The Neko Audio D100 Mk2 DAC surprised me with deep taut bass, a smooth midrange, and refined top end.
The model of selling superior products at reasonable prices isn’t new, but in today’s expensive high end audio climate, sometimes it can be hard to see the forest through the trees. One product you can see through the trees is the Neko Audio D100 mk2 DAC.
The Neko Audio D100 mk2 is a 24/192kHz DAC. It uses two Burr-Brown PCM1794A digital to analog chipsets running in dual mono to achieve balanced operation. It accepts 16-24 bit data and can handle sampling frequencies up to 192kHz, but oddly not 176.4kHz. It uses the Wolfson WM8804 chipset to buffer and re-clock the S/PDIF signal for complete jitter immunity. (Note: Although many manufacturers claim their DAC’s are “Jitter Free,” “Jitter Immune,” etc…100% jitter immunity is very difficult. It can difficult even at the >5k price point. Adding to the confusion, as far as I know, there are no industry standards for measuring jitter. Manufacturer A can measure jitter one way, while manufacturer B measures jitter in different way, both naturally coming up with different results.) Moving on, the D100 mk2′s inputs are galvanically isolated which the manufacturer say’s eliminates unwanted transport or EM noise. For the transformer analog output stage, the D100 mk2 uses precision engineered Jensen output transformers that’s reported to provide isolation and gain for noise-free signal transmission. The D100 mk2 can be ordered with singled end or XLR outputs.
The D100 mk2 comes in a svelte black box made of sheet metal a bit less solid that I’ve experienced on other high end products. On the faceplate the D100 mk2 has a solid aluminum input selection knob, power and lock LED’s are blue, and no power button. Around back you’ll find one set of Cardas analog RCA outputs. There is single coaxial and a single optical digital input, there is no USB input. Finally there is a fused IEC power plug and an on/off switch.
Sonically, I really liked the D100 mk2. It made music flow beautifully. Music was addictingly easy to listen to and always musical. Compared to the natural sounding Schiit Audio Bifrost, the D100 mk2 was more detailed and airy with a huge sound stage. The D100 mk2 unveiled more veins of the music than did the Bifrost. Everything sounded more 3D or lifelike through the D100 mk2.
Zero-Feedback Pure Passive Analog Output Stage | 24-bit / 192kHz (Burr-Brown PCM1794A DAC) | True Balanced Design | Galvanically Isolated Inputs | Toroidal Power Transformer | Internal and External Steel-shielding | 9400uF Power Supply | Power Pi Filters | 0.1% Output Resistors | Tantalum Capacitors | Jitter-Immune S/PDIF Receiver (Wolfson WM8804)
INPUTS: (2) Optical and Coaxial S/PDIF | OUTPUTS: Single-ended RCA (Balanced XLR optional)
FREQUENCY RESPONSE: @ 44.1kHz: 20Hz – 20kHz (+0 -0.10dB); @ 96kHz2Hz-100KHz: 3Hz – 22kHz (-3dB), 20Hz – 20kHz (+0 -0.05dB); 3Hz – 31kHz (-3dB) | THD+N: DIMENSIONS: 10.5″ (W) x 2.5″ (H) x 6.5″ (D) | WEIGHT: 5 lbs. 10 oz. | POWER: 120 or 240 Volts AC
WARRANTY & PRICE
30-Day Satisfaction Guarantee | 1-Year Transferable Warranty | PRICE: $1495 for Single Ended (RCA) or XLR
Compared to the Benchmark DAC1 HDR, the D100 mk2 was not as detailed, nor as matter of fact. However, when it came to tonality, they were more similar than not: they were both airy and detailed with pin point imaging and had huge sound stages. The DAC1 HDR was at times a bit too detailed, coating music in a bit of top end artificiality while the D100 mk2 was a bit smoother throughout the range."…the D100 mk2 sounded smoother throughout each track."
Listening to less well recorded music, 128kbps MP3′s (I know their the bain of the earth, but hey, it’s a test! You’ll live.) the D100 mk2 wasn’t able to uncover as many layers and the sound stage depth front to back and side to side wasn’t quite as a pronounced as the DAC1 HDR. On the other hand the DAC1 HDR was less forgiving and can sound strident during some passages, whereas the D100 mk2 sounded smoother throughout each track. If your listening proclivities are mostly toward computer music, the D100 mk2 may be your golden ticket, but keep in mind you’ll have to buy a USB/S/PDIF converter.
What We Liked:
- Patron performance at a Jose Cuervo price
- Bass was controlled with great depth and definition
- Musical and involving
- Pin-point imaging
What We Didn’t Like:
- Limited number of inputs and no USB
- Other DAC’s offer more features for the money
The Neko Audio D100 mk2 was a hoot to have in my system. It more than did its job of bringing out the best in my musical selections. I only wish it had a USB input which would make the transition to computer audio less painful. Indeed the competition has gotten stiffer since the D100 mk2 was first introduced, however, it’s about the music and on that front the Neko Audio D100 mk2 is a winner.
Author and Associated Equipment
Speakers- Newform Research R645
Amplifier- Heed Obelisk Si w/X2 Power Supply
Digital Processor- Schiit BiFrost, Heed DACtil 1.0 DAC Module
Sources- Squeezebox Touch, PS3
Cables- DH Labs Silver Sonic, MIT EXp2, Signal Cable MagicPower Cord
Accessories- Homebrew x2 Isobases, Ikea Lack Audio Rack
Manufacturer ContactNeko Audio LLC
P.O. Box 23405
San Jose, CA 95153-3405