Totaldac d1-direct d1-seven d1-driver review

Totaldac d1-direct is the latest one-box DAC (along with d-1 seven) positioned directly below the d1-twelve (now Mk2) three box flagship. While I've spent a lengthening time with d1-seven, the introduction of Totadac d1-direct has sparked my curiosity to the point where now newly introduced d1-direct became the only one-box DAC in the Totaldac range with the direct outputs from the R2R ladders!

As I've already reviewed d1-twelve DAC and as many of you wanted to learn about the level of performance that d1-direct can offer, it was all around sensible decision to follow the idea of an upgrade. 


I think it's important to look a bit closer to the overall design principles of Totaldac DACs to understand more vividly what makes them tickle and why they are so different and fantastic sounding. Albeit the technical explanations adds a bit of the reading, I'm trying to follow up to the readers' requests. Many of you simply want all the needed information at one place, to have a comprehensive view of the products and what's behind.

Discrete components DAC

After spending a lot of time on DAC chips, pcm1704 being one of the best I started listening to a discrete R2R DAC made of simple 1% resistors. Musicality was much better than with pcm1704 but some accuracy was still missing. This was the starting point of my ultimate DAC. I spent years and revisions of PCB to improve it and finally use 0.01% VAR Bulk Metal® Foil resistors Vishay Foil Resistors and improvements in the FPGA.

Clock and anti-jitter FIFO

Jitter is very important for sound quality. It is related to the digital source and the system clock. These days digital sources are sometimes computers so I wanted to make a DAC able to reduce the jitter of the source. An external clock is a common solution but it requires a digital source equipped with clock input, it exists but it is rare and specific. I wanted to make a DAC which can work with any digital sources and any operating systems and software when a computer is used. The only solution I could find is a solution rarely used, it is used only in some high-end equipment based on FPGA and it uses a buffer memory (FIFO) to store about 10ms of audio data at the digital source rhythm and output a stream at a local oscillator rhythm. A SPDIF receiver such as CS8412 or CS8416 already uses a voltage controlled oscillator but its command changes very quickly to track the input rhythm and so copies partially the jitter of the source. They have to track the digital source rapidly because they have an 80 nanosecond input to output delay whereas my DAC has a 10 mili second input to output delay.

FIR compensation filter

Non-oversampling DACs are known for their musicality but they all have a problem, the frequency response is not flat and the treble loss is more than 3 dB at 20KHz. This is called sinus(x)/x loss. All DACs with oversampling compensate the sin(x)/x loss in their digital filter. On the TOTALDAC board, I didn't want to use oversampling because I prefer non-oversampling DAC sound, but I used an FIR filter to compensate for the sin(x)/x loss. It is a short FIR for high frequencies only, so response before impact is short and is not a problem.

Frequency response at 48KHz with and without FIR filter, the response is flat to 20KHz when the FIR is used:

820Hz square wave sampled at 44.1KHz without treble compensation FIR filter:

There are no oscillations, it is the pure NOS DAC mode. The horizontal level confirms the 0Hz bass bandwidth.

820Hz square wave sampled at 44.1KHz with treble compensation FIR filter:

When the FIR filter is activated some oscillations are visible but the amplitude and the number of oscillations are much smaller than those on conventional DACs. This is part of what explains the natural sound of the DAC.

Power supply

For an optimum signal to noise ratio, the d1 power supply is in a separate box. All voltage regulators for the audio parts are made of discrete circuits (no 3 pin regulator) to minimize the power supply noise floor.

Volume control

Vincent experimented with many different volume controls, including high-end pots, relays, Shallco + stepper motor, LDR... The best sound resulted in the digital volume control made inside the FPGA of the DAC d1, with a 69bit resolution. It was the only way not to "listen" to the volume control components. "This doesn't mean that an active preamp can't improve again the sound, for example, some customers use the DAC volume and still use their Shindo preamp with a fixed volume."


The d1-direct was designed from the beginning to be the far best sounding one-box DAC in the Totaldac range together with its sibling the d1-seven. 

As noted d1-direct is the only one-box DAC in the Totaldac range that has direct outputs from the R2R ladders. Thanks to new offset management and a special filtering technique it was at last possible to have a direct output like the d1-twelve.

Totaldac d1-direct offers 192KHz asynchronous Xmos USB, optical, RCA and AES-EBU digital inputs that can be picked-up via remote control.

d1-direct supports 44.1KHz, 48KHz, 88.2KHz, 96KHz, 176.4KHz and 192KHz, 16 to 24-bit formats. DSD is an option (DoP standard) supported on all of the inputs.

The embedded custom clock comes with the anti-jitter FIFO memory. Importantly unbalanced RCAYs 1.6Vrms output is mired on the XLR outs.

The remote features included volume control where the scale is easily followed via instantly recognizing yellowish OLED display. The volume control works for all inputs, not only USB. Both phase polarity and non-oversampling DAC compensation filter can be activated or deactivated by remote control.

The proprietary R2R DAC technology implements 288 0.01% VAR Bulk Metal® Foil Vishay Foil Resistors. As with flagship d1-twelve, there is no active output stage. The output comes directly from R2R ladders thank new offset management and optimized filtering. This allows undeniable transparency that was never questioned during the review. This unabridged resolution is of exceptional stand-out quality. 

While the 1.6V unbalanced output offers the pass-through quality being impressively close to the sound of the d1-twelve, lower output voltage allows less versatility than the brother in arm d1-seven.

Totaldac recommends anyone of interest to contact them to learn if your system should have enough gain for this 1.6V digital front end. 

The usual Totaldac high-quality external power supply minimizes the system noise and aluminum/PMMA enclosure with massive pure copper antivibration plate takes care of the unwanted resonances hubris.

And last, but not the least, this DAC can also integrate the internal server/streamer option for network use.


I've been repeatedly asked to write more about a particular audio setup where the DAC is directly driving the power amplifiers. This is becoming a preferred, simplified combination for many of the audiophiles and music lovers, but such combination might have its pitfalls.

In most situations, reality strikes hard when it comes to proper gain distribution. In absence of gain synergy, the result is lifeless, un-involving and dynamically suppressed sonic performance, that has little to do with any high-end audio designation. And this is where a device like d1-driver comes in. 

Totaldac d1-driver (the amplifier driver) is the latest smart product from Vincent Brient. It was designed to be used between DAC and power amplifier, or even before the line preamplifier (after DAC). The main idea of d1-driver follows the quest for lowest noise and the most friendly volume control from the already established and greatly performing Totaldac DAC remote control digital volume.

The usual minimalistic and stylish black aluminum/PMMA enclosure (optional with solid silver front plate) also implements a massive anti resonating pure copper plate that deals with unwanted vibration and micro resonances.

Totaldac d1-driver offers two gain options, the  0dB gain (x1 factor) or 10dB gain (x3 factor) that must be specified while ordering. The RCA inputs and outputs are mandatory on the normal version, but it's also possible to use balanced XLR with two d1-driver monoblock configuration.
The D1-direct driver uses high bias current, class A circuits, that are ensuring the natural low output impedance and low distortion. Vincent Brient has chosen the only top grade, highly-selected components in the signal path. For example, 0.01% VAR Bulk Metal® Foil resistors from Vishay are used in the critical parts of the circuit and some of the parts also custom made.

Extremely low noise was achieved via discrete design, in the absence of any IC and the dedicated external power supply. Stunningly, it matches the low noise level of d1-twelve DAC.

The d1-driver's 1MegaOhm inputs are allowing the wide verity of inputs and low output impedance plus with 40ohm resistor permit easy interconnect impedance matching. d1-driver was designed from the ground up to drive anything above 100 ohms without distortion. The only incompatibility I've found was with my The Bespoke Audio Company Ultimate Silver Passive preamplifier (due to my specially ordered +6dB gain).

During the past few months, I really had time to dig deeper and explore the d1-driver implementation in various system combinations with different preamplifiers (active/passive) and DACs. Of course, the main reason was to found how it partners with d1-direct DAC, but the d1-driver have a wider appeal, even outside of the Totaldac ecosystem. 

The level of the favorable performance shift was unchanged across the various applications and the positive distinctions were all beyond calling them subtle. d1-driver shouldn't be judged by any means in connection with its price tag. It's not cheap, but it's also not utterly expensive and the level of the step-up sonic virtues that can introduce in a properly matched system is in the domain of 20k+ preamps. 

Many audiophiles and music lovers are neglecting the importance of the righteous gain structure. This is often due to non-matching DAC outputs and power amplifier inputs. Especially in the era where most of the DACs are offering the onboard volume control and they are more than often advertised also as preamplifiers, it's important to do a reality check and find out well such a DAC is actually performing by driving the amp directly.  

You'll be surprised how many times the DACs are lacking the needed gain and consequently how much sound/music there is missing.  

Which brings us to the music...


If you've ever had a chance to be a part of Vincent Brient's Totaldac presentations or demos, it's was always easy to recognize his passion for music regardless of material. He can swiftly run through the "audiophile" heavy league challenging tracks as well the ordinary music. Regardless of the DACs in play, the sound was always free of a self-imposed trademark.

This translates to the signature-less music reproduction across all of the Totaldac devices. The differences between the Totaldac's DACs are more in the fields of diverse reproduction's capacities that are closely connected with the various performance levels and consequently with the prices. 

Totaldac must have one of the most obviously distributed DNA qualities across the brand's digital devices I've come across the years, indicating that each of Brient's creations possesses highly unique, but instantly recognizable sonic strength. 

Let me dig a bit deeper and explain the diverse sonic qualities of all three devices...

d1-seven DAC

d1-seven DAC is a unique driving force, a forefront digital epicenter and digital hub with a plethora of possibilities and attributes that allow the unveiling of remarkable performance, worthy of true high-end audio designation. The d1-seven nucleus is radiant, energetic, yet highly resolving. It's a digital product, that offers unique seamlessness and easy potent partnering. No dynamic restrictions seem to be attached with d1-seven regardless of the music genres, but it might not possess the exact crystal clearness of the d1-direct.


For many d1-driver can be perceived as a peculiar high-end device. In a real-world scenario, its actually a hidden gem, that literary unlocks many if not the most profoundly protected sonic and musical traits stored within ones and zeros. I applaud Brient's bold decision of introducing such a device. It speaks out loudly about his broadminded mindset, that is open to dealing with down to earth reality checking for the factual, and regardless of how opposite the reactions might be. 

Many of the high-end audio brands or their designers would see such a move as a tricky one, looking it as a loud notation of the brand's DACs shortcuts. Contrastly, Vincent can gaze across the fence of closed and safe paradigms and perceive circumstances realistically and beneficially to his customers. 

The d1-driver is a device that stirs quite a touchy subject and many of the high-end audio manufacturers would rather just look away and close the topic. 

I'm among those that openheartedly welcome such "radical" products. At the end of the day, one of the most significant characteristics of the reviewer is to provide the unquestionable service of the readers. 

Totaldac d-1 is a product that teases, provides and excel with what and where it matters. Like a definite doctor order that could be most unpleasant to except the d-1 direct is precisely such a device that delivers clarity and addresses the essentials that might not be easy to swallow. However, those qualities are true to the bone and radically accurate regardless of how unpleasant they are for the competition, strongly minded audiophiles and other narrow minded parties... 

d1-direct DAC

To be honest the Totaldac d1-direct DAC came as surprise. I didn't expect and envision such product in the Totaldac product line, but I'm more than happy that Vincent pursued this path. 

d1-direct DAC is an epitome of sonic purity. There is something utterly indispensable about the d1-direct. The sheer delicacy of the conveying the music surpasses the conventional measures and criteria.

D1-direct aptness to shuttle the quintessence of music's message is salutational. Especially and exceptionally within its price range. Having such a compute power that so easily escapes the traces of electro/mechanical /digital stress is astounding. This opens up an ascertainable quality and sets a higher grade standard for high-end audio reproduction by being the concludingly determinable. 

Those virtues help in delivering an unprecedented sonic purview, that many DACs irrespective of the price would envy. 

When music's nub is presented so effortlessly the music's reproduction is elevated to a level that is poles apart from the accustomed norms. Music simply becomes free of infinite classifications.

While Totaldac d1-direct is deeply connected with high-tech everything is not solely all about the technology. Yes, it intelligibly and patently masters technology, but the real magic rests in the technique, in the peerless aural rationality that needs no endless logical queries. 

In the ultimate high-end audio pursuit, we don't strive for maximal functionality, but for a natural, solicitous initiative that can energize THE vibrations in the music's kernel. 

As colors and taste are of inherent qualities, such are the tone, timbre, and color in the music and Totaldac d-1 direct DAC breaks free from any mediocre peculiarities. It's alarmingly distinctive and strikingly beautifully sounding!


The most repeatedly asked question is: "How does d1-direct act against the d1-seven? Considering that they're priced exactly the same it might be even more hard to narrow down the final choice for the anyone interested in these magnificent DACs from France. 

Totaldac d1-direct DAC's 1.6V unbalanced output is not as flexible as d1-seven where higher voltage allows not only directly driving of some of the amplifiers also permit bypassing the need of the traditional preamplifier. 

Yet, when partnered with the Totaldac d1-driver, the d1-direct becomes something very special and transformational. The d1-driver is an active buffer stage that was designed from the ground up to compliment d1-direct DAC and the rest of Totaldac DACs if needed it is a product that can find a great place with thew vast DAC offerings on the market. 

Although I've had to use the XLR-RCA connectors when d1-drive was evaluated with MSB Technology Select DAC two, the sonic qualities were of similar qualities as in the originally intended situation. The enhanced performance impact didn't overblown bass as some preamplifiers do. It was the same with clarity. None of the artificial trails were instituted. Horizontal and vertical acoustic space was spun-out with subtly protracted decays. Arise in believability factor were evident from the very first song, which is not something I can say for even some of the high-end audio amplifiers a few times the price.  

Of course, there is always a matter of system synergy and gain matching, especially with the power amplifiers. Way too frequently the sonic quality of a certain product is lost in translation when it's tried to be universally implemented. Antithetically the d1-driver retained it's positive attributes, without adding any sense of coloration. 

Despite being a reviewer, I'm obviously a Totadac product fan and for many years an owner of various Totaldac DACs. Going from d1-seven to d1-direct DAC brought a few challenges, particularly connected with the system gain. But as already described those confrontations were instantly being amended with the addition of the Totaldac d1-driver. 

While d1-seven is an outstanding DAC on its own the d1-direct DAC opens up a different kind of doors. It might demands a bigger portion of time and additional investment, but the possible benefits are of no small league.  

With the addition of either d-1 driver or both d-1 driver and preamplifier (based on the power amplifier ability to handle the input gain), the potential sonic potencies are extraordinary. Especially for the price, or to be frankly, regardless of the cost.

The similar extraordinaries are linked with the Totadac d1-direct DAC, that intimately reflects a number of the three-box d1-twelve flagship DAC's qualities.

While being a highly translucent, d-1 direct will a ruthlessly expose the quality of the material that it is being served. The differences between Tidal, Qobuz, NAS stored files or high-resolution tracks are dished-out as they are.   

Totaldac d-1 simply derive more genuine thrill, more details, a great dynamic impact and reviving vividness of music's complex interoperation. 

Each of the three appointed Totaldac's products represents not only something valuable product and sonic wise. They also share constitutional qualities that are of defying and redefining high-end audio norms. We do need such products in our beloved industry!

I've spent enormous time with the trio of the Totaldac's remarkable products and conclusion comprehensively reflects in a trilogy of worthily awards. I bestow d1-driver with the Mono and Stereo Highly Recommend Product Award, the d1-seven DAC with Upper Echelon Products award and d1-direct DAC with Editor's Choice award. 

There shouldn't be a problem in deciphering why each of these three Totaldac products was recognized with particular honors. By each year Vincent Brient is pushing himself and his brand to an upper high-end audio plane. I'm more than happy to recognize his push-forward work and efforts with the given accolades. 

Totaldac now covers basically all of the high-end audio products that allow one to build a complete Totaldac system. The next logical step for me is the exploration and evaluation of the new Amp-1 amplifier that sewn up the portfolio and vouchsafe a one brand optimal system synergy. 

So do stay tuned for the next installment of the review with the Totaldac Amp-1 amplifier, that is already scheduled for Mono and Stereo test and review. 

Matej Isak


  • d1-seven DAC: 19000euros incl VAT in Europe, 17450euros excl VAT out of Europe
  • d1-direct DAC: 19000euros incl VAT in Europe, 17450euros excl VAT out of Europe
  • d1-driver: 5800euros incl VAT in Europe, 5300euros excl VAT out of Europe



-power consumption 14W (18W with the streamer option).
-DAC dimensions: height 110mm, width 360mm, depth 290mm.
-power supply dimensions: height 65mm, width 122mm, depth 180mm.
-weight: 7kg.

Available options:

-streamer option. The software is the same as the d1-streamer, RoonReady certified.
-DSD (DoP) option.
-silver massive aluminum front panel.
-115V power option.
-BNC coaxial digital input instead of RCA.
-2, 3, 4-way active crossover or more, by associating several DAC boxes.
-Bass boost.
-dedicated power supply for streamer board.


-power consumption 20W
-main box dimensions: height 110mm, width 360mm, depth 290mm
-power supply dimensions: height 65mm, width 122mm, depth 180mm
-weight: 7kg
-optional silver massive aluminium front panel.
-115V power option.
-distorsion: 0.0025%
-frequency cut-off at -3dB, RCA output: 2.5MHz



office telephone: +33 2 90 02 11 39 (european time zone)
mobile telephone: +33 6 18 03 14 08 (european time zone)