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Options - update, replace, keep?


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I'm currently am using a iFi iDSD mico, and is a great item for sure, especially for the $$. It has been rock solid but am looking at the following to either supplement, replace or maybe the iFi stays.

 

Arye qb9-dsd (used)

Yggdrasil (obviously not released yet but would be in my $$)

iFi Pro

PSA PerfectWave DAC II

Auralic Vega (used)

wyred 4 sound dac-2 dsdse

Antelope Audio Zodiac w/ Voltikus (used)

 

I don't use headphones (eww) and have no need for that feature (seems like many have them anyway) and would like something more "traditional" (permanent) as opposed to a mobile DAC for my main rig.

 

DSD isn't a huge requirement. It is relevant in the grand scheme of things, but am more concerned about the overall SQ in the end.

 

I understand this is very subjective and I'm not looking for "whats best". It would be great to get some feedback on any "gotchas", things to consider or look out for in so far as bugs, functionality or experience with any of these. Additional recommendations are welcome.

 

Ultimately, I am looking for a SQ improvement (detailed/accurate) over the iFi and I think the ifi is great but it tends to have a somewhat muddy or distorted signature in the top end at times (IMHO, in my enviro). Holding out for the Yaggdrasil is pretty tempting which is a different animal altogether though, but being there are sooo many cookie cutter dacs, it might be worth it.

 

My rig consists of 2011 mini > A+ (music on NAS) > Halo P7 > Halo A21 > Sounus Faber 3 way (w/ 2subs) in a dedicated space that is treated fairly well.

My rig

 

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I suggest you explore what HQ Player does for sound quality converting Redbook to DSD 256

 

configure your MAC mini as a HQ Player NAA and feed it from an i7 PC or MAC running HQ Player Desktop

 

the new ASDM7 DSD modulator takes PCM to DSD conversion to a new level of timbre realism.

Sound Test, Monaco

Consultant to Sound Galleries Monaco, and Taiko Audio Holland

e-mail [email protected]

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I have both an Auralic Vega for use in my main rig and an iFi iDSD Micro that I use in my secondary system. The iFi is an amazing unit for the money. I think it is very similar in sound quality to my old Benchmark Dac1 USB, though the iFi is a little bit more brittle or thin. Compared to the Auralic in my main system the Auralic adds a whole 'nother level of detail and control. Music is less flat and much more nuanced with a bigger more solid sound stage. The one area in particular where the Auralic excels compared to the iFi is low end control and balance. It was like my speakers gained an additional octave on the bottom end without being exaggerated.

 

I can't think of any gotchas. Both work flawlessly with my Mac.

 

For comparison my main rig is a 2012 mac mini with JRiver driving the Auralic Simudio and Arcam amps with Focal speakers

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So I'm taking this as forgo a hrdwr (dac) replacement as it prob won't make much of a difference?

 

From what I gather, many of them don't differ greatly a lot of them may not really make a huge difference (night and day), thus my cookie cutter comment. I certainly haven't heard many of the dacs available, but generally speaking it would seem many aren't worth the $. Meaning the price per performance may not be there.

 

I have tried HQ player briefly, but it doesn't have a remote app if I remember correctly. For me, that's s major strike. I'll look into it some more, but I already have A+ and up sample to DSD when desired

 

Really, I want a stand alone dac (not a portable headphone type) and the ones I referenced are the ones I'm interested in. Just wanting any thoughts on what I might find or run into compared to the ifi I'm currently running.

My rig

 

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Foggie

 

I recently auditioned the Ayre, PS Audio Direct Stream, W4S, and Auralic.

 

I was able to audition the PS Audio Direct Stream and W4S side by side on a system that included the $30k KEF Blades. The differences between the W4S and PS Audio were, to my ear in the 45-minute session, very small. Assuming the DS is better than the PW, I'd suggest the W4S.

 

The Auralic session did not go well due to technical difficulties. Basically the Chord CD player the shop was using as a transport would not sync with the Auralic. We later tried it with a laptop but at that point we were kind of burnt out. (We had also auditioned the Hugo and wound up comparing it to the CD player.)

 

The one that impressed me the most, and it was played on a very modest system, was the Ayre. Way more lifelike than the others. The only "gotcha" is that it's USB only with no remote/volume control, so you'd have to rely on your player software.

 

If you can get a deal on the Ayre and those caveats aren't a problem, it was really impressive.

 

Scott

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Foggie,

 

I have the QB-9 DSD. Scott above called it "lifelike" sounding. I tend to use "natural" sounding when describing it. I don't have any wishes to upgrade.

 

IMO the Ayre sounds much better playing PCM than DSD (64). Some of the other DACs might be better choices if you are wanting to jump on the DSD train.

 

On the plus side, Ayre has historically offered very reasonably priced upgrades to their products. I was able to have my QB-9 upgraded to the dsd version with only a few hassles.

 

Certainly worth a listen if you can manage to do so.

 

Paul

Main System: Mac mini (Audirvana+, MMK, JS-2) -> ISO Regen (LPS-1) -> Icron 2201 (Rex LPS-1.2) -> ISO Regen (LPS-1.2) -> Ayre QB-9 Twenty -> Headamp GS-X Mk2 -> Classe CT-M600 -> KEF Reference 201/2

 

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I have both an Auralic Vega for use in my main rig and an iFi iDSD Micro that I use in my secondary system. The iFi is an amazing unit for the money. I think it is very similar in sound quality to my old Benchmark Dac1 USB, though the iFi is a little bit more brittle or thin. Compared to the Auralic in my main system the Auralic adds a whole 'nother level of detail and control. Music is less flat and much more nuanced with a bigger more solid sound stage. The one area in particular where the Auralic excels compared to the iFi is low end control and balance. It was like my speakers gained an additional octave on the bottom end without being exaggerated.

 

I can't think of any gotchas. Both work flawlessly with my Mac.

 

For comparison my main rig is a 2012 mac mini with JRiver driving the Auralic Simudio and Arcam amps with Focal speakers

 

Thank you for your thoughts - a "little brittle and thin" is a good description as well. There is a local dealer that has a Vega that I'll check out and maybe bring home if possible. Again the micro is a great item just wanting to try some alternatives.

My rig

 

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Foggie

 

I recently auditioned the Ayre, PS Audio Direct Stream, W4S, and Auralic.

 

I was able to audition the PS Audio Direct Stream and W4S side by side on a system that included the $30k KEF Blades. The differences between the W4S and PS Audio were, to my ear in the 45-minute session, very small. Assuming the DS is better than the PW, I'd suggest the W4S.

 

The Auralic session did not go well due to technical difficulties. Basically the Chord CD player the shop was using as a transport would not sync with the Auralic. We later tried it with a laptop but at that point we were kind of burnt out. (We had also auditioned the Hugo and wound up comparing it to the CD player.)

 

The one that impressed me the most, and it was played on a very modest system, was the Ayre. Way more lifelike than the others. The only "gotcha" is that it's USB only with no remote/volume control, so you'd have to rely on your player software.

 

If you can get a deal on the Ayre and those caveats aren't a problem, it was really impressive.

 

Scott

 

Interesting, and realizing your audition was on a system not your own (presumably) those are some very well regarded items, none of which, really have any shortcomings. The PS Direct Stream would be great to demo, but more than I want to spend, thus the Perfect Wave option which are readily available used (no dsd though).

 

The Ayre "gotcha" isn't an issue as I'm using a pre.

 

Thanks

My rig

 

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Foggie,

 

I have the QB-9 DSD. Scott above called it "lifelike" sounding. I tend to use "natural" sounding when describing it. I don't have any wishes to upgrade.

 

IMO the Ayre sounds much better playing PCM than DSD (64). Some of the other DACs might be better choices if you are wanting to jump on the DSD train.

 

On the plus side, Ayre has historically offered very reasonably priced upgrades to their products. I was able to have my QB-9 upgraded to the dsd version with only a few hassles.

 

Certainly worth a listen if you can manage to do so.

 

Paul

 

Thanks Paul. I'm not really sure yet where DSD fits into my "world" of audio. I have tried native, up-sampled, down-sampled et al. Dunno at this point as there are way too many variables involved (mix/mastering, source, room, speakers) for it to be a clear delivery for every situation. Its another "format" as I see it and is nice to have it as an option though.

 

I guess the only way is to try and track one down and listen for myself.

My rig

 

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For less money check out the McIntosh D100 or newer D150 compared to the Ayre. Might surprise.

 

They look to be the same price, no? Irregardless, thanks for yet another option :)

 

One thought I had - are there issues or things one has to consider running these or any dac for that matter, into a pre or direct to an amp as far as the dac's "gain"? Is it possible to overload or mismatch the components (not sure if that is worded correctly)?

My rig

 

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One thought I had - are there issues or things one has to consider running these or any dac for that matter, into a pre or direct to an amp as far as the dac's "gain"? Is it possible to overload or mismatch the components (not sure if that is worded correctly)?

 

I would guess that most of the DACs you list have fairly standard voltage output levels. Compatibility would likely be more a function of the gain of the amplifier. I'm running the Ayre through a passive pre - so no issues with the Ayre driving compatible amps directly.

 

I personally would not control volume via s/w with a dac connected directly to an amp. Have had too many s/w glitches in the past that would have resulted in full volume pops / static and fried speakers. There are just too many variables with player s/w for me to trust that they will be glitch free....

Main System: Mac mini (Audirvana+, MMK, JS-2) -> ISO Regen (LPS-1) -> Icron 2201 (Rex LPS-1.2) -> ISO Regen (LPS-1.2) -> Ayre QB-9 Twenty -> Headamp GS-X Mk2 -> Classe CT-M600 -> KEF Reference 201/2

 

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They look to be the same price, no? Irregardless, thanks for yet another option :)

 

One thought I had - are there issues or things one has to consider running these or any dac for that matter, into a pre or direct to an amp as far as the dac's "gain"? Is it possible to overload or mismatch the components (not sure if that is worded correctly)?

 

D100 at $2500, D150 at $3000, Ayre at $3250. But D100 can likely be found lower since it is being replaced. Second hand from a reputable dealer would also be an option. D100 does not do DSD if that is important. Both D100 and D150 are pre-amps and headphone amps as well and can be plugged directly into your power amp. I would check the output voltage of the DAC/Pre and input range of the pre/power to make sure, as you could mismatch.

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D100 at $2500, D150 at $3000, Ayre at $3250. But D100 can likely be found lower since it is being replaced. Second hand from a reputable dealer would also be an option. D100 does not do DSD if that is important. Both D100 and D150 are pre-amps and headphone amps as well and can be plugged directly into your power amp. I would check the output voltage of the DAC/Pre and input range of the pre/power to make sure, as you could mismatch.

 

Assuming you have experience with these, is there anything in particular the 100/150 does well compared to other dacs (in same price point)? Saving money going used is always an option across the board.

My rig

 

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Assuming you have experience with these, is there anything in particular the 100/150 does well compared to other dacs (in same price point)? Saving money going used is always an option across the board.

 

D150 I have not heard and do not care enough about DSD at this point. D100 was my fav at the price point and owned it for a while. Much better than my customized Benchmark at the time. Least fatiguing sabre I tried and certainly more flexible than the Ayre. HPA also sounded very good. But there is so much out there that the one thing you really need to do is audition the DAC at home.

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Hi Foggie

 

The one thing McIntosh does better than the other options is say "McIntosh" on front. And I mean that as a good thing. The company is not going anywhere, the gear lasts forever, and it will retain resale value.

 

According to my local McIntosh dealer, the 100 and 150 are really the same except for DSD conversion. There will probably be some used 100's hitting the market or dealers looking to reduce price on inventory. I auditioned the D100 about two weeks ago. It was nice. Nothing blew us away. If I had McIntosh gear or was offered a great deal, I wouldn't hesitate.

 

If you compare it to some of the other suggestions, it's more a pre-amp+DAC than a DAC with pre-amp. (McIntoshLabs.com doesn't even have a DAC section...it's listed under pre-amps.)

 

Scott

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Interesting, and realizing your audition was on a system not your own (presumably) those are some very well regarded items, none of which, really have any shortcomings. The PS Direct Stream would be great to demo, but more than I want to spend, thus the Perfect Wave option which are readily available used (no dsd though).

 

The Ayre "gotcha" isn't an issue as I'm using a pre.

 

Thanks

 

You are correct, sir. These were all auditioned at the stores. My system is much more modest. When I get closer to "final candidates" I'll ask to take something home for the weekend and maybe compare to the Benchmark or Mytek, which offer 30 day trials.

 

So far the DACs that I liked the most were the Ayre and the Line Magnetic. (I auditioned the LM alongside the Naim V1 DAC, which didn't really impress me).

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D150 I have not heard and do not care enough about DSD at this point. D100 was my fav at the price point and owned it for a while. Much better than my customized Benchmark at the time. Least fatiguing sabre I tried and certainly more flexible than the Ayre. HPA also sounded very good. But there is so much out there that the one thing you really need to do is audition the DAC at home.

 

Good to know, and yes of course, ideally the best way is to audition at home which I am working on. Again, its nice to get some thoughts, ideas and dialog with individuals as to a direction. I don't believe in "best" or "tell me what to get" conversations.

My rig

 

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Hi Foggie

 

The one thing McIntosh does better than the other options is say "McIntosh" on front. And I mean that as a good thing. The company is not going anywhere, the gear lasts forever, and it will retain resale value.

 

According to my local McIntosh dealer, the 100 and 150 are really the same except for DSD conversion. There will probably be some used 100's hitting the market or dealers looking to reduce price on inventory. I auditioned the D100 about two weeks ago. It was nice. Nothing blew us away. If I had McIntosh gear or was offered a great deal, I wouldn't hesitate.

 

If you compare it to some of the other suggestions, it's more a pre-amp+DAC than a DAC with pre-amp. (McIntoshLabs.com doesn't even have a DAC section...it's listed under pre-amps.)

 

Scott

 

Yeah I was actually going to point that out, but didn't want it to come across negatively. No doubt the Mac stuff is very good and well built, really can't go wrong. The 100 actually reminds me a lot of the Emo xda-2 (functionality, foot print).

 

I'm sure it is a fine piece, but due to the crazy amount of dacs available/options, I need to just stick to a list of possible options and run with it.

My rig

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
You are correct, sir. These were all auditioned at the stores. My system is much more modest. When I get closer to "final candidates" I'll ask to take something home for the weekend and maybe compare to the Benchmark or Mytek, which offer 30 day trials.

 

So far the DACs that I liked the most were the Ayre and the Line Magnetic. (I auditioned the LM alongside the Naim V1 DAC, which didn't really impress me).

 

Curious how is your dac search going? I was really leaning towards the LM 502 and in fact the latest gen has balanced outputs and will take up to 32/356 pcm. There are sooo many great sounding dacs available, just not enough time and $$ to try them.

 

The downside is many of them are too similar (cookie cutter), not a bad thing I guess being you get a lot of bang for your dollar.

 

I'm not too hung up on dsd and I'm NOT going to go buy a supercomputer just to upsample it octo rates, but I digress. However, I would like the ability to have dsd as an option and thus I'm pretty set on pulling the trigger on a Lampi (the updated entry level) which are a little over $2k, so not too far off the LM 502. It will be a leap of faith of sorts, but its time to get off the fence and do it:)

My rig

 

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