"I had the
recently to hear and measure the Rapture 24-bit upgrade to the
Counterpoint DA-10 that Michael Elliott, the original designer, had
created. At the time, I had just started listening to a new pair of
Martin Logan Prodigy speakers which were in the initial process of
break in and positioning. I had been listening to several other D/A
converters, among them the Perpetual Technologies P-1A and P-3A
combination and the Bel Canto DAC-1. Of the sound of the upgraded
DA-10, it was beautifully refined, defined, airy, spacious and musical.
On the test bench, it was very clean and free of inharmonic artifacts,
and its low amount but observable full scale distortion rapidly delined
into the noise below about -5 dBFS. I hope to get a chance to listen to
the upgraded DA-10A again."
Upgrade for DVD Audio
upgradeable Counterpoint DA-10 Upgradeable Mainframe d-a converter
originally retailed for $1,895 when equipped with the factory's
"standard" Analog Devices plug-in DAC Card. It was designed with the
future of digital audio in mind. Who knew in 1993 that a new format
would come along that offers far better sound than CD's? And who knew
that even now, even with Counterpoint out of business, you would be
able to upgrade your DA-10 to play the new format?
24-bit/96-192kHz Upgrade - User installable. The most amazing upgrade
for your DA-10! Better than the original and famous Counterpoint
Install it yourself! Click here to view the
procedure. If you find the task intimidating, we can install
you for $120 + return shipping.
can download the installation instruction in Adobe Portable Document
Format (pdf) for printing here.
To view the
pdf document, you will need Adobe's reader software installed on your
computer. The free Adobe reader software is available at:
new Rapture 24-bit DACCard for the Counterpoint
DA-10A and DA-10E) handles 16-bit CDs, 24-bit/96kHz audio-only DVDs and
the new upcoming 24-bit/192kHz DVD-Audio format.Plugs right into the
motherboard! Even on 16-bit (CD) audio it easily outperforms the old
top-of-the-line $1,000 UltraAnalog UA20 card!
Plug 24-bit performance right into your
DA-10, DA-10 or DA-10E!
The Rapture's Directly-driven outputs, bypass the analog
section of the motherboard for a more direct, transparent sound.
The Rapture Premium uses
low-noise Vishay "Naked" Bulk Metal
foil element surface mount resistors (the most transparent, neutral
resistor on the market today -- very expensive, price must increase
after March 1, 2005), Black Gate NX capacitors, and premium Burr-Brown
OPA627 TO-99 instrumentation amplifiers. This DACCard also offers
Direct Outs which you can hook up if you wish, bypassing the
motherboard's audio stage (some light soldering required), as well as
balanced out capability. As refined, sweet and detailed as the Rapture
Basic is, the Premium is audibly -- and immediately so -- superior in
terms of lushness, liquidity and musical richness. This is the
reduction of electronic artifacts that rewards you you when you use the
very best parts.
Rapture Premium DACCard:
are without shipping. Add $8.50 for shipping in North America, USD 20
for everywhere else. See my payments
for ordering information.) See below for availability.
Installation. I will install the Rapture DACCard into your DA-10 for $120 plus return shipping. The
unit is fully-tested and operation is guaranteed.
Direct Outs (RCA). If you are getting Factory
Installation, there is no additional charge to have the Direct Outs
wired up, bypassing the motherboard's
Direct Outs (RCA) No Charge
Direct Outs (Balanced). If you are getting
Factory Installation, we can install balanced outs on your DA-10. Some chassis
modification is required. The charge is $85 to have the balanced outs
installed.Comes with two XLR connectors and four coupling capacitors (at time of writing, Dynamicaps are the capacitor of choice. Ir you have some capacitor you'd like to use, please advise and we can check into it.
Direct Outs (Balanced) $350
Upgrade. Okay -- you say you're not interested in 24-bit
just want your CD's to sound better with your DA-10's existing DACCard?
This upgrade is for you: upgrade the receiver! The
receiver, a Crystal Semiconductor CS8414, is an upgraded version of the
DA-10's original CS8412. There's more to this new receiver chip than
24-bit/96kHz capability, it also offers superior audio performance --
better bass, deeper soundstaging, more detailed and open highs. Before
I had working proto DACCards, I was impressed by this upgrade alone!
Install it yourself. Only $158.00 + $12.50 shipping and handling in the
USA, or $20.00 elsewhere. See the installation for the Rapture DACCard for installation instructions.
impression [after installing the Receiver-Only upgrade] is a very
significant increase of the soundstaging quality. Instruments are
better located in width as in depth. This effect is very noticeable.
Differences are also remarkable in highs and probably upper highs, with
a tonal quality really increased. By this I mean that instruments such
as cymbals, trumpet or violin have a better tonal balance, closer to
the original sound. I listen to classical as well as contemporary jazz."
Lenglet, Lille, France
Rapture DACCard Power Supply Upgrade:
If you are getting the new Rapture DACCard and will be using
that card's Direct Out capability (RCA or balanced, above) then the
motherboard's analog section is bypassed. But the quality of the power
feeding the DACCard has a direct influence on how the DA-10 sounds. So
For this new generation of DACCards I decided to see how far I could
push the performance of the DA-10 when the power supply was tuned to
match the sonics of the new Rapture card. The results are very
gratifying: every time I walk into or past the door of the sound
studio, I am struck at how palpable the sound is: it sounds like
someone is there, playing music or singing. When I sit and listen the
sound is entrancing and enveloping. The most real-sounding I have ever
heard from a digital source.
This new power supply
upgrade uses a
mixture of Riken carbon resistors, "Naked" Vishay bulk-foil resistors,
Nichicon and Black Gate capacitors, Zetex transistors and FRED
rectifiers. All of these parts have been selected for how they sound,
and I have carefully matched them to the specific circuits (DACCard
digital and DACCard analog) for the highest possible resolution sound
while emphasizing liveliness, excitement and presence. This is a
breakthrough in digital power supply sound.
Rapture DACCard Power Supply Upgrade: $1400
Upgrade analog and digital power
supply transformer to Plitron: Add $380.
transformers, the amount of depth retrieval
information is huge! See
setup fee to install transformers if not done with the power supply upgrade)
Board Damping Modification. Circuit
are light and stiff -- they are resonant as heck, which causes smearing
of the sound. Your audio will be substantially improved when we apply
thick wool felt damping pads between the circuit boards and the chassis
to damp all resonances. This results in MUCH tighter imaging and
spatial resolution, MUCH greater retrieval of low-level details, a
surprising reduction in edginess, and a greater weight to the tone,
which makes everything sound fuller and more "real." Click here for
pricing. (Requires in-factory installation of Rapture DACCard or purchase of Motherboard Power Supply Upgrade)
|Photos of E. Pedersen's DA-10.
Upgraded Digital Connections. Canare makes superb-sounding, true 75-ohm BNC and RCA connectors. With these in place of the factory-stock parts you'll get less jitter, resulting in smoother, more relaxed and detailed sound. Wonderful bass response (why? I don't know why! I just build 'em and listen to 'em). You don't need to upgrade all your digital connectors, just the ones you want to use.
Upgrade Connectors to Canare BNC or RCA: $60 per jack.
(Requires in-factory installation of Rapture DACCard or purchase of Motherboard Power Supply Upgrade)
the years since Counterpoint closed, many people have had their gear
upgraded by Alta Vista Audio. My first upgrade was done over six years
ago and many more interim upgrades have been done in the years since
then. My Counterpoint gear is now about as upgraded as it currently can
be and it is absolutely spectacular!
most recent changes were to take my DA-10 dac from the earlier power
supply upgrade and Rapture Premium card to the new Rapture power supply
and newer Premium NV card. I hoped for a nice incremental upgrade, but
what I got was a large…no, huge…improvement!
Image depth improved
a lot, and it used to be good. Each instrument has taken on a more
round “3D” shape and better occupies its own space
within the sound field. Depth reproduction is quite a bit better than
before, too. But the biggest change is that “hard to define
but you know it when you hear it” sense of real music being
played. It is much easier than ever to connect with what
you’re hearing. Listening to “La
on RR’s ‘Fiesta!’
disc by the Dallas Wind Symphony, just the opening chimes reveal much
of the upgrade: the sound of the mallets hitting them, the attack and
natural decay of each chime and the beautiful crystal clarity of it.
And then the rest of the music starts! The power of this piece and the
shaded nuances of dynamics are very well rendered now, much better than
At first I thought
the new DA-10 might have some top end roll-off or smoothing. But there
was plenty of air, detail and dynamics, so what was it? Further
listening made me realize that the background was much more
‘black’ and less noticeable. This is just purer
music playing now, made even more obvious in this relaxed and natural
sounding high-end. This was really driven home when I compared a record
and a well-mastered CD of the same album. Yep, this new DA-10 is a lot
closer to that analog sweetness. Oh yeah, that was easy to get used to.
Trust me, for those that believe no digital sound is
good…you need to hear this!
In my experience,
these later upgrades require a lot more break-in time but the sonic
payoff is greater than ever. While I hear the large changes right away,
the subtle improvements become apparent only after a lot of playing
time. My guess is this: since these newer parts are so much more
capable than those in past upgrades, it takes quite a bit more time to
fully reveal their quality and resolution. My break-in method is to
leave a CD on ‘disc repeat’ and change discs every
day for a variety of signals to play through the unit. I try to listen
once every night or two to see what’s changed and how it is
progressing. There are a lot of sonic ups and downs during this time,
probably many due to human influence – mood, awareness, etc.
But after 400 hours or so the DA-10 really settles down and comes into
its own. Refinement takes time, I guess.
So, was this
incremental upgrade worthwhile? You betcha. I had my DA-10 power transformers
upgraded to Plitrons with the previous upgrade. I recommend you do the
same. I believe Mike Elliott spent some time listening between his and
my unit, the only difference now being the power trannies. If I read
his response correctly, he was going to order Plitrons for his DA-10,
-- David Kakenmaster
"I finally received the dac card today
and installed in the DA10 that I purchased on the used market. It was a
very simple job to do it. Although I still need to wait for some days
to obtain quality sound from it, I notice obvious difference from my
Wadia860. My setup is a Wadia860 into an Assemblage D2A upsampling
converter then into the DA10. My Wadia860 was very good until I
listened to DA10 with new Rapture Premium: The new dac is really
analog. It is hot, real, and live. In comparison, the Wadia860 is a
little too cool-sounding for me to be comfortable. Now I find myself
playing CDs louder than usual, which means that there is nothing
uncomfortable at such a high volume level. I am looking forward to
further sound improvement in an appropriate burn-in period. I respect
your great job. Thank you very much. "
"My immediate overall reaction was that
Red Book CD suddenly sounded a lot more musical. The "shaving off" of
glare and other digital artifacts, the retrieval of previously-masked
low-level information, and the seemingly effortless recreation of
acoustic space rendered tone and timbre considerably more natural,
imaging and sense of instrumental “body”(reediness,
bow rosin, etc.) more palpable and focused, and attack and decay more
discernible. Bass grabbed with its authority and definition. Treble was
airy and delicate, not hard-edged. The midrange created the illusion of
a corporeal presence even more liquid than that obtained with the
Anodyne. This was true with large orchestral, operatic, and/or choral
ensembles as well as with chamber or jazz groups or individual
Read more of Mr.
Answers about the Rapture DACCard and 24-Bit Audio
What's the story on 24/96?
A: Regular CD's are recorded at 16-bits, 44.1kHz. For
decade, high-end audio designers have been attempting to coax sweet,
analogue-like sound out of them. We've only been partially successful.
To some ears -- mine included -- the results have never been completely
satisfying. Audio DVD's are the "next generation" of digital discs,
capable of higher sampling rates and greater resolution than CD's. When
you listen to DVD-quality music at 24-bits, 96kHz, on a DVD-audio-only
disc, you are immediately struck with how sweet and honest the sound
is. It hits you in the face. It is also immediately obvious that the
main obstacle preventing analogue sound from CD's has not been clocking
jitter, or lack of fancy digital filter algorithms, or any of the other
issues that audio designers have been trying to deal with -- though
they are important -- no, the main obstacle has been the low sampling
rate and poor resolution of the CD's.
What's in the upgrade and can I install it myself?
A: Yes, you can install it yourself. The upgrade kit consists of the
new Rapture 24-bit DACCard that is capable of handling data rates up to
192kHz, and a new 96kHz receiver IC that replaces the old 48kHz
receiver IC. On the Premium version of the card, there are two options
on how you listen to the
Black Gate capacitors, and premium Burr-Brown instrumentation
amplifiers make the Rapture Premium a precise musical instrument.
you can simply use the DA-10's audio outputs as usual, or you can use
the Rapture's Direct Outs. By bypassing the DA-10's analog section, the
Direct Outs provide a sound issues from a blacker background, with a
greater sense of depth and more solid 3D imaging. The sound is
smoother, more natural. Here's a link to the installation manual.
How does the new Rapture DACCard measure?
A: Great. Whether you are listening to 44.1kHz or 96kHz material, the
Rapture measures GREAT! Full-scale distortion is always more than 80dB
below the music signal, and the distortion consists of simple
harmonics. Sample-rate converters, upsamplers measure TERRIBLY compared
with the Rapture. Click on the little graph below to see how the
Rapture measured at BHK Labs
How fast does the Rapture run?
A: Pretty fast. It oversamples 44.1kHz data 256 times
11.28mS/s (million samples / second), and 96kHz data 128 times to
What can I play on the upgraded DA-10?
A: All your old CDs of course -- the DA-10 still handles
"old-fashioned" 16-bit data. Audio-only 24-bit DVDs are available from
specialty labels (For a partial listing of available specialty 24/96
DVD titles, see the 24/96 two-channel DVD listings at http://www.acousticsounds.com/acoustic/catalog/index.html
), and over the last month or two, several labels have
releasing titles in the DVD audio format. This fall, Warner Brothers
announced it was releasing a handful of titles including Emerson, Lake
& Palmer’s “Brain Salad Surgery,”
Merchant’s “Tigerlily,” and Stone Temple
Pilots’ “Core.” Independent label
has released “Swingin’ for the Fences” by
Goodwin’s Big Phat Band in the DVD audio format, as well as a
number of classical titles including Tchaikovsky’s
‘‘The Nutcracker’’ by the
Orchestra and Handel’s “Messiah.”
24-bit audio-only DVDs are the next step in playback media, and
the sound is refreshingly honest and lovely. It sounds startlingly
realistic. If you enjoy beautiful music and are looking for the best
recorded sound that is available, you'll want to start listening to
audio-only DVD's. You'll need three things: a 24/96 DAC (like a
Rapture-fitted DA-10), a DVD player with digital out (easy to find even
under $300, but see the next question, below), and some audio-only
Can I play DVD's on my CD transport?
A: No -- while the Rapture-fitted DA-10 can play CD as well as DVD
audio data, DVDs cannot be played on your CD transport: you'll need a
DVD player for that. No CD player can play DVD's -- if a manufacturer
offers an upgrade to a CD player that allows it to play DVD's he's
essentially putting a DVD player in the old case. But almost without
exception, DVD player can play CD's.
be used with the DA-10, any DVD player with a digital output will put
out 24-bit data ( when playing a 24/96 DVD audio disc), and they can be
used to play CDs, too, though you might want to continue to use your
high-end CD transport for your CDs. (Important note: I've
that many DVD players do not put out full-speed
data -- they're not even supposed to. Most only put out 24/48
data even when playing 96kHz discs. But all the Pioneer DVD players,
even their least-expensive ones, put out full 24/96 data when playing
What about the new DVD-Audio format that I keep hearing about?
A: The recently adopted DVD-Audio standard, includes high-resolution
stereo, surround sound, visual menus, slide shows, and full-motion
video with multichannel audio. Clearly the DA-10 will not be able to
take advantage of anything but the high-resolution stereo features.
These upcoming DVD-A's can run at sample rates as high as 192kHz. The
new Rapture DACCard is designed to operate at up to 192kHz, but the
upgraded receiver that comes with this upgrade can only operate at
96kHz, maximum. This is not a problem right now, because the release of
DVD-A's has been delayed, again, due to copy-protection issues. Again.
I expect that by the time 192kHz DVD-A's are released, a new
192kHz-capable receiver IC will be available which can drop right into
What about the Sony/Philips Super Audio CD ("SACD")?
A: The SACD is a different animal altogther. Instead of using Pulse
Code Modulation like CD's and normal DVD's, it uses a Pulse-Width
Modulation system called direct-stream digital (DSD). At time of
writing, there is no information available for the designer. We just
don't know how to decode the DSD data stream. In addition, Sony and
Philips, the creators/backers of SACD have made it clear that they are
not planning to offer any access to the DSD data stream on their
players. Which suggests that if you want to listen to a SACD, you can
only do so through Sony or Philips electronics -- outboard DACs will
not be supported.
I have the expensive Counterpoint/Ultra-Analog UA20 DACCard. Can I use
it? How does the new 24/192 DACCard sound compared to it?
A: The Ultra-Analog d-a converter cannot operate at
rates higher than 48kHz. Sorry, but who knew that 96kHz and higher
sample rates were coming? It's simply not possible to use the UA card
for DVD audio playback. Fortunately,
the Rapture DACCard sounds much better than the UltraAnalog card,
especially the Premium version when listened to though its Direct Outs.
How about HDCD?
A: The DA-10's original motherboard filter -- whether
the optional PMD-100 HDCD filter, or the stock BB DF1700 (look to see
what you have in socket U10) cannot handle digital audio running faster
than 48kHz. Pacific Microsonics, the makers of HDCD filters, have made
preliminary announcments about the PMD-200 HDCD filter, but it's only
capable of handling 96kHz sample rates -- not the 192kHz sample rates
that I feel this DACCard needs to handle. But it really wouldn't matter
anyway, because the new Rapture DACCard has its own internal digital
anti-aliasing filter and doesn't use the motherboard's filter.
the best of my knowledge, there are presently no 24/96 HDCD audio-only
DVDs. While the new DACCard will not be able to provide HDCD-decoding
of your existing HDCD-encoded CD's, if your motherboard has the PMD-100
HDCD filter, you can plug your old Ultra-Analog UA20 or Analog Devices
AD20 DACCard back into when you want to listen to an HDCD-encoded
What about my JACCard?
A: The Jitter-Absorbing Card (JACCard) that
is not 96kHz-capable and must be removed to allow operation at the
higher sample rates. I have no plans to make a new one unless I receive
a lot of requests (like more than 100). It's
really not much
of an issue, though, as the upgraded receiver that will be shipped with
the Rapture DACCard sounds much better than the
was based on an older, slower receiver chip.
I've heard a lot about "upsampling." Will the new card
provide any upsampling?
No, it doesn't need to. The Rapture DACCard's integrated
digital filter and the improved receiver's excellent jitter performance
make CDs sound better than they have ever sounded before -- all without
creating "fake" 24-bit data.
Upsampling, used to convert 16-bit, 44.1kHz audio to DVD-style 24-bit,
96kHz, is in no essential way different than the usual 8x (or greater)
oversampling that has been used in d-a converters for nearly two
decades. It does have a fancy new name, though. John Atkinson writes,
". . . there is no conceptual difference between [products which use
upsampling] and traditional CD playback systems. I am now convinced
that the sonic differences we have heard and reported on are merely due
to the differenct choices in digital filters . . . and to changes in
the jitter performance." ( "As We See It", Stereophile,
Q: What else can be done for the DA-10?
I have a motherboard upgrade. For $599* I rebuild the
analog section and power supply section with better parts and more
advanced circuitry. There's too much to go into here, it's easier for
you to read what David Kakenmaster of Definitive Technology has to say
about the motherboard upgrade:
looking to improve my hi-fi system, I became intrigued by the
Counterpoint DA-10 D to A converter. I was impressed by its design
elements, styling, construction quality and upgradeable approach. I
spoke with Michael Elliott at Alta Vista Audio about whether he'd had a
chance to work out an upgrade path for it like he has for so many other
Counterpoint components. I was excited to find out that yes, not only
was there a mainframe upgrade being worked out, there was also a new
dac card being designed that could handle the newer 24/96 and 24/192
formats. Based upon this good news, I purchased a used, near-mint unit
with the AD20 (Analog Devices AD1862) dac card.
" Compared to my then current converter which also uses the AD1862
dacs, the DA-10 was more at ease, but was definitely missing something.
While clean and clear, it was uninvolving and sounded quite recessed.
Dynamics were also muted. But there was a tonal 'rightness' to it that
was undeniable, and it seemed like this component was a prime choice
" With great anticipation I sent my DA-10 off for upgrades. I received
it back within the exact time promised and it still looked great -- no
new nicks or scratches anywhere. It is obvious that great care is taken
while the work is performed. For the record, my SA-5000 preamp has been
back twice for different upgrades and still looks like it's brand new.
" What about the sound? Well, in a word, reborn. While I heard
improvements immediately, I decided to not judge anything until it had
the recommended 300 hours burn-in on it. I left it playing constantly
with a variety of music, stopping to listen only here and there to see
how it was evolving. So, you ask, what changed from its original form?
Almost everything. The 'new' DA-10 is exceptionally dynamic and has a
whole new capability of letting separate musicians play without
sounding so 'etched' that you know it's a hi-fi. The DA-10 now allows a
much clearer view into each performance. You can not only tell what
each musician is playing, but WHY they're playing it -- getting right
to the heart and soul of music. The timbre of each voice and instrument
is clearer and more apparent, too. The ease and tonal 'rightness' it
had before is even better. In so many ways, it is sonically an all-new
component with exceptional sound quality. As many British audiophiles
might say, the DA-10 sure plays the tune!
" The DA-10 upgrade represents a spectacular change to this already
nice sounding product. It is also the ideal preparation step for the
upcoming 24-bit Rapture dac card upgrades, for without it, you won't
hear the full benefit of the hi-rez Rapture dac cards. With my current
AD20 daccard, could I ask for more? Well, yes. I'd like the upgraded
DA-10 to be even sweeter on the top end and maybe even a little more
authoritative on the bottom end. But those are small concerns and are
simply limitations of the now dated AD20 daccard. The Rapture upgrades
address these issues and will further reveal the mainframe's
improvements. In my opinion, the DA-10 mainframe upgrade is REQUIRED
for anyone who owns this unit. If you own a stock DA-10, you MUST get
this upgrade. Where else can you buy an all new D to A converter of
this caliber that has all the features, construction quality, sleek
cosmetics and 24/192 upgradeability of your DA-10 for only $599?"
TO OWNERS OF RAPTURE 24-BIT DACCARDS: If you get the Premium
Rapture DACCard, and install the Direct Outputs (click here to view
what I mean) then
you will not need the analog section of the motherboard upgraded, as it
is bypassed. However, having the power supply portion of the upgrade
done is even more essential, given the high resolution of the 24-bit
cost of the motherboard power-supply-only upgrade, is $499. Most of the
expensive parts, and certainly most of the work, go into the power
supply. The motherboard upgrades are not
available in kit
form. The work is too involved, and mistakes are too easy to make, so I
must insist on doing to work here. See " Are the
available in kit form?" for more information.