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darascal

Yet another guy seeking DAC advice

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Hi,

 

I'm beginning research to upgrade my DAC and would like to winnow out the field to a reasonable number before I start auditioning.

 

My current system is Mac Mini => MF V-LINK => Peachtree Nova => LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III => Harbeth Compact 7ES-3.

 

My requirements:

 

Great sound that will compliment my existing system (I listen to a wide variety of music). This requirement by far trumps the others.

 

Looks matter! If it looks like it would be at home in a recording studio, it won't be at home in my living room!

 

Flexible inputs would be a plus. While I'm very impressed by what I've heard of the Ayre QB-9 and Wavelength Cosecant, I'm a little hesitant to buy a USB-only DAC, but I'm not dead-set against it. I currently run my CD player through my DAC, though I don't use it much & it's not too bad sounding through its analog outputs (Music Hall cd25.2).

 

The ability to play high res files would be a plus. I'm currently I'm only playing Redbook, but may eventually venture into Hi-Res territory.

 

US West Coast dealers available, so I can audition and preferably have a home trial.

 

Max price is around $3,500 US, though I'm flexible.

 

I'm also open to a major upgrade of my USB converter, if necessary.

 

Thanks!

Rascal

 


A: Mac Mini => Peachtree Nova => LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III => Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 | Musical Fidelity X-CAN V-8 => AKG K 701

B: Airport Express = > Benchmark DAC1 => Rega Brio-R => B&W DM 601 S2

C: Airport Express => AudioEngine A2

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Hi Rascal, I am in the market for a dac too, but I did listen to the Denon 100th anniversary cd player and I loved it. It's a beautiful machine, plays high resolution music (w/spdif). The sound was warm, detailed, very nice. I don't want to buy anything until next spring because I want to demo a few dacs first, otherwise I would have bought it. They didn't make many, I heard only 100, it's $2500.

 

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I just went though this and decided on a QB-9. Should be here in a couple weeks. Have you tried listening to your Benchmark with the V-Link USB interface? That sounded very good to me.

 

 

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If I was buying a $3500 DAC, it would most likely be the Antelope Zodiac Gold. Lots of inputs including USB. Also comes with a remote control so you use it as a preamp as well (hook directly to amp). Stylish design also with front panel in choice of gold, black or silver.

 

ted_b is really hot on this one, especially the analog volume control.

 

Not sure of dealers but the pro audio shops like Vintage King carry them ($3595, at least the gold front plate version, might be able to order other colors). The pro audio shops usually have good return policies in case you decide it does not work in your system.

 

http://www.vintageking.com/Antelope-Audio-Zodiac-Gold-w-Remote

 

http://www.antelopeaudio.com/en/products_zodiacgold.html

 

Good luck!

 

 

 


Eric


Ubuntu Studio Linux box (i7-9700, 8 cores, 16GB RAM, Intel X520-DA1 NIC, Roon, HQP) > fiber optic > MikroTik CRS305-1G-4S+ > fiber optic > opticalRendu (HQP NAA) > Holo Cyan (DSD version) > Nord One UP NC500MB mono blocks > Klipsch La Scala — digital volume control with HQP via Roon client

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has an integrated amp, so no need for volume controls or remotes. Honestly, if your only other source is a CDP you do not need any other inputs on the DAC, your CDs will sound better ripped and playing back from the computer with a good DAC set up.

 

Hence: Ayre QB-9 paired with a really good USB cable

 

To achieve better sound than this you will need to spend substantially more money (like jumping up into the $6K territory or so) or be willing to DIY and invest a lot of time experimenting.

 


ROON: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModule-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY AC, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Dark Matter system clarifiers.                                                        
                            

                                   
                                                                            SONORE computer audio

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... the QB9 sounds like your ticket ... well within your price range; excellent build quality and implementation; I have a feeling your Harbeths are gonna like it ... My 2c

 


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...\"

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Thanks all for your feedback.

 

@ericucu - Yes, I've taken note of the Antelope. Lovely piece of gear, though the non-standard height is a bit weird. It also has a bunch of features I don't need - remote, headphone amp, balanced inputs - and I'll be paying for them. Still, worth considering.

 

@autoformer - So far, I've preferred the warmth of my Nova's Dac over the benchmark, but I haven't A/B'd them since I got my Harbeths recently. Worth a try.

 

@Barrows

I hear ya, but having a CD player has some advantages - when guests come over w/ CD's (bit of pain to rip, especially since I do AIFF), and I also have a handful of CD's that refuse to rip, but play perfectly on the CDP. Still, I might be able to live with the lower quality analog output of the MH, since I don't use it much.

 

Interesting opinion that I'd have to jump to 6K to best the QB-9. Better even than the Cosecant you think?

 

@SteveChicago - that's the main thing - how will it play w/ my speakers. That's encouraging feedback.

 

Another DAC that's a natural for my setup is the Naim Dac. But I dunno - It has features I probably won't use (USB connectivity for thumb-drive, iPod connection), it's black (bleh!) and may get quite pricey with a suitable USB converter. Plus, I do like the simplicity of the half-width Dacs. The Naim sounds great though.

 

Again, thanks all for your feedback. Other opinions definitely welcome!

 

Rascal

 


A: Mac Mini => Peachtree Nova => LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III => Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 | Musical Fidelity X-CAN V-8 => AKG K 701

B: Airport Express = > Benchmark DAC1 => Rega Brio-R => B&W DM 601 S2

C: Airport Express => AudioEngine A2

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@AudioDoctor: Excellent suggestion! Why didn't I think of that?

@darascal: The Grand Integrated would allow you to replace your v-link, Nova (pre) and your LFD power amp with single unit.

 

I heard both the Grand Pre and the Grand Integrated at RMAF. They both sounded fantastic. I spent most of my time there listening to the Grand Integrated, which was driving a pair of Sonus Faber Elipsa speakers. The fit and finish of the new 400WPC Grand Integrated, combined with Peachtree's signature styling is really outstanding. It has async USB, multiple coax and optical S/PDIF ports and analog inputs as well as a tube buffered preamp on which you can switch the tube in and out of the circuit, just like your Nova. We pored over it, crawled behind with with a flashlight and were impressed. It is a very well thought out product and sounds at least as good as it looks.

 

Honestly, Peachtree had one of the best-sounding rooms at the show. A real standout. The new Grand series takes them to a new level of sonic and build quality. They are based here in Bellevue, Washington and the icing on the cake is that this new high end series is being manufactured in the USA!

 

The founders, David Solomon and Jim Spainhour were kind and gracious hosts. It was clear that their work at Peachtree is a labor of love. They seemed genuinely touched when people expressed how much they enjoy their products.

 

At the moment, listening to:

Squeezebox Touch > Peachtree iDecco > Zu Audio Omen

 

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I wish I had been able to attend the show!

 

I am also a fan of Peachtree products, I have an iNova being fed MOG via a Sonos device right now, to a pair of Focal 807v's. Sounds pretty good!

 

I bet it sounds pretty good with the Zu Omens too! I have a pair of Essence driven by my Cary SLI-80 F1 Triode and they sound beautiful.

 

I bet their new Grand Pre, with the right pair of tubed monoblocks, will make the Zu speakers SING!

 


No electron left behind...

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...a Berkeley Audio DAC. They've recently made a modest update and so those with the right amount of disposable dough are selling these marvellous units for a greatly reduced price. The BADA is firmly in the big league and now is a great time to pick up a used Version 1. If your budget is around $3000, you're in the running.

 

WDW

 

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Sabdra wrote "Hi Rascal, I am in the market for a dac too, but I did listen to the Denon 100th anniversary cd player and I loved it. It's a beautiful machine, plays high resolution music (w/spdif). The sound was warm, detailed, very nice. I don't want to buy anything until next spring because I want to demo a few dacs first, otherwise I would have bought it. They didn't make many, I heard only 100, it's $2500."

 

I can not second your recommendation warmly enough. That player is special and the ability to play high resolution

computer music through it's SPDIF makes it a wonderful addition to someones music system.

 


David

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...corporate entity but the BADA has been designed by a clever group of guys...HDCD was one of their works....this is far more serious stuff than the usual...count me as a fan. My earlier Levinson DAC couldn't hold a candle to this marvelous product.

 

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Thanks again folks for the interesting advice.

 

@AudioDoctor

I'm very intrigued by the new higher-end Peachtree entries, which look gorgeous. I'd love to check them out. Clearly Peachtree's a company that is going places.

 

However, I LOVE my LFD integrated. (I'm actually only using the Nova's Dac.) The LFD is a beautiful sounding amp with a simple yet elegant design. It's a wildly popular combination with Harbeth. (Stereophile Class A, from what I recall, for whatever that's worth.) I'm kind of attached to it. And its mighty 50 watts is more than enough to power my C7'S. So I'm more interested in channeling my dollars into a stand-alone Dac that will compliment my LFD/Harbeth combo.

 

@wdw - Hmm, second-hand BADA, interesting. I've not heard it, though of course I've heard all the raves. A little techie-looking, though not exactly ugly. But it seems there may be some considerable extra expense for a USB converter that would do it justice. I'd probably lean toward the WaveLink - $900. (And currently only one BADA on A'gon @ $3750. Still, it's tempting, but I'm hesitant to spend that much sight un-seen. Maybe I can find a dealer that still carries a series 1 so I can have a listen. Worth considering on the high-end side.

 

Thanks to you all once again!

Rascal

 


A: Mac Mini => Peachtree Nova => LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III => Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 | Musical Fidelity X-CAN V-8 => AKG K 701

B: Airport Express = > Benchmark DAC1 => Rega Brio-R => B&W DM 601 S2

C: Airport Express => AudioEngine A2

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The best piece of advice I am able to give you, check out the Eastern Electric MiniMax DAC Plus. Don't let its price tag deceive you, please.

 

There aren't many reviews on this unit yet and also I'm a new forum member here but I swear, I do own this unit and I'm so blown away by what I'm hearing I just felt I had to share my opinion. Here's a review I found.

 

http://www.dagogo.com/View-Article.asp?hArticle=931

 

I can confirm the asynchronous USB input of this DAC completely avoids the jitter problem, so no more expensive worrying about transports and cables.

 

Another important thing I've noticed is the extremely lifelike, organic character of the sound does not appear to be absent when using "lesser" quality source material. What I mean is, the openness and the emotionally connectingness of the sound does not go away regardless of whether you're listening to a CD, a vinyl record transferred to 24/96 FLAC files, a DVD-A or a Blu Ray.

 

The timbre reproduction fidelity and the immense resolution go hand in hand here, so no, this DAC does not, I reapeat DOES NOT sound "overly clinical" nor does it sound in any way artificial.

 

If there's one invisible DAC that reveals the flaws in a preamp, amp or speaker then the Eastern Electric MiniMax DAC Plus will be it. Put simply, it's the nail in the skepticist's coffin.

 

Happy Halloween! :-)

 


If you had the memory of a goldfish, maybe it would work.

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I can confirm the asynchronous USB input of this DAC completely avoids the jitter problem, so no more expensive worrying about transports and cables.

 

To the OP - I haven't heard the DAC, and it may be wonderful and a steal, but I'd counsel caution regarding absolute statements like "completely avoids the jitter problem" and "no more expensive worrying about transports and cables."

 

I've heard the QB-9 sounding very, very fine with good associated equipment (Pass Labs integrated, Wilson Sophia speakers, Audioquest cables). The owner is a friend and audio dealer whose judgment I greatly respect. He says if he could choose one line of DACs it would be "Gordon's stuff" (Gordon Rankin, principal of Wavelength and licensor of his technology to Ayre for the QB-9). So both the QB-9 and the Wavelength DACs are likely to be quite nice sounding. I'm sure there will be some differences, based on the design judgments of Gordon Rankin (Wavelength) and Charles Hansen (Ayre). Gordon's designs tend to be tube-based, Charles' solid-state. The QB-9 is 24/192-capable (currently - it was 24/96 once upon a time, so if you're looking at used, take care), as is the Wavelength Cosecant with Numerator.

 


One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> wi-fi to router -> EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> USPCB -> ISO Regen (powered by LPS-1) -> USPCB -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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@darascal: Since you haven't done so yet, it'd be worth listening to your Benchmark again with your Harbeth speakers. Harbeths don't seem to be very source-sensitve. That is, they will sound great with all sorts of electronics, including (ca. 1979) Yamaha CA-810 integrated amplifier that I bought for $120. Alan Shaw isn't kidding when he says he does his design work, he just grabs whatever solid state amplifier is sitting on the shelf in their storage room. He always says that any "good quality" amplifier made after 1985 or so will do just fine. And wire them up with plain old zip cord.

 

In particular, they will never sound harsh, even with aggressive-sounding sources like the DAC1. In fact, I have always felt that the DAC1 just added that little extra edge to the Harbeths that is quite appealing.

 

Would love to hear your opinion when you've heard the DAC1 on your Harbeths.

 

 

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@spdif-usb & @Jud, thanks for your (somewhat conflicting) opinions. While the Eastern Electric looks interesting and worth keeping in mind, the trusted reputations of Ayre & Wavelength inspire a good bit of confidence in me. @Jud, interesting info on Ayre/Wavelength, I'd love hear them both in my system & they're edging their way up toward my short list. I just wish they made Dacs with at least coax & optical inputs. So far, the only non-USB-only Dac that has my attention is the Wyred4Sound Dac2 (and it ain't exactly pretty).

 

@Autoformer - It's interesting & somewhat perplexing what Shaw claims about amps in relation to the Harbeths. Makes me wonder why so many Harbeth owners also own $3-6k amps (including me!) and $3k CDP's. It also make you wonder (as you suggest) if that lack of particular-ness also applies to Dacs. I will definitely give the Benchmark a try with the Harbeths. Interestingly, I recently hooked up my old first-gen HRT Streamer to my main system & was shocked at how good it sounded! Makes me wonder if I should upgrade or downgrade! I'll let you know my impressions after I hook up the Benchmark.

 

Thanks you all again!

 

Rascal

 


A: Mac Mini => Peachtree Nova => LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III => Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 | Musical Fidelity X-CAN V-8 => AKG K 701

B: Airport Express = > Benchmark DAC1 => Rega Brio-R => B&W DM 601 S2

C: Airport Express => AudioEngine A2

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the trusted reputations of Ayre & Wavelength inspire a good bit of confidence in me

 

Rascal, sorry for my late reply.

 

I can understand your stance on typical "giants" but if there's one good lesson in audio I've learnt the hard way, it must be the fact sooner or later there will come along a "giant-killer".

 

When I said please don't let the price tag deceive you, perhaps I should have added "and don't let brand reputation deceive you either". Trust only your own ears and nothing else. If you have read the review I linked and have read it carefully, surely you must have noticed the author expressing some degree of worry about his own reputation. I know it's always easy for some guy claiming to be "experienced" to write up a gleaming review so in the end it's just asking for more skepticism. Or so it can appear.

 

Right now I am waiting for my Emotiva XPA-2 power amp to arrive. I live in Europe so it's a much more costly affair to me than it is to people who are located in continental U.S. but it doesn't really matter to me because I just know this amp's the one I want and have been dreaming about for so long it's driving me nuts.

 

Mr. Jürgen Röder of Canton replied to my e-mail inquiry regarding the relationship between the amount of amp power the XPA-2 can deliver and the Canton Vento 890.2 DC floorstanding speaker, by saying the Emotiva amp is "totally unknown here in Germany" but it "might work (even, if the power-output is a little bit oversized)".

 

... A "little" bit oversized. I included the link to the product page. Maybe he must have missed the "abominable snowman on steroids" part. Haha!

 

On topic, I believe "synergy" is the magic word we're looking for. What's a good DAC for if we don't have the gear that closely matches it as well as makes everything fit together well with our personal tastes, anyway?

 

As soon as my speakers have arrived too, I'll create a new topic on here. If things plan out just the way, it's going to be flamboyantly intoxicating! :-)

 


If you had the memory of a goldfish, maybe it would work.

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Thanks for your response. I contacted the EE distributor to see if there are any dealers in my area.

 

One other advantage to buy one of the "Giants" is also ease of resale and resale value.

 

In any case, have fun with your new amp and speakers!

 

Rascal

 


A: Mac Mini => Peachtree Nova => LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III => Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 | Musical Fidelity X-CAN V-8 => AKG K 701

B: Airport Express = > Benchmark DAC1 => Rega Brio-R => B&W DM 601 S2

C: Airport Express => AudioEngine A2

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Everytime I feel like the hunt for the right DAC for my system has ended, another bit of research turns up a contender. There have been the $1000-1500 "flashes in the pan" but I believe my decision will drift substantially higher. A recent rationaliztion: flexibility is key, for me. It will be the piece that sticks around for a while and the other components will play catch-up. I have built some great systems in the past by playing "leap frog". The Ayre QB-9 was the central considration for a week but the AR DAC-8 has the flexibility I seek and it is now the principal consideration. I am also warming to the concept of a matched Audio Research system (Pre, DAC, AMP). A used Berkeley could be be a great solution to your quandry. Buying new, the Ayre would be my choice for the budget target, with surplus (more money for cable game)! My other leading consideration is bit rate. Due to the hard drive space, and availability of 192 material, I don't consider 24/192 a high priorirty, personally. If you do want the bleeding-edge, the Antelope Gold reviews well but I have not listened to one. It's a preamp with remote, 32/384 capable, lots of input flexibilty and upgradeable with a matched power supply.

 

The journey is lot of the fun!

 

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A used Berkeley could be be a great solution to your quandry.

 

Actually, the inputs aren't quite flexible for me. I'd like SPDIF and either a high-quality async USB input or another SPDIF input, plus an optical input. If the Berkeley had another SPDIF input it might be a contender.

 

The Zodiac Gold is interesting, but perhaps a bit overkill for my needs & the price tag (I believe around $3700) is pushing my budget a bit.

 

Thanks for your feedback & enjoy your journey.

 

Rascal

 


A: Mac Mini => Peachtree Nova => LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III => Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 | Musical Fidelity X-CAN V-8 => AKG K 701

B: Airport Express = > Benchmark DAC1 => Rega Brio-R => B&W DM 601 S2

C: Airport Express => AudioEngine A2

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