The Pure Audio Labs LOTUS DAC 5 from Underwood Hifi

A Complete Palette of Controls and Functions in a Package That’s Equal Parts Affordable and Accessible at an Amazing Price and Performance Levels that will Shake Some Industry Roots.

Let’s see 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 (to either DSD 512 or PCM to 768kHz), SEVEN Selectable Digital Filters and I’m just getting started.

As I penned the above, I had this vision of Jim McKay in my head reciting the old “Spanning the Globe” mantra many of us grew up with. Except I changed it to Underwood Wally – Spanning the Globe in his Hawaiian Shirt and Crocs to bring you unprecedented VALUE in every category of audio. The Human Drama here is Wally doing all he can to upset the norm and bring us products that define value in every genre of the industry. This is his holy mission. Let’s see how close he gets with this DAC/Pre. I have watched his advertisements for this product, and I have seen him as low as $1599 which utterly amazes me given the complete nature of this product and the test results (sonically) I’ve come up with.

The Opener

Allow me please to begin at the beginning. 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 DAC 5 can only be seen and understood with a bit of a flow chart. Take a peek please.

Rear Panel as Shown

Digital Filters Include –

MINIMUM PHASE FAST
MINIMUM PHASE SLOW
LINEAR PHASE FAST
LINEAR PHASE SLOW
APODIZING FAST
HYBRID FAST
BRICKWALL

Sample Rate Adjust –

PCM 44.1K
PCM 48K
PCM 88.2K
PCM 96K
PCM 176.4K
PCM 192K
PCM 352.8K
PCM 384K
PCM 705.6K
PCM 768K
DSD 2.8M
DSD 3.0M
DSD 5.6M
DSD 6.1M
DSD 11.2M
DSD 12.2M
DSD 22.6M
DSD 24.6M

Please remember that those 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 tastes in food and like our audio systems, each reacts differently to the afforded settings. I did have some personal favorites. Mostly, I liked up-sampling off and fast roll off filter engaged. Or on some tracks I preferred up-sampling set to max DSD rate for a warmer presentation, and in that, this disables the internal digital filters in the DAC. 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 as we should always correlate measurements to what we hear (at least I sure enjoy that part).

Gimme Them Bits Please

I have some screen captures that were taken some months back by a friend of mine. The amazing thing I notice were the shots depicting 16 Bit Sine Wave vs Average Noise. As 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.

The 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 are those pesky timing errors that smear the “digital 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 on Golden Hour (https://www.discogs.com/Kacey-Musgraves-Golden-Hour/release/12241081) 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 vocal in front with the banjo creeping into the mix along with the other instruments carefully extracted for your pleasure. 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 Producer 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” you can clearly pick out. Oh my – I love this song. By the way, this was beautifully presented on Qobuz at 24/96

Up Next was the hard driving track from BT, Knowledge of Self from Emotional Technology (https://www.discogs.com/BT-Emotional-Technology/master/38978). This track BURNS with energy, groove and big vibe sound. Hitting hard and never taking any prisoners, the Lotus DAC 5 allowed me all the way in. This Progressive “House Music” never fails to wake my senses and with the 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 que 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 Four Seasons recomposed by Max Richter. You can find information on this album here in two areas. The Qoboz link lives here – (https://play.qobuz.com/album/j2rz6oweuvjkb) – the Discogs info lives here… (https://www.discogs.com/Max-Richter-Vivaldi-Recomposed-By-Max-Richter-Vivaldi-The-Four-Seasons/master/499517). I sat transfixed through two complete playing. I found myself lost in the music and isn’t THAT the point. So smooth was 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. 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 Discogs data is here (https://www.discogs.com/Jewel-Picking-Up-The-Pieces/master/909910). I am never tired of her voice and here we had a painted picture of hurt and despair. Jewel has this ability to get deep down into your soul and my system anchored by the PureAudio Lotus 5 DAC delivered the goods in every way. 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).

Permanent Residency

You can believe it. After reading all my notes and using most if not all the optional cool bits, this DAC/Pre 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

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
AND
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 this product 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

Enthusiastically Recommended

Specifications

DIGITAL

• 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.

ANALOG

‧ 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.

GENERAL

• 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)

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