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  • What DAC?

    While much of my casual listening is via digital, most of my critical listening is analogue.

    I have been using a Sonos system for distribution of digital throughout the house. On my primary and tertiary systems I have DA converters I like but I've been just using the on board Sonos DAC for the second system as I play mostly vinyl there.

    I played a really well recorded ECM LP (and you certainly can;t say that about all of their output), the relatively new Carla Bley album and it is superb on that system which uses electrostatics (which I find useful in terms of critiquing recordings). When the album was over, I switched to digital and the difference was large and immediately apparent - if I wanted to be able to listen to digital on that system, I really need a decent DAC.

    I looked around and found that the majority of DACs now seem to be intended for portable and/or headphone use, and the 'old' style of 'unit you stick in a rack' size DACs are in a decided minority. My choice is to buy a modest DAC for that system, or to do what many/most of us might choose to do - buy a better unit for the main system, upgrading it, and move the cast off DAC up to the currently DAC-less system.

    I thought that I'd ask here, having waded through the 'best DACs of 20xx' reviews. Are there any killer value DACs out there?

    My top candidates range from just picking up another Hegel HD 12 for upstairs, or a Chord Qutest, or a Moon 280D to put in the main system, moving the Hegel from there upstairs.

    Have I missed any likely ones?
    Last edited by wspohn; 10-04-2020, 12:13 PM.
    Main:VPI TNT V, SME V, Koetsu Urushi, Vendetta SCP2-D, Conrad Johnson Premier 14, Conrad Johnson Premier 11a, Wilson Maxx 2, Inouye power conditioner, Moon 280D DAC

    #2 Sota Cosmos, SME V, Lyra Clavis, Bryston BP17, Conrad Johnson Premier 15 phono, Classe DR3 VHC, Martin Logan CLS, Hegel HD12 DAC

    #3 Roksan Radius 5/Nima/Goldring Eroica LX Classe DR-7, Classe DR3 VHC bridged monos + PSE V monos (bass), Classe DAC1 DAC, Vandersteen 4A,

    #4 (AV) Marantz AV 7702 Mk2, Rowland 5, Wilson Maxx 2, Vandersteen VSM-1 (x4), Hsu VTF-15H Mk 2 (x2)

  • #2
    It appears you are looking at around $2000 - 2500 for the DAC in the main system? There are almost innumerable possibilities. I'd investigate offerings from Schitt, Benchmark and Mytek for sure. However, I think if you went up to the circa $10k (+/- 2.5k) range you would get something closer to the rest of your components for sound quality; you might want to look even higher in price/quality, but in that range (actually even for the $10k range) you will probably want something relatively easily upgradeable
    Tascam BR-20
    Technics 1506 with tape path upgrades, FM head and custom repro amp
    Modwright Oppo 205 full tube mod w/LPS
    Euphony Summus server, EtherRegen, HDPLEX LPS
    MSB Discrete DAC (dual PS, ISLPro, balanced out)
    Pass Labs INT60
    Daedalus Audio Apollo 11’s
    REL S3 (Kimber Kable connection)
    Daedalus/Wywires, Audioquest, Acoustic Zen, Sablon Audio cables
    Core Power Equi=Power 1800 Mk3
    Adona rack; Stillpoints and IsoPods, Tube Traps, GIK

    Comment


    • #3
      You are right that my emphasis is the vinyl side of things, and right again on the approximate price range I've been contemplating. Thanks for the suggestions - I'll follow up on them.
      Main:VPI TNT V, SME V, Koetsu Urushi, Vendetta SCP2-D, Conrad Johnson Premier 14, Conrad Johnson Premier 11a, Wilson Maxx 2, Inouye power conditioner, Moon 280D DAC

      #2 Sota Cosmos, SME V, Lyra Clavis, Bryston BP17, Conrad Johnson Premier 15 phono, Classe DR3 VHC, Martin Logan CLS, Hegel HD12 DAC

      #3 Roksan Radius 5/Nima/Goldring Eroica LX Classe DR-7, Classe DR3 VHC bridged monos + PSE V monos (bass), Classe DAC1 DAC, Vandersteen 4A,

      #4 (AV) Marantz AV 7702 Mk2, Rowland 5, Wilson Maxx 2, Vandersteen VSM-1 (x4), Hsu VTF-15H Mk 2 (x2)

      Comment


      • #4
        The Schiit Yggdrasil GS $1600.00 or the top Yggdrasil for 2400.00.
        Crazy build quality and excellent sonics.
        SOURCE: VINYL - EAT C-Sharp with, EAT LPS power supply, My Sonic Lab Signature Gold
        DIGITAL - Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC. Roon Nucleus w/EAT Lps power supply. Auralic Aires G1
        PHONOSTAGE: AudioNet PAM G2 with AudioNet EPX power supply.
        PREAMP: Audionet PRE G2.
        AMPLIFIER: Audionet MAX monoblocks.
        SPEAKERS: YG Acoustics Anat III Signatures (upgraded to Sonja 1.2) JL Audio F112 V2 (x2)
        CABLES: Kubala-Sosna, Kubala Sosna Xpander.....Audio Desk Systeme RCM, Adona Rack, GIK & Acoustimac room treatment, Isoacoustics

        Comment


        • #5
          Chord Quetest is crazy good for the money. Distribution changed recently... and there were good prices new as some were being dumped before the new distributor took over.

          Otherwise, they come up used often - they take up very little rack space as well.

          Phono: Aesthetix Io Eclipse with 2 Power Supplies and Volume controls
          Brinkmann Balance & RonT Tube Power supply with Kuzma 4-point ,FR64S, Brinkmann 12.1 , .Koetsu Jade Platinum,Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum, Lyra Atlas Lamda, Lyra Etna SL Goldfinger Statement, KLAUDIO RCM, HRSM3X
          Amps: Custom Direct Drive, Wyetech Topaz, Futterman H3 Quad II,Citation II, Marantz 8b, 5 ,2. Bedini 25/25
          Pre-Amps:Marantz 7, Marantz Model 1 Consolette Pair
          Speakers: Beveridge Model 3 Direct Drive amps, REL S/2 x 2, Quad ESL pair
          Otari 5050BXII, DeHavilland 222

          Comment


          • #6
            Not to spend your money, but you need to look at the entire digital signal chain and not just the DAC. If you really want to improve the digital side of things I would look at replacing your music server and your DAC, even if it means splitting the available funds between the 2.
            Speakers: Vandersteen Model 7s, 4 M&K ST-150Ts, 1 VCC-5; Amplification: 2 Vandersteen M7-HPAs, CI Audio D200 MKII, Ayre V-6xe; Preamp: Doshi Audio Line Stage v3.0; Phono Pre: Doshi Audio V3 Phono Pre; Analog: Wave Kinetics NVS; Durand Telos and SME 3012R Tonearms, Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement v2; Miyajima Zero; Reel to Reel: Technics RS-1500; Doshi Tape Pre-Amp; Studer A810; Studer A812; Tascam BR-20; Multi-channel: Bryston SP-3; Digital: Custom PC> Lampizator Pacific

            Comment


            • #7
              I would look at Audio-Gd offerings for a modestly priced DAC.
              I have a DAC 19 and they just introduced the latest version of it.
              They offer good value at their price points and excellent customer support.

              Comment


              • #8
                If you don't spend around $12K for a server and DAC, your going to have a hard time getting anywhere near the sonic level of your existing vinyl.
                PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Custom SET 845 monoblocks, Dartzeel NHB108, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI Paramount preamp, Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, STST Motus II TT, Vertere SG1 arm, Hanna ML, Allnic H1201 Phono pre, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, LPS to Modem Router and Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cabling throughout network, Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire.10 awg dedicated branch circuits to amps bolted to power cords. Significant upgrades to 120 volt main power panel. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects. ADDPower Symphony and Electraclear.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Kingrex View Post
                  If you don't spend around $12K for a server and DAC, your going to have a hard time getting anywhere near the sonic level of your existing vinyl.
                  I hear you and I agree. But I'm not looking for quality parity - I think that by upgrading to an intermediate point on the main system and moving the Hegel upstairs the upstairs system will be quite listenable and the main system will be somewhat improved on the digital side but of course not to the same degree as the current analogue side. I am OK with that. My serious listening still involves vinyl, where the material is available in that format.
                  Main:VPI TNT V, SME V, Koetsu Urushi, Vendetta SCP2-D, Conrad Johnson Premier 14, Conrad Johnson Premier 11a, Wilson Maxx 2, Inouye power conditioner, Moon 280D DAC

                  #2 Sota Cosmos, SME V, Lyra Clavis, Bryston BP17, Conrad Johnson Premier 15 phono, Classe DR3 VHC, Martin Logan CLS, Hegel HD12 DAC

                  #3 Roksan Radius 5/Nima/Goldring Eroica LX Classe DR-7, Classe DR3 VHC bridged monos + PSE V monos (bass), Classe DAC1 DAC, Vandersteen 4A,

                  #4 (AV) Marantz AV 7702 Mk2, Rowland 5, Wilson Maxx 2, Vandersteen VSM-1 (x4), Hsu VTF-15H Mk 2 (x2)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I'm partial to Mojo Audio. No affiliation and I have never got a discount outside what others get. I just heard the Mystique V3 dac from Mojo slaughter others in rhe $6k price in my rack. He has a new EVO dac out. Some of the V3 come up for sale around $3500. It's a stunning dac for the money. With a good server, good cables and LPS on your modem, router and switch, it will get near your vinyl.

                    The server is still a big influence in sound quality. It matters more than people want to admit. Its hard to put into words what the server vs dac brings to the table. But to the servers importance, i had the windows OS system scrubbed from my server and the root ram linux software installed. It was such a dramatic change. Akin to removing a really crappy cartridge on your tone arm and replacing it with a fantastic one.

                    What I'm saying is, just a DAC swap may be a nice addition, but it may be less than the luster you seek. As another analogy, an Anna Diamond will only do so much on a Rega P3 with a Fono preamp.
                    PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Custom SET 845 monoblocks, Dartzeel NHB108, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI Paramount preamp, Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, STST Motus II TT, Vertere SG1 arm, Hanna ML, Allnic H1201 Phono pre, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, LPS to Modem Router and Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cabling throughout network, Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire.10 awg dedicated branch circuits to amps bolted to power cords. Significant upgrades to 120 volt main power panel. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects. ADDPower Symphony and Electraclear.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Maybe I missed it earlier, but what are your digital sources? Ripped CDs? 24 bit downloads? Need DSD capability? Will you be streaming from Tidal or Qobuz? Always have to ask questions before making a suggestion.
                      Steve Lefkowicz
                      Senior Associate Editor at Positive Feedback
                      -
                      Analog 1: Linn LP12 (MOSE/Hercules II), Ittok, Dynavector 10X5 MK.II Low, iPhono2/iPowerX; Analog 2: Pro-Ject RPM-1 Carbon, Talisman S, iFi iPhono.
                      Digital: Samsung 300E5C notebook, JRiver Media Center 28, Tidal HiFi, Qobuz Studio), iFi NEO iDSD, iFi iUSB3, iPurifier2, Audioquest Jitterbug.
                      Electronics: DIY passive line-stage, Antique Sound Labs MG-SI15DT-S, Burson Timekeeper Virtuoso
                      Speakers: Tekton Perfect SET 15, Tekton Lore, Magneplaner .7
                      Interconnects: Morrow Audio MA1, Vermouth Audio Black Pearl, Audioquest Evergreen
                      Speaker cables: WyWyres Diamond, Morrow Audio SP4, Vermouth Audio Red Velvet, Audioquest Type 5
                      Digital cables: Aural Symphonics USB, iFi Gemini twin-head USB.
                      Accessories: Sound Organization turntable shelf, Mondo racks, Pangea Audio Vulcan rack, Pi Audio Group Über BUSS, Monster HTS2000 power conditioner, Kinetronics anti-static brush, Pro-Ject VC-S record cleaner, Spin Clean record cleaner.
                      Headphones: Schiit Valhalla amp, Burson Conductor Virtuoso Amp, Meze Audio 99 Classic and 99 Neo, Beyerdynamic DT770Pro 600 ohm, DT770 Studio 80 ohm, 1More Triple Driver Over Ear, 1More Triple Driver IEM

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I do not use streaming services. I have ripped my entire (4000+) CD collection to flac on a network drive. I have also retained one CD player, nothing too fancy, to be able to audition CDs when I want to decide whether to add them to the library or not.

                        Funny, I feel like I've been through all this before - when I bought my first decent CD player (Arcam Delta 70) and DA converter (Arcam black box) back in the 1980s (still have the Delta 70 somewhere - built like a tank, couldn't kill it).
                        Main:VPI TNT V, SME V, Koetsu Urushi, Vendetta SCP2-D, Conrad Johnson Premier 14, Conrad Johnson Premier 11a, Wilson Maxx 2, Inouye power conditioner, Moon 280D DAC

                        #2 Sota Cosmos, SME V, Lyra Clavis, Bryston BP17, Conrad Johnson Premier 15 phono, Classe DR3 VHC, Martin Logan CLS, Hegel HD12 DAC

                        #3 Roksan Radius 5/Nima/Goldring Eroica LX Classe DR-7, Classe DR3 VHC bridged monos + PSE V monos (bass), Classe DAC1 DAC, Vandersteen 4A,

                        #4 (AV) Marantz AV 7702 Mk2, Rowland 5, Wilson Maxx 2, Vandersteen VSM-1 (x4), Hsu VTF-15H Mk 2 (x2)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          In that case, sounds like rbbert's suggestion "Schitt, Benchmark and Mytek" is pretty sound. I might add the iFi iPro DSD to that list. Even though you don't use DSD, their DACs. generally punch way above their price-range.
                          Steve Lefkowicz
                          Senior Associate Editor at Positive Feedback
                          -
                          Analog 1: Linn LP12 (MOSE/Hercules II), Ittok, Dynavector 10X5 MK.II Low, iPhono2/iPowerX; Analog 2: Pro-Ject RPM-1 Carbon, Talisman S, iFi iPhono.
                          Digital: Samsung 300E5C notebook, JRiver Media Center 28, Tidal HiFi, Qobuz Studio), iFi NEO iDSD, iFi iUSB3, iPurifier2, Audioquest Jitterbug.
                          Electronics: DIY passive line-stage, Antique Sound Labs MG-SI15DT-S, Burson Timekeeper Virtuoso
                          Speakers: Tekton Perfect SET 15, Tekton Lore, Magneplaner .7
                          Interconnects: Morrow Audio MA1, Vermouth Audio Black Pearl, Audioquest Evergreen
                          Speaker cables: WyWyres Diamond, Morrow Audio SP4, Vermouth Audio Red Velvet, Audioquest Type 5
                          Digital cables: Aural Symphonics USB, iFi Gemini twin-head USB.
                          Accessories: Sound Organization turntable shelf, Mondo racks, Pangea Audio Vulcan rack, Pi Audio Group Über BUSS, Monster HTS2000 power conditioner, Kinetronics anti-static brush, Pro-Ject VC-S record cleaner, Spin Clean record cleaner.
                          Headphones: Schiit Valhalla amp, Burson Conductor Virtuoso Amp, Meze Audio 99 Classic and 99 Neo, Beyerdynamic DT770Pro 600 ohm, DT770 Studio 80 ohm, 1More Triple Driver Over Ear, 1More Triple Driver IEM

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Thank you all. I shall be making a decision shortly and will post the results of my deliberations.
                            Main:VPI TNT V, SME V, Koetsu Urushi, Vendetta SCP2-D, Conrad Johnson Premier 14, Conrad Johnson Premier 11a, Wilson Maxx 2, Inouye power conditioner, Moon 280D DAC

                            #2 Sota Cosmos, SME V, Lyra Clavis, Bryston BP17, Conrad Johnson Premier 15 phono, Classe DR3 VHC, Martin Logan CLS, Hegel HD12 DAC

                            #3 Roksan Radius 5/Nima/Goldring Eroica LX Classe DR-7, Classe DR3 VHC bridged monos + PSE V monos (bass), Classe DAC1 DAC, Vandersteen 4A,

                            #4 (AV) Marantz AV 7702 Mk2, Rowland 5, Wilson Maxx 2, Vandersteen VSM-1 (x4), Hsu VTF-15H Mk 2 (x2)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I have decided to go with the Simaudio Moon 280D.

                              My reasoning:


                              Manufacturer accessibility - these units are made in Canada and if there are any service issues they can be dealt with more quickly that would be the case with units made elsewhere, particularly during the current health situation, which seems to be slowing cross border commerce in general.

                              Sonics – there is no one who has current stock near me to allow an in person audition, much less an A/B/A test with my current DAC, so I am forced to rely on reviews and the advice of a couple of people whose opinions I value who have experience with these units.

                              Flexibility – the unit I have committed to is just a DAC, however the manufacturer also sells one with the Mind2 card installed which turns it into a music streamer, and the card can be retrofitted if desired (I will only be using this as a DAC for now).

                              Price – the price without the streaming card is $3700 with the streaming capability, and about $1000 less without the car...but – Simaudio has just elected to only make the unit with streaming card, so the remaining stock is available for only $2100 (although I had to buy from across to the other side of Canada – Montreal. I could add the card later and still not reach the new price on the unit with card.

                              I shall do some listening when it arrives – the reviews suggest that lengthy break in is required although I have never quite understood why that would be so on devices without anything but flowing electrons, but I will leave a signal going into it from the server for some time and will monitor it. And I will try to remember to post an update here once I have assessed it.
                              Thanks for all the feedback – when you can’t audition for yourself that sort of input is invaluable.

                              It is on track to arrive next week - another advantage of buying in country - postage is $25 rather than triple that from the US, and it isn't subject to being delayed in customs for an indefinite period.
                              Main:VPI TNT V, SME V, Koetsu Urushi, Vendetta SCP2-D, Conrad Johnson Premier 14, Conrad Johnson Premier 11a, Wilson Maxx 2, Inouye power conditioner, Moon 280D DAC

                              #2 Sota Cosmos, SME V, Lyra Clavis, Bryston BP17, Conrad Johnson Premier 15 phono, Classe DR3 VHC, Martin Logan CLS, Hegel HD12 DAC

                              #3 Roksan Radius 5/Nima/Goldring Eroica LX Classe DR-7, Classe DR3 VHC bridged monos + PSE V monos (bass), Classe DAC1 DAC, Vandersteen 4A,

                              #4 (AV) Marantz AV 7702 Mk2, Rowland 5, Wilson Maxx 2, Vandersteen VSM-1 (x4), Hsu VTF-15H Mk 2 (x2)

                              Comment

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