CAL Sigma II DAC 24/96 Info and opinion needed

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by boead, Nov 16, 2003.

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  1. boead

    boead New Member Thread Starter

    I’m looking for information on a California Audio Labs (CAL) Sigma II DAC with a 24/96 upgrade. It has a Telefunken tube upgrade as well. ($450 used)
    What happed to CAL? Can’t find them on them web.
    I want details on its construction, not much available.

    I’d be using an inexpensive Denon DVD-1500 for now and upgrade this transport later on.

    I was in the market for a new CD Player under $600.

    I looked at the Music Hall CD-25 and was fairly impressed with its reviews stock and very impressed with it modified. Stock its $450, modified its closer to $750.

    I also looked at the Denon DVD-2200 (I can get it for $325, its $600 list) and the Denon DCD-1650AR CD Player (I can get for $500, list for $950).

    Lastly I was looking at the Jolida at about $750.

    Using the CAL Sigma with my current cheap transport what kind of characteristics can I expect? How does it compare to a Music Hall or similar?
    Then, with a better transport, what can I expect to gain?

    What level of quality in a transport do I need to complement a DAC like this?

    Finally, at what price point does it become pointless?
    CAL + Transport = $750
    Jolida stand-alone = $750
  2. average Joe

    average Joe New Member

    San Jose, CA
    boead, I can answer some of your questions.

    CAL is no more. It was bought by Sonic Blue who no longer supports CAL's older products.

    I had the CAL Alpha which is one step up from the Sigma. It uses 2 tubes. The construction of both of these DACs are of very high quality.

    Here are some user reviews of the Sigma.

    I loved my Alpha. Huge soundstage, sweet liquid lifelike midrange. Vocals were heavenly. A very musical DAC. From the posts I've read on the Sigma it should sound similar to the Alpha. Search for Sigma on Audio Asylum's Digital Forum. You should find info there.

    My Alpha really responded to different tubes. I've tried Telefunkens, Mullards, 5751s and others. They all gave a different sonic flavor and it's fun tryng them out. The Telefunken should sound great.

    I've not heard the Music Hall or Jolida.

    The best thing to do is to try the Sigma out in your system. Will the seller let you do this and return it if you're not happy? That's the only way to know how it will sound.

    Some negatives:

    Since Sonic Blue no longer supports the Sigma. If it breaks you may be hard pressed to find someone to fix it. But with the Sigma's high quality construction it may last a very long time.

    Sadly, my 10 year old Alpha recently gave up the ghost. Sonic Blue could/would not even give me a name of someone to fix it. (But they did send me the schematics. Although that was no help to me.) When I contacted different techs and repair/mod outfits, the only way they would even look at it is if I would get their few hundred dollar mod done. My Alpha had already been heavily modded by G&D Transforms so that would be a waste. Short story - it's still broke. I decided to get a new DAC.

    Also, since the Sigma was designed, at least 10 years ago, digital technology has greatly improved. I found that out when I replaced the Alpha. Although the 24/96 upgrade may make it's age less significant. I never got that upgrade.

    - Wonderful, very musical sound.
    - High quality construction.

    - No support.
    - It's an older design.

    In my experience transports do make a difference but not anywhere near as much as the DAC. So I would be in no hurry to replace the Denon as a transport. I would consider using all of the $600 now for a DAC and sometime in the future replace the transport. Denon equipment is good. It should work just fine as a transport.

    Also different digital cables made a difference. (Although I don't know why they should.) Take your time and research it. The Digital and Cable forums at Audio Asylum should be of some help.

    If you get the Sigma I would bet you will be very happy with it. But everyone's ears and systems are different. So again, I would suggest listening to it before you buy, if possible.
  3. boead

    boead New Member Thread Starter

  4. average Joe

    average Joe New Member

    San Jose, CA

    Thank you for that!! :)

    I've never heard of them. I had just given up getting it fixed. I'll contact them and hopefully they can fix it.

    If there's anything I can help you with please post.

    Under 2 years old - that's good news!
  5. boead

    boead New Member Thread Starter

    Hope they work out for you.

    The owner came down to $400 with a vintage Telefunken (not sure of the brand but has the diamond on the bottom) with time on it, but tested very strong on a heathkit T-1 tester, the reason its in place he claims. The owner will also include the new jj tesla that was originally in it.

    I have read mixed opinions on the Telefunkens. Some say that are like an "amorphous mass of goo" ?? Why are they sought after?

    Also what is tuberolling????
  6. Gary

    Gary Nauga Gort! Staff

    You mean the Telefunken 12AX7's? They're magic. Do a search here!

    Tube rolling is switching tubes in your equipment. You'd be amazed at the different sounds you can achieve.

    One other thing: Welcome to the forum! Post long and often! :)
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