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Apologies that this is probably the millionth post to this forum asking for a DAC recommendation.

 

I actually ripped all of my CDs and bought a Mac Mini two years ago and then just couldn't pick a DAC. At the time, a lot of mail order products (like Mytek and Benchmark) were getting the attention because of DSD support. Local stores selling NAD or other brands without DSD support seemed behind the times, so why buy them?

 

Now there seems to be a new DSD-capable DAC every week, further confused by the debate about which ones are truly native vs. recompute everything anyway. It's hard to know if that first Mytek is still "good" or have technological advances (FPGA, R2R, etc.) allowed all the new entrants to eclipse it.

 

If you read enough forums, it's hard to say that DSD even matters. Some people like PCM better; some challenge the provenance of so much of our re-issued source material.

 

The net result: I still can't make a choice. I've considering:

* Benchmark 2

* Mytek

* Chord, now the 2Qute.

* NAD M51 - gets solid reviews but lacks DSD

* The upcoming Ayre.

* Wait for one of the above to go on the used market

* Or do I just get a Bitfrost or V90 and save some money because I have weeks of redbook content and not one minute of higher resolution.

 

 

Some other background:

* I need USB

* I don't care about the headphone amp feature - the DAC will go in a living room.

* I don't /need/ a pre-amp function. I have a perfectly nice Sonic Frontiers SFL-1 tube pre-amp. The pre-amp options I see mostly as offering me remote control.

* My current CD player is a Naim, amp is a VAC 100/100, speakers are Focal 918.

* Considering adding a record player as well - so any DAC savings is potential analog spend.

 

Any suggestions?

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My advice is to buy a good used pcm dac and await the fallout. If this DSD movement has done anything at all it's put lots of great dacs on the used market.

 

Oh and as for the "need USB", the Gustard U12 is all the rage and it's under $160. That will add USB to any DAC and it betters the USB input of most anything out there in the used market right now anyhow.

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If you are willing to spend some cash and have a good system, and do not mind optimizing you computer, I recommend Meitner ma-1 dac used, it can be found for decent money these days. I have one myself which I bought second hand (demo unit) for a good price. It is demanding to maximize performance but sounds very nice when done.

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I tend to be with blownsi on this matter, the vast vast majority of material is PCM so i am sceptical of the DSD bandwagon, furthermore I also tend to feel that Dacs that do PCM and DSD tend to compromise PCM which IMHO is best served with proper R2R dacs that are a little bit out of fashion.

 

The Metrum acoustic stable of Dacs are fabulous, I am also very interested in the new Schiit Yggdrasil which is a pure R2R Dac. Also as pointed out the second hand market for PCM only dacs is bulging...but then I am never a dedicated follower of fashion when it comes to the audio market!

Trying to make sense of all the bits...MacMini/Amarra -> WavIO USB to I2S -> DDDAC 1794 NOS DAC -> Active XO ->Bass Amp Avondale NCC200s, Mid/Treble Amp Sugden Masterclass -> My Own Speakers

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DAC's obsolesce fast, I replace mine every 2 years. DSD and asynch USB are a current must. I like my Metrum Octave but it doesn't do DSD and it doesn't have airiness in the high frequencys... reminds me of KEF speakers I used to own. If you have serious money to spend, I'm a big fan of the Modwright upgrade to the Oppo 105 as an all in one package.

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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Hi I have had AR Dac 8, Vega, and Lampi in my system, and also demoed Meitner MA-1 and Weiss. My Lampi 5 was much better, and now the 7 smoked it. So, depends on your budget.

 

The Amber dac is the Lampi DSD dac, but with the Big 7 you get the best of both PCM and DSD, and the ability to change the sound by changing the valves. Given how easily one can change the valves, it becomes fun.

 

Moreover, Lampi has one of the best, if not the best DSD. Alrainbow here prefers it to his 35k MSB stack.

 

As for DSD, try to avoid an upsampling dac. Why? Because dac designers are not the best at upsampling software, and have to keep costs down for their high margins. Upsampling PCM to DSD is best done outside the dac by a dedicated software guy like Jussi on HQPlayer. So with Lampi, I get to play native PCM, native DSD, and PCM upsampled to DSD through HQPlayer.

 

The Amber dac is available used at lower prices, and you can always sell it off easily I guess if you want to upgrade.

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On the basis of my experience with the Hugo, price, the features you do and don't need, and the format of your music collection, if I were you I would certainly wait for the 2Qute now. Or forget a DAC altogether and just spend all the money on a record player...

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If you are willing to spend some cash and have a good system, and do not mind optimizing you computer, I recommend Meitner ma-1 dac used, it can be found for decent money these days. I have one myself which I bought second hand (demo unit) for a good price. It is demanding to maximize performance but sounds very nice when done.

 

A Meitner DAC with DSD playback and PCM to DSD hardware upsampling would be a good one. Better yet if you can get a price deal on a used one.

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Hi I have had AR Dac 8, Vega, and Lampi in my system, and also demoed Meitner MA-1 and Weiss. My Lampi 5 was much better, and now the 7 smoked it. So, depends on your budget.

 

The Amber dac is the Lampi DSD dac, but with the Big 7 you get the best of both PCM and DSD, and the ability to change the sound by changing the valves. Given how easily one can change the valves, it becomes fun.

 

Moreover, Lampi has one of the best, if not the best DSD. Alrainbow here prefers it to his 35k MSB stack.

 

As for DSD, try to avoid an upsampling dac. Why? Because dac designers are not the best at upsampling software, and have to keep costs down for their high margins. Upsampling PCM to DSD is best done outside the dac by a dedicated software guy like Jussi on HQPlayer. So with Lampi, I get to play native PCM, native DSD, and PCM upsampled to DSD through HQPlayer.

 

The Amber dac is available used at lower prices, and you can always sell it off easily I guess if you want to upgrade.

 

When comparing dacs, what kind of computer did you use and was it via USB?

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When comparing dacs, what kind of computer did you use and was it via USB?

 

Yes all were via USB using Mac with Audirvana Plus. I have had an Aurender demo later, but those AR, Vega and Lampi were done exactly the same with Mac and Audirvana +. AR does perform much better with SPDIF

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A few of us over here are fans of EasternElectric DACs.

 

They can operate in either SS or Tube mode, so in one respect you are getting two DAC's for the price of one! Plus you can roll the tube to vary the sound.

 

You can also roll the op amps very easily, providing a nice upgrade path if you want one. (I have tried both Burson and Dexa op amps, both provide a refinement to the stock sound.)

 

I have a heavily modified EE Supreme (upgraded voltage regulators, caps, diodes, Ultima Femto Clock with Crystal XO, etc.) and it sounds very good to my ears.

 

They are $1350 in stock form. A bit of a bargain if you ask me.

Front End: Neet Airstream

Digital Processing: Chord Hugo M-Scaler

DAC: Chord Dave

Amplification: Cyrus Mono x300 Signatures

Speakers: Kudos Titan T88

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I have to give a plug for the Exasound E20 and E22. They are very good sounding with both PCM 352/384 and DSD256. With their ASIO drivers for Windows and MAC OS, they are the music pc's fully capable DAC.

 

And the exaSound e28 is even more complete. It plays all flavors of Multichannel DSD and PCM along with the formats in the e20 and e22.

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Apologies that this is probably the millionth post to this forum asking for a DAC recommendation.

 

* NAD M51 - gets solid reviews but lacks DSD

* The upcoming Ayre.

 

Any suggestions?

 

I own the M51 and the Ayre QB-9DSD. Given your description that you really don't care for any functionality other than USB, then I think the Ayre is the best you can do for the money. It only plays single rate DSD right now but that is expected to change with a firmware update. The Ayre takes away that vast majority of the tweaking from the computer side of the equation. It just about doesn't care which USB cable you use and doesn't care whether you have a mac mini or a highly tweaked purpose built server. It's isolation of the USB input from the rest of the dac is very well thought out (I believe it uses and internal optical data connection for electrical isolation.) Redbook sounds great through it and it really doesn't have the grain of a lot of other dacs. The M51 is pretty good, especially if you tweak it with a SPDIF converter. But it really isn't as good as the Ayre. The longer I have had the two side by side the more I appreciate the Ayre being a superior dac (that might be as it has broken in also.) The Ayre is just more natural and solid sounding while having more effortless dynamics.

Roon ->UltraRendu + CI Audio 7v LPS-> Kii Control -> Kii Three

Roon->BMC UltraDAC->Mr Speakers Aeon Flow Open

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