Which valve DAC to go with Naim amplification?

Hi all. I have been dreaming of enjoying valve ‘black magic’ since school, that kind of ‘drugs’ in sound is sometimes irresistible. I try not to set up another valve based amplification system, but to have some valve fun every now and then.

Do you come across any valve DAC that compliment Naim’s characteristics?

I have these DAC in mind, all available used, but don’t know how they go with Naim. I don’t do streaming, and I don’t need DSD capability.

Abbingdon Music Research DP-777
Audio Note DAC3.1
Jadis JS2
Metronome C2-A Signature, or C6 Signature
Musical Fidelity kW DM25 DAC
Totaldac d1-tube mk2

Has anyone tried these with Naim based system? Any recommendation? Thanks.

Valve based Digital To Analogue converter? Have you tried Tommy Flowers, he may have a Colossus solution for you!

I have an Allnic D500 DHT dac, I also have an Abbas tube dac and a Naim Dac which all work really well with my Naim system.

I can also recommend a Mutec MC3+ USB DDC USB-SPDIF converter.

The Aqua La Scala MKII is a well regarded tube DAC.

TBH though, if you crave the tube sound, you really need to focus on a tube amplifier and one that uses tubes for the rectification stage, not just the output stage. That’s where you get most the warm tubey sound.

You might be better off building s second system around a tube amp. I did.


I run a Aqua La Scala MKII (listening to it right now in fact) and it’s a fantastic sound that manages to sound as un-digital as it can, even if it falls a tad shy of really good vinyl. Very natural and uncloloured but not in a bland, bleached way.

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Border Patrol shares some of the same characteristics as Naim, but operates in a purely thermionic realm. Their DAC may be what your looking for?

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Thank you guys. I had a look and I think I am more keen on Aqua La Scala mk II. Abbas and Border Patrol are following the unorthodox approach of Audio Note, not having any digital filter, I think I am not brave enough (?). :face_with_open_eyes_and_hand_over_mouth:

I live in Australia now, there is little chance to listen to any of these before I buy, your comments are much appreciated.

Whereabots? My mate in Melbourne had an Aqua dealer nearby and took one home to try. It never went back to the dealer.

Australia is a continent, the distance between Perth to Melbourne is similar to the distance between London to Ankara Turkey. And it is not cheap, it make more sense to travel to Singapore from here. Thanks.


I believe his mk1 version had circa 1500 valves and the mk2 circa 2500 valves. Power draw circa 8.5 kW so maybe not for long listening sessions.
Limited to the Lorenz 501 bit codec so will need a bit of rework for wav/flac.
Apologies to OP back on track.

I bought my Allnic D5000 DHT dac a few years ago second hand, it has a Word Clock input on the back which means you can use the internal clock in the Dac or add a more accurate/better clock externally.

My server is USB out so I needed something to convert USB to SPDIF or AES so bought a Mutec MC3+ USB DDC USB to SPDIF converter.

The bonus is that you can clock the signal twice, once in the Mutec and then using the Word Clock input on the Dac (using a BNC cable) the Mutec can also clock the Dac using the Mutec’s clock.

This does seem to make a difference and brings everything into focus and makes everything more coherent.

These Allnic Dac’s never come up for sale second hand and has now been superseded but I can recommend you try a Dac that has a Word Clock input that can take a clock signal from an external clock.


Noted. Thanks.

Just a mere 30hr straight road drive, turn right at Mildura and you’ll be in Melbourne

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Dugby, it will be similar pricing flying to Singapore, with more choices in Singapore. Melbourne doesn’t stand a chance for price or for choice, I used to live there for seven years before coming to Perth WA, I know what is like over there.

And whether a valve DAC will ‘get on’ with Naim amplifications, the short time in a showroom may not show. The guys’ experience in the forum is still valuable information. Thanks.

You could hunt for one second hand online. Most of my mates in Aus do that as that sort of horse trading is the only way to trial things often there. And in general they sell things on for exactly what they paid for them. After all, second hand is second hand, 15 previous owners or one.

@Yorkshireman . Hi, could you please briefly describe how Abbas DAC sounds (with Naim), and which DAC chip is in your Abbas. They’ve many DAC chip choices. The way they do things is on the “exotic” side, beyond science, measurements and engineering. Thanks.

I would highly recommend you look into SW1X Audio Design. For the money i would strongly expect any level of DAC to see off any competition. Having heard an Audio Note DAC 5 and comparing it to my SW1X DAC III Balanced with upgrades, I would say they trade blows.

Here’s a photo for your consideration

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The Swix Dacs are really good but just really really expensive. Last October Swix had a price increase and some of their mid priced Dacs went up 20-30,000+ and even a lot more than that for some of the higher priced models.

My silver wired Abbas Dac is actually a really old secondhand Swix Dac (circa 2016), but I call it an Abbas Dac as I believe (looking at the PCB and how it’s made) it was made by Abbas when he worked with Swix (Slawa).

Last year I had a Swix Dac 3 SPX on demo and compared to my little old Abbas Dac, I couldn’t hear a lot of difference between the mega expensive Swix demo unit and my old and comparatively cheap Abbas Dac.

A new Abbas Dac is at least a third the price of a Swix.


Yes Abbas is the very affordable alternative and if the budget is tight I would highly recommend it based on other people’s views when SW1X was in its infancy.

Having said that Slawa has refined all of his circuit designs considerably since 2016. I’ve seen some of his older designs in his workshop. Any current spec SW1X circuit will be a marked improvement. Obviously it will depend on how much you’re willing to spend.

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