The PureAudio Labs LOTUS DAC 5 from Underwood Hifi
A Complete Palette of Controls and Functions in a Package That’s Equal Parts Affordable and Accessible With an Amazing Price and Performance Levels that will Shake Some Industry Roots!
The Pure Audio Lotus DAC 5 is something very special. Designed by the fine folks at Pure Audio Taiwan, this is their full-on assault to penetrate the US Market with a product that represents years in the making and dedication to the art. Pure Audio founded in Taiwan in 2003, initially developed OEM products for customers (brands) in the USA, Europe and Asia (specifically, Japan). Pure Audio is owned by Hontron Electronics also based in Taiwan. In my communications with them, I’ve learned that their primary focus today is on their own Pure Audio Brand. Further products are on the near-horizon and should be really good.
The Inside Tech
PCM 32 Bit/768kHz – Check
DSD 512 – Check
Fully Unpacks MQA – Check
USB to 768kHz – Check
But wait – there’s more (I still love saying that) … Complete Preamp functions, 7 Digital Inputs, On-board Up-sampling (up to DSD 512 or PCM to 768kHz or anywhere in between as noted in the spec section below), SEVEN Selectable Digital Filters and I’m just getting started. This is one very well featured product for the Modern Audio System.
So Where Does Underwood Wally Fit In
Underwood Wally loves to bring unrecognized and underappreciated brands to the market. He is one of the very best in the audio industry at doing this. He finds companies that, for whatever reason, maybe didn’t get the market penetration they were after and they turn to Walter Liederman for help. The Pure Audio Lotus DAC 5 is pure Wally. Underwood Hifi applies their formula of Internet Direct Marketing super low overhead and in doing so, delivers to the customer a chance to “own it right”. Let’s see how well he does with the Lotus DAC 5.
Let’s Take a Quick Peek
The Team at PureAudio Labs is well known and equally well thought of throughout the Industry. I personally know of two DACs they have designed for other companies and they were both outstanding products. Like any other company that has their own name on the product – they pulled out ALL the stops here with the Lotus DAC 5.
The complete nature of the Lotus DAC 5 can only be seen and understood with a bit of a flow chart.
Rear Panel as Shown
Selectable Digital Filters and Sample Rate Adjust
Features and their Benefits are important in a product like this. The Digital Filters are selectable, and the Sample Rate Adjustment may be turned on or off. This is all about taste and effect in your system. The “foodies” like to call this the Yin and Yang of Sweet and Savory. We all have different tastes in food and likewise our audio systems, each person reacts differently to the afforded settings. I did have some personal favorites. Mostly, I liked up-sampling off and the “fast roll-off” filter engaged. Or, on some tracks, I preferred the up-sampling set to max DSD rate wherein the internal digital filters are disabled for a warmer presentation. Usually, either of these two settings really floated my boat. I love the fact that I COULD select these changes quite easily once I learned the GUI etc. The remote is also quite nice.
I’m going to get to The Sound here shortly but let’s examine WHY you might enjoy a DAC/Pre like this.
Gimme Them Bits Please
I have some screen captured measurements that were taken some months back by a friend of mine (see Underwood’s website). The amazing thing I noticed was the shots depicting 16 Bit Sine Wave vs Average Noise. The measurements were good and perfectly in-line with a product in this price class, but when juxtaposed to once you go further out to 24 Bits – this same measurement showed a FULL 25dB improvement in Noise. WOW!
To further my point (in oversimplified manner), having more Bits is the way to roll and better still… having a DAC that’s capable of resolving these Bits is a good investment.
A World Class Fight Against Jitter
The guys at Pure Audio worked some real miracles when it came to jitter. I saw further measurements that indicated some serious mojo at work when it came to Jitter Management and Reduction. Jitter is those pesky timing errors that smear “the result” and cause many folks to dislike digital playback in their systems as it adds an artificial brightness. The Lotus DAC 5 with 24-bit data produced a superb 1.5pS of Jitter (yes, you read that right). Bravo Pure Audio.
So now that we’ve talked a bit about all of this technically, let’s examine the result. The Sound. I tested the Lotus DAC 5 under a variety of conditions and in two separate systems. Here’s what I can share, and I only wish I had even more time (given my review schedule) with the Lotus DAC 5.
Let the Music Play
The Kacey Musgraves’ “Slow Burn” is a favorite of mine. This track is so delicious and rendered beautifully with the Lotus DAC 5. Reaching deep and extracting every nuance to deliver a bounty of luscious vocals with layers of guitar and scrumptious vocalizing in front with the banjo creeping into the mix along with the other instruments carefully extracted for your pleasure. The pure FOCUS I heard on my system number one with this piece invited me into the mix. This track always reminds me of the beauty of great Engineering and Production Values that can be had with the right team. The Lotus DAC 5 and Kacey at the wheel touched me on this track. Mastered By – Greg Calbi and Steve Fallone, Mixed By – Serban Ghenea, Shawn Everett and Produced by – Daniel Tashian, Ian Fitchu. This is a keeper track for all of us. There is a cello and viola that, with the “right stuff” of a system, you can clearly pick out. Oh my – I love this song. By the way, this was beautifully presented on Qobuz at 24/96 – find it here https://play.qobuz.com/album/z0lfkt4z6mp0a
Up Next was the hard-driving track from BT, “Knowledge of Self” from “Emotional Technology”. This track BURNS with energy, groove, and a big vibe sound. Hitting hard and never taking any prisoners, the Lotus DAC 5 delivered in every respect. There was an instant “electronic delivery”, fast and instantaneous, that is easily lost with other DACS. The Lotus DAC 5 can deliver energy and pace. You’ll know exactly what I mean when you stream this track. If your bottom isn’t dancing in your chair something is wrong. This sort of Progressive “House Music” never fails to wake my senses and with the Lotus DAC 5, I was grooving so hard that my wife (aka Missy Two Shoes) showed up ready to boogie. Oh man, how I LOVE Qobuz. This track (and many others deeply buried like this) are there ready to queue up and get on down with. I was immersed and enjoying every moment of it. Qobuz link here https://play.qobuz.com/album/kqf2cwefg0rqb – ENJOY!
Not to be missed is this living gem. The Max Richter “Vivaldi – The Four Seasons recomposed by Max Richter”. The Qoboz link lives here – https://play.qobuz.com/album/j2rz6oweuvjkb. I sat transfixed through two complete playings. I found myself lost in the music and isn’t THAT the point. The textures were vivid and rendered in full color (as it relates to music). You can hear the instruments each sing their own beautiful song. The attack and decay were easily fleshed out in this recording. That said, smooth was in my notes several times and the delivery of this fresh and up-to-date rendition recorded in Germany and Conducted by André de Ridder, Performed by Daniel Hope and the Konzerthaus Kammerorchester Berlin was sublime. The analog version is known to be not so hot, but this digital rendition on Qobuz is simply lovely. I have David Solomon to thank for this as it’s part of his World Famous in many countries… Dave’s Faves playlist (link here – https://play.qobuz.com/playlist/2098500).
Lastly, I chose this haunting and beautiful piece from Jewel. “Love Used to Be” from “Picking Up the Pieces” (I love Jewel and I’m not afraid to say so). The fine folks at Qobuz have this not-to-be-missed recording here – https://play.qobuz.com/album/b39l4qsji6ueb
I am never tired of her voice and here we had a painted picture of hurt and despair that came through the Lotus DAC 5 in honest fashion. Jewel has this ability to get deep down into your soul and my system, anchored by this DAC/Preamp, delivered the goods in every way. The vivid images were right up in the soundstage and the front to back was amazing. Everything in its place. Emotional and charged with a delivery that cracks open your being and lives on far after the spoken words of this wonderful song. Jewel is very real to me and I hope everyone will look this one up and listen until it hurts (and it will – trust me).
You can believe it. After reading all my notes and using most if not all the optional cool bits, this DAC/Preamp has it all under one beautifully packaged “roof”. I can sum up by saying that this product proves that you can wish for something extraordinary (and actually receive it) with moderate dollars spent. I read somewhere once — “If you’re saving, you’re succeeding.” How appropriate for this marvelous multi-purpose System Control Center.
As Trombone Shorty Would Say – Hold on Wait a Minute
Let’s see – you get a DAC that simply kills it – PLUS a nice palette of features that you might find in a DAC 3 x the asking price.
Let’s Hit the Sum Button Once More
A FULL and COMPLETE Preamp that has 7 digital inputs including asynchronous USB, two coaxial, two optical, I2S and AES/EBU too boot
A 32 bit/768k DAC Core that decodes PCM & DSD files, up to DSD 512
An XMOS based USB interface (still the King of The Hill)
Balanced and Single Ended I/O
7 adjustable Digital Filters and Output Phase Adjust
Lastly – how about a nice full palette of features like MQA decoding, a very nice UI that’s easy to use.
The Kicker – yes, of course, there MUST BE a Kicker
The Price – $1995 which is so completely fair and might be called even a bit unfair to its competitors. A true System Control Center clothed beautifully and completely useable. I don’t say that lightly as I’ve just recently had the Mytek Brooklyn through the listening studio here and for my money, I like The PureAudio Lotus DAC 5 even more as sonically it’s The Goods. Not soft, nor round – just musically pleasing and honestly a steal of a deal at the price.
Bravo Pure Audio – Bravo Underwood Wally
• USB: USB Type B 2.0 Hi-Speed, data stream up to 384KHz/24Bit and DSD 256 and MQA.
• IIS/DSD: Supports PCM 44.1KHz ~ PCM 768KHz/32Bit and DSD 512 data streams.
• COAXIAL : Supports PCM 44.1KHz ~ 768KHz/32Bit and DSD DOP 64, 128 and 256.
• OPTICAL: Supports PCM 44.1KHz ~ 192KHz/32Bit and DSD DOP 64.
• AES/EBU: Supports PCM 44.1KHz ~ 192KHz/32Bit and DSD DOP 64.
Digital Filters Include –
MINIMUM PHASE FAST
MINIMUM PHASE SLOW
LINEAR PHASE FAST
LINEAR PHASE SLOW
‧ Frequency response : 20 Hz – 20 KHz / ±0.3 dB.
‧ SNR: greater than 110 dB.
‧ THD+N: less than 0.0003%.
‧ Output Impedance: less than 50 Ohm.
2 XLR balanced outputs: FIX mode 8Vrms, HALF FIX mode 4Vrms.
2 RCA unbalanced outputs : FIX mode 4Vrms, HALF FIX mode 2Vrms.
• USB Audio Firmware: upgradable via USB DFU tool.
• Power Supply: AC voltage selector switch at the bottom of the unit, 115V or 230V.
• Dimensions [W x H x D] : 430 mm x 55 mm x 315 mm.
• Weight: 5.2Kg
• Power consumption: 13.5W (0.9W Standby)