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Any Input Appreciated - Your Thoughts On The Best $1500.00 (street price) DAC


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I'm helping an audio newbie put together a streaming system. I have some thoughts on what DAC to recommend him, but I honestly have not spent   lot of time recently paying any serious attention to the $1500.0 class of DACs. I would appreciate your expertise on what you hve found to be best at that price point within the last twelve months or so. Thanks.

 

JC

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Spoiler alert: there is no "best".

 

With that out of the way, have a look for a used Doge 7 DAC. Very analog sounding (if that's what he's looking for).

 

I used to have the Doge 8 preamp/phonostage which was very good in both build quality and sonics. I replaced it with a Don Sachs linestage and a Croft RIAA phonostage.

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I did LOTS of reading recently and ended up listening extensively to a Denafrips Ares II and enjoyed it very much and found 5+ hours listening completely non-fatiguing. I bought its bigger brother, the Pontus. It is still in delivery mode so I have no actual experience of this model.

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1 hour ago, GregWormald said:

I did LOTS of reading recently and ended up listening extensively to a Denafrips Ares II and enjoyed it very much and found 5+ hours listening completely non-fatiguing. I bought its bigger brother, the Pontus. It is still in delivery mode so I have no actual experience of this model.

What types of files did you listen to, 16/44. hi-res, DSD?

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If you don't need a preamp, and crazy specs, I would look at the Border Patrol-se. Probably what I would get if I invested in a preamp-less DAC. 

SERVER CLOSET (in office directly below living room stereo):NUC 7i5BNH with Roon ROCK (ZeroZone 12V on the NUC)>Cisco 2690L-16PS switch>Sonore opticalModule (Uptone LPS 1.2)>

LIVING ROOM: Sonore opticalRendu Roon version (Sonore Power Supply)> Shunyata Venom USB>Naim DAC V1>Witchhat DIN>Naim NAP 160 Bolt Down>Chord Rumor 2>Audio Physic Compact Classics. OFFICE: opticalModule> Sonore microRendu 1.4> Matrix Mini-i Pro 3> Naim NAP 110>NACA5>KEF Ls50's. BJC 6a and Ghent Catsnake 6a JSSG ethernet; AC cables: Shunyata Venom NR V-10; Audience Forte F3; Ice Age copper/copper; Sean Jacobs CHC PowerBlack, Moon Audio DIN>RCA, USB A>C. Isolation: Herbie's Audio Lab. 

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9 hours ago, AudioDoctor said:

A used Yggy? If you can find one.

 

MHDT Labs?

 

Good recommendations, but the individual I'm helping will not buy anything used (with very rare exceptions). I have the MHDT Orchid in my den system, and think its incredible for the money, but I also had to send it to be modded and also locate a very rare tube to get it to where it is. I don't think he will want to take those steps. 

 

JC

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5 hours ago, pas said:

What types of files did you listen to, 16/44. hi-res, DSD?

The Pontus is at or near the top of my list.

 

Since he desires simplicity for his streaming, I'm also pondering whether to just have him go with a Lumin D2, one box, and done, and with a built in app. 

 

JC

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8 hours ago, pas said:

What types of files did you listen to, 16/44. hi-res, DSD?

16/44 and some hi-res. I really didn't pay attention to that for two reasons.

 

One, the Ares II isn't the DAC in which I was interested, and the Pontus has always been reviewed as more "detailed" and just generally "higher quality sound".

 

Two, my beef with digital (I have a large collection of LPs that I have collected over more than 60 years, and I still prefer the LP to the digital where I have both copies) is that all the digital I have heard leaves me fatigued after hours of listening and over time I find myself listening less and at lower than optimal volumes. I'm a member of a stereo club here in Australia and I have listened to a fair few medium and high-end systems.

 

Additionally, digital seems to exacerbate my mild tinnitus. So I was listening for the lack of digital's negatives for me.

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7 hours ago, TubeLover said:

The Pontus is at or near the top of my list.

 

Since he desires simplicity for his streaming, I'm also pondering whether to just have him go with a Lumin D2, one box, and done, and with a built in app.

 

JC

Probably something like that is your best bet. IMO, the DAC is only as good as your streamer. The DAC is not the source, the streamer is. I recently got a all in one Matrix-mini-i Pro 3 for the office, and despite it being a great dac, preamp, Roon streamer for $899, it was just that much better after connecting a microRendu 1.4 via Moon Audio USB with a Teddy Pardo power supply and opticalModule before it. So unless he also wants a stand alone streamer that's not a number of small boxes such as the rendu series, then built in with the DAC would be best (like what Naim do with their streamers as well). 

SERVER CLOSET (in office directly below living room stereo):NUC 7i5BNH with Roon ROCK (ZeroZone 12V on the NUC)>Cisco 2690L-16PS switch>Sonore opticalModule (Uptone LPS 1.2)>

LIVING ROOM: Sonore opticalRendu Roon version (Sonore Power Supply)> Shunyata Venom USB>Naim DAC V1>Witchhat DIN>Naim NAP 160 Bolt Down>Chord Rumor 2>Audio Physic Compact Classics. OFFICE: opticalModule> Sonore microRendu 1.4> Matrix Mini-i Pro 3> Naim NAP 110>NACA5>KEF Ls50's. BJC 6a and Ghent Catsnake 6a JSSG ethernet; AC cables: Shunyata Venom NR V-10; Audience Forte F3; Ice Age copper/copper; Sean Jacobs CHC PowerBlack, Moon Audio DIN>RCA, USB A>C. Isolation: Herbie's Audio Lab. 

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3 hours ago, GregWormald said:

 

 

Additionally, digital seems to exacerbate my mild tinnitus. So I was listening for the lack of digital's negatives for me.

I have this issue as well. Like I said above, it's not just the DAC but the whole replay chain. You can't just get a good DAC and run a pi into it - the whole chain needs to be considered, from modem on back, but the streamer and its power supply and cabling are especially important. Consider the streamer as your stylus and/or cartridge.  

SERVER CLOSET (in office directly below living room stereo):NUC 7i5BNH with Roon ROCK (ZeroZone 12V on the NUC)>Cisco 2690L-16PS switch>Sonore opticalModule (Uptone LPS 1.2)>

LIVING ROOM: Sonore opticalRendu Roon version (Sonore Power Supply)> Shunyata Venom USB>Naim DAC V1>Witchhat DIN>Naim NAP 160 Bolt Down>Chord Rumor 2>Audio Physic Compact Classics. OFFICE: opticalModule> Sonore microRendu 1.4> Matrix Mini-i Pro 3> Naim NAP 110>NACA5>KEF Ls50's. BJC 6a and Ghent Catsnake 6a JSSG ethernet; AC cables: Shunyata Venom NR V-10; Audience Forte F3; Ice Age copper/copper; Sean Jacobs CHC PowerBlack, Moon Audio DIN>RCA, USB A>C. Isolation: Herbie's Audio Lab. 

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Like I said above, it's not just the DAC but the whole replay chain. You can't just get a good DAC and run a pi into it - the whole chain needs to be considered, from modem on back, but the streamer and its power supply and cabling are especially important. Consider the streamer as your stylus and/or cartridge. “


Well said! This should be a sticky in this group.

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+1. Also, Ethernet vs WiFi & the quality of the Ethernet cable.

 

Switching from WiFi to Ethernet (with WiFi turned off on my streamer) was probably one of biggest changes I've heard in setting up a digital streaming front end. 2nd would be going from an AmazonBasics Cat 6 Ethernet cable to a Supra Cat 8 Ethernet cable (still not expensive at only about $65 for a 2 meter cable).

 

For DACs, I'm comparing a Qutest to a Pontus which should be arriving in a few weeks. The Qutest was good, but a little harsh sounding with the stock power supply. Using a car battery jumpstart pack to power the Qutest greatly improved clarity, resolution, flow and even dynamics. Your results may vary based on what battery you use.

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FWIW, and based upon the rather contentious AS thread on ASR, some would say it's not worth much or it is, the Okto Stereo has the highest score of all DACs tested on the boil it down to one performance number category.  Not sure what that number means other than ASR calc it based upon low distortion and dynamics, but I could be wrong about that as I don't understand all these tests, charts, graphs...  

 

 But even the nice folks at Stereophile, who do their own tests, charts and graphs, say it sound fine and state:  "Okto's dac8 Stereo performed supremely well on the test bench."  

Tone with Soul

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  • 3 weeks later...

If you can afford the Pontus, that seems best/closest to your price point. Alternatively you can find a used Chord Qutest below $1500 if you are patient in looking.

Have been deliberating at this price point myself for several months after being unenthused by a Schiit MB Gungnir.

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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My one friend decided to keep things as simple as possible, and defaulted to the Lumin, all in one unit. My other friend just grabbed a great deal on the Pontus today, barely used. Thanks for everyone's input. Much appreciated, as always.

 

JC

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On 3/16/2021 at 10:24 PM, 57gold said:

FWIW, and based upon the rather contentious AS thread on ASR, some would say it's not worth much or it is, the Okto Stereo has the highest score of all DACs tested on the boil it down to one performance number category.  Not sure what that number means other than ASR calc it based upon low distortion and dynamics, but I could be wrong about that as I don't understand all these tests, charts, graphs...  

 

 But even the nice folks at Stereophile, who do their own tests, charts and graphs, say it sound fine and state:  "Okto's dac8 Stereo performed supremely well on the test bench."  

The measurements, plus the subjective reviews from a trusted reviewer like Kal and a few others, would put the Okto high on my list, unless I was going for something in the 5 figure range. The model with the streamer is a good value and makes the system setup and use simple for someone who doesn't want to wade into the  weeds of audiophilia.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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56 minutes ago, firedog said:

The measurements, plus the subjective reviews from a trusted reviewer like Kal and a few others, would put the Okto high on my list, unless I was going for something in the 5 figure range. The model with the streamer is a good value and makes the system setup and use simple for someone who doesn't want to wade into the  weeds of audiophilia.

I've read the biggest problem with the OKTO DAC(s) is the undefined lead time. Last time I visited their homepage they had stopped taking commands. When I chatted with them last year they confirmed that procurement for them is a real issue, however, with the well deserved recognition followed by higer demand their situation may not get less complicated ...

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