Vermeer Audio TWO DAC/PRE Follow-up
Follow-Up: I was quite flattered when Stereo Times publisher, Clement Perry, asked if I would be interested in doing a follow up to Dave Thomas’ review of the Vermeer Audio TWO DAC. I was surprised at the offer initially. Dave wrote a clear, succinct review that I took a look at and felt it was a very good read (here). I gave it no more thought. Of course, it would have been nice if my own brother (yes, DT is my brother) would’ve invited me to come to his home to listen to this gorgeous $22K DAC and share some ideas and conclusions on its performance or maybe even invite me, as a fellow Stereo Times reviewer, to take it home for a few days (or weeks) to see how I felt about the piece. I concluded that it must have slipped his mind as he is such a busy fellow. That or the greedy bastard just wanted to keep it for himself! So, I told Clement that, yes, would I be interested in doing a follow-up review on the Vermeer Audio TWO? Actually, it was more like I screamed, “YES!”
Dave did an exceptional job of describing the build quality and the technical aspects of the TWO and I don’t have much to add in that regard. But my first impression, visually, of that the TWO is that it really has some size to it. Pictures that you see online don’t give you the sense of the width, depth and weight of the TWO. In this day of DACs getting smaller and more compact the TWO gives you a lot of DAC for your money. One thing I would like to point out, aside from the top notch construction and fit-n-finish, is that the TWO rests on three rounded conical feet. These conical feet seemingly do a good enough job, sonically, of isolating the TWO from vibrations. Unless you’re a hardcore tweaker, this a nice touch and should give owners peace of mind that, to a degree, the designers have addressed concerns regarding unwanted noise. Another touch that I thought was nice, and very much appreciated, was that the brightness of the front panel display could be increased or shut off completely, with a couple of steps in between. When your eyesight is as poor as mine, you really appreciate having this type of flexibility.
How it sounds
Sonically, what was immediate upon initial listen was that the TWO is an extraordinary piece of equipment. The first performance parameter I noticed was that the stage width and depth were the best I had heard in my home. Stage depth on the Amber Rubarth CD, Sessions From the 17th Ward [Chesky Records], just kept going further back, but also with a clarity and musicality that kept me engaged. Initially, I thought stage width was good, but not exceptional, until I played the CD, Miles & Quincy Live at Montreux [Warner Brothers]. Stage width, on Joel Grare’s Paris-Istanbul-Shanghai [Alpha} went wall to wall and felt like it wanted to go wider than the 16 foot boundaries of my listening room. Also noteworthy was the TWO’s quality of focus and the imaging. While listening to the Wynton Marsalis’ CD, Magic Hour [Blue Note], I noticed how the TWO played music that sounded tuneful and lyrical, while the performances appeared to be rock-solid and with a high degree of dimensionality. I found this aspect of the TWO’s performance to be mesmerizing. Detail retrieval was also done at a high level. The TWO’s ability to dig down deep and bring back that last little morsel of musical information was quite surprising, especially since the level of detail retrieval my system serves up is pretty high to begin with. This ability to retrieve musical information gave me a greater insight into why musicians played notes a certain way. The bass performance with the TWO in my system was special. The combination of my BSC mono-amps and the Wilson Sashas gives me quite enjoyable bass quality, being both full and authoritative. The TWO gave my system mid-bass performance which was even more impactful, and the deep bass had even greater extension. Both of these observations were a bit more than subtle. Tonally, the TWO is very neutral but I want to add that its performance in this area should not be described in terms such as warm or detailed but in terms of more or less “life-like.” Music played with the TWO in my system sounded much more real than when driven with any other digital devices I have heard, period.
The Vermeer Audio TWO DAC is a very special piece. It performed better than any other DAC that I have had the experience of listening to either at home or anywhere else. To add to what I have mentioned regarding the sonic performance of the TWO is that it is a serious performer as a preamp. I hoped to find a DAC with a line-stage that would have enough output to be able to drive my amps well enough to play my Sashas to satisfying levels. I have had several DACs in my system, including my own AMR-DP-777, which sounds wonderful as a DAC but whose line-stage sounded anemic in my system, and the BMC Audio PureDAC, which sounded surprisingly good at lower levels, but began to sound hard once I started to turn the volume up. The one exception of the DACs with line outs that I really liked was the Bricasti M1, which did a nice enough job that I found to be satisfactory. Listening to the line out of the Vermeer was more than satisfying as it allowed my BSC mono-amps to make the Sashas boogie. The same sonic character I mentioned regarding how the TWO sounded, transferred to how it performed as a preamp. With the TWO’s stated 7 volts of output, I felt that I had all the slam, power and headroom, as well as sonic refinement, that I could want. This sonic character was delivered without the feeling that I was missing anything by not having my Purity Audio preamp plugged into the system, which in and of itself is saying something. The Vermeer TWO DAC isn’t cheap at more than $20K , and there are a slew of DACs that will give you performance that is also excellent for less money, especially if you already have a good preamp. That being said, the Vermeer Audio TWO DAC is a better performer than most and also gives you a line stage that will compete with a lot of dedicated preamps. If you’re looking for an ultra-high-end performing DAC with exceptional preamp performance, the Vermeer Audio TWO DAC delivers on its promises and is well worth your consideration.
Vermeer Audio Model TWO