The electronics manufacturer from La Manche completes its 300 family of electronics with the new DAC300, a technical upgrade proposed by Atoll in view of the announced specifications in terms of dynamic range and distortion and noise levels. High performance figures resulting from the use of the latest Sabre ESS conversion chips combined with very specific proprietary clocks. In short, Atoll is once again proving that it is able to play in the big league, while remaining reasonable as far as consumer pricing is concerned.
We are very pleased to present you a preview of Atoll Electronique’s new high-end converter. The DAC300 is indeed a very well-made digital source with a large number of original technical specifications and an increasing flexibility: excessive connectivity and preamp section! To know everything, follow the guide! Until a little over two years ago, between the 200 series and the 400 series, a blank area naturally emerged. The team’s installation in new premises and the launch of the IN300 integrated system provided concrete answers. This integrated system launched the 300 series today with the PR300 Signature preamplifier and DAC300 converter.
The DAC300 has been installed in a very elegant, ultra-thin case, no thicker than the DAC200, which incorporates the brand’s new aesthetic codes. The front panel is made of brushed and silver or black anodized aluminum, and the identity of the device is engraved on it. Two wheels are located on either side of the central OLED low-power display. The one on the left selects the input source, the one on the right adjusts the volume level attenuation and the converter filter management. These commands are remotely taken over by the generic Atoll remote control that is delivered with the DAC300. The display shows the source in action and the sampling rate of the read signal. A 3.5 mm mini-jack will allow you to listen to the headphones. Note that the volume control also acts on the two analog outputs RCA and XLR, which makes it compatible with using the DAC300 directly with a power amplifier. However, it will be possible to disable this setting and switch to fixed level output if it is decided to insert a preamplifier between the DAC and the amplifier. The rear connection system is quite extensive and completed with the presence of a Bluetooth APTX antenna.
The DAC300’s machinery uses innovative components and circuits. The heart of the conversion beats to the rhythm of an ESS9038PRO Sabre chip, the most powerful and efficient chip offered by the Californian company. It is based on the proprietary 32-bit HyperStreamDAC technology and its internal 8-channel configurable architec-ture makes it extremely flexible to use. In addition, its DSD to DoP decoding compatibility increases the range of supported formats. Given the internal configuration of the analog output stage, Atoll obviously opted for a stereo output in differential mode. In terms of processing, the incoming signals are not resampled but are resynchronized by clocks made by Atoll based on HMInternational oscillators of the SX7CJ series, one for USB decoding at the output of an XMOS receiver chip, two for S/PDIF and AES/EBU data depending on the sampling frequency 44.1 or 48 kHz, and one for Sabre chip timing. The output stages, entirely made of discrete components, are symmetrical and polarized in class A without any negative feedback loops.
A first stage at the output of the converter with two complementary bipolar pairs BC546 / BC556 per channel drives a pair of Clarity Cap link capacitors made to Atoll specifications. The latter then provide the balanced signal to the output buffer. The power supply based on three covered toroidal transformers, one for the digital stages, two for the analog stages with symmetrical voltages, has been the subject of particular care to avoid that its residual noise tarnishes the intrinsic performance of the conversion chip. About twenty chemical capacitors are used to distribute the filtering work before the required and compulsory passage through multiple voltage regulators. The layout of all these components is based on a printed circuit board that occupies the entire internal surface of the chassis, to which a second card placed on the back of the front panel is attached for the processing of the controls and the display.
The DAC300 is a beautiful object that we will enjoy leaving uncovered. It is for us the most elegant of the range, and its visual (and sound) association with the DR400 transport has been most successful. We tried its fixed and variable output. The latter is more of an attenuator than a real volume control like the one found on a preamplifier, but it is very functional and offers good results. We tested it with three quite different power amps without any compatibility concerns. The DAC300 is very flexible as it has nine digital inputs, much more than most of us may need. We focused on the USB input and the AES/EBU input, respectively with a Macbook Pro and DR400se. But we also used the Blutooth input with a smartphone, and frankly, this possibility is not a gadget, and allows an efficient and musical streaming on a Sublime Qobuz signal. Finally, give the DAC300 good support and cords: it’s the least you can do for it!
This very fine machine offers us a great sound with all the nuances. The DAC300 does not try to impress, but to make us discover on a large scale the naturalness and space contained on the disc, which it analyses scrupulously with an obvious realism. First of all, we will appreciate the sensation of air that he knows how to reproduce around the performers, and which owes nothing to an artificial emphasis on the high register. The latter knows how to remain precise without ever adding to the risk of becoming tiring. The tones are remarkably delicate and neutral, without bluster, but remarkably homogeneous. In this field, the DAC300 displays an analog character, and therefore offers a very unbounded reproduction of the sound message. We can feel it, for example, on the expressiveness of the voices, on its ability to make the cymbals sparkle, with a notion of very pleasant silkiness and a beautiful presence. At the other end of the spectrum, the double bass expresses itself with delicacy, but also with presence, and an unstoppable sense of rhythm. The bass instruments show a marked consistency without sacrificing the agility of this register.
The great paradox of the DAC300 lies in its ability to develop a beautiful energy, without sacrificing anything of its ability to modulate with subtlety. We are quite far from a sanitized listening that would favour transparency over density. This converter is able to enhance the music as a whole, without coloration or a feeling of compaction. Its silent operation provides it with a magnificent dynamic response to small signals and a perfect enhancement of the recording’s acoustics, even when the message is complex. This dynamic is at the service of the melody’s readability, but also of lightning accelerations on a large orchestral mass. The stability of the sound stage is a testament to the care taken to ensure phase quality, thanks to an ultra-precise clock circuit. The width and depth of the scene, the layering of the shots : all this contributes to more realism.
Transparent, open, free of any artificial effect, the DAC300 provides a real pleasure to listen to on a daily basis. This musicality is the result of a high level of legibility and a perfect integration of the different registers. Impeccably manufactured by lovers of well-done work, the DAC300 features an architecture that takes care of its performance through an omnipresent attention to detail. An excellent machine that confirms Atoll’s expertise in electronics, and has the good taste to be offered at a price that remains extremely competitive.
440 x 60 x 60 x 280 mm
Approx. 4 kg
More than 137 dB
DISTORTION AND NOISE RATE
Less than -122 dB
3 S/PDIF RCA (PCM 24/192),
3 S/PDIF Toslink optical (PCM 24/192), 1 AES/EBU XLR (PCM 24/192), 1 USB-B asynchronous (PCM 32/768 and DSD512), 1 Bluetooth
1 S/PDIF RCA, 1 S/PDIF optical Tolink