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DAC Options

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So, after some trial-and-error, I'm now looking for a DAC that will sit in the next Computer Audio set-up. The plan is for the DAC to sit beside my modified CAPS machine on a desk - with a headphone output used while working and long interconnects sent to my valve pre-amp / active speakers for critical listening. I'm looking for options to audition that meet the following requirements


1. Compatibility:

a. Support for both 16 & 24-bit depth and 44, 48, 88, 96, 176 & 192 sample rates

b. Support for Windows 7 32- and 64-bit (prefer native drivers but not essential)

c. (Asynchronous)-USB input (as machine doesn't have room for the soundcard)


2. Key Features

a. True balanced output (with ability to drive long interconnects - 4m to pre-amp)

b. Head-phone output (ok with/out volume control as can use s/w for headphone)

c. Small form factor (half-size) so can sit on desk without taking up too much space


My understanding is that there aren't a lot of options that meet these requirements. Some options include Empirical Audio Overdrive and Antelope Zodiac+/Gold looking like good options but these require install of device drivers while offerings from GD Audio don't have asynchronous USB input. I guess if I was to drop the head-phone requirement then this would open up offerings from Ayre QB-9 and Wavelength. Another option might be to get a firewire card which would allow Weiss DAC2. I'm hoping that others will know of other options that meet the full set of requirements or have a perspective of comprises.






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