Border Patrol SE-i DAC Review

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  • JayCee
    JayCee Posts: 1,493
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    @pearsall001, still in love w/the DAC?
    Speakers: Polk1.2tl's (Uber Mods) Pre/Amp/DAC: PS Audio BHK Signature & 250, DirectStream Cables/IC's: MIT S1Bi-Wire/S1 Balanced +Avel Lindberg 1000VA "Dreadnought" Power Conditioner: PS Audio P15 Power Plant Power Cords: Core Power Technologies Gold, DH Labs Power Plus DIY w/Neotech NC-P301 & P311ends Streaming: Roon ROCK on wifi'd NUC, TP-Link WAP, & Uptone EtherREGEN, AfterDark, Emperor Double Crown Clock, Black Modernize LPS, PS Audio AirLens⟿Ω☯☥☮⟿🔊♩♪♫♬♩♪♫♬♩♪♫♬
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 5,038
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    JayCee wrote: »
    @pearsall001, still in love w/the DAC?

    Yes indeed!! Very organic & oh so natural sounding. Such an easy going flow to the music 🎶
    Voices & instruments are served up on a silver platter. It's almost hard to explain but everything just sounds so "right".
    It's actually a little funny because it's hard to stop listening at times & get to bed. Not the least bit of brightness, harshness or digital in your face coming out of this puppy.
    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • JayCee
    JayCee Posts: 1,493
    edited March 2021
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    I'm happy where I sit but would really like to hear this ****. Glad to see you're this happy with it.

    Edit...LOL.... m*o*f*o is censored by Vanilla. Can't get nuthin' by them.
    Speakers: Polk1.2tl's (Uber Mods) Pre/Amp/DAC: PS Audio BHK Signature & 250, DirectStream Cables/IC's: MIT S1Bi-Wire/S1 Balanced +Avel Lindberg 1000VA "Dreadnought" Power Conditioner: PS Audio P15 Power Plant Power Cords: Core Power Technologies Gold, DH Labs Power Plus DIY w/Neotech NC-P301 & P311ends Streaming: Roon ROCK on wifi'd NUC, TP-Link WAP, & Uptone EtherREGEN, AfterDark, Emperor Double Crown Clock, Black Modernize LPS, PS Audio AirLens⟿Ω☯☥☮⟿🔊♩♪♫♬♩♪♫♬♩♪♫♬
  • guyincognito
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    @Clipdat ... I'm very curious to hear your impressions. I have read nothing but good things.
    Rega Planar 8, Apheta 3 MC , Aria mk2 Phono
    Aurender n100h, Benchmark DAC2 HGC
    Arcam SR250, Parasound JC5
    Revel F208, SVS SB-4000
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 5,038
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    Clipdat wrote: »

    Very nice 👍 & congrats! I think you'll find that it lives up to it's reputation.

    I actually tried another DAC just out of curiosity because of the reviews it was getting especially at it's price point. It was the LOXJIE D 30 DAC. I was curious to hear how it would compare to the BP.

    Needless to say it was returned rather quickly.

    Gary's design to my ears is just so satisfying. Nothing earth shattered here just great sound.

    Looking forward to your review!

    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • erniejade
    erniejade Posts: 6,321
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    Clipdat wrote: »

    Very nice 👍 & congrats! I think you'll find that it lives up to it's reputation.

    I actually tried another DAC just out of curiosity because of the reviews it was getting especially at it's price point. It was the LOXJIE D 30 DAC. I was curious to hear how it would compare to the BP.

    Needless to say it was returned rather quickly.

    Gary's design to my ears is just so satisfying. Nothing earth shattered here just great sound.

    Looking forward to your review!

    On the LOXJIE D 30 DAC, if you were looking at Amir's ASR review, just because Amir says it measures good doesn't mean it sounds good :)
    Klipsch The Nines, Audioquest Thunderbird Interconnect, Innuos Zen MK3 W4S recovery, Revolution Audio Labs USB & Ethernet, Border Patrol SE-I, Audioquest Niagara 5000 & Thunder, Cullen Crossover II PC's.
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,786
    edited August 2021
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    Measurements are a valuable and insightful data point, but there's no substitute for listening tests in your own home/system to determine if a DAC meets your criteria for sonic bliss. I do think Amir provides a valuable service by publishing free measurements for a variety of devices that most audiophiles are interested in.

    I've tried a number of different DACs recently as well as a few new more new arrivals that I haven't tried yet (Teac UD-501, Musical Fidelity MX-DAC, and the BorderPatrol) and they each definitely have their own sonic signature. It's almost as personal as a pair of shoes, in regards to which one will match your sonic tastes. I did recently purchase the Topping D30Pro and I've been really impressed with it's sound quality for $400. https://apos.audio/products/topping-d30-pro-desktop-dac?variant=40081751834795

    bndfoockvucs.jpg

    Looking forward to hearing how the BorderPatrol stacks up. Hopefully will have some time to get to it this weekend. I just unhooked the MX-DAC and hooked up the RME ADI-2 DAC. And wow, with it hooked up to my Benchmark HPA4 via XLR I am absolutely loving the sound. So much clarity and spaciousness, with layers of sound to explore and get lost in. The bass performance is also absolutely on point. Just crazy good through a nice pair of cans.

    One of the things I'm interested in and looking forward to exploring most with the BorderPatrol is how it will do with various genres of music. I suspect that it was designed more for "real" music with instruments & voices, but I primarily listen to complex and demanding electronic music so I'm curious to see how it does with that.

  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 5,038
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    I've read some of Amir's measurements & find them pretty thorough but without actually listening to the piece of gear I really don't put much credence in the whole measurements thing. Great sound is great sound regardless of said measurements.

    I've sure if he reviewed the BP DAC it won't make his recommended list by a long shot. Pretty much the same scenario over at Stereophile regarding the BP DAC.

    The LOXJIE D 30 DAC just didn't cut it for me.

    I also had the Teac UD-501DAC quite some time ago. It was very nice indeed.

    But for now the BP DAC isn't going anywhere!

    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • jdjohn
    jdjohn Posts: 3,067
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    Drew, would be nice to hear your thoughts compared to a Benchmark DAC.
    "This may not matter to you, but it does to me for various reasons, many of them illogical or irrational, but the vinyl hobby is not really logical or rational..." - member on Vinyl Engine
    "Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to." - Cicero, in Gladiator
    Regarding collectibles: "It's not who gets it. It's who gets stuck with it." - Jimmy Fallon
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,786
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    jdjohn wrote: »
    Drew, would be nice to hear your thoughts compared to a Benchmark DAC.

    I haven't had the Benchmark DAC3 B in my system for a while, but the Topping D30Pro and RME ADI-2 DACs are similar sounding, so yeah I should be able to give a relevant comparison.
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,786
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  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 5,038
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    Chock full of goodies!
    Any first impressions yet. 🎶
    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,786
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    Listening now!
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,786
    edited August 2021
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    Hooked it up to my Benchmark HPA4 via Mogami 2964 RCAs. Power cable is the Shunyata Venom V12-NR. USB Cable is this braided China special I recently purchased and really like the performance of: https://www.ebay.com/itm/265155084250 Source was local FLAC/AIFF files via Winamp (Maiko WASAPI bit perfect plugin) or Qobuz/Tidal via the Roon desktop app.

    My initial impression straight out of the gate was that all of the music seemed to be coming from the area directly between my two Focal Shape 40s. I attributed this to it being cold and needing time to settle in. I let it play files with the HPA4 on mute for several hours before coming back to it.

    When I listened again later, things were starting to sound better, but there were still a few performance attributes that I was wondering about. First was the overly-accented bass that I was hearing, it was to the point where I actually had to turn down my Rhythmik L12 a tad. I also noticed this same bass boost later when I tried listening with my Audix A152 headphones. Secondly, it seemed like the treble was a little too extended/forward on some songs. I again figured this could be break-in related and decided not to be too critical of this on day one.

    I think anyone who's done any amount of reading about this DAC realizes that it's goal is not to simply pass the digital signal on un-colored. This is definitely a product that was designed in a certain way to achieve a goal, and has been uniquely voiced by it's creator. Besides the tube-rectified power supply, there also many attributes of the DAC's implementation that further impact the sound quality. Basically, there's many things happening inside this box in order to present a very specific style of sound.

    Some of the DAC's sound quality characteristics are pretty obvious. Others are more subtle and are observed in the way you feel when listening, the way your ears physically feel when listening, any ear fatigue after your listening session, and the overall musical engagement and enjoyment you experience while listening. There's also other subconscious reactions you might have to the music while listening such as head nodding, foot tapping, goosebumps, etc. All of these characteristics have to be considered when judging the overall performance of a piece of audio gear.

    Moving beyond the accented bass and treble that I noticed on day one, the other differences in the sound quality of the BP vs the RME ADI-2 DAC that I had connected previously were more subtle. There isn't a glowing tube-like halo of midrange euphonics cast over the music. There's no detail sacrificed or glossed over. In reality, switching the tube in and out of the circuit via the front toggle button was pretty subtle. It mainly resulted in slightly more bolstered low end frequencies and a little more of a sheen or accent on the edge of the treble elements. Maybe these were distortion characteristics that I was hearing now riding along with the treble information? I'm not sure, but switching the tube in and out isn't night and day or incredibly dramatic.

    All that being said I've been doing my listening with the tube on all of the time, as I think it kinda goes with the designer's goal for the DAC and seems to slightly enhance the overall experience. If there are some distortion effects along for the ride, it would explain why I seem to get just a slight amount of listening fatigue while listening. Who knows if this is the reason or it's something else going on. Maybe @erniejade could comment on this soon.

    Certain aspects of a song seemed to be influenced more prominently by the BP DAC. Namely, specific non-percussion elements of a song, such as a synthesizer lead, or a guitar's harmony. These midrange-centric elements seemed to be slightly enhanced, in terms of decay, texture, or resonance. Perhaps this is the element of the BP DAC that most reviewers pick up on. It adds a slight "*stoner voice* "Woah man!" type effect to various elements and harmonic structures within a song with elements within a certain frequency range. It gives it just that little extra "je ne sais quoi" that's hard to put your finger on but you can tell it's there, especially if you're inherently familiar with your preferred music.

    Moving on to listening during day two after having left the DAC on for the previous 24hours (but the tube switched off) yielded impressive results. I switched the tube back on, and when I sat down to take a listen things were noticeably different than how they were the day before. I'm sure this comes as no surprise for those with tube gear, but clearly this DAC needs to be left on 24/7 as it's "out of the gate" performance would be disappointing for someone who thought that's the potential of how it could sound.

    Straight away, I noticed the bass wasn't as accented as it was on day one. Treble forwardness was also a tiny bit less, but still a little accented in my opinion. Separation, space, clarity among sounds, and overall cohesiveness also all improved on day two. I was now getting the spatial effects that I'm accustomed to when listening with my incredible Focal Shape 40 monitors. I was pleased to hear them starting to sound more like themselves again.

    One track that really demonstrated the DAC's ability to do specific placement and pinpoint imaging was "Nuage & Gerwin - Lifestyle." The placement and specific area where various sounds originated from was palpable and incredibly enjoyable to experience. It's a great test track for seeing if a piece of gear is capable of tight imaging as well as testing for focus, motion, and space. How well the sounds spread out and remain uniquely placed in the soundstage is the primary test during this song, and the BP DAC absolutely nailed it.

    Switching to both my Audix A152 headphones and then the Sony MDR-1AM2, I noticed the Sonys were a better fit when listening to this particular DAC. Must be a synergy thing. I found another test track that allowed me to observe some unique performance attributes.

    "Dan Guidance & Fish - Leaving The Body" The complex interplay of treble elements alongside the flowing bassline, projected a sense of forward momentum and fluidity. There were great spacial cues and imaging, even inside my Sony headphones. Each musical element was clearly defined, with no sounds overlapping or running into their adjacent sounds. The BP's "somethin-somethin" was easily heard as I listened to more harmonic over/undertones being applied to the synthesizer melodies and sub-melodies. There was a greater sustain and decay to these sounds. The effect is slight but noticeable.

    Despite being a complex song with a lot going on, everything stayed cohesive and yet flowed together in a musical and organic way that kept my focus and attention. Now I understand the appeal of this DAC's presentation.

  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,786
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    I think that's about it for day two, right now I'm listening to another wonderful test track: "Hinkstep - A little tree". This is a song that progresses and tells a story. As it ebbs and flows it keeps you wondering what's coming next. The BP DAC does a great job at presenting the layers within this song in a musically cohesive way. It somehow both communicates the underlying emotion and musicality contained within, while allowing you to dissect minute individual details - if you want to.

    In summary I think the BP DAC offers a nice blend of musicality, timing, pace, and flow while at the same time giving the detail lovers what they want. Sure, it is presenting it's editorialized version of the music, but that's exactly what it's creator was going for. It'll be up to your ears/listening tastes and how it performs in your system in order to determine if it brings you closer to your favorite music.

    For me personally I like certain things that it does, but I also like other things about how my RME ADI-2 DAC sounds. I don't know if I would let it displace my RME ADI-2 or Topping D30Pro but it's certainly a different presentation. I'm happy to have had the experience to give it a listen, and looking forward to what @erniejade thinks of it since I'm sending it over to him to check out later this week.
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 5,038
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    Excellent review as usual Drew!

    I can attest to pretty much everything being spot on.

    The only thing that I didn't experience was the accented bass & the extended/forward treble. I'm assuming different speakers & front end gear can account for that.

    For me the BP DAC just gets my arse in the chair & it's hard to get up. As you well pointed out the timing, pace, flow (I'll add rythem also) definitely gets my head bobbing & feet tapping. Just very smooth, relaxing, organic sounding. Fits my listening taste to a tee.

    Again an excellent review 👍


    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,786
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    Yeah I'm not sure about that initial bass and treble accent I heard to be honest. It is possible it just needed time to settle in. Or, that this particular tube is different than the one you are using.

    Glad you liked the review.
  • erniejade
    erniejade Posts: 6,321
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    Awesome review. I am glad it settled in after a few days. I am excited to get my ears on it.
    Klipsch The Nines, Audioquest Thunderbird Interconnect, Innuos Zen MK3 W4S recovery, Revolution Audio Labs USB & Ethernet, Border Patrol SE-I, Audioquest Niagara 5000 & Thunder, Cullen Crossover II PC's.
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,786
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    Aaaand it's already gone. That was fast!
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 5,038
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    I don't think the ink was even dry on the ad & that puppy was snatched up. Another happy DAC owner for sure.

    Going back to your review Drew, I find myself in the same camp as you with the tube usage. It definitely is rather subtle. I'm probably 50/50 on engaging the tube. It's on now listening to James Taylor & sounds wonderful.
    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,786
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    Cool! My friend Kerry told me that "Gaia" is an excellent test track.
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 5,038
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    I'll check it out 👍 thanks for the tip.
    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • marvda1
    marvda1 Posts: 4,892
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    Don't have it too loud when you play Gaia. :s
    Amplifiers: Norma IPA 140, MasterSound Compact 845, Ayre v6xe, Consonance Cyber 800
    Preamp: deHavilland Ultraverve 3
    Dac: Sonnet Morpheus 2, Musical Paradise mp-d2 mkIII
    Transport: Jay's Audio CDT2 mk2, Lumin U1 mini
    Speakers: Rosso Fiorentino Volterra II
    Speaker Cables: Crystal Clear Magnum Opus 2, Organic Audio Organic Reference 2
    Interconnects: Crystal Clear Magnum Opus 2, Argento Organic Reference 2, Argento Organic 2
    Power Cables: Argento Organic Reference, Synergistic Research Foundation 10 and 12 ga.
    Digital cables: Crystal Clear Magnum Opus 2 bnc, Tellurium Q aes, Silnote Audio Poseidon Signature 2 bnc
    Puritan PSM156
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,786
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    LOL Marvin! Those thunderous drums that come at in that climax of the song are the best part!
  • BlueBirdMusic
    BlueBirdMusic Posts: 2,138
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    Drew, I am really impressed by your objectivity and descriptions in your reviews. These "informal" reviews on Polk are outstanding. I enjoy them more than the ones that are published. Much more "meat" with your personal perspectives.
    "Sometimes you have to look to the past to understand where you are going in the future"


    Harry / Marietta GA
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,786
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    Thank you, Harry. Glad you enjoyed the read. Just my quick impressions after two days of listening!

    DAC is now boxed up and ready to ship to @erniejade when he's ready.
  • marvda1
    marvda1 Posts: 4,892
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    @erniejade let me know how it compares to the L.K.S. ? I kind of want to hear the new 005 but will have to wait for a used one :D
    Amplifiers: Norma IPA 140, MasterSound Compact 845, Ayre v6xe, Consonance Cyber 800
    Preamp: deHavilland Ultraverve 3
    Dac: Sonnet Morpheus 2, Musical Paradise mp-d2 mkIII
    Transport: Jay's Audio CDT2 mk2, Lumin U1 mini
    Speakers: Rosso Fiorentino Volterra II
    Speaker Cables: Crystal Clear Magnum Opus 2, Organic Audio Organic Reference 2
    Interconnects: Crystal Clear Magnum Opus 2, Argento Organic Reference 2, Argento Organic 2
    Power Cables: Argento Organic Reference, Synergistic Research Foundation 10 and 12 ga.
    Digital cables: Crystal Clear Magnum Opus 2 bnc, Tellurium Q aes, Silnote Audio Poseidon Signature 2 bnc
    Puritan PSM156
  • audioluvr
    audioluvr Posts: 5,498
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    How do you like the CA DacMagic+? Thinking about upgrading my barn system and have heard good things about them for budget systems
    Gustard X26 Pro DAC
    Belles 21A Pre modded with Mundorf Supreme caps
    B&K M200 Sonata monoblocks refreshed and upgraded
    Polk SDA 1C's modded / 1000Va Dreadnaught
    Wireworld Silver Eclipse IC's and speaker cables
    Harman Kardon T65C w/Grado Gold. (Don't laugh. It sounds great!)


    There is about a 5% genetic difference between apes and men …but that difference is the difference between throwing your own poo when you are annoyed …and Einstein, Shakespeare and Miss January. by Dr. Sardonicus