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DAC Recommendations - $500 or less


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I'm toying with the idea of moving my Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 to my family room system and buying a new DAC for my listening room. The CA is also an Internet Radio/Streamer and it would probably serve a more useful function and get more use in the family room. In almost every way, its a nice piece of equipment (and I highly recommend it), with one small exception: it upsamples EVERYTHING and there's no way to adjust or defeat that feature.

 

So, for the listening room, I'm looking for recommendations for a DAC, $500 or under (I guess I could go $800 if you guys thought it worth it) that would serve only my MacBook Pro music server and a Wadia i70/iPod combination. I dont mind if the new DAC upsamples, but I would like to be in control of that, i.e.: perhaps doing the upsampling in software instead.

 

You guys are an intelligent, discriminating lot and I look forward to your thoughts.

 

Thank you,

Scott

MacBook Pro, 16gb RAM, 500gb storage, McIntosh MA-6900, Paradigm Reference Signature 6 Towers, Cambridge Audio Magic Streamer 6, Mountain Lion, iTunes 11.0.X.

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I'm toying with the idea of moving my Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 to my family room system and buying a new DAC for my listening room. The CA is also an Internet Radio/Streamer and it would probably serve a more useful function and get more use in the family room. In almost every way, its a nice piece of equipment (and I highly recommend it), with one small exception: it upsamples EVERYTHING and there's no way to adjust or defeat that feature.

 

So, for the listening room, I'm looking for recommendations for a DAC, $500 or under (I guess I could go $800 if you guys thought it worth it) that would serve only my MacBook Pro music server and a Wadia i70/iPod combination. I dont mind if the new DAC upsamples, but I would like to be in control of that, i.e.: perhaps doing the upsampling in software instead.

 

You guys are an intelligent, discriminating lot and I look forward to your thoughts.

 

Thank you,

Scott

 

I have not heard/do not own their products, but Schiit Audio makes a point about how none of their DACs use ASRC (look a little down that page). There isn't any control over the ASRC as you requested, but their Bifrost DAC is $349 with no USB input, $449 with USB. If you need balanced output for some reason, there is the Gungnir but that runs $749 w/o USB, $849 with USB, so that would be over your budget.

 

I get all mixed up when I see upsampling/oversampling and all that stuff so hopefully this at least gets you started in some direction :)

 

Oh also, the Emotiva XDA-2 at about $399 seems to be a real jack of all trades, but it might be overkill if you don't need the preamp capability. It does ASRC to 96kHz for incoming PCM material, but this can be toggled on or off using the remote.

Office: iPod classic/iPad -> Shure SE425 IEM Home: Oppo BDP-83/Synology DS211j -> Integra DTR-7.8 -> Revel speakers

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I have not heard/do not own their products, but Schiit Audio makes a point about how none of their DACs use ASRC (look a little down that page). There isn't any control over the ASRC as you requested, but their Bifrost DAC is $349 with no USB input, $449 with USB. If you need balanced output for some reason, there is the Gungnir but that runs $749 w/o USB, $849 with USB, so that would be over your budget.

 

I get all mixed up when I see upsampling/oversampling and all that stuff so hopefully this at least gets you started in some direction :)

 

Oh also, the Emotiva XDA-2 at about $399 seems to be a real jack of all trades, but it might be overkill if you don't need the preamp capability. It does ASRC to 96kHz for incoming PCM material, but this can be toggled on or off using the remote.

 

Thank you. The Emotiva looks like a great choice. I will read the two reviews at their website.

 

For anyone else who cares to make a recommendation, here are more of my specific requirements:

 

* Defeatable ASRC.

* Balanced and unbalanced outputs.

* USB 2.0, optical and coax inputs.

 

I like the Benchmark alternatives but they're just too much money for me right now.

 

Thanks,

Scott

MacBook Pro, 16gb RAM, 500gb storage, McIntosh MA-6900, Paradigm Reference Signature 6 Towers, Cambridge Audio Magic Streamer 6, Mountain Lion, iTunes 11.0.X.

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If you are considering the XDA-2, this might be the time to jump. I just got an email from Emotiva about a secret sale:

 

"Take 10% off your order through Tuesday (sale ends 4/23/13 at 11:59 PM CST). Enter code weekend10 at checkout. The code will not appear on our website, we are only sharing it via email.

 

Sale excludes the UMC-200, XPA-2, XRT-6.2, XRT-5.2, XRC-5.2, XRM-6.1, XRM-4.1, and Airmotiv 4. The 10% discount only applies to in-stock products."

Sometimes it's like someone took a knife, baby
Edgy and dull and cut a six inch valley
Through the middle of my skull

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You guys are an intelligent, discriminating lot ...........

 

 

I have both of the Schiit units.

Of the two,only the Gungnir has balanced outputs.

It does not upsample & is $750 without the USB module.

That is what I have along with the Music Fidelity V-Link 192 (~ $240).

I feel it is just the slightest bit to the warmer side of neutral, which complements digital source in my system. It has precise detail & quick, accurate bottom end with nary the hint of bloat or boom.

 

Some of the other features I appreciate is no wall-wart, it has good quality PS's on the board....&.....the DAC board is modular making it easily upgradable.

 

I had mine open this week to get the fuse specs, I am going to try one of those 'audiophile' fuses just for the fun of it.

 

DSCF8415_zpsfe7b550c.jpg

Bill

 

Practicing Curmudgeon & Audio Snob

 

....just an "ON" switch, Please!

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I'm toying with the idea of moving my Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 to my family room system and buying a new DAC for my listening room. The CA is also an Internet Radio/Streamer and it would probably serve a more useful function and get more use in the family room. In almost every way, its a nice piece of equipment (and I highly recommend it), with one small exception: it upsamples EVERYTHING and there's no way to adjust or defeat that feature.

 

So, for the listening room, I'm looking for recommendations for a DAC, $500 or under (I guess I could go $800 if you guys thought it worth it) that would serve only my MacBook Pro music server and a Wadia i70/iPod combination. I dont mind if the new DAC upsamples, but I would like to be in control of that, i.e.: perhaps doing the upsampling in software instead.

 

You guys are an intelligent, discriminating lot and I look forward to your thoughts.

 

Thank you,

Scott

 

This morning, bright and early, I moved the Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 to the family room system. Amazing how these things take so long (got to do it right) and how much DUST is hiding where it cant be seen. Anyway, it turned out to be a good move. Pandora played all day without interruption. My only quandary is with my Marantz SR-5005 AV Receiver which refuses to output any signal to the subwoofer from SW output jack, no matter what sound processing I choose. I've scoured the Marantz manual to no avail. Other than that, it was a good decision. My listening room system is a bit bare at the moment though....

MacBook Pro, 16gb RAM, 500gb storage, McIntosh MA-6900, Paradigm Reference Signature 6 Towers, Cambridge Audio Magic Streamer 6, Mountain Lion, iTunes 11.0.X.

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Scott,

 

I have read a lot about the latest DACs, and found a lot on the Beresford Bushmaster DAC (100+ pages of forum discussions and reviews, and tests....). Seems it is very good, especially good if it is matched with a linear PSU though it does not seem to match well in some systems with valve amps. Some have labeled this dac a 'giant killer' because of its price. In any case it made my short list.

 

Total cost: $400 ($230 for the DAC, $170 for the PSU)

 

I have recently bought one, but have been slow to answer this threat because it has a long burnin time (200 hours seems to be recommended, and it does make a difference). Now that it is burned in, it seems very balanced, detailed highs without being harsh, authoritive base, and may be getting more 'open/spacious' over time. Note: burnin is needed – it was harsh to start!

 

 

DAC

Beresford TC-7520SEG DAC

 

PSU to match

Linear power supply for Beresford Bushmaster DAC [bOTWS12Vuk-Beresford Bushmaster] - £110.00 : Precision Audio Cables and Interconnects, Multiregion, Multizone Blu Ray Players and Professional Hifi Accessories, UK High Quality Audio Cables Shop (they have ones for US voltage)

 

The whole big forum with reviews and discussion:

Beresford Bushmaster DAC Reviews - The Art of Sound Forum

 

Note: The Bushmaster does not have a USB input- if that is important you would need a USB to Toshlink converter, like this one:

Computer Audiophile - Bel Canto Design uLink USB to S/PDIF Converter Review

 

I'm toying with the idea of moving my Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 to my family room system and buying a new DAC for my listening room. The CA is also an Internet Radio/Streamer and it would probably serve a more useful function and get more use in the family room. In almost every way, its a nice piece of equipment (and I highly recommend it), with one small exception: it upsamples EVERYTHING and there's no way to adjust or defeat that feature.

 

So, for the listening room, I'm looking for recommendations for a DAC, $500 or under (I guess I could go $800 if you guys thought it worth it) that would serve only my MacBook Pro music server and a Wadia i70/iPod combination. I dont mind if the new DAC upsamples, but I would like to be in control of that, i.e.: perhaps doing the upsampling in software instead.

 

You guys are an intelligent, discriminating lot and I look forward to your thoughts.

 

Thank you,

Scott

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I have the Schiit Bifrost and think its pretty good. Don't see changing in the future.

13.3" MacBook Air, 4GB RAM, 256GB SSD; iTunes/Bit Perfect; MacBook Air SuperDrive; Western Digital My Book Essential 2TB USB HD; Schiit Bifrost USB DAC; Emotiva USP-1, ERC-1 and two UPA-1s; Pro-Ject Xpression III and AT440MLa; AKAI AT-2600 and Harman Kardon TD4400; Grado SR80i; Magnepan MMG Magnestands; and, Rythmik Audio F12

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  • 1 year later...

Bringing up an thread to update some mods on my Gungnir......

 

Tried the HiFi-Tuning fuse a few months ago.

 

I found both a difference & an improvement.

Enough to easily justify the $40.

 

Today I installed some Portuguese musician quality cork on all the board mounts & isolated the power supplies with some Mu metal.

 

The results are quite more than obvious.

Significant increase in both soundsage width & depth.

Any recording signatures such room acoustics or other ambient info is so palatable it makes the OEM seem like eggs without salt.

Much better with subtle details.

The overall realistic dimensional presence has me grinning till it hurts.

It is one of those upgrades that makes you want pull out all your favorites to hear all the new information that you going to hear.

 

 

Here are the mods to my Schiit Gungnir DAC using the cork & Mu metal

CAUTION - Graphic Audio Porn Depicted

 

DSCF8870_zps3ef1034c.jpg

 

GUNGNIR STRIPPED TO ITS ESSENTIALS

 

 

 

DSCF8868_zps441e9213.jpg

 

IT HELPS TO HAVE THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR THE JOB

 

 

 

DSCF8873_zpsdfb38851.jpg

 

CUTTING THE CORK PADS

 

 

 

 

DSCF8872_zpsbea87b47.jpg

 

CORK PAD FITTED TO ONE OF MODULE BOARDS

 

 

 

 

 

DSCF8883_zps52132455.jpg

 

CORK PAD ON ONE OF THE MODULE STAND-OFFS

 

 

 

 

 

DSCF8884_zps5259ce2b.jpg

 

CORK PADS FOR MOUNTING THE MAIN BOARD TO THE CHASSIS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSCF8888_zpse0f0e360.jpg

 

 

SORRY FOR SOME BAD CLOSE-UPS….NOT MY Camera’s FORTE’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSCF8891_zpsd73d5e67.jpg

 

 

THE TRANSFORMERS ARE SOLDERED DIRECTLY TO THE CHASSIS SO I COULD NOT ISOLATE THEM WITH CORK.

THEY ARE NEXT TO THE A/C MAINS, AND SOLDER TERMINATIONS ON THE BOARD ARE DANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO WHERE I WANT TO PUT THE Mu METAL.

I PUT SOME SILICONE OVER THE SOLDER JOINTS TO INSULATE FROM POSSIBLE CONTACT WITH Mu METAL.

YOU CAN SEE MY HiFI-Tuning Fuse, TOO.

 

 

 

 

 

DSCF8892_zps62b66458.jpg

 

Mu METAL IS CUT……

 

 

 

 

DSCF8894_zpse195823b.jpg

 

 

DSCF8896_zps423f8207.jpg

 

…IN POSITION & TACKED DOWN WITH SOME SILICONE

 

 

 

 

 

DSCF8899_zps862d5581.jpg

 

 

ALL BUTTONED UP & READY FOR EVALUATION

 

 

 

Bill - on the Hill

Practicing Curmudgeon & Audio Snob

- just an “ON” switch, Please –

Bill

 

Practicing Curmudgeon & Audio Snob

 

....just an "ON" switch, Please!

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Bill decided to do the isolation after I gave him the same raving review of the isolation effects on both my Cambridge Audio 840c and NAD M51. I'd write a nice long review, but really Bill highlights all the noticeable changes to the music. My stereo separation on the NAD M51 tightened up to a very precise sound stage. Scary good.

 

The differences are WELL worth the effort. It's enough that I'm going to do my Rotel RB-1090 & 1095 amps, Rotel RSP-1098 pre amp, and may even look into modifying my PS Audio P10 Power Regenerator.

 

20140914_210957.jpg

NAD M51, isolation around the transformer, I don't have long enough screws to isolate with the Portuguese Cork, but I did use my rubber/paper mix isolation pads that I use for Motherboard stand-offs. I also unseated all the cables and used my normal DeOxit Gold on all the connections. If my NAD wasn't still under warranty I'd actually silver sold all the connections to give the best possible connection (this is done in all my Rotel Equipment). HiFI Tuning Fuse has been added (about 6 months ago).

20140914_205437.jpg

 

Cambridge Audio CDp 840c - This is an older picture as I was testing fitting around the transformer, but same isolation as NAD. Portuguese Cork used on ALL contacting surfaces between the chassis and the screw holding the transformer. It actually floats on the cork now. I also wrapped and covered the transformer. HiFi Tuning fused was installed well over 6 months ago. This brought the 840c almost identical to the NAD M51 in soundstage and clarity. However it is a very much brighter presentation and the NAD is a little more musical with an added dimension of detail that the 840c doesn't give. Still it's a very nice improvement.

 

I would recommend any DAC one gets, it's worth spending a little bit of money and opening it up and isolating/shielding the transformers in it. :)

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Teac UD-01 does not get attention that it deserves. I do not read specs much other than features, then all of the testing is done by listening, and not those A/B tests but just sitting for hours and listening to one DAC and then another. I put Teac vs. Bitfrost vs. ODAC, vs. Emotiva via Audirvana and USB and to my ears (I have been measured recently by an audiologist to be up to 20kHz, hear violin really well), Teac has very strong emotional sound with 24-bit content. You enjoy listening to it for hours but not in the "elevator music" style listening, it pulls you in. Bitfrost is anemic, lows are just dull especially in mid bass. Highs are rolled off. ODAC is overall very balanced, very comfortable and for the money cannot be beat. In my listening, it does play 16-44 and 24-96 extremely well, but it gets funny with 24-88,176,192 content. Cannot explain but feels that I am listening through Acousticly-transperent cloth. Emotiva is a another DAC that offers good by not great sound, overall, it is feels a bit rolled off, especially when you compare to Teac. Emotiva would be good choice for the HT system to listen occasionally, but for dedicated 2-channel room, Teac is #1, then Odac if you have anti-Teac prejudice.

After all, find a place to buy them with good return policies and listen, listen, listen in your system. Reviews are really useless. No doubt I will get flamed for the above but it is what sounds good to me in my setup in my room.

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ODAC is overall very balanced, very comfortable and for the money cannot be beat. In my listening, it does play 16-44 and 24-96 extremely well, but it gets funny with 24-88,176,192 content. Cannot explain but feels that I am listening through Acousticly-transperent cloth.

 

It's because ODAC does not support those rates, so something else is doing the resampling.

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Wait a minute.

 

If this Dac can do DSD512, why cant it do DXD 768 like the IDSD Micro?

 

Because Amanero does not support DXD768 (if your question is about ADEA-I DAC).

 

Is there hardware or software limitation of Amanero, I don't know. iDSD Micro uses X-Mos USB interface.

Sorry, english is not my native language.

Fools and fanatics are always certain of themselves, but wiser people are full of doubts.

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For under $500, a used Schiit Gungnir without USB input, but that's only if you initially planned to use Coax.

 

Otherwise Audiolab M-DAC, Music Hall Audio DAC25.3, or used Musical Fidelity M1 DAC.

 

Computer > iFi iUSB Power Supply > iFi iPurifier USB Conditioner> iFi iLink USB to SPDIF Converter >

Matrix Audio X-Sabre DAC > AMB Balanced Beta 22 AMP>

 

 

 

 

 

 

|ϟ| SVS SB-1000 Subwoofer |ϟ| Adam A7X Monitors |ϟ| Sennheiser HD800 Headphones

 

 

 

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For under $500, a used Schiit Gungnir without USB input, but that's only if you initially planned to use Coax.

 

Otherwise Audiolab M-DAC, Music Hall Audio DAC25.3, or used Musical Fidelity M1 DAC.

 

That's quite honest list here. One question, what if headphone out is also important? I know that M-DAC has it, MH DAC25.3 as well - but here is rather a joke/afterthought feature and M1DAC does not have any.

--

Krzysztof Maj

http://mkrzych.wordpress.com/

"Music is the highest form of art. It is also the most noble. It is human emotion, captured, crystallised, encased… and then passed on to others." - By Ken Ishiwata

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That's quite honest list here. One question, what if headphone out is also important? I know that M-DAC has it, MH DAC25.3 as well - but here is rather a joke/afterthought feature and M1DAC does not have any.

 

If headphone out is important to you, then you're looking for an "all-in-one" unit with an amplifier circuit attached.

 

The Musical Fidelity M1 DAC is more "DAC" as it only does Digital to Analog conversion. If you're a purist who's out for the best sound quality, then you'll usually find it with two separate units. All-in-one units have good synergy equaling to great sound quality due to the builder being in control to implement it in a way where coloration and such is at a minimal, whereas with two separate units become more of a search for synergy. For example, If you were to have a bright DAC and a bright AMP then the two will not synegize well into a neutral tone thus giving you excessive high frequency sound. This is why audio hobby is subjective and the reason you should "LISTEN" for yourself to see if it fits you as a unique individual before you run off and purchase something off of impulse.

 

All-in-ones are great, however like with all great things, there comes cons such as added noise due to multiple transformers, not having enough room to get the best out each separate unit, shared ground, not high enough output current for power hungry headphones, heat issues, etc.

 

Computer > iFi iUSB Power Supply > iFi iPurifier USB Conditioner> iFi iLink USB to SPDIF Converter >

Matrix Audio X-Sabre DAC > AMB Balanced Beta 22 AMP>

 

 

 

 

 

 

|ϟ| SVS SB-1000 Subwoofer |ϟ| Adam A7X Monitors |ϟ| Sennheiser HD800 Headphones

 

 

 

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To conclude things, there are plenty of balanced and single ended units available today in both all-in-one and separate units. Plenty of choices to pick from, better if you can visit a nearby shop to audition them first (keep the pull trigger far away). You also have an option of not being the average consumer and going into the DIY realm to make your moneys worth but at the same time it can lead to many unforeseen complications (circuitry, learning disability, etc).

 

Sorry for the double post.

 

P.S.

I also forgot to recommend the Schiit Bifrost as a cheaper alternative to the Gungnir along with the Cambridge Audio DACMagic Plus.

 

Computer > iFi iUSB Power Supply > iFi iPurifier USB Conditioner> iFi iLink USB to SPDIF Converter >

Matrix Audio X-Sabre DAC > AMB Balanced Beta 22 AMP>

 

 

 

 

 

 

|ϟ| SVS SB-1000 Subwoofer |ϟ| Adam A7X Monitors |ϟ| Sennheiser HD800 Headphones

 

 

 

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