I’m in the early stages of auditioning some DACs in my system, and I’m interested in some suggestions on what I might try over the coming weeks. The equipment in the rest of my system does a good job of creating a natural, easy, “real” sound with good dynamics and soundstage. I’d like a DAC that compliments that sound, but I’m not necessarily trying to find a DAC that mimics my vinyl playback. Before I started auditioning, I was using the internal DAC from my Node 2i in my lounge system (equipment listed in my profile). I have used a Chord Mojo as an external DAC with the Node, and I prefer the sound of the Node’s DAC. It’s not as clean and detailed as the Mojo, but it does a better job of presenting the music with the qualities I’m after in my system. Based on comments, measurements and reviews, I am interested in: RME ADI-2 FS This has been connected to my system since yesterday morning. I immediately noticed a big jump in accuracy and detail over the internal DAC in my Node 2i. It sounds great, instruments are precisely placed in the soundstage and the low-level detail is incredible, but I’m not hearing as much of that wide, 3D holographic quality from the soundstage that I’d like. It’s more like looking through a telescope at the vista than taking in the whole view. I like that it has a lot of options for EQ and filters, but I haven’t had the chance to experiment with them much. I’m only a third of the way through the ~70 page (!) manual. I am not particularly interested in the headphone amp or preamp functions, but I don’t mind that they’re there. The 30-band analyzer is fun to watch, and the display shows all sorts of information that is useful. It’s such a well-designed, comprehensive package that I may trade the desire for an expansive soundstage for all of it’s features and customization options. Benchmark DAC-3 B This has been ordered, but it hasn’t arrived yet. From what I’ve read, I can expect a somewhat more natural presentation and better soundstage compared to the RME, and retain the same (or better) level of detail. I look forward to seeing if that’s true in my system. I opted for the B version because it omits the preamp and headphone amp features, but is otherwise identical to their flagship DAC-3 HCG. The price is on par with the RME, and I suspect that more of that money is going to the DAC implementation instead of the other features. The casework complements the rest of my system better than the RME. That’s not a huge deal, but all things being equal, I would pick the component that matches my other gear. Schiit Yggdrasil This has not been ordered, but I’m interested because of what I’ve read about R2R and multibit ladder DACs reproducing music more naturally than Delta-Sigma DACs. Just a different design philosophy that may deliver more of the sound I’m looking for. The typical knock against this type of DAC is that they don’t measure well compared to Delta Sigmas. I don’t particularly care how things measure, as long as they deliver the right sound for me. I also like that this design is modular, so there’s a certain amount of future proofing built in. Modwright CXN V2 This component could replace the Node and DAC. I’ve noticed all of the admiration for the CXN, and I like the idea of the tube modification. Everything else in my system is tube based. Obviously, I can’t audition this one along with the others. I would need to buy the CXN and ship it to Modwright for the tube upgrade, which means returns are not possible either. It would be a total leap of faith, and I gather that the other DACs listed above outclass the CXN. In contrast to the Yggdrasil, this design is not modular, and the streamer and DAC are in the same box. Chord Qutest This DAC is frequently compared to some others on this list. The only experience I have with Chord DACs is the Mojo. I’m not sure if I should expect the Qutest to have the same sound signature as the Mojo. If that’s the case, I’ll probably skip it. As you can see, I’m all over the place here. I’ve read quite a bit about other DACs that aren’t on this list, and find myself in a bit of a paralysis over it all. Everyone was very helpful when I was selecting a phono preamplifier last month, and I ended up with a suggestion that wasn’t on my original list. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.