Lab12 dac1 Special Edition test and review insights

From Greece with love

Highly anticipated Stratos Vichos Lab12 dac1 Special Edition finally arrived at Mono & Stereo HQ's. This DAC seem to cos quite some stir based on emails received once I announced the upcoming review. So here we go..

Digital audio is no longer something that will luckily happen in future. It's an everyday reality. Everything within this domain changing so rapidly. Did this fast forward race brought us such an advancment in quality of digital reproduction as this speeds seems to promise?

Quick and brief answer might be yes. In general more exact elaboration would bring us to the question of real progress. Noumerous DAC's came and go through my hands, but so far only ones, that left some good/great impressions were in some way connected to the "old" tech and tubes. Along so called non oversampling design I put lot of my hopes into upcoming DSD 64, DSD 128 etc. We'll see how this trend will catch on, but along DSD Greek's Lab12 quest for the "right" sound is more then welcomed.

NOS seems to be in of some sort of revival. More precisely actually never left the scene. With few 'famous' DAC chips being prominent all trough the year. While TDA 1541 can stand on it own with one unit per channel 1543 needs a parallel stacking to achieve right bits and consenting performance.

Looks and the charm

I really love the looks, and approach of this converter. For even more attraction there are colour customisation and SE features. It seems Stratos took a lot of time, passion with combining great material and know how to implemented the into dac1.

Whenever I see the Luxury car paint connected to high-end gear my blood boils. And if you want to boiled even further check out some specs of normal and SE version below. If I recall right Kondo san and Masaki San went with 16 x 16 bit DAC's in non oversampling mode. Stratos is working his way up with 8 x 16 bit. Now everything above mention combined got my full attention and curiosity. This must be a right path.

First encounter of a third kind

Meet LAB12 from DAC1 Greece. From the first encounter with the device I knew I deal with the product of passion and with some real audiophile dna. DAC1 SE comes with front panel painted in fashion automobile colour, additional tube stage, ebony triangle placed feet, TDA 1543 DAC's, vintage styled vu meters (why nobody is using those! in DAC's beats me) etc.

See the reviewed sample colour finish. Elegant! I openly admit that I fall flat for DAC1 SE aesthetic. There is something about its aura that just sits well. I guess its the right mixture of everything and as you'll read on, perhaps Stratos and I share some similar views.

From the first song played through LAB12 from DAC1 SE it was clear to me that this wasn't just another NOS DAC. Sound was complete with timbre and colour working in the seamless way in the path of music. All that plus unexpected added clarity. Usually NOS DAC's character can be on to dark side. Stratos managed to ignite enough of contemporary slam into the whole "package."

Music impact

On Police's Wrapped around your finger from the legendary album Synchronicity, Sting vocal came with well known depth, but when snare drum kicked in it snapped with a refreshing attack. This is what I was referring to above with contemporary 'slam'. Not the punch I was expecting... 

Astrid Gilberto vocal was mesmerising as it was simply air-out in the ether. She detached herself in three dimensionality and with an relief like depth location. So this is leading to...

One thing that I could easily and instantly say about DAC1 SE stand out feature is a wider/broad presentation. DAC1 SE from LAB12 speaker disappearing act that reminded me on vinyl of few occasion. Not sure I can give a hint of a better remark then that. 

There is always a variety things that might work greatly with a certain product, but it's often hard to point out a certain aspect. With DAC1 the disappearing act is cleary one of the stand out attributes.

One of our readers asked me to recommend the most euphonic, liquid, smooth, lush, and warm sounding DAC. DAC1 SE from LAB12 for sure pack all of these attributes under one chassis to an interesting extend, that is more then worthy of exploring.  DAC1 SE from LAB12 a passionate package ready to serve an emotional and clear presentation o music.

Listening fatigue

Perhaps the most important thing connected with NOS DAC's is the lack or small percentage of phenomena called listening fatigue. When dealing with the transfer of digital files to sound there is always a flavour carried across the processing. It comes in the form of digitalis that brings some sort of unease feeling after listening for a certain time period. This is one of the things that sets digital audio experience from vinyl or analog in general. Even top state of the art DAC's are not prone to this. With vinyl there is a continuing flow of unrestricted audio energy that rarely brings along artifacts that would make a listening unpleasant. DAC1 SE from LAB12 carries an ammount of vinyl like character that puts many of rival DAC's costing much more to an envious asylum. 

Summing the dots

This is Stratos Vichos first commercial product and he really connected dots well. I can only look forward about upcoming LAB12 products as DAC SE sets a firm and strong ground for the company present and future roots into high-end audio society.

main features

8 x 16bit dacs in Non Oversampling mode
Triode tube I/V analog output stage
6 Separate Regulated Power Supplies
Dale 1% (digital stage) and AB carbon Resistors (analog stage)
Audiophile capacitors (Nichicon gold tune)
Gold plated RCA Teflon (input, output)
Analog retro VU meters
Metallic color finish (Lexus white, Porsche black)

features (special edition)

8 x 16bit dacs in Non Oversampling mode(matched)
Triode tube I/V analog output stage (Philips special quality 1960)
Jantzen Superior-z coupling capacitors
6 Separate Regulated Power Supplies
Dale 1% (digital stage) and AB carbon Resistors (analog stage)
High Capacity Audiophile capacitors (Nichicon gold tune)
WIMA dacs' bypass capacitors
Better vibration isolated chassis
Heavy aluminum feet or ebony wood cones
Gold plated RCA Teflon (input, output)
Analog retro VU meters
Metallic color finish (Lexus white, Porsche black, custom colors)


Power : 230/240 Vac 50Hz
Power consumption: 20 watt max
Inputs: 1xSPDIF (Coaxial RCA), 1xUSB2
Frequency response: 20Hz to 20 KHz +0dB/-1dB
Output level: 1.90V RMS
THD: < 0.2%
Input: 24 bit/96 KHz
Dimension (WxHxD): 29cm x 11cm x 43cm
Weight: 5 Kg

Matej Isak. Mono and Stereo ultra high end audio magazine. All rights reserved. 2006-2013. ..:: None of the original text, pictures, that were taken by me, links or my original files can be re-printed or used in any way without prior permission! ::..