Roksan K3 DAC – Review

Roksan K3 DAC – Review


The Roksan K3 DAC has been nothing but a joy to listen to for the last couple of weeks. It is simple to set-up, use and listen to.   The K3 series mantra is ‘Style, Performance & Function’ and this Roksan K3 DAC is all of these.  Partnered with the K3 integrated amplifier this is a formidable presentation which shows up the limitations of my aging, but still wonderful, B&W CM7s.

Roksan K3 DAC Design

The K3 is a superb audiophile grade digital hub featuring a high quality DSD1794A DAC chip from Texas Instruments. This is the heartbeat of the DAC. The chip handles PCM to 24 bit and 192kHz and DSD streams thanks to minimal clock jitter. Inputs include an XLR input and a Coax input as well as an optical input and two USB B inputs, one tab the back and one handily at the front.  The Roksan K3 DAC also features their new K Link wireless linkup which is very nice indeed.  The dongle for your laptop allows for CD quality laptop style streaming.  There is also an analogue wireless transmitter option which I have not had access to, this will presumably take a line level source and make it wireless to the DAC, a record player for example?

Roksan K3 DAC

Analogue output is to two RCA phono lines as well as XLR output.  All in all a beautiful, functional, design with ease of use at the forefront of thinking.

Roksan K3 DAC Quality

At this price level, quality is standard and with the matching hand finished front facia to the integrated amplifier you immediately feel in good hands.  The detailing on the front writing (main picture)  is simply beautiful.  All round, the DAC feels like it has the weight to deliver your needs and it is this reassurance you take into critical listening.

Performance

I have tested the K3 DAC with her sibling K3 integrated amplifier into my trusty B&W CM7s with a variety of sources including a Tidal from a laptop, DSDs and 24 bit 192kHz sources from the laptop and my (also quite old but excellent) Yamaha CD player, which is now officially a CD transport.

Coaxial CD input

Truly excellent performance from the K3 amp and DAC in concert

First up it was easier to just put a CD on and have a blast.  The K3 amplifier was characterised by a wide soundstage, bundles of power and great rhythm so I was looking to make sure this was maintained from the CD source in place of my own (entry level DAC) and boy is it.   Dire Straits’ ‘Telegraph Road’ exploded from my system and the pace and bounce from the K3 amp was widened into a joyful soundstage.  Truly excellent performance from the amp and DAC in concert.   Following this track on the CD is ‘Private Investigations’ which is all about detail, power and dynamic range.  The detail from the DAC is flawless and little is taken away.  Sudden bursts of intensity are interpreted neatly by the DAC and delivered with power from the amp.  Great performance.

K Link, CD quality & Tidal

The K Link wireless connection was next up, this is a very good innovation and one that has emerged in the last few years from other products by the likes of Audio Pro, who use this wireless dongle to such effect with their LV33e (see review here) and other such products.

I enjoy the flexibility of this wireless and convenient solution with the confidence you don’t always get from Bluetooth solutions.  The K Link performance is CD quality only but nonetheless outstanding for the convenience of laptop listening, Tidal performs well here with the DAC doing all the work.  When Bluetooth often sounds a bit dull, these wireless solutions address these consistency and quality issues.

Playing around with Tidal in this way, I have randomly found some amazing music by Maren Morris, surely the next Taylor Swift?

USB B Type

USB B Type performance is outstanding from the Roksan K3 DAC

For peak performance a USB B type link is required from your digital source, in this case my laptop using the J River hi-spec licensed software which I find better to access and navigate than Foobar (anyone got any other suggestions here?).  I downloaded the driver for Windows 10 online, although I have just noticed a data stick with the instruction booklet.  It took 5 minutes to configure at the most.  USB B Type performance is outstanding from the Roksan K3 DAC.  Using some 24 bit Beatles tracks all of the detail you would want is here.  Sometimes you may think that listening to The Beatles should happen on scratchy records in Mono but these tracks and this DAC lays the argument to rest with joyful presence, laughter in-between tracks and lively bouncy performances.  I would simply point you to all 5 minutes and 35 seconds of ‘Day in the Life’, as an example.

I often listen to a 24bit 192kHz copy of ‘Hallelujah’ by Jeff Buckley and it is just perfectly presented by this K3 DAC, really nice.   Other genres come across well, with some orchestral pieces shining nicely, Rachmaninov’s delicate ‘Symphonic Dances’ in particular.

The only comment I would make here is that many DACs have a USB Type A input for a data stick and this is missing on the K3 DAC, surprisingly in my view. I do, however, like the Type B input on the front, this is very useful and convenient.

Optical

I have had a brief play, streaming, with a Bluesound Node, optically connected into the K3 DAC.  It was very pleasant with the same result (stability, quality) as the K Link really, just a very good presentation of music from Tidal (the new Lumineer’s album is worth a listen, by the way).

Overall

This is a very very nice piece of equipment, competent in all areas, rounded nicely.  I sometimes forgot it was there which I think is a complement to the DAC , meaning it was not in the way of anything I was listening to.  The K Link is an excellent innovation, one that I appreciate more when just browsing music on a sofa.  It is expensive and there are other options, but as they always say, ‘you get what you pay for’, and this is a high class audiophile experience.

Love

The styling and look

Simplicity

Neutrality of the sound reproduction

Like

USB B at the front

K Link

Wish

It had a USB A input as well

The K3 DAC is available in the UK now.
For a list of all approved Roksan retailers, visit the ‘Where To Buy’ section of henleydesigns.co.uk

SRP £1,250.00

3 Comments

Add yours
  1. 1
    John corney

    I have just purchased the k3 dac to use in a PC based headphone system. The headphones are the Sennheiser HD650, I too am using the jriver software for hires files, would you possibly have any reccomendations on a headphone amplifier that would compliment this combination.
    Regards
    John

    • 2
      Simon Wilce

      Interesting, the K3 was great but I had it with the Amp as well, so didn’t have the problem you have. All I can think of is the Arcam rHead using balanced cables. It is a straight out headphone amp, if I recall. I had one a while ago but didn’t review it but it was a competent solution and how you’re setup this could be worth considering. Let me know how you get on, good luck.

  2. 3
    John Corney

    Apologies for the late response Simon but i have only just noticed your reply, no email notification. Just to get a foot on the ladder so to speak after the outlay for the Dac and the Headphones, and funds been a little bit stretched, i opted for lets say a starter headphone amp, the Sshitt Magni 3 which has glowing reviews, and i must admit gives very pleasing reults. But like i say this is a starter and i do intened to look at others when funds allow such as the icon audio tube headphone amp, but i will also be very interested in auditioning your suggestion. I have in the past had a fairly nice system , but mainly based on vinyl,
    Sugden amp and power amp used as mono blocks.
    Roksan Xerses turntable with a modified RB300 tone arm, dynavector moving coil cartridge.
    Ruark Talisman 2 speakers.
    Rotel 1070 cd player ( possibly the weak link)
    The sound of the Vinyl set up was warm , dynamic and very detailed, but i am of the opinion that speakers need to reach a certain volume to really spring into life and start to sing , unfortunately when this system came alive the soundstage was that huge that the rest of the house came alive and my next door neighbour, hence it’s eventual departure and my current choice now

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