Gathering Possible Candidates For DAC Upgrade

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Mister Pig, Aug 2, 2020 at 10:13 AM.

  1. Mister Pig

    Mister Pig Positive Feedback Reviewer Thread Starter

    Olympia, WA
    Current digital system uses an Audio Magic Kukama DAC, which is around 11 years old and a multi bit design based on the Burr Brown PCM1704 chip set. It is a very nice DAC, and to be honest I am content with it. But with all things audio, I wonder if it can be improved upon within my budget.

    Now the DAC is paired with a Mac Mini that runs iTunes in conjunction with Pure Music. I also use Qobuz as another digital source. The output of the Mini goes to a PS Audio LANRover and then to a Singxer SU1 USB/SPDIF converter.

    I have noticed that the LANRover does cean up the USB signal going to the DAC quite a bit and it makes computer audio palatable to me. Without it I would sonically prefer a good transport instead. But if I were to try a DAC with any of the higher resolution formats available, the LANRover would have to go I do believe. Imagine that would be the case for the Singxer also.

    So I would be looking at candidates within say the $3K range and pre-owned is fine. Companies that appear to be worth looking at are ones such as Mytek, Metrum, Berkeley, Aurlic, and so on. Other folks seem to like the Schiit DACs, but to be honest I seem to read about a lot of failures on their components. Perhaps not the upper level pieces like the Yggdrasil, but it doesn't inspire confidence. Previously I had listened to the second generation Benchmark DAC and found it to be cold and sterile, and bought my Kukama instead. Not sure if the new one has the same genetic disposition.

    So that is the story, lets see what is possible. Oh last year I did have a PS Audio Directstream in here for a listen. The Kukama was a far better sounding DAC on redbook, I couldnt see keeping the Direststream here because of that. The majority of my music is on standard CDs, and I listen to a lot of local/regional artists who release on small labels that only have that capability. So first and foremost, this machine has to sound great with bog standard CDs.
  2. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    Westfield, IN USA
    Is balanced out from the dac a necessity?
  3. Mister Pig

    Mister Pig Positive Feedback Reviewer Thread Starter

    Olympia, WA
    No, but the pre-amp I have does use balanced in, so I can accommodate that.
  4. mds

    mds Forum Resident

    I prefer a DAC/Streamer combo. Less components and one would hope the integration is well thought out. For this reason I went with the Auralic Vega G1, which I believe is in your price range. The Vega puts the signal into memory before it plays, which pretty much cleans up the jitter issue. Took awhile to break in but once broken in the sound is fantastic and the convenience with streaming is wonderful. I connect through the Network Cat 5 line to my router but you can connect USB or hook up your CD player as a transport. The unit can be used as your preamplifier if you choose, I did not so I cannot comment on how well this works. The G2 is a lot more expensive, out of most people's budget, but I know they put more money into that units volume control not to say the G1 is not good, I'm sure it is great based on the performance of everything else with this unit. Very easy to set up with it's streaming program and/or ROON. It is ROON certified. Seamlessly plays most streaming services. I use Tidal but through ROON. I can't say enough good things about the unit. In this hobby you constantly look around for the next upgrade after a year or so of having just bought your last component but this hasn't been the case with this DAC/Streamer. No desire to try anything else in terms of a DAC.
  5. There are no reliability issues with Schiit DACs and other Schiit gear. Much of the negative info about Schiit gear is by people who for some reason don't like Schiit as a company or view Schiit as a competitor to their own favorite gear. There is not a lot to go wrong in a DAC. I fully expect my DACs to still be working 20 years from now. There should be no concerns about considering their DACs due to reliability concerns.

    If you like the concept of multibit oversampling DACs the Yggdrasil is worth considering.

    There is also no one best DAC for everyone. All DACs have their own sonic flavors and character. What is best for you depends on your system and preferences. For example the Mytek DACs and the Metrum DACs are quite different from each other in sound. Which of the two you prefer will depend on your system and your personal sonic preference.

    First step in looking for a new DAC is figuring out what sound style and character you're after. And try to focus on DACs that are likely to have the sound and character you're after. Otherwise you'll get overwhelmed with the choices available.
  6. Lenny

    Lenny Forum Resident

    New York
    Your DAC looks pretty good. Large power supply and discrete analog section and a DAC chip that is still in use and that many still prefer. It is only lacking its own USB input--but that should not hold it back very much. The spdif input can work very well.

    Your SQ could improve appreciably, IMO by feeding it a much better digital stream, one that does not pass through your computer. I would ditch the PSAudio decrapifier and look for an ethernet (or wifi) to spdif renderer, also sometimes called a digital bridge. I think you can spend far less money this way and achieve very good results.
    Mike-48 likes this.
  7. Mister Pig

    Mister Pig Positive Feedback Reviewer Thread Starter

    Olympia, WA
    If there is another way to do this I am all ears.
  8. luckybaer

    luckybaer Thinks The Devil actually beat Johnny

    I'll second what @Ham Sandwich said in his post re: Schiit components. I own several pieces of Schiit, including a Gungnir Multi-Bit DAC that has been on 24x7 for over two years. Unless I'm out of town, there isn't a day that goes by where that DAC isn't doing SOMETHING. I feed it with USB from my PC, coax from my optical disc player, and coax from my ADC phonostage.

    The other piece of Schiit I have - that is used every day (Modi MB, Vali 2, Magni 3, Loki, Eitr are either packed away or (Vali 2) rarely used) - is a Freya pre-amp (the one with tubes). Thankfully, no issues with that either.

    I like @Lenny 's suggestion. You've got a champ of a DAC. If there is someway to improve what you feed it in a cost-effective manner, it makes sense to give that a shot.
    billnunan and Art K like this.
  9. rodentdog

    rodentdog Forum Resident

    I'd keep the DAC and streamer in separate boxes for a main system. Streaming options change at a faster rate than DAC tech IMO. Look at the "R" series DACs from Audio GD.
  10. head_unit

    head_unit Forum Resident

    Los Angeles CA USA
    I'll be a bit contrary and say that by 11 years ago with a 1704 one could design a very good DAC, likely surpassing what can be recorded onto a CD. That doesn't mean your Kukama does so, or that you might not like a different DAC more, but the difference is just as likely to be in the power supply and analog circuitry. Whatever you get, in this instance I think the MOST important thing is that it be EASILY RETURNABLE since you may find no difference or (like the Directstream) a negative difference.
  11. Mister Pig

    Mister Pig Positive Feedback Reviewer Thread Starter

    Olympia, WA

    Wait, isnt this essentially a streamer that we are talking about and having it hooked to a DAC. Then the music server/puter is either passing through a router or its making a wireless or even an ethernet cable connection to the streamer?
  12. Mister Pig

    Mister Pig Positive Feedback Reviewer Thread Starter

    Olympia, WA
    This was the internal image I found, thought I would add it in a post here.
  13. Lenny

    Lenny Forum Resident

    New York
    If you want to do it at relatively low cost you can look here and specifically at their "transports" Digione and Digione Signature. You can also ditch the Singxer as wll as the PSAudio and recover at least some funds.
  14. Lenny

    Lenny Forum Resident

    New York
    @Mister Pig
    Yes, exactly, but it's not a streamer as the industry uses the word. If the music resides IN your computer, as on an internal hard disk, you have to get it out.

    The music, assuming it is somewhere on the network, can go into the renderer (which is what I prefer to call it) and out to the DAC, never passing through the computer. It can be controlled by the computer; I use JRiver as a DLNA controlling program but there are other, free, ways.

    There are more expensive solutions than I have pointed to.
  15. smith6552

    smith6552 Forum Resident

    Highland Park, IL
    If you want to go the Schiit route I wouldn't worry about reliability. They stand by their products. I had a Loki go bad and they had it replaced with a new one before I even got the old one in the mail. I would listen to as many of the dacs as possible then make your decision based on sound quality. $3000 is a nice spot to be in for dacs.
    luckybaer likes this.
  16. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Seattle, WA
    You might be able to find a used PS Audio Direct Stream DAC for around your price point.
  17. Jim N.

    Jim N. Get off my lawn, punk, or hear my Mossberg sing!

    So Cal
    Musical Paradise has been getting some good ink. A large choice of configuration options (ESS9038, AKM4497, caps, tubes, usb boards).


    Audio Mirror has balanced output as an option and it is a NOS dac:

    I own a Schiit GUMBY that I am very happy with and have no experience with the two listed above but both are in your price range new with some good reviews. You can pick up used Schiit Yggi with Analog2 board and Unison USB for around $1900. They pop up on Head-Fi regularly.
  18. wgallupe

    wgallupe Forum Resident

    I guess you didn't read the OP's entire first post....
    GoldprintAudio likes this.
  19. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Hong Kong
    If mostly for CD replay - I would listen to an Audio Note DAC 1.1 or 2.1 - They are Non Oversampling DACs - they were the first Non Oversampling DACs.
  20. Linger63

    Linger63 Forum Resident

    IME.......spending that $3K on acoustic treatments for your room instead would guarantee much better "bang for buck" :agree:
    Assuming you haven't done it yet........(a lot haven't)

    Of course it would have to be a realistically practical option for you though.....:)
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2020 at 10:52 AM
  21. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Okto 8 Stereo DAC should be on your radar. There is an optional streaming module. If I were buying a DAC with a $3K budget today, I would buy that (~$1200 + options) and then spend the rest on a purpose-built fanless PC for music playback only with parts from Microcenter or whatever.
    Cherrycherry likes this.
  22. Razakoz

    Razakoz Well-Known Member

    I've never heard of major reliability issues with schiit, maybe some of their cheaper stuff, but not the high end products. There's really not much that can break in a dac. I'd suggest their ygdrassil if you're looking for a really good modern multibit dac.
  23. james

    james Forum Resident

    I had a Vali 1 that ended up submerged in water (long story) and still worked.
    luckybaer likes this.
  24. Gibsonian

    Gibsonian Forum Resident

    Iowa, USA
    The Denafrips DAC's are getting a lot of good reviews here, likely have one in the upper end of your price range. Recent thread had the high dollar one, a bit out of your price range, which was tearing up the Ygg from Schitt in everyway in a direct comparison.

Share This Page