BorderPatrol Digital to Analogue Converter SE Manufacturer's Comment #2

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Editor: This is very interesting. I would urge readers to read the whole of Jon Iverson's review and not just the conclusion.

The accuracy vs listenability debate has run since the beginning of audio time, and will likely outlast both BorderPatrol and Benchmark.

Given the left-brain/right-brain relationship of the BP and Benchmark DACs (as Herb Reichert would have it), alarm bells rang when I saw that John Atkinson had selected the owner of a Benchmark DAC to write the Follow-Up review.

I shouldn't have worried: Jon Iverson was more than fair, and even though the BP was not for him, his partner liked it sufficiently to ask whether they should buy one, and the members of the Central Coast Audio Club preferred the BP to the Benchmark for a wide variety of reasons. The Benchmark was judged to be better only with pristine studio recordings. Surely the reason we buy audio products is so that we can listen to music, not analyze recordings, and any product that allows more music to be enjoyed is the better product?

Jon writes that he feels the BorderPatrol DAC lies to him, but the "truth" issue is an interesting one. Which DAC is telling the "truth": the one that lets you hear the violinists breathing and turning pages, but makes strings sound steely and piano insubstantial—or the one that portrays the wood around the strings, the body of the instrument, and makes the orchestra more live?

Perhaps the most disappointing part of the review is that JI didn't try the BP DAC with its [power-supply] tube turned off, which gives a crisper, less romantic sound. I suspect he would have preferred it that way.

Thanks to JA and JI for arranging and writing the review.—Gary Dews, BorderPatrol Audio Electronics

BorderPatrol Audio Electronics, c/o Kaja Music Systems,
11864 Sidd Finch Street
Waldorf, MD 20602
(301) 705-7460

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Oh No, Not Again" ............ Bill Harley :-) ...............

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Oh No, Not Again" ............... Marky Ramone & The Intruders :-) .............

Bogolu Haranath's picture

8 to 10 bit resolution and loads and loads of 2nd harmonic distortion :-) ..........

Jack L's picture

.... distortion" quoted B Haranath.

Sorry, bit or bit depth qualifies the original analague signal amplitude. Bit has nothing to do with resolution or distortion.

It is the sampling rates, e.g. 44.1KHz(Red Book spec), hi-rez, 96KHz, 192KHz define resolution of D/A converted analogue signals.

Jack L

jeffhenning's picture

...By the bucket loads.

Sorry, but the Earth is not flat and that prince from Africa is not sending you $20M.

Ortofan's picture

... pleasant versus accurate debate - except that this time it revolves around a DAC instead of an amplifier.

The challenge for the Border Patrol designer is could he design a DAC that measures as well as the Benchmark unit but still exhibit a sound quality that would appeal to the reviewer?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The designer probably can, for a price tag of $20,000 :-) ...............

Herb Reichert's picture

"facing the pleasent versus accurate debate" . . . because no such "debate" exists - except in the minds of people who listen to numbers printed on pages. If David Chesky (HDTracks) or Kavi Alexander (Water Lily Acoustics) or Todd Garfinkel (M-A Recordings) record a solo piano -- the DAC that lets that piano sound most like the real piano is - UNDEBATEABLY - the most accurate. Is it not?

By that simple - easily-varifiable - measure, the Border Patrol is far more "accurate" than the Benchmark.

Ortofan's picture

... (or any other piece of audio equipment) with distortion measurements such as those shown in figures 9 and 10 is an accurate device? You may prefer the resultant sound quality, but it's undeniable that you're listening to significant amounts of added distortion. The performance of this DAC is barely above that available from an analog disc and is far below the requirements for CD, let alone even higher resolution recordings.

Regarding "real piano" sound, I have a real piano in my listening room as an "easily verifiable" point of reference - do you?

Part-Time Audiophile's picture

An excellent question.

The corollary being -- can he do it for under $2k and still like it enough to want to make it?

I'm reminded of an old sign at work:

1. Done Fast
2. Done Well
3. Done Affordably


The interesting point to note is that this designer did in fact make a DAC that appeals to reviewers. An embarrassing number have refused to return them, preferring instead, to send a check. There's a reason for that -- and it's not "because it's handy to have around".

mav52's picture

Get real JA. I thought it was always about the sound the listener hears not how much it the device or component cost.

johnnythunder's picture

"I am reminded of a quote by Daniel R. von Recklinghausen, Chief Engineer, H.H. Scott: "If it measures good and sounds bad—it's bad. If it measures bad and sounds good, you've measured the wrong thing."

I'm not an audio engineer but I agree. Apart from the subjective aspects of what sounds good and bad of course. Go to a Best Buy one day or even a Bang and Olufsen store - you'll hear lots of low-ish quality audio that sounds great to the people buying and who are we to tell them they are wrong for liking what they like!

geoffreyvanhouwaert's picture

Hello Mr Reichert,

I've read your reviews for the past few years now and learned a lot about writing reviews and your personal flavours. The one thing i never understood is why you have a Mytek dac in your set-up, let alone two... I have a wonderful Nos dac with the same phillips chip inside and even without the tube it sounds ten times more 'analogue' than the sabre dacs. I know bad word. The designer of my dac doesn't believe in tubes in a dac. He does make preamps with tubes...

Anyway my question: say for argument sake that the Myteks are too detailed and the Border Patrol with tube is too romantic (tempting as it is to use the tube) wouldn't the border patrol without the tube be just about right? Wouldn't a good nos dac without tubes be just about right for digital.

I know right doesn't exist in audio and i loved the last two sabre dacs i tested recently, i have nothing against the Mytek for instance. It's just a thing i've been thinking about personally because i've been very tempted in buying the border patrol because of that damn tube. But with a tube preamp for instance would it be too much on the tuby side? Hope you understand what i'm trying to say here.

Best regards
Geoff from Belgium

Herb Reichert's picture

The simple answer to your Mytek inquiry is - I listen. I am presently living an audiophile's dream. I get to use and experience a wide range of audio technologies (almost at will) but it is against my religion to assign virtue or value to equipment based on the designer's choice of technology. I deeply enjoy my Mytek DACs because, like I told Ortolan, they make piano and vocal recordings sound like real people and real pianos. Right now I use only three DACs: the Mytek Brooklyn, the Schiit Yggdrasil Analogue 2, and the Holo Audio Spring. All sound different but all are 'real' sounding -- not overly processed.

geoffreyvanhouwaert's picture


You already answered my question in your review. Only read half of the review when i posted my question. I should have known. Thanks!

tonykaz's picture

I've been reading DAC reviews since 2011, when NwAvGuy did his Benchmark comparable Odac ( that I still own ).

Back then, nobody dared dig thru DAC performance in any sort of descriptive "Attempt " !

Back then Jason Stoddard said that DACs are boring!

Back then DACs did their job and politely stayed out of the debates, leaving it all up to Amplification and Transducers to grab and keep the Spotlights.

Back then, we had Big Sound in Montana where the finest DACs were up on display and compared alongside the World's greatest Amplifiers and Headphone Transducer Systems. Hardly anyone noticed the DACs! ( including the obsolete Yggy from Schiit , hmm ).

I paid attention, I auditioned the Yggy and found it lacking, I considered the MSB Analog DAC but kinda passed because of something Jason Stoddard said.

So, all these Years we've had Bland, ho-hum, yawning reviews of DAC's near sameness.

Until NOW !!!

Now we have a wordy Loquacious Bon-Vivant who's willing to go out on that limb that all others seem to dare not go.

Are DACs gonna get described now? ( finally ), does Stereophile have a brave soul able to go where no man has dared go?

I'm wading around the murky DAC understandings craving some assist in putting these complex puzzle pieces into a coherent understanding.

Thank you

Tony in Michigan

emcdade's picture

The measurements confirm What my audition of this dac was like; not good.

Soft bass, slightly grainy and lacking air in treble region, amorphous imaging. I hate to say it but there are a number of dacs at 1/3 the price that will sound better to my ears.

I now have a T+A DAC 8 DSD being fed nothing but quad rate DSD from Roon. Now that is a product that sounds different than your standard Benchmark DAC in a very good way. It has gobs of air and three dimensionality, while still having tons of body and real flesh and blood sound. That combination is elusive, but it does it.

Part-Time Audiophile's picture

While your experience is, no doubt, valuable and insightful, your comment is rather less so.

What did you "test" with? What are your preferences? Did you follow the instructions and advice of the manufacturer or any of the reviewers that wrote about it, or did you strap it the back of an airplane, dip it in chocolate, or attempt to chokeslam the unit before use?

The point: is your judgment relevant without your argument or your assumptions?

hollowman's picture

1982: 1st gen Sony (and other Japanese) CD players
2003: Zanden intro's super-$ model 5000 DAC -- it is NOS and uses Philips '80's-era TDA1541 dac. Reviewed by Stereophile in 2006
2018: TotalDAC, BorderPatrol, Soekris , et al.
1982: 1st gen Philips CD players (4x OS used to "emulate" 16-bit performance 'cause the TDA1540 dac was only 14-bit)
1984: 3rd gen Japanese CDPs intro 2x OS. Philips cont. to use 14-bit/4x OS
1986: Philips intro's new 16-bit dac (TDA1541) and new 4x OS chip (SAA7220)
2018: Chord's latest DAC with massive OS via gazillion taps

Clarkston's picture

Thank you Jon Iverson, CACC, and Stereophile for going the extra mile to question your own conclusions, even at the expense of potential embarrassment. Great to see blind testing and a larger group participate in making real world comparisons. Great to see a wide range of music tested including tracks that would get you shamed out of a regional show or high-end store. This is the first time I've seen anyone suggest in print that most DAC's actually sound very similar. I own two pieces of equipment that measure poorly - one being the the Boarder Patrol SE DAC and the other are my speakers. I've tried alternatives and listened to countless others but my ears (and my friends ears) tell me ignorance is bliss, I guess. Does this make me a bad audiophile? Hope to see input from other local clubs creep into your reviews in the future.

doug s.'s picture

...what would a border patrol dac sound like w/the TDA1541 chip that's $140-$300. i suspect that this dac could be offered for at most $140-$300 more than the present iteration. (unless, of course, b/p wants a bit more profit - ha!)

i heard this dac in an all b/p system driving volti audio horns at caf in a really lousy hotel room a couple years ago. the sound was excellent. i suspect having 100db horn speakers in a small room helped the electronics.

for me, after reading the review(s) and seeing the measurements, i'd never purchase this dac. because i believe that a well-put-together system w/proper speakers, amplification, and (most important, imo), preamplification, would allow a better-measuring (and less expensive?) dac perform as well with "perfect recordings", while still providing the warmth and tone of the b/p on all recordings.

even the dacs used as comparisons in this review, are, imo, "snake oil" any dac over $1k is snake oil, these daze. more even now, than 10 years ago, when my lowly modded art di/o dac easily held its own against 5-figure digital rigs. but that still doesn't mean i wouldn't be interested in hearing the b/p w/the better philips chip. ;~)


doug s.