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DAC recommendations under $4000

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by owsley, Jan 13, 2021.

  1. owsley

    owsley Senior Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boston
    I am wishing to upgrade from a California Audio Sigma unit but there seem to be a lot of choices and not enough side-by-side reviews of one unit vs another.
    This is my criteria:
    * I'm only interested in playing back CD's, and digital files on thumb drives (mp3s, .wavs including hi-res). No SACD's, DVD audio etc so I don't need DSD support
    * I don't use headphones so a headphone amp is not a requirement
    * The DAC absolutely positively needs to be compatible with cd/media players that have pitch control and can handle changes in clock rate. This is a must
    * Ideally looking for a warm but rich analog type sound with superb bass, excellent detail and imaging without sounding too digital

    I have looked at the Schiit Yggdrasil, Benchmark DAC3, Bryston BDA2/3. Maybe there is a cheaper unit out there with less frills and features that would be a significant step up from my Sigma. Suggestions?
     
    displayname likes this.
  2. Standingstones

    Standingstones Forum Resident

    Location:
    South Central PA
    Have you gone to Apos Audio and looked at their offerings?
     
    MusicNBeer likes this.
  3. owsley

    owsley Senior Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boston
    Thanks. They certainly have a lot of DACs! Any in particular that you recommend?
     
  4. sushimaster

    sushimaster Forum Resident

    Robert Harley has compared the Schiit Yggdrasil to DACS costing $19,500 and $35,000.
    According to him, it's da Schiit!
     
    owsley, Razakoz and ssmith3046 like this.
  5. John Buchanan

    John Buchanan I'm just a headphone kinda guy.

    Try the Burson Audio Conductor 3 (or 3X if you want balanced)
     
    owsley likes this.
  6. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    You should be able to find a PS Audio Direct Stream DAC used for less than $4k.
     
    owsley likes this.
  7. Shangri-La

    Shangri-La Well-Known Member

    Location:
    CA
    What speakers/amp/CD player do you have? And what 2k+ DAC have you listened to?
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2021
    displayname likes this.
  8. jlykos

    jlykos Forum Resident

    Location:
    Parts Unknown
    In that price range, I would look at the Benchmark and Auralic units. I have the old Auralic Vega and it's fantastic. I have never felt the need to upgrade to the new version. I have used some of the Benchmark pro units, and their DACs (and ADCs) are incredible. I don't know if either of them can do variable pitch, however; that's something that you may want to investigate.
     
    owsley likes this.
  9. Ham Sandwich

    Ham Sandwich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sherwood, OR, USA
    Schiit has been working on a device they call "The Gadget" that can do pitch adjustment while not altering the tempo. Along with likely some other digital processing. They demoed a version of it at RMAF back in 2017. It is still in development. Schiit is interested in developing such a thing and it will probably happen eventually. One of the things they want it to be able to do is detect what the tuning is of the music being played and retune the music to C=256 Hz. We'll see what it all ends up being able to do when it is eventually released.

    Here's a press announcement of the RMAF 2017 demo: Schiit Audio: Audio Products Designed and Built in California
     
    owsley and displayname like this.
  10. Standingstones

    Standingstones Forum Resident

    Location:
    South Central PA
    I own the Gustard A18 (not available at the moment.) Read some of the reviews for those products. Gustard and Topping make great products. For the price of $1k or so I would think it would give these higher priced DACs a run for their money. $4k is a lot of money for an item like this. Choose wisely.
     
    Linger63 and owsley like this.
  11. I’m really satisfied with my Gold Note Ds-10 on an SQ and ergonomics level. I don’t use anywhere near its capabilities. Check out the specs and see I if it meets your requirements.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2021
    owsley, Squiggsy68 and gestalt like this.
  12. bever70

    bever70 It's all about the soundstage

    Location:
    Belgium
    Google the Denafrips Terminator (or one of their models below).
     
    owsley likes this.
  13. Luc.Benac

    Luc.Benac Member

    Location:
    Burnaby
    Monarchy Audio
    The New NM24 Tube DAC and Line Amp

    Monarchy Audio

    I have the older Model 33 and really liked it along with some good reviews on the Web.
     
    owsley and jusbe like this.
  14. rodentdog

    rodentdog Forum Resident

    Schiit Gungnir Multibit or Audio GD R7. Lots of $$ left over for music.
     
    owsley and sushimaster like this.
  15. Jeremy Bunting

    Jeremy Bunting Forum Resident

    Location:
    NYC
    I am not convinced anyone ever needs to spend $4000 on a DAC. The Yggie is tempting because at least multibit represents an entirely new way to think about the conversion process, but for a delta sigma DAC, why not get a Topping D90 and call it a day?
     
    owsley, Bevok, Doug Walton and 3 others like this.
  16. ssmith3046

    ssmith3046 Forum Resident

    Or a Schiit Bifrost 2 with lots of cash left over.
     
    rodentdog, owsley and billnunan like this.
  17. bever70

    bever70 It's all about the soundstage

    Location:
    Belgium
    Why not (if you have the budget) ? Every DAC I've had so far had/has a different sound, so....
     
    owsley, displayname, jusbe and 2 others like this.
  18. Jeremy Bunting

    Jeremy Bunting Forum Resident

    Location:
    NYC
    Of course! Everyone can spend their money however they’d like. I am just skeptical that with DACs you’ll get anything substantially better for the money after a point. It’s like that with all things in audio but I think diminished returns is especially applicable to DACs. But if someone wants to spend $4k to get something that sounds different, no judgment here. I just wouldn’t personally nor would I necessarily recommend it.
     
    owsley and Bevok like this.
  19. ubiknik

    ubiknik Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL USA
    Look at the Venus II R2R dac, it's the next model below a Terminator in the Denafrips line.
    @toddrhodes just got one and he's pretty stoked about it's performance (check the Denafrips dac thread),
    I have a Pontus (the next model below Venus) and for around 1700$ it's a bargain, it sounds great with regular cds and great with 24/96 needle drop files through balanced connection.
    It comes with all the connections you could need as well as I2S in either HDMI or RJ45 (your choice).
     
    owsley likes this.
  20. Davey

    Davey like smoke from a lithium dream

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    Some of the DACs being mentioned here will have problems with changing the sample clock rate, like the OP requires. They often have a very narrow lock range for straight S/PDIF inputs when using a PLL, and some of them have fixed clock FIFO structures that will run out of data and lose lock if the sample clock is changed by much outside of the nominal clock frequencies provided. I think the OP will need to carefully assess this requirement with any of candidate DACs and verify it can be handled with the design.
     
    owsley, ubiknik and bever70 like this.
  21. Dax_Frost

    Dax_Frost Ballad of a Southern Man

    Location:
    Houston, Texas
    Can you expand on that? You can order the Pontus with a HDMI input so I could send DSD off an OPPO to the PONTUS through hdmi?
     
  22. Davey

    Davey like smoke from a lithium dream

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    Well, if you mean while playing a SACD, not directly, like on many DACs the Denafrips HDMI connector is used for I2S (unless they have some new option that implements the full HDMI protocol and hence pays the significant licensing costs), but you can with an adaptor in-between to hack the interface ... At Long Last! Listen To Your (Physical) SACDs Through an Outboard DAC
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2021
  23. ubiknik

    ubiknik Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL USA
    It comes standard with I2S - you just have to choose your connection of choice, either hdmi plug or an ethernet /rj45 type plug. I do know that with some I2S feeds there may be a need to program the unit to match hdmi pins, I don't or have yet to try I2S on the unit but ToddRhodes has with a rpi streamer.
    It's my understanding that if the I2S is used via LVDS HDMI then it will just work as is, a company called Pink Fawn (I think) makes a HDMI computer card that is known to work well with these dacs.
    There are a few streamers that do it as well, I think Vinshine audio sells one that mainly does lan streaming.
     
    Dax_Frost likes this.
  24. Three quid

    Three quid Forum Resident

    Location:
    United States
    As a D90 owner, I can say it's an excellent sub-$1000 DAC. But directly comparing it to other DAC's in my system, it's not the giant killer that measurement may lead you to believe.
     
    owsley and Fitero like this.
  25. Jeremy Bunting

    Jeremy Bunting Forum Resident

    Location:
    NYC
    That's good to know. Could you tell us which DACs you like better?
     

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