Counterpoint DA-10 digital processor System

Sidebar 1: System

Most of the DA-10's auditioning was done with the Audio Research LS5 preamplifier (and the ARC BL2 Balanced Line Driver) and the new ARC VT-150 all-tube monoblock power amps. I also used the Krell KSA-300S power amp. Loudspeakers were Thiel CS3.6es connected by AudioQuest Sterling cable.

CD transports were the PS Audio Lambda and a Mark Levinson No.31. Digital interconnects included AudioQuest Optical Pro II (ST-type), Aural Symphonics Digital Standard coaxial, and a new impedance-matched digital interconnect called DataStream Reference, from a company called Illuminati. Analog interconnects were Expressive Technologies IC-1 and AudioQuest Diamond. Power to the system (except the power amplifiers) was conditioned by a Tice Power Block and Titan. The acoustically designed listening room is treated with ASC Tower Traps.—Robert Harley

Counterpoint Electronic Systems
company no longer in existence

smargo's picture

reviews of digital from 1995 are so prehistoric.

your kidding me - that this was written now

John Atkinson's picture
smargo wrote:
reviews of digital from 1995 are so prehistoric.

your kidding me - that this was written now

Published in 1995, as it says in the heading, but posted now as part of our project to have every review published in Stereophile since the magazine's founding in 1962 available in our free on-line archives.

I'd offer to refund your money but as our archives are free access, I won't. :-)

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

RH's picture

Hi John,

It's always intriguing (to me at least) to read the old reviews posted on this site, so please keep them coming.

Having visited the measurement section for the Counterpoint DAC it had me wondering: In your experience measuring these for so many years, could you sum up some of the areas of measurable improvements you see in the best modern DACs vs 90's (and earlier) era DACs like the Counterpoint?

smargo's picture

John: I have been reading stereophile for 25 years - Im not looking for a refund - im just saying id rather read about where companies and the people that ran them - are now - in this day and age

signalbeach's picture

A Counterpont DAC from 1995 ? Really ? This review is so old it's not relevant today; and not a very interesting piece either. I've been an audiophile since the early 70's and am very interested in reading reviews of seminal equipment from the past. Republishing old Audio Research, Krell, Levinson, McIntosh, etc reviews would be great.

BradleyP's picture

I'll bet that this DAC sounds just fine today for 44.1/16. I am the original owner of a storied JVC 1050 CD player from 1993, which also sounds just fine. Using it as a transport and feeding a more recent DAC with it yields only slight sonic improvements.

stereophilereader's picture

i wonder if anyone is still using this unit today ?

rschryer's picture

— a well-respected company that had at its core a gifted and innovative audio designer in Michael Elliott. In 1996, a year after this article was published, the company filed for bankruptcy, but not because its stuff didn't sound good. It just ran out of money.

stereophilereader's picture

but build and reliability were not the best.

tonykaz's picture

I ran out of money and customers in the middle 1980s. Geez, Counterpoint held out till 1996 ?, that's say'n sump'n !

I'm thinking the Customers are back now and bringing their pals, because the Recorded Music is wonderful, better than ever and improving. Phew!!

Of course there's plenty of Competition from 4K OLED TVs but that stuff is sooooooo computer generated ( not real and hard on the eyes ).

Simple music seems real and easy on the nervous system, it lets everyday life proceeds as normal and doesn't try to barge in on our "attention".

Nice recorded music ( like Lang Lang playing ) seems like going "off the grid" in your own home.

This is a very good time to be starting out as a recorded Music lover and consumer.

Too bad about Counterpoint and Michael Elliott, where is he now ?

Tony in Michigan

ps. I've never owned or even touched one single piece of Counterpoint Gear. Hmm....

rschryer's picture

...he was still posting back-page ads in audio magazines, Stereophile included, offering to repair/mod Counterpoint gear.

And I agree with you about these being unprecedented times in terms of access to recorded music. Tidal, bRadio, LPs, CDs... so much to enjoy, in so many different ways. I thank my lucky stars for it every day!

tonykaz's picture


Paul McGowan delivers a incredible summary about Audio's developments, to date.

Steve G talks logic concerning SubWoofers.

Brilliant stuff being released from Colorado & NY on the YouTube Channels.

Audiophile TV is where it's at.

Tony in Michigan

ps. listening while I work

rschryer's picture

...but probably not the "audiophile TV is where it's at" thing, which sounds to me dangerously close to being an oxymoron.

But that's only because TV sound doesn't interest me much. I am, however, interested in any potential technology that can accustom more people (read: regular folk) to good audio, and make them more resistant to not-good audio.

Good sound a bad thing? Never!

tonykaz's picture

Silly boy, Audiophile TV is Paul McGowan and Steve Gutenberg ( our people ) doing Audio Reviewing.

It isn't a TV thing it's a YouTube Channel specifically for us types.


rschryer's picture

Oops. I guess I should listen to music less and watch YouTube more (hehehe, as Herb would say). But I will check it out, Tony. Thanks for the heads up. (And, hey, nobody told me!)

tonykaz's picture

I'm nobody ?

Geez, you don't treat your pals very well, do ya?

So, I'm tell'n ya.

Anyway, Paul and Steve are the Competition, who would tell you?

The whole thing wouldn't matter except that these two are FiveStar Philosophers with tons of real experience, they're better than Harry Pierson & Pals at TAS!

Tony in Michigan

rschryer's picture

I will surely drop in to YouTube to check out Paul and Steve. You're right, these guys do know a ton of stuff about the audio biz. Should be interesting...

tonykaz's picture

It will be interesting and informative.

Mr.Carson's Lab and Blueglow Electronics are two more ( kinda at the grass roots level ) both are informative and insightful about how gear is built, breaks, is repaired and performs.

YouTube has become a wonderful adventure place.

Tony in Michigan

volvic's picture

Always wanted to own Counterpoint products in the 80's and 90's, but as a struggling poor student I could never afford them. This DAC was enthusiastically reviewed by a magazine that I love and respect north of the border, the reviewers loved it so much they used it as their reference. If I recall the authors thought the bitstream cards wasn't the way to go but with the HDCD card it was a killer. Pity such great companies; Counterpoint, Sonic Frontiers and Hovland are no longer around. Thanks for sharing, such great memories living in Montreal, spending endless hours at a local hifi store that I supported, which sadly is no longer around, and which always had an open door policy with me.

rschryer's picture

...Counterpoint was one of the first audiophile companies to properly implement HDCD capability in its DAC, the DA-10. That unit could make digital playback sound musical!

I do wonder if the demise of some of the well-known audiophile companies of the day wasn't partly due to bad customer service. Over the years, I've dealt with some talented, widely revered designers whose people skills could best be described as hostile and antithetical to repeat business.

I hope you've found an audio shop oasis in your neighborhood where you can feel at home, Volvic. If not, at least you live in a city replete with live music venues.

volvic's picture

I do live in a city that has great live music, thank god for the top tier at the Met and the subscription to JLCO. But sadly here, there are no local hifi dealers I can hang my hat, like I used to in Mtl. It was great listening and being introduced to great gear growing up at my then local audio store. After it shuttered, I gravitated towards another one which only recently closed, on the east side of Mtl. Great service and great guys. That personal touch I feel is lost, especially in a larger city like NYC. Keep the postings down memory lane coming JA, love these old reviews.

Ortofan's picture

... the Sony CDP-X707ES.

volvic's picture

That's when Sony was a great company. Good times!

hollowman's picture

Also from the Golden State, the $2000 California Audio Labs System I DAC, (reviewed in Aug. 1992), featured modular (changeable) DAC boards.
I have that issue -- TJN's write-up and Measurements were comprehensive . Stereophile should try to bring that review online, as they have with the Counterpoint.

In the meantime, some info here:
"Made in 1992 and originally selling for $1995, the CAL System 1 was the high end digital analog processors of that time. The sound of the unit could be customized with four different plug-in modules. This unit comes with the $200 MASH IV 1-bit, 32x oversampling module and the $650 Indus 20-bit, 8x oversampling module."