Vivid Audio T:dac

Modified Kusonoki-Style DAC

Since we opened our hi-fi showrooms over 2 years ago our customers have often asked us what digital front-end we liked and/or sold, and frankly, we couldn't really recommend anything. Sure, there are some good products available, such as Arcam, Ah! Toeb, Shanling and the 47Labs players and dacs, but for a variety of reasons, none of them were a good "fit" for us. So we started thinking, could we design and build a really amazing, musical, digital front-end?

We knew that whatever we came up with had to work with any cd player with a digital output, and we felt, in general, that none of the new digital formats had much to offer, and too many drawbacks. Most importantly, we wanted this new gizmo to work with your existing cd collection. Like it or not, most of us have several hundred to several thousand "Redbook" cds. I have customers who have more cds in their collections than there are SCADs and DVDAs in existence. Add to that, those same cds will play in our cars, our boomboxes, and our computers.

The concept is to offer a world class one-box dac (16 bit non-oversampling, non-upsampling and no digital filter, using the TDA1543 dac chip), and direct couple it to a TVC (transformer (not autoformer) volume control) that's been optimized to drive your power amps directly with no intermediate or active gain stages.

What we came up with is the Vivid Audio T:dac.

T:dac is a battery powered Kusunoki style dac (dac board/circuit courtesy of Scott Nixon. Thanks, Scott!), directly coupled to a high performance pair of custom wound, 24-step volume control transformers (the "T" part of the name) designed and wound in-house, by Ray Steers, on a computer controlled, robotic winding machine, also designed and built by Ray. (If you are ever at our store, and "into" this kind of thing, ask to see the winding machine. It's cool.)

Mods to the (already great sounding) Nixon dac include the removal of all output components, the addition of adjustable bias and a 12 volt tractor battery (for more low end torque:). The TDA1543 dac chip sees the outside world thru a single resistor (per channel) and our 24-secondary transformers, which are designed to provide the perfect load for the dac and enough drive for nearly any hi-fi amps. Volume switching on this prototype is an Elma 24 position gold contact switch.

Vivid Audio T:dac Features

  • No potentiometer (or resistive ladder) in the signal circuit.
  • Dac board and TVC in the same enclosure for short signal paths and a compact package.
  • Fewer cables overall for lower cost and less signal degradation.
  • No capacitors in the dac output.
  • No active components between the dac and the power amps (i.e. no op-amps, no tubes, no cathode followers).
  • Very low overall parts count for ultra-high performance stereo.
  • Battery power for the best sound. We get about 3 weeks of play from a charge in our showrooms.

As of 8-17-05, Ray has designed a production version of this dac/linestage which will include a number of cool features, such as remote volume control and muting, remotely switchable signal polarity (Wood effect) and automatic battery charging. The production version will live comfortably in one of our lovely 12" round maple chassis and will look and sound great with your existing gear, or even better, with one of our round Vivid amps. This prototype dac/ passive linestage had been up and running in our showrooms for about 6 months and listener reactions have been very favorable, with most folks wanting to know how they can buy one now.

If you are interested in learning more about the T:dac drop an email to Technical questions should be directed to