Lab12 DAC1 Reference Problem

Guys, got this DAC a few days back, and having a problem connecting it to my Electrocompaniet ecm1 UP cd player via rca digital out. The signal is not stable, goes on and off. The Bluesound streamer works fine with it. Connecting cable is Nordost Silver Shadow. Already talked to the dealer, while he didn’t know the answer he offered either to replace it or refund my money. Going to return it, but I really like its sound.

 What could be the cause of this glitch? Ideas?



The Lab !2 can sometimes have trouble if a 24/48 or higher source is active on one Coax input and there is an active signal on the other Coax input.   

I ended up putting my Vault in another room so it is longer an issue.  Try the CD player alone with the Bluesound unplugged

It is a great sounding DAC,   I didn't discover this until a few months into owning it and my dealer did not believe I was experiencing a problem.   

To me it sounds  so good I can live with it.   I don't believe mine is broken, I think that the two Coax inputs are not isolated and it is confused as what to lock on,depending on what's connected and what the bit rate is

I have had 1.5 years of reliable great sound and I use it daily.  I was pissed at first but their products are built well, sound great, and they are a small company so I gave them a pass on this one.   

Also, does the CD player have a variable output that attenuates the volume in the digital domain?  If so defeat or switch to fixed out   They are rare but some players do this...


Basically you sometimes need to turn the component on the Coax input you are not using off for it to lock onto the active source. My experience 

Good info to know.  On mine, I used USB for my streamer with a coax for CD transport with no issues.  No longer use CD.  Send an Email to Lab12 on their website.  I have several times and they are very responsive within a day or 2 depending on the time you send it.

@oddiofyl, man much much appreciated. I did the on and off thingy, and after the second attempt it works great without dropping the signal. You just saved my Christmas gift :).

Thanks again!

@tksteingraber, thanks for your feedback. I sent the email earlier today, and yes, they’re very responsive, usually they reply within two days, like you said.

It's important to note that Stratos did reach out to me personally.   I just didn't like my dealers tone and refusal to believe I discovered that issue, to a level of troubleshooting that is easily repeatable.    So I contacted LAB 12 directly and got a reply the next morning.   They did have a firmware revision early on that was supposed to cure any problems with signal lock.   I think my suspicion that each Coax is not fully isolated to be fact.   It is weird that it mostly happens when a m 24/48 or higher output is present at both device outputs .  The problem with the mode and the Vault is they sit on the network all of the time and always have a live spdif output. 

Best bet is to run different type connections but if you want or need 2 Coax what will usually work is to select a 16/44.1 source in the Node like Radio Paradise before switching to the other Coax and vice versa.

The rub is that it sounds soooo good....   I really have no plans to replace it anytime soon.   I had a year trade up and knew early on i was keeping it.  It's a small inconvenience in the scheme of life.  

Definitely put some hours on it just to make sure it's stable with both inputs when the device not is use is powered off and I think you will find it works fine.  Right now I have my Aurender connected via USB and Coax, TV with Toslink and no problems which ever one is selected.  Locks right on

@oddiofyl, I will try the second coax tomorrow. I talked with Stratos a while back regarding DAC’s balanced version, wanted to get that one, but it turned out it’s not yet  available in the US.

@oddiofyl, you said “ It's a small inconvenience in the scheme of life”, and I completely agree with you.

Second year that it is on Part Time Audiophile's best of and buyers guide.  It was just named one of their values of the year

So do you think the Lab12 sounds better than the Electrocompaniet?  That’s a damn good player and I would think it’s pretty hard to beat. 


The rub is that it sounds soooo good.... I really have no plans to replace it anytime soon. I had a year trade up and knew early on i was keeping it. It’s a small inconvenience in the scheme of life.

Agreed! That’s a wise perspective. If an audio component significantly improves your enjoyment of listening to music, keep and appreciate it.


@chayro, it’s not better than the Electro, just different, but It’s much better than my Bluesound streamer.

Strangely enough my Marantz sacd player works fine with both inputs. But the Electro is much better soundwiise that’s I’m very disappointed ☹️ 

Try swapping Coax 1 for 2 and keep the Bluesound out of the loop while troubleshooting 


Any settings in the Electrocompeniet ?   Upsampling?   If so turn it  off.   

The Electro has nothing to adjust sadly. The Bluesound is not connected, and now I get signal dropping on #1 as well, although much less than on #2. The Electro does upsampling, but it’s within the DAC’s range.

Do you by any chance have CAT 8 ethernet cable?   I had a different problem, not sure it was limited to the DAC where I had dropouts and noise.  Went back to cat 6 and problem solved.   I took that advice from a member here , not to use cat 8 for audio as it can cause issues

Sorry to hear you are having problems.    Anything SPL makes is good in my experience with their headphone/dacs.   A friend has the BP and he is a big analog guy.  


@oddiofyl, I’m using wi-fi at the moment. The streamer works great with it. No dropouts or anything like that. Also the VU meters  move almost unnoticeable then they suddenly they come alive and work as they should. I think it’s a glitchy unit, nothing like their demo piece.


Sorry to hear of your troubles with your new dac. The advice @oddiofyl has provided is the same general concept I’ve had to use with my dacs and sources as well. Please read the following which is taken from the Lab 12 manual with particular attention to the last sentence.

Connect a Digital SPDIF Output Source

Make sure that your digital source has a SPDIF 75ohm coaxial or optical Toslink digital output. Connect the digital interconnect cable (or fibre optical) from the source output to the correspondence input of dac1 reference. Turn on your dac1 reference and then your digital source unit and activate the digital audio output on it (if needed). Select the desirable input with input select push button on dac1 reference. Dac1 reference can accept resolutions up to 192KHz and up to 24 Bit Depth on any digital input.

Use an audio grade digital 75-ohm digital interconnect cable to ensure the best transfer of your digital signal.

* Please note that Coaxial 2 must be always locked in lower sampling rate frequency than Coaxial 1.


@designsfx, thanks for the feedback, yes I read the manual, and I’m not using #2 at all. Now only my CDP is connected to it.


I’m not sure what streaming service you use but would imagine you could still use the digital out from your Bluesound into the second input- of course that will depend upon whether the limit is 24 bit or 192K.

I stream Qobuz and rarely see any files that playback at 192K but of course that doesn’t account for what you may have stored on the device. Hope it all works out!

This one is on my radar and I know @oddiofyl always speaks highly of it. It’s between the Lab 12 or adding a DDC to my current Pontus II.

@hasmarto Hi there, I'm very tempting to get this DAC. However my current DAC Matrix Audio has digital volume control and Lab 12 doesn't have. May I check whether able to control volume from driver (Such as Window,Mac and IOS etc.)

@nainghsy , I only tried my CDP and internet radio via Bluesound, which has its own control app. So, can’t comment on that, sorry 

I used the Lab 12 with a Vault 2i and it's volume control.   If the PC can attenuate the digital out then it is possible.