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$500 DAC recommendations?


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Folks-

 

I'm considering getting a new DAC but my budget is only $500.

 

I'm currently using the inputs on my Marantz SA-8004 as my DAC.

 

I'd like my new DAC to have at least 1 USB, 1 TOSLink, and 1 Coax input.

 

What would you suggest I consider for $500 or less that would sound better than my SA-8004?

 

Thanks for your suggestions!

Best Stereo System: Wired Sonos Connect -> AQ Cinammon Digital Coax -> Marantz SA-8005 -> AA Black Momba 2 interconnects -> Marantz PM-15S2 -> Kimber 8TC speaker Cables -> Zu Soul Superfly speakers.

 

Ingest> NAS> Distribution: Sony Vaio Laptop ripping via ITunes to Apple Lossless, manually synced to WD Mycloud NAS, Linksys 1900AC Router, Netgear Gig E switch, generic Ethernet cables, TPLinc ethernet power line extenders.

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The iFi Micro iDSD DAC ($499 at Music Dic) would be another option. The S/PDIF Input/Output jack does double duty (coax and Toslink).

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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I was going to recommend the SMSL too. Not sure of the model with your requirements, but at the budget end I've used both SMSL SD793-II and SMSL Sanskrit and both are excellent bang for buck and not too far off from more fancied/expensive DACs. They punch well above what they cost.

 

I'm a Schiit fanboy, so there's that too, but multibits are the real winners in their lineup so its the Bifrost Multibit at $600 you are looking at... but its an extra $100 (+shipping) that's well spent so do consider it.

Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world - Martin Luther

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I really enjoyed the Emotiva Stealth DC-1 ($499) during the time I had it. It's got a nice preamp section along with a decent headphone amp and solid remote control. It's got ARSC for jitter control, it's differential and balanced with XLR jacks (SE too), and it's got a bunch of other inputs (USB, tos link, BNC, coax, AES). Emo has a 5 year warranty and good return policy. Not really trying to give a sales pitch but it just ticks so many boxes that it's worth a try in that price range.

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Hi,

 

That's a tough price point to make a decision without hearing the gear first. That said, I've got the units in my signature and they're all in the $500 range (or were) except the Schiit. Of the three, I am partial to the Halide DAC HD by a hair, although I think I lucked into matching them with their respective amplifiers. And that said, I just got the Halide instead of a Schiit Bifrost Multibit. Moon Audio said I got one of the last units as Halide is no longer in business.

 

Hope this helps.

Sum>Frankenstein: Schiit Yggdrasil LiM+Shunyata Venom+PS Audio P3 Regenerator, Linn LP12/Hercules II/Ittok/Denon DL-103R, Pass Labs XA25, Tellurium Black II, Monitor Audio Silver 500 on IsoAcoustics Gaias, Uptone Audio LPS-1.2, ISO & EtherREGENs, Shunyata/Silnote/Transparent Audio cables/cords, and a treated room.

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I can also say the Emotiva is a worthy recommendation.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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I purchased the SMSL M8($220), Sound Magic Serenade Pro($149,$197), Muse PCM 1793($55), and the Muse 4XTDA1543 NOS($55). All have performed well in my system using linear power supplies and a Regen and Recovery. My plan was to try an affordable variety with different DAC chips. You will do well with all of the above recommendations from the other members.

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Don't forget the TEAC 301 - good DAC and has about every feature you could want.

Also the Herus and Herus+ models from Resonessence.

Main listening (small home office):

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Hi jdjaye,

 

I've been occasionally lurking on this forum for a bit, but I just registered because I literally just went through this process with roughly the same budget (though I was also looking for headphone amplification). The posts already in this thread cover many of the options I was going to mention, but there are 2 others you might consider. Both were suggested to me on other forums during my search:

 

Gustard x12- this is just a robust, well-implemented sabre dac from what I hear. The company is Chinese, I believe mostly known in the headphone community for their ~$400 amp that drives current hungry planars well. You should be able to find some healthy forum threads about it- though I don't know if it's considered in bad taste to say where... (this is my first post)

Mousai MSD192- As far as I am aware this is a Questyle Q192 without the headphone amplifier- I don't think it ever got particularly popular, but the mastering engineer who built my heavily modified custom headphones gave it a good review- quite neutral he said.

 

Also, if you can get a good price on a Geek Pulse, I suspect you would be quite pleased with it. I'm currently running a LH Labs Geek Out V2+ Wyred 4 Sound Recovery, and while my headphones are under-powered, the Dac performance is excellent for the price. (at least compared to the pro audio dacs I am used to).

 

If you would consider adding a bit to the budget, then you'll hit the price range where things start to get more interesting-especially if you're curious about multibit dacs. Alongside the multibit version of the previously mentioned Bifrost, you can get a 1704 chip dac from Audio GD, or even a discrete R2R dac (soekris dac1101- Lesloss are using the diy version of its PCB in their upcoming 5k dac, read into that what you will...). Heck, you could even get a MHDT Labs Atlantis- an NOS tube dac with yet another differend multibit chip (AD1862). Your options open up on the delta-sigma side of things as well, but I haven't been paying as much attention to that part of the market recently- I want a dac that keeps the original samples intact when it filters- and right now the options for that are all multibit afaik (NOS, the Schiit multibit dacs, or putting a custom filter onto the Soekris dac1101).

 

Best of luck in your search!

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Thanks all for your advice and counsel.

 

I'm leaning towards the Schitt, but had a question:

What is a multibit DAC and why might it be better or worse than the non-multibit?

Best Stereo System: Wired Sonos Connect -> AQ Cinammon Digital Coax -> Marantz SA-8005 -> AA Black Momba 2 interconnects -> Marantz PM-15S2 -> Kimber 8TC speaker Cables -> Zu Soul Superfly speakers.

 

Ingest> NAS> Distribution: Sony Vaio Laptop ripping via ITunes to Apple Lossless, manually synced to WD Mycloud NAS, Linksys 1900AC Router, Netgear Gig E switch, generic Ethernet cables, TPLinc ethernet power line extenders.

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Folks-

 

I'm considering getting a new DAC but my budget is only $500.

 

I'm currently using the inputs on my Marantz SA-8004 as my DAC.

 

I'd like my new DAC to have at least 1 USB, 1 TOSLink, and 1 Coax input.

 

What would you suggest I consider for $500 or less that would sound better than my SA-8004?

 

Thanks for your suggestions!

 

Get a Chord MOJO and outperform all other proposals made here up to now and for quite a while in future.

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Thanks all for your advice and counsel.

 

I'm leaning towards the Schitt, but had a question:

What is a multibit DAC and why might it be better or worse than the non-multibit?

 

FYI- I was able to find this interesting post:

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f6-dac-digital-analog-conversion/multi-bit-dacs-vs-delta-sigma-dacs-2066/index5.html#post30949

Response #17 was a good summary. But perhaps it is out of date give it wa 7 years ago- lol!

Best Stereo System: Wired Sonos Connect -> AQ Cinammon Digital Coax -> Marantz SA-8005 -> AA Black Momba 2 interconnects -> Marantz PM-15S2 -> Kimber 8TC speaker Cables -> Zu Soul Superfly speakers.

 

Ingest> NAS> Distribution: Sony Vaio Laptop ripping via ITunes to Apple Lossless, manually synced to WD Mycloud NAS, Linksys 1900AC Router, Netgear Gig E switch, generic Ethernet cables, TPLinc ethernet power line extenders.

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Get a Chord MOJO and outperform all other proposals made here up to now and for quite a while in future.

 

I doubt it's walking away from either the Teac 301 or the Emotiva.

 

Both the Teac and Emotiva use Dual Monoral implementations.

 

The Emotiva has a handy remote, the Teac supports PCM and DSD formats. Both support SE and Balanced I/O.

 

Chords website is very thin on details.

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What would you suggest I consider for $500 or less that would sound better than my SA-8004?

 

Even if one of the recommended DAC’s sounds a little more pleasant to you than your current $1K SA-8004, is it worth dumping $500 into it? Unless you need a DAC for a second system or looking for additional functionality, what is the point of upgrading to a “budget” DAC. What’s wrong with SA-8004? It’s not that old. Doubt you’ll hear any improvement.

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Thanks all for your advice and counsel.

 

I'm leaning towards the Schitt, but had a question:

What is a multibit DAC and why might it be better or worse than the non-multibit?

Perhaps this will answer more questions than it raises Mother of Tone - Conversion Techniques Generally speaking, I would trust explanation from Barrows, even if it is 7 years old.

Digital Source: Synology DS415+ NAS  and Small Green Computer SonicTransporter i5 Running Roon Core > Blue Jean Cable Cat6a >TP optical converter > Sonore OpticalRendu with Sonore LPS> Curious USB > Denafrips Pontus DAC

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Both: BAT VK51SE preamp> Krell FPB300 power amp > Sound Lab A3 ESLs > > Custom room treatment > 50 yr. old ears(left-handed)

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  • 4 weeks later...
Even if one of the recommended DAC’s sounds a little more pleasant to you than your current $1K SA-8004, is it worth dumping $500 into it? Unless you need a DAC for a second system or looking for additional functionality, what is the point of upgrading to a “budget” DAC. What’s wrong with SA-8004? It’s not that old. Doubt you’ll hear any improvement.

 

Sorry for the delayed response.

 

I'm finding the USB DAC input on the SA-8004 to not sound as good to me as the coax and optical inputs. Actually, I prefer the sound of my Nuforce Udac2 to the USB DAC on the SA-8004. Hence the search for a new DAC, but I could just buy a Udac3 and declare victory...

 

( I wish the Schitt folks had a 30 day return policy- 14 days isn't enough time for me to do a fair evaluation)

Best Stereo System: Wired Sonos Connect -> AQ Cinammon Digital Coax -> Marantz SA-8005 -> AA Black Momba 2 interconnects -> Marantz PM-15S2 -> Kimber 8TC speaker Cables -> Zu Soul Superfly speakers.

 

Ingest> NAS> Distribution: Sony Vaio Laptop ripping via ITunes to Apple Lossless, manually synced to WD Mycloud NAS, Linksys 1900AC Router, Netgear Gig E switch, generic Ethernet cables, TPLinc ethernet power line extenders.

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Get a Chord MOJO and outperform all other proposals made here up to now and for quite a while in future.

 

Seems like good advice. If it were me, I wouldn't be looking at anything else in that price bracket at the moment.

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Get a Chord MOJO and outperform all other proposals made here up to now and for quite a while in future.

Agreed, Mojo is a spectacular product!

Don't forget the TEAC 301 - good DAC and has about every feature you could want.

Also the Herus and Herus+ models from Resonessence.

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Sorry for the delayed response.

 

I'm finding the USB DAC input on the SA-8004 to not sound as good to me as the coax and optical inputs. Actually, I prefer the sound of my Nuforce Udac2 to the USB DAC on the SA-8004. Hence the search for a new DAC, but I could just buy a Udac3 and declare victory...

 

( I wish the Schitt folks had a 30 day return policy- 14 days isn't yenough time for me to do a fair evaluation)

I'm

If you think the sub is the weak link, consider a usb/spdif converter. Peachtree makes one reasonably priced.

Family Room: Panny TCP65S2, Panny BDP-55, DTV HR-24, SB Touch, Schiit Bifrost Multibit, Yamaha RX-V3900, Emotiva XPA-3, Rocket NM 550's, Rocket 150's, X-CS, UFW-10, Harmony 700.

 

Computer Room: Dell laptop, Uptone Regen Amber, Schiit Bifrost Multibit, Decware SE84C+, Zu Omen, ALO National, Mr.Speakers Mad Dog headphones

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The iFi Micro iDSD DAC ($499 at Music Dic) would be another option. The S/PDIF Input/Output jack does double duty (coax and Toslink).

To my great surprise, this IFI DAC fed via USB at DSD512 with upsampling from HQplayer sounds better or close to DACs at 5 to 8 times the price.

 

It needs USB treatment to do so. A battery powered REGEN does the trick. I am looking forward to trying the new UpTone Ultra cap LPS and REGEN with this DAC.

 

I can't talk to any of the other modes of operation.

Pareto Audio aka nuckleheadaudio

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Seems like good advice. If it were me, I wouldn't be looking at anything else in that price bracket at the moment.

 

Completely agree . Spend an extra 100 bucks and get the Mojo .

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