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Bang for the buck DAC 2017 under $1k


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I'm ready to pull the trigger on my first hifi DAC. What is the best bang for the buck DAC of 2017 for under $1k? Balanced, DSD and other capabilities are pluses but lets keep dimishing returns in mind in regards to sound quality.

 

I have these on my shortlist:

Gustard X20 Pro
Denafrips Ares R2R DAC
Oppo Sonica DAC

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@AltCtrl ... could you say where you are based ... USA, Europe ? ... might make a difference.

Main System: NAS or QOBUZ > BlueSound Node 2i > Schiit Gungnir MultiBit > PYST XLR > Schiit Mjolnir 2 or Gilmore Lite MK2

 

Office System: iMac > Audirvana > Schiit EITR + Audiophonics LPS25 > Metrum FLINT NOS DAC (DAC TWO chips) > Schiit Magni 3+ > Aeon Flow Open

 

Loudspeaker System: NAIM Muso Gen 2

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Chord Mojo + microRendu 

Digital:  Sonore opticalModule > Uptone EtherRegen > Shunyata Sigma Ethernet > Antipodes K30 > Shunyata Omega USB > Gustard X26pro DAC 

Amp & Speakers:  Spectral DMA-150mk2 > Aerial 10T

Foundation: Stillpoints Ultra, Shunyata Denali power conditioner, Shunyata Alpha and Delta power cords, Shunyata Alpha interconnect, Shunyata Sigma Ethernet, MIT Matrix HD60 speaker cables, ASC isothermal tube traps, Stillpoints Aperture panels

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12 minutes ago, AltCtrl said:

Any input on the 2Qute? Do the Chord DACs really compete with these other full sized DACs?

 

Haven’t heard the cheap Chords, but thier DSD conversion system is bad, whereas the Gustard (both X20 and A20) do native DSD decoding so when you decide to go full quality DSD upsampling you will realize the full benefit from doing so.

 

Also a consideration: Gustard is hardware balanced — which is better IF the preamp/amp chain is also hardware balanced (true hardware balanced is not the same as just having balanced inputs). If you have a fully balanced playback chain I really doubt anything will match the Gustard in terms of clarity / resolution anywhere near that price point. Next contender is probably the Gungir Multibit at $1,200.

 

As a beginner audiophile DAC the new Gustards are probably unbeatable.

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6 minutes ago, GUTB said:

 

Haven’t heard the cheap Chords, but thier DSD conversion system is bad, whereas the Gustard (both X20 and A20) do native DSD decoding so when you decide to go full quality DSD upsampling you will realize the full benefit from doing so.

 

Also a consideration: Gustard is hardware balanced — which is better IF the preamp/amp chain is also hardware balanced (true hardware balanced is not the same as just having balanced inputs). If you have a fully balanced playback chain I really doubt anything will match the Gustard in terms of clarity / resolution anywhere near that price point. Next contender is probably the Gungir Multibit at $1,200.

 

As a beginner audiophile DAC the new Gustards are probably unbeatable.

Gotcha I have a used Matrix m-stage HPA-3B amp on the way so my chain would be:

 

Computer USB -> Gustard X20 Pro -> XLR cable -> m-stage HPA-3B -> XLR cable -> Senn HD6XX/Beyer DT 1990/Hifi 4XX. Am I missing anything?

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TH900 or one of the cheaper biocellulars from Fostex are good matches for the Matrix.

 

You will need a USB isolator / conditioner. At least a Jitterbug ($50).

 

Better quality option: USB -> Jitterbug -> LKS USB-100 + USB charger battery pack ($250) -> HDMI -> Gustard. Upsample everything to DSD 256 via your player software, fed directly into the I2S interface, bypass SRC stage, big sound quality improvement for a relatively small amount.

 

Another option is to get the Gustard A20H, which differs from the X20 Pro in that it uses the top-of-the-line AKMs instead of the Sabres, and has a built in headphone amp so you could eliminate the Matrix and budget for better headphones. The headphones you mention are not hi-fi, consider at least upgrading to a TH900, HE-X, LCD-2 and the like. If you really want to stick to mid-fi, go with the THXXs, AudioQuests...basically any of the headphones based on the Fostex biocellulose drivers will be good. Planars better but you have to pay for good ones. You are getting a hifi DAC so you should get hifi headphones to get the most from them IMO.

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I would add NT503 if you use native dsd as reference and stream it....best i have heard for the buck.

The oppo or sonica are very versatile and with mods, many are raving on the DIY forums....

 

PERSONALLY, If i were to do it all over again, i would probably go with sotm and cheap dac until you can budget higher end dac, or wait out the latest craze of new products that i can smell coming that fix clocking and noise issues.

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I just picked up second hand Teac UD-301, only a few hours with it so far.  The PCM conversion was nothing special, and I was initially disappointed (probably the onboard upsampling I didn't turn off). 

 

Then I tried native DSD, and upsampling to DSD in JRiver, using DoP to the Teac; oh my.  It is really good.  I'm usually an upsampling iconoclast, but the conversion seems to be so much better in DSD on the DAC side.  

 

I'm sure you can find better for $1k, but I don't think it will be better by that much. 

 

YMMV, of course.  Good luck!

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I have the Gustard A20H and, having had several sabre dacs, such as the EE Minimax, I would listen to a few dacs and to which dac chip you like. I personally would not just go back to sabre, because I just prefer the AKM dac chip. But that's a matter of taste and what fits in you system.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On November 5, 2017 at 9:10 PM, GUTB said:

 

Haven’t heard the cheap Chords, but thier DSD conversion system is bad, whereas the Gustard (both X20 and A20) do native DSD decoding so when you decide to go full quality DSD upsampling you will realize the full benefit from doing so.

 

Also a consideration: Gustard is hardware balanced — which is better IF the preamp/amp chain is also hardware balanced (true hardware balanced is not the same as just having balanced inputs). If you have a fully balanced playback chain I really doubt anything will match the Gustard in terms of clarity / resolution anywhere near that price point. Next contender is probably the Gungir Multibit at $1,200.

 

As a beginner audiophile DAC the new Gustards are probably unbeatable.

I'm looking to upgrade from my little .ifi NANO DAC

I don't know if my set up is worthy of such a DAC as the Gustard and if it's "hardware balanced. Appreciate feedback?

My Set Up:

WD usb2 2TB external HD Only Music aiff’s on it + Time Machine BackUp of MacBook Pro ( I only use it for one thing and that to serve music to my DAC)

MacBook Pro 2013 8GB RAM 256 internal Flash drive usb3 and thunderbolt

AudirvanaPlus Always very latest Version

 Regen           

ifi DAC nano latest driver iFiHDUSBAudio_dfuapp5.1A.sh

Oyaide neo d+ Class A USB 2.0 to MacBook Pro from REGEN

MusicLink Transparent Interface (Directional) Cables

Parasound P5 HALO Preamp 

Reference B&K 200.2 S2 Power amp 225W RMS

Paradigm Studio 100v.3 series speakers BiWired

Klipsch Reference R-10SW Sub

Thanks

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On November 5, 2017 at 1:27 PM, AltCtrl said:

I'm ready to pull the trigger on my first hifi DAC. What is the best bang for the buck DAC of 2017 for under $1k? Balanced, DSD and other capabilities are pluses but lets keep dimishing returns in mind in regards to sound quality.

 

I have these on my shortlist:

Gustard X20 Pro
Denafrips Ares R2R DAC
Oppo Sonica DAC

 

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1 hour ago, Lee Scoggins said:

I like the iDSD Micro Black Label, Oppo Sonica, and used Benchmark DAC2 at this price point.

 

1 hour ago, Lee Scoggins said:

I like the iDSD Micro Black Label, Oppo Sonica, and used Benchmark DAC2 at this price point.

Sorry I meant it the other way around would it be enough just to up grade to it. In one of your responses you mentioned it plus a few other devices. 

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1 hour ago, Lee Scoggins said:

I like the iDSD Micro Black Label, Oppo Sonica, and used Benchmark DAC2 at this price point.

Do any extra cable or adapter come with it because I'll need a special usb adapter to connect the REGEN. Right now it connects with  this adapter see attachment. But with the Micro I'll need it other way around, I think.

1 hour ago, Lee Scoggins said:

I like the iDSD Micro Black Label, Oppo Sonica, and used Benchmark DAC2 at this price point.

 

image1.jpg

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2 minutes ago, Jamesroy said:

Do any extra cable or adapter come with it because I'll need a special usb adapter to connect the REGEN. Right now it connects with  this adapter see attachment. But with the Micro I'll need it other way around, I think.

 

image1.jpg

 

What is the connection on the Regen?

 

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