"Chime" Vacuum Tube USB DAC
The Chime USB DAC is optimized for Redbook CD playback. In fact, it can only lock onto 16 bit 44.1k data. This optimization bypasses the compromises found in all "universal" players, and instead focuses all circuitry to operate on this one specific task. The USB decoder section is galvanically isolated from the rest of the audio system, eliminating problematic ground loops and the introduction of computer electrical noise. Internally, a daughter card performs the complex digital conversion, first by synchronously upsampling the data and filtering to 24 bits at 352.8ksps, and then feeding to the expensive PCM1704K 24 bit converters. A low jitter VCXO-based PLL circuit regenerates the output clock, for spurious-free tonal reconstruction. The output of these is fed to a custom low impedance analog filter and then to a high gain class-A vacuum tube circuit. The output is a constant-current cathode follower. The tube stages employ zero feedback featuring high linearity and DC heaters. Vacuum tube rectification for high voltage provides a soft-start without the need for muting circuits.
The silver version of the Chime is an upgraded version of the original, with improved audiophile components.
"I am quite a fan of the Mac Mini/Hag Chime combination as a very high quality and extremely flexible and fun digital source. Its total retail price with extra hard drive is about $2400. That’s not inexpensive at all and certainly there is a lot of competition at and below that price range for stand-alone CD players. This combination really holds its own against the Resolution Audio CD player, which retails for $3500. The Resolution player is a little more true and accurate to the recording and presents a slightly more flat and fair presentation of a recording. The Resolution player lets you hear a little more detail in the recorded venue and in the individual instruments and it places the pieces in a slightly more delineated location front to back, left to right and top to bottom. The Mac Mini playing Apple Lossless encoded tracks sent via USB to the Hagerman Chime tube DAC gives a slightly more euphoric presentation but really just slightly. The Hagerman Chime DAC really is very very close to the Resolution player in the areas I have mentioned above. There is that slight tube bloom and air with the Chime which makes for a more dreamy and room-enveloping and room-transforming experience ... I am more comfortable in stating that the Mac/Chime combo is competitively fair and accurate, and while it has the (some might say) euphoric advantages of tubes, it still remains exceptionally true to the recording ... As fun, flexible and practical as the Mac Mini is as a storage and playback component, it would not come to life musically without the Hagerman Chime DAC. The Chime gets its bits via USB from the Mac Mini and it transforms them from binary data to an organic and lifelike musical performance. The Hagerman Chime DAC is as revealing and accurate as stand-alone CD players costing almost twice its price. The Chime allows a more direct emotional connection to the performance than most CD players I have experienced, period. The Chime is flexible enough to use as a three input digital preamplifier. Most importantly, the Hagerman Chime DAC does what every exalted audio component should do, and that is creating a more believable connection to the musical performance." - Sandy Green, SonicFlare
"As most of you know, when you introduce tubes to signal path, things like bass tend to sound fuller and bit more rich and flavorful. This was the case with the Chime ... The Chime did a great job at reproducing the lower frequencies of everything I threw at it. From YoYo Ma's quarter century old cello, to big heavy bass runs from Victor Wooten, the Chime hung in there with the best of them never embellishing or coming across as too lean ... The additional detail provided by the oversampling gave a tad more life to my choices in music. I didn't notice any veiling of the music at all, in fact quite to the contrary. I half expected the MIT output caps to effect the sound more, but they disappeared very well. The instruments like pianos which are extremely sensitive to veiling induced by inferior quality parts or mediocre designs were clean and clear. The Chime let the music come through completely unencumbered ... Due to the oversampling on the Chime, I did find that there was a bit more detail and resolution that allowed some more refinement and placements of the instruments. The resolving nature of the treble was crisp, clean and well extended on nearly all music. I spent hours on end listening to tunes without any hint of listeners fatigue ... When it comes to the audiophile stuff like soundstage and imaging, the Chime did a very nice job at all of these ... Overall, I found the HagTech Chime to be an outstanding performer in every aspect." - Scott Faller, ETM
"The Chime has a sense of rhythm and timing that is superior to the playback on my Phillips 963, even on SACD. I also breifly compared it to the Parasound CDP1000 I'm now using as a transport, and it had better timing and detail. The Chime has excellent dynamics and detail retrieval."
"My initial impression is that the Chime is sublime. Its detail, clarity and extension have made me rethink my pre-amp, which I previously thought an extemely neutral and a positive addition to my system. I'm running the Chime into the direct inputs on my Decware Select amp. Its redbook [is] so much better than my stock SACD unit."
"As far as the sound, this is not your typical "tube" DAC. None of the tubiness or roll off at the extremes. The bass is deep, tight, and articulate (this really surprised me given the tube equipment I've heard over the years). Highs are extended and smooth at the same time. Output is extremely linear from top to bottom. Imaging and soundstaging will excede your expectations. There is no lack in drive, dynamics, punch, or prat. A fair assessment would be to say it has all the tube magic without it's usual weaknesses. It also responds extremely well to tube rolling. Pop in a Sylvania triple mica 5751 in place of a 12AX7 and wow! is all I can say."
"I'm really surprised with this one. I was really happy with my Benchmark DAC1, but I bought this [Chime] because I was going to build all of my gear into a single box. When I abandoned that idea I wasn't sure that I'd end up using the Chime, but since I'd already bought the HagDac I decided to try it out. There really isn't a comparison. The Chime is a MUCH better DAC. It gives up nothing in the detail arena, but adds so much more body/richness. The highs are much more sparkly and the strings actually have body to their sound. Everything is just so much more 3d. The Benchmark sounds flat in comparison. I did a head to head today (with matched volume within 1dB) and couldn't image going back. Not that the DAC1 isn't good. I really enjoyed it for over a year, but the Chime is just that much better."
"By the way, this unit sounds absolutely stunning! I now have an RCA cleartop in place for the 12AU7 and it sounds absolutely gorgeous. You've got a very nice product here. I'm thinking I'll be placing an order for a second one very soon. It has all the detail and none of the glare of my other digital sources. Very involving sound, too. Toe-tapping, as they say."
"I received your chime unit and I replace all the tubes with mullards. I am very impressed with your dac. It is exactly what I have been looking for. It is an outstanding dac!"
"I must say out of all the dacs I have used in my system, your chime dac out performs them all. My previous dac was the usb benchmark, then the dcs elgar plus with the dcs purcell, and after that was the audio note dac5. None of these dac reproduce that music as well as your chime dac. The more I burn in this unit, the better it gets. I just want to say to you that you have done a great job on this dac and I really appreciate your expertise in producing a very fine usb tube dac."
"This DAC has impact and is very forceful when it needs to be, and just has excellent ability to make the music sound real life. I've owned 4 DACS in the $500-$1000 range and they come nowhere close to this. I've listened to a $10,000 DAC at Deetes in Sacramento and it can't match the dynamics and slam of the Chime. It is very pure during piano solos and female vocals. It betters my friends modified Sony SACD player by far. Anyway I can go on, but you already know what I'm talking about. Thanks for a great product. Again."
"My buddy brought his Benchmark Brick DAC over the other night. Chime easily beat it."