickness of the cabinet...

The main unit is: 405 x 210 x 100 mm : therefore the Lite-83 does not belong to the portable DACs category.

The external power supply genrates the same feeling of solidity than the main unit. The (two) DC cables going from the Power Supply to the main unit are particularly thick: they should have a huge sheld.
ps_external.jpg


At this stage we know nothing about its musicality but we are already positively suprised: it is the first chinese product that provides us with such a feeling of manufacturing quality.

The technical specifications are surprinsingly interesting for this price category:
  • DACs are 4 x Burr Brown PCM 1704K
  • External power supply for a high S/N ratio: 110 dB (A)
  • Fully balanced circuit design (meaning not only providing a XLR output)
  • Pure Class A output stage, no negative feedback
  • Discrete FET circuit without any op amp
  • Accepts 44.1Khz - 96Khz signal
  • De-jitter + Upsampling circuit to 24bit / 192KHz
  • Inputs: 1 x Coaxial SPDIF, 1 AES / EBU balanced XLR, 1 optical (Toslink), 1 I2S.
  • Output: 1 RCA pair, 1 XLR pair
  • Total harmonic distortion: <0.0005%
  • Dynamic range: >133dB
The rear face confirms this and looks like this:
lite-83_back.jpg

Note that there is an I2S input to be used with an I2S capable drive, such as the Lite LT-1 for an optimum performance.

By looking inside the main unit, the build quality appears clearly and surprises at this price point:
Lite-83_interieur_small.jpg

The parts are of good quality: FET transistors, quality capacitors, 2N3055 transitors (very robust). As you will see later, I have tried to upgrade a few parts, but for the first time I have not got any improvement...
Note that the red circled part is unidentifed: Lite has removed the part reference number.

The US and Europeans manufacturers should pay attention to the move that culd be initiated by such devices: if the Chinese are able to manufacture high quality products at this price point, they are in a risky business ! , even if, as you already know, we are usually very sceptic regarding the chinese products...

The external power supply is also nice:

alim_Lite-83_originale-1_small.jpg

The capacitors are of a good quality, and only the two blue Philips 3.000µF 35V did not convince me: but as you will read later on, I was wrong and they are wery well adapted to the device.

As a summary, this chinese DAC is really surprising, and I still do not understand how they can achieve a so high standard a this price point...


III-LISTENING SESSIONS.

The listening sessions have been done on our Reference System #4 that we perfectly know, and compared it to our reference DAC.

The first thing you must know is that this DAC do require to be let turned on at least 24-48 hours before any serious listening: it needs this period to reach its normal temperature and this is absolutely mandatory, because the difference in the musical quality is huge after this period.

Immediately after the listening session starts, you think: « waouh, this DAC does not sound like a budget DAC » ! You have to forget the sound of all the DAC around 1.000$ that were produced 3-4 years before: this DAC is really an excellent DAC and sound more like what you got 4 years ago in the 10.000$ range.

The digital world is still evolving and improving, whereas the prices go down, and the Lite-83 demonstrates that it is therefore possible to get a very high quality from a CD without being obliged to spend the price of a big car in a single DAC.

The 1st thing you notice when starting a serious listening session, is the soundstage: it is very large and opened, larger than on our reference DAC ! The Lite is a winner on this criteria.

Next, the level of detail is also very high. Not as high than on our reference DAC, but not far from it. At this price level, we are very surprised. It even win by a large margin over the Audionote DAC 4.1 LE, and performs as well as the Audionote 4.1 LE upraded with the Teflon capacitors (the article related to the upgraded Audionote DAC 4.1 LE will be issued in the future, as our website currently -Jan 6th, 2013- presents only the standard version of the Audionote 4.1 LE ).

The balance of the Lite-83 is excellent over the entire spectrum. Its personnality is never agressive, the highs being, -maybe-, a little attenuated compared to the rest, but it is so light that you can detect this only by an A/B comparison to a state of the art DAC. The bass is present and bodied.
The music is liquid enough, like the excellent DACs know how to do.

So, as a summary, what does it miss compared to our refernce DAC ? Very very small things:
  • the level of ultimate details id not totally as perfect as on our reference DAC (which compete with 20k$ DACs...)
  • the ambiance is not as transparent and perfect
  • the Lite-83 does not deliver a digital sound, it is ananlogic, but maybe not as analogic than our reference DAC.
For these reasons, we cannot give it our ultiimate award, the « 5 stars - satet of the Art » award, but it clearly gets the 5 stars award.

Pros:
  • Excellent musical performance at this price point
  • Ecellent manufacturing quality at this price point
  • Very large soundstage
  • Global homogeneity
  • 24 bits /192 kHz compatible
  • External power supply
  • I2S input
  • XLR inputs (true symetrical) and outputs
  • Chassis is thick and excellent
  • Price/musicality ratio is excellent

Cons:
  • The LED display ispale green, not beautiful
  • No USB input, nor Asynchronous USB input: as the dematerialized music increases its market share, this becomes more and more important.
  • Optical input not reliable in my case
  • It miss a very little thing to be as magic as my reference DAC
  • Some people will prefer a more tubey sound
TL_5.jpg


IV-UPGRADE.

As we often did in the past, we have upgraded a few parts to try to improve its musical performance. But the parts are quality parts and the upgrade was not obvious.
We changed the following:
  • The blue Philips 3.000µF 35 V power supply capacitors were replaced by two MUNDORF M-Lytic 22.000µF 40V 125°C.
  • The 4 GED capacitors in the analog section have been replaced by the CLARITYCAP MR, the same that I have used in the Conrad-Johson Premier Ten preamplifier upgrade.
Here is a photo of the upgraded power supply:
Lite-83_upgraded_PS_internal_small.jpg


and here is a photo of the upgraded DAC:

Lite-83_internal_upgraded.jpg

But after these upgrades, we have to recognize for the very first time, that we have not improved the musical results.
So for the time being, we do not recommend to change anything to this unit.

The rank of the Lite-83 remains unchanged after this upgrade:
TL_5.jpg

A dedicated topic related to this device is available on our FORUM here: http://www.thresholdlovers.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=8

This article has been written by Nounours18200 - January 2013.

Creation date : 05/01/2013 @ 21:16
Last update : 25/01/2013 @ 20:28
Category : DAC
Page read 3687 times


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