Tube Fans Audio AD-2 Review Audio Art 1
Tube Fans Audio AD-2 Review Audio Art 2

> Summary
The price of the AD-2 even with the optional external power supply is only ~38,000TWD(~1800SGD). It seems impossible for a DAC to be built with such exquisite real wood casing at this price. It seems impossible for a DAC to be built with such high-quality components at this price. However, the greatest cost of production is also the most important and intangible. It is the time and effort that Chief Designer Alex has consumed in selecting and matching the components and tuning the AD-2’s sound-signature, which is reflected in its exquisite, mature and all-round sound quality. The AD-2 is definitely the best DAC you can obtain at this price.

> Digital Design Ahead of Its Time
The AD-2 follows the cutting-edge digital design of its predecessor, the AD-1 released five years ago.

First, the AD-2 uses the same Cirrus Logic CS4353 DAC chip. Alternatives such as AKM offered integrated digital filtering, sampling-rate conversion and volume control and better specifications. However, Alex discovered through his careful listening tests that the CS4353, which is dedicated to digital-to-analog conversion, offered superior sound quality. Hence he continues to use it in the AD-2.

Second, the AD-2 follows the AD-1 in using the Cirrus Logic CS8421 to perform sampling-rate conversion on the input digital signal prior to digital-to-analog conversion. The use of a separate chip for sampling-rate conversion and digital-to-analog conversion is a design that is starting to be adopted by many high-end DACs in recent years.

Last, the AD-2 upgrades the supported digital formats from 16-bit/44.1kHz of the AD-1 to 32-bit/192kHz through USB. This is to support the prevalence of high-resolution streaming services such as Tidal. The new USB receiving chip is made in Taiwan and selected by Alex for the best sound quality.

> High-Quality Analog Output Design
The AD-2 analog output design features audiophile components which should not appear in products at its price. Besides Mundorf MCap Evo Oil capacitors, they also include out-of-production ROE and Frako capacitors used in the designs of German vintage tube audio company Klimo. Every component undergoes careful selection and matching only after more than 100 hours of run-in to stabilise their characteristics.

> Balanced and Beautiful Sound Signature
The first demo was Li Yundi performing Liszt’s “La Campanella”. The AD-2 demonstrated wonderful treble performance expressing piano key presses with clarity, transparency and shine(without sounding bright). It also demonstrated sprightly transient response with quick sound-mass, distinct key presses and exceptional flow.

The second demo was Borodin Quartet’s “Death and the Maiden”. The AD-2 expressed strings with excellent density and definition and strums which were detailed but not overly highlighted. As the performance increased in intensity , the AD-2 expressed the rise in volume with fullness and control and the treble remained delicate and pure.

All in all, the AD-2 has a neutral and accurate sound signature that is neither cold nor bland, but one with the charm of natural musical warmth. This balanced quality cannot be achieved solely through the utilisation of high-end components and right circuit design. It must be complemented by enormous effort in tuning the sound signature.

> Indispensable ADP external power supply
The AD-2 provides the option to upgrade to an ADP external power supply package, which includes a DC power cord using Mundorf gold-silver alloy conductor and AC power cord using Swedish Supra wiring and Furutech plugs. With the addition of the ADP, the AD-2 achieved quieter background, improved clarity, more defined body, denser mids and smoother musical flow.

> Conclusion
The reviewer informed Alex how moved and amazed he was at the AD-2 and asked again if the product has been priced too low. Alex remained firm on his stance. The most valuable aspect of high-end audio is not in the materials and components, but the professionalism, experience, time, effort, and the musical cultivation that the designer has accumulated over long periods. The AD-2 definitely offers the most beautiful and moving sound quality at its price.

Tube Fans Audio AD-2 DAC
Price: $1000(without upgrades)
Price with ADP to be confirmed
Product Specifications:
Input: USB x 1, Optical x 1, Coaxial x 1 / Up to 192K/24Bits
Output: Analog RCA Output x 1
Output Level: 2.2V
Distortion: < 0.05%
S/N: 100 dB
Output Impedance < 600 Ohms
Separation: 100 dB
Frequency Response: 20~20KHz
Power: DC12V
Dimension: W165mm x D165mm x H83mm
Weight: 0.88Kg
Made In Taiwan

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