The French company Atoll is known in smaller circles as a manufacturer having a purist approach to designing audio component while at the same time striving for a price setting that addresses a wide group of audio consumers. The DAC100SE on review here is a very good example of this philosophy. At € 530 it seeks a market position one tier above the entry level d/a-converters. When I unpacked the DAC100SE to have it ‘warmed up’, I heard a sound as if there was a loose component inside, so I screwed it open right away. It appeared to be the buttons that have some play between the front panel and the actual switch, so no problem there. But the sight on the printed circuit board made me wonder whether the correct model was sent to me.
Two separate transformers, discrete rectifier circuits, seven voltage regulators next to the rectifiers and one close to the eight times oversampling Burr Brown PCM1796 DAC chip, discrete output electronics and MKP capacitors; components galore. Ad to that the very sturdy metal housing holding a sticker at the back that states ‘Fabriqué en France’ and you know why I wonder whether I have heard the price wrong. But I didn’t.
I do apologize for getting a bit technical, and all of the above does not guarantee sound quality, but I didn’t expect that much and that quality components and circuitry in a € 530 d/a-converter built in Europe. But let’s get to the user side of things. The DAC100SE measures 31 x 21 x 6 cm and weights 2 kg. The front is available in black or silver anodized aluminium, the rest of the cabinet is finished in satin black. On the front left there is the signature logo with the O punched out, displaying the model number in white against a black background. The three buttons further to the right let you select one out of seven inputs: one USB Audio Profile 1 input, three SPDIF inputs on RCA and three SPDIF inputs on Toslink. Seven nice green LEDs indicate what input is selected. On the right is a standby button with an indicating green LED (do you hate those blue LEDs as much as I do?). There is a provision for remote control, a remote control is optional. The rear holds an IEC power inlet, a power switch, the aforementioned inputs, digital feedthrough outputs on RCA and Toslink plus an analogue stereo output on RCA.