Jump to content
IGNORED

Help me pick a new DAC!


Recommended Posts

Hi there fellow computer audio mavens! I am getting ready to add yet another DAC to my stable and want to hear your comments. Help me do my little part for our struggling economy. I have collected a bunch of USB DACs over the last few years and I'm looking to move up. Here is the system in question:

 

- Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 speakers

- McIntosh MC275 Mk V tube amplifier

- McIntosh C22 60th preamplifier

- Apple Mac Mini

- Speaker cables and interconnects: Zu Mission

 

Criterion for the new DAC:

- Asynchronous USB

- Native (driverless) support for 24/192 with Snow Leopard

- Made in USA

- Balanced Outputs

- $4k or less

 

As you can guess, with the Harbeth speakers and the Mc tube gear, my system can tend to be a little overly smooth, so a DAC that is very dynamic with good articulation in the high frequencies would be good. I have been using a Wyred 4 Sound DAC2, which seems to have some good synergy with the system, but I am looking for the next step up. For purposes of comparison and discussion, we can use the following DACs for reference. I am well familiar with them all:

 

- Benchmark DAC1 USB

- Wyred 4 Sound DAC2

- Wavelength Brick v3

 

Thanks everyone!

 

Link to comment

I don't think the Wavelength Brick V3 does 24/192. I wish it did :) Check on the web site..

The W4S is the standout value for money in that group IMHO, but it's not true async as far as I am aware. Not true clocking from the computer in the fashion of Gordon' Wavelength async USB and Steve Nugent's USB solutions.

Not sure about the new benchmark's USB interface. I've still got an older one of these in the family room...paced with Steve's pacecar. Still going strong....

 

Just my two bob's worth..

 

New simplified setup: STEREO- Primary listening Area: Cullen Circuits Mod ZP90> Benchmark DAC1>RotelRKB250 Power amp>KEF Q Series. Secondary listening areas: 1/ QNAP 119P II(running MinimServer)>UPnP>Linn Majik DSI>Linn Majik 140's. 2/ (Source awaiting)>Invicta DAC>RotelRKB2100 Power amp>Rega's. Tertiary multiroom areas: Same QNAP>SMB>Sonos>Various. MULTICHANNEL- MacMini>A+(Standalone mode)>Exasound e28 >5.1 analog out>Yamaha Avantage Receiver>Pre-outs>Linn Chakra power amps>Linn Katan front and sides. Linn Trikan Centre. Velodyne SPL1000 Ultra

Link to comment

Thanks for the reference to Empirical. I'll check it out! The DACs I mentioned in my post are DACs that I currently own. I listed them so we could use them as a common frame of reference for discussion.

 

- Wavelength brick is not a 24/192 DAC. It accepts 24/96.

- The W4S is indeed a true async DAC in which the DAC slaves the computer and controls the data stream.

- The Benchmark uses an adaptive USB interface with jitter reduction technology.

 

So far, my list of contenders for the new DAC that fit the criteria are:

- Wavelength Cosecant with Denominator module

- Ayre QB-9

- Audio Research DAC8 (points off for proprietary drivers)

- Empirical Overdrive (also requires proprietary drivers?)

- Another W4S DAC2

 

I just spent some time reading the Empirical manual and they talk about ways to reduce the sound of the cooling fan, as they say it may be audible from the listening position. That's a red flag with this system since I sit around 6-7 ft from the speakers. I tried but could not tolerate an Oppo BDP-95 because of its fan noise.

 

Link to comment

Check out the reviews on the W4S...I'm pretty sure I just read one that said it doesn't slave the computer and control it's data stream...

 

A couple of years back I travelled all the way over to the US to hear the Empirical Overdrive. The fan put me off too. But I think you'll find Steve is designing one with a heatsink chassis. No FAN!! It's way cool now !! But expensive. Check it out on his forum link.... I think Steve uses Gordon's async driver..but I could be wrong on this. Anyway it's my belief it is tru async..

 

As for the Oppo 95. I whole heartedly agree. I have avoided buying one of these specifically because of this issue! It's a real pity.

 

Cheers

 

 

 

New simplified setup: STEREO- Primary listening Area: Cullen Circuits Mod ZP90> Benchmark DAC1>RotelRKB250 Power amp>KEF Q Series. Secondary listening areas: 1/ QNAP 119P II(running MinimServer)>UPnP>Linn Majik DSI>Linn Majik 140's. 2/ (Source awaiting)>Invicta DAC>RotelRKB2100 Power amp>Rega's. Tertiary multiroom areas: Same QNAP>SMB>Sonos>Various. MULTICHANNEL- MacMini>A+(Standalone mode)>Exasound e28 >5.1 analog out>Yamaha Avantage Receiver>Pre-outs>Linn Chakra power amps>Linn Katan front and sides. Linn Trikan Centre. Velodyne SPL1000 Ultra

Link to comment

http://www.avguide.com/review/wyred-4-sound-dac-2-digital-analog-converter-tas-210

 

Paragraph in the middle of page one...it doesn't slave off the computer..."data control is by the DAC not the computer" not same async as Wavelength...

 

Cheers

 

New simplified setup: STEREO- Primary listening Area: Cullen Circuits Mod ZP90> Benchmark DAC1>RotelRKB250 Power amp>KEF Q Series. Secondary listening areas: 1/ QNAP 119P II(running MinimServer)>UPnP>Linn Majik DSI>Linn Majik 140's. 2/ (Source awaiting)>Invicta DAC>RotelRKB2100 Power amp>Rega's. Tertiary multiroom areas: Same QNAP>SMB>Sonos>Various. MULTICHANNEL- MacMini>A+(Standalone mode)>Exasound e28 >5.1 analog out>Yamaha Avantage Receiver>Pre-outs>Linn Chakra power amps>Linn Katan front and sides. Linn Trikan Centre. Velodyne SPL1000 Ultra

Link to comment

Wavelength Cosecant which, according to Gordon, is Balanced.

 

I have had the Benchmark, it was my first DAC purchased due to all the hype, I was extremely disappointed and never liked it. I have never heard the Brick or the W4S.

 

To my ears the Cosecant is amazing and wonderful. I really have no need to upgrade, and will get the 24/192 upgrade when it comes available.

 

No electron left behind.

Link to comment

Yeh..all those tubes !!

 

I would LOVE a Wavelength DAC. My oh MY! But way over my price range...

 

Not sure about the need for a discrete driver for the Empirical. Why don't you ask Steve directly on the Empirical forum. You won't find him here...but that's another story...

 

New simplified setup: STEREO- Primary listening Area: Cullen Circuits Mod ZP90> Benchmark DAC1>RotelRKB250 Power amp>KEF Q Series. Secondary listening areas: 1/ QNAP 119P II(running MinimServer)>UPnP>Linn Majik DSI>Linn Majik 140's. 2/ (Source awaiting)>Invicta DAC>RotelRKB2100 Power amp>Rega's. Tertiary multiroom areas: Same QNAP>SMB>Sonos>Various. MULTICHANNEL- MacMini>A+(Standalone mode)>Exasound e28 >5.1 analog out>Yamaha Avantage Receiver>Pre-outs>Linn Chakra power amps>Linn Katan front and sides. Linn Trikan Centre. Velodyne SPL1000 Ultra

Link to comment

I must say the Wavelength Brick really is brilliant, especially for the price. The 2.1 part of our theater system is a McIntosh C50 pre with MC452 amp and Martin Logan Summit Xs. The Brick works really well there as it adds some warmth to the solid state + electrostat setup. Kind of smooths things out. The McIntosh SS gear is not overly bright, but the Summits are very revealing.

 

It's just the opposite with the tube + Harbeth system. The source needs to be a bit more lively. The W4S DAC2, which sounds very good with the Harbeths might be a little irritating on the Martin Logans. So I'm looking for a DAC with as much detail as the W4S in the upper frequency range, but a bit more refined.

 

Link to comment

for about 1500$ + a Kingrex linear PSU, this is a winning kit. I use it with equipment several notches above, and it holds its own.

Good luck

 

Mac Mini Late 2014 (16G/SSD) w Uptone JS-2 w OWC Thunderbay 4 Mini RAID (JS-2) / Roon

Aqua LinQ w EtherCon cable (Ghent) w Uptone EtherRegen w Uptone JS-2

Aqua Formula xHD w Ocellia RCA Interconnect & Shunyata Delta NR

Kora TB 200 Integrated Amplifier w Audio Art Power Cable

Magico V2 w Ocellia speaker cables w Shunyata Dark Field Elevator & JL Audio E-Sub e110 X 2

All equipment, including subwoofer on Modulum platforms (modulumaudio.com)

Link to comment

...and it may be a great DAC, but it's made in Korea, which takes it out of the running for me. I have nothing against Korean products, but I think there are plenty of good DACs from innovative US companies who would love (and need) the business. Fortunately, the US is a treasure-trove of great hi fi companies and it's time for us to buy our own products again!

 

Then again, the speakers on this system are from the UK, but they're so good that our British friends get a pass.

 

Then again, the Mac Mini is made in China, but at least designed in Cupertino... Oh heck, I give up!

 

Link to comment

:)

I understand and truly respect your point of view. My speakers are Magico (true and true US) - my previous speakers were Martin Logan (before you know what....).

 

You can't really go wrong with QB-9 or DAC8

 

My Calyx It's just a very nice piece of equipment that has received very good reviews. Fit and finish is top notch. And affordable. While I can afford either a Weiss or DCS...

 

Let us know what you end up with...

 

Mac Mini Late 2014 (16G/SSD) w Uptone JS-2 w OWC Thunderbay 4 Mini RAID (JS-2) / Roon

Aqua LinQ w EtherCon cable (Ghent) w Uptone EtherRegen w Uptone JS-2

Aqua Formula xHD w Ocellia RCA Interconnect & Shunyata Delta NR

Kora TB 200 Integrated Amplifier w Audio Art Power Cable

Magico V2 w Ocellia speaker cables w Shunyata Dark Field Elevator & JL Audio E-Sub e110 X 2

All equipment, including subwoofer on Modulum platforms (modulumaudio.com)

Link to comment

Agree on the high value proposition of the V-series line. I have the original along with the V-Link. Is the Mk-II any better than the original V-DAC + V-LINK combo? My V-DAC has been working well in my hobby room feeding an old Adcom stack with vintage Magneplanar SMGa speakers.

 

However, as good as the Mk-II may be, I can't imagine it would be a step up from my W4S DAC2, Benchmark DAC1 USB, or especially the Wavelength Brick.

 

Or...do you think it's really that good?

 

In any case, out of the running this time because it doesn't meet the "Made in USA" requirement.

 

 

Link to comment

Like there is really only one DAC which fits your criteria:

 

Ayre QB-9

 

Made in USA, check

Asynchronous USB, check

Native 24/192 support with Snow Leopard, check

Balanced outputs (true balanced all the way through), check

Under $4K, check (quite a bit, spend the extra on a great USB cable)

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

Link to comment

Boy, are you in luck! Fantastic DACs popping up all over the price range all the time now. I have several here that I have unfortunately collected. The best of the bunch is a Wavelength Proton, which is not at all expensive by Audiophile standards.

 

We also have a DacMagic, Music Hall 25.3, Beresford and a Beresford "knock off", and a little Music Fidelity V-DAC, which is the closest runner up to the Wavelength I think. Especially if I feed it with the V-Link, but it does a really good job even all on it's own.

 

The new model V-DAC II that DJ mentioned comes with an async USB, and a way better looking case too.

 

I am in a position where I need a non-asynch DAC right now, and an using the V-DAC. It sounds very good, but has some rough edges - violins and voices sometimes get a wee bit shrill, which never happens with the little Wavelength.

 

It's a bit of a pain, and annoying - and I am looking a bit below your price range - but here goes.

 

Rega DAC - it has a wonderful, if indescribable sound when it is working in top form.

 

Peachtree DacIT - scheduled to hear one next week

 

Benchmark DAC-1 USB - has always been one of my very favorite DACS, but it will reveal every problem with a recording, and it can present as a little harsh too.

 

Music Fidelity M1 DAC - One of the current top choices. Very smooth and agreeable sound. Cheap too at $700.

 

PS Audio III - Well regarded by folks whose opinions I respect.

 

The Sonore DAC - Have not heard it, and I understand it is built more like a PC than a conventional DAC, but nobody has ever had a bad thing to say about Sonore, and it is definitely on the list.

 

I am kind of procrastinating as well, to see and hear the new DACs from NAD. I really like NAD gear a lot.

 

Also, Emotiva has gotten a lot of favorable reviews from their low end DAC, and they are refreshing that line, so I am waiting to hear what comes from them.

 

Moving slightly upscale, you find a lot of good stuff, from everyone,,,, Bryston, Ayre, etc. Not sure if I am ready to go there or not. I would probably just go with a Wavelength CoSecant and readjust everything else to work with it.

 

These are not recommendations by the way, just discussion to help bring another few choices to your attention.

 

-Paul

 

 

 

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

Link to comment

I think the Ayre QB-9 and Wavelength Cosecant both fit the bill. According to Mr. Rankin, the Cosecant is a true balanced design and it's a simple matter to construct RCA to balanced cables for it.

 

And, as I understand it, the Cosecant also supports 24/192 with Snow Leopard without drivers.

 

My only concern with the Cosecant is that some say it is a little less "bright" than the Brick. I already know that the Brick is a little darker than I'd like with the Harbeths, so don't want to venture further in that direction with this particular system. However, comments from my Wavelength dealer as well as Gordon himself indicate that the Cosecant should offer even more upper end detail than my Brick. I would love to hear someone chime in who has heard both DACs in the same system.

 

On the other hand, I finally got around to replacing the stock 12AX7s in my C22 with a fresh set of matched/balanced Gold Lions. It will take a while for them to break in, but I'm already hearing more dynamism, air, and detail on the high end. Time will tell... Gold Lions for everyone! ;-)

 

Wow, this thread really shows off the power of online communities and the vibrancy of the Computer Audiophile community in particular. So many members here offering information, opinions and advice. I am very grateful to all of you!

 

 

Link to comment

British loudspeakers, a Chinese computer.

 

Years ago I bought a 'US Bicentennial Edition' Harley-Davidson. Covered in stars and stripes and so on. Cost me a lot more than the regular one. The underside of the tank had 'Made in Taiwan' on it.

 

In England we don't bother with 'US' products anymore, because they are all Chinese. Even some Krell amps. It's a shame.

 

 

Link to comment

I saw your post re the Ayre QB9 as being a candidate. I would give it a listen as you are using a preamp and won't need vol. control. It's an excellent piece and not crazy expensive.

 

Steve Kuh[br]Mac Mini > Glyph HD > Weiss AFI1 (slave) > modded Esoteric D70 (master) > BAT VK51SE > Classe CA400 > Harbeth Super HL5[br]\"Come on the amazing journey and learn all you should know...\"

Link to comment

Steve has said that the newer versions of the Overdrive DAC have the fan at a much lower setting so that the fan isn't audible except from extremely close. There is also a fanless version.

 

The DAC uses M2Tech Drivers, so you do need to load drivers when you set it up.

 

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 Path: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Cayin iDAC6 MKII (tube mode) (XLR)>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: Ropieee (RPi3b+ with touchscreen) + Schiit Modi3E to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

Link to comment

I am sad to hear you say this:

 

"In England we don't bother with 'US' products anymore, because they are all Chinese. Even some Krell amps. It's a shame."

 

As it is patently untrue. There are many well known US brands which are made in the US, here are just a few:

 

Ayre, Pass, Avalon, Magico, Jeff Rowland Designs, YG Acoustics, Wyred 4 Sound, Nordost, DeVore Fidelity, bel canto design...

 

PS Audio has recently moved all production (with a few exceptions, like cables, which will be discontinued or moved to US production in the near future) back to the US from China, and is committing to all products being produced in the US within the next 18 months or so.

 

Clearly, the statement: "they are all Chinese" is entirely in error. US companies are learning that there are advantages to making products in the US.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

Link to comment

Thanks for the good news! That said, good is good wherever it comes from. As much as I wish manufacturing back to the US, there's something cool about having gear from all over the world that works well together. My stuff is from Canada, Japan, England, and the US (with a few cables and a PS Audio power conditioner from China thrown in there)... and it all works seemlessly!

 

Steve Kuh[br]Mac Mini > Glyph HD > Weiss AFI1 (slave) > modded Esoteric D70 (master) > BAT VK51SE > Classe CA400 > Harbeth Super HL5[br]\"Come on the amazing journey and learn all you should know...\"

Link to comment

Agreed. As one who is currently out of work, and a person who generally works for small businesses which manufacture and distribute products, I am quite sensitive to the difficulties US based manufacturing faces. I try and purchase products made in the US, it is not easy, and often not possible.

Given this countries current economic woes, it can help if people make an effort to purchase US made goods when possible/reasonable.

My amp (Pass) and preamp (Ayre) are US made, as are my cables (Nordost) and my AC regenerator (PS Audio). My DAC (DIY) is produced from US made boards, and includes many US made component parts (resistors, capacitors). My speakers are from Canada (Focus Audio). Audio components are one area where one can purchase US made stuff, try buying US made clothing!

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

Link to comment

Hi autoformer,

 

When I saw the "requirement" for USB, I double checked and saw your computer is a Mac. Just my opinion of course but with a Firewire 800 port and the fact that an LIO-8 fits the budget, I'd be done looking.

 

If your budget was $100,000, I'd have exactly the same recommendation.

 

Note however, this DAC will not "compensate" for errors elsewhere in the system. If you seek some "sizzle" one of the other DACs you mention will do the job (though I'll not mention it by name).

 

Beware, the combination of "sizzle" and "overly warm" will not sum algebraically to create a "neutral" result but will instead both sound warm and sizzle.

 

If you want to hear the source as it is, to my ears, the LIO-8 is in a class by itself.

 

Best regards,

Barry

www.soundkeeperrecordings.com

www.barrydiamentaudio.com

 

 

Link to comment

Thanks for the LIO-8 suggestion, Barry. I know people who are getting rid of their hi-fi DACs in favor of the Metric Halo unit. Omission of the mic preamps brings it into my budget range. I did look at the ULN-8 briefly and was a little put off because I'd have to make up the adapter cables from the ULN-8 to balanced, although I assume that those cables must be available off the shelf somewhere.

 

A great side benefit of the ULN-8 is that it's not just a DAC, but also an ADC. I have been thinking of doing some recording, so the unit could serve for that as well.

 

As to USB vs Firewire, I could live with Firewire, but I do prefer to keep 3rd party drivers to a minimum - one less thing to have to upgrade all the time.

 

I wonder if the LIO-8 has a sound character more akin to something like the Benchmark DAC1 USB, which is also a crossover from the pro audio world. Most people seem to agree that the DAC1 is very neutral and truthful. I own one and would agree with that opinion, but I have learned that I don't always want accurate and truthful in my hi-fi rig. I want delicious.

 

Would you put the LIO-8 into the same "accurate and truthful" category as the Benchmark?

 

 

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×
×
  • Create New...