Help me decide on an inexpensive DAC

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by jmrife, May 8, 2019.

  1. lollerberry

    lollerberry Well-Known Member

    Montreal, Canada
    Has anyone upgraded from using Chromecast Audio’s built-in DAC to one of these cheaper stand-alone ones? Any noticeable improvement?

    I find it pretty damn good but don’t have enough experience with DACs to be sure.
  2. It does, I used one for 9 months and it sounds outstanding regardless of the price. But I wanted native DSD playing without using a computer so I got the Topping D50 that can do DSD over PCM by its SPDIF digital coaxial and TosLink inputs.
    It's the best digital source I've ever had, at any price, it sounds great with red book resolution, outstanding with Hi Res PCM and, well, how do I say on my not native English how it sounds with DSD? It has to be heard to be believed that such an inexpensive but built like a tank (it can work as a self defense weapon in case of need, I wouldn't like somebody to through one of these to my head) D/A sounds so fine, detailed,natural and dinamic for that price.
    I've played "The Film Music Of Jerry Goldsmith" SACD, a native DSD recording, on many SACD players and it rival players and converters that cost 4 numbers.
    It has the same Sabre ESS ES9038Q2M D/A converters as the Oppo 205 and the Oppo Sonica, only that both Oppo units use only one ESS ES9038Q2M for stereo playing, the Topping D50 uses one of these per channel.
    It comes without a power supply, but don't bother looking for a linear power supply (the D50 is powered by 5 Volts at 1 Amp, sounds familiar?) that can cost you from 50 to 100 US $, get a good and high capacity powerbank like the one from EC Technology that is a US company but their products are made in China (where else?) but work great. I have a USB power tester that among other things read voltage, mAh consumption, Watts and with an EC Technology 22400 powerbank it gives a dead stable reading of 5.2 volts at 480 mAh without any fluctuations, it doesn't get any better than that and this will give you many many hours of music listening. I once spent 6 hours in a row playing music with it while doing some other staff and it 4 LEDs that indicate their charge level didn't change, the 4 of them were lighted after 6 hours.
    I've also tested a friend's 10000mAh Xiaomi powerbank and it was also very stable.
    Here's the powerbank:,aps,203&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1
    And here's the USB tester: € 3.95 40% de DESCUENTO|9/10 in 1 DC USB Tester Current 4 30V Voltage Meter Timing Ammeter Digital Monitor Cut off Power Indicator Bank Charger 40%off en Medidores de Tensión de Herramientas en | Alibaba Group
  3. Kristofferabild

    Kristofferabild Forum Resident

    How many companies still produce NOS dacs? I really like the sound of those.
  4. quicksrt

    quicksrt Senior Member

    City of Angels
    I just looked at Amazon and saw the Topping D50, they had a listing for $199.00 new, had to grab it. One more at that price if anyone else was on the fence.

    We are finally in the low price range for nicer DACs. Took several years but we are finally here.
    Mel Harris and Kiko1974 like this.
  5. Classicrock

    Classicrock Forum Resident

    South West, UK.
    For what it's worth the bit stream DACs that replaced mulibit sounded better (and I have owned CDs with 1541A chips). So I can't understand to go back to them especially as they are 16 bit. The ladder DACs that emulate this tech for hi-res just seem complicated and expensive. I have heard of problems with a well known make that has put out a signal or distortion that damages a certain maker's amps which forego filters for SQ reasons. A lot of people are liking the Topping DACs and there is also Beresford in the UK. Most cheap DACS can be bought online with 30 days money back so you can try until you find something you like.
    patient_ot likes this.
  6. Classicrock

    Classicrock Forum Resident

    South West, UK.
    Not the same DAC as Oppo 205. This is a (cut down) mobile version while 205 use the Pro version.
    Kiko1974 likes this.
  7. 500Homeruns

    500Homeruns Peaceful Punk

    Lehigh Valley, PA
    I use a Schiit Bifrost with a Chromecast Audio in my system. No USB, but the Chromecast can't use USB anyway. I think it sounds really nice in my system.
    lollerberry likes this.
  8. quicksrt

    quicksrt Senior Member

    City of Angels
    I’m seeing a lot of comments that the D50 is better sounding. Just did a bunch of searches. But if you are happy and it sounds nice in your system then I wouldn’t bother at the moment.
    500Homeruns likes this.
  9. lollerberry

    lollerberry Well-Known Member

    Montreal, Canada
    Do you hear a tangible difference between CCA’s internal DAC vs. using toslink with the Schiit?
  10. 500Homeruns

    500Homeruns Peaceful Punk

    Lehigh Valley, PA
    To my ears, yes. In my system.
    lollerberry likes this.
  11. Scott Sheagren

    Scott Sheagren I’m a Metal,Rock,Jazz Fusion,Gaga type of guy.

    with my hrt music streamer 2+ my cds lossless sound better then any vinyl i ever had using jriver as my computer media center with the sox resampler tube amp helps out with that too.
  12. That's a great price, I hope you really enjoy its sound. Beware, it sounds bright at first but after 50 hours or so of use it sttles down and gets its definitive sound, that for me is otstanding.
    Will you share your opinions on the Topping D50 with us when you get it?
    Don't forget to get a proper power supply, please don't power it with a cell phone charger.
  13. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    It's a bit above the OP's budget but I recently bought the Pro-Ject Pre BoxS2 Digital. I chose it for these reasons:

    • Multiple filter options
    • Can be used as a preamp
    • Built-in headphone amp for the rare occasions that I travel for work
    • "Near state-of-the-art" measurements according to Stereophile. I've been wanting to try a more recent DAC since so many claim digital tech continues to improve.
    I'm happy to report that it's an improvement over my Topping D20. I've owned a few $100-$300 DACs and all have sounded practically identical until now.

    The Sabre DAC in my Halo Integrated was somewhat glaring/glassy, so I was apprehensive in ordering the Pro-Ject which uses dual 9038 chips. Well, there's still some slight glare, but it seems very recording dependent, so I can't rule out the recordings or the sources feeding the DAC.

    Anyhow, the biggest improvements over my Topping are channel separation and instrument articulation. Decay also seems improved.

    I fully expected this DAC would be back in the mailbox by the end of the week but it's sounding like a keeper, for now.
  14. PTgraphics

    PTgraphics Senior Member

    I was looking to get a Cambridge DAC or something similar in the price range but I think I am going to go with a used AURALiC Vega. Right now I have the original Dragon Fly Dac hooked up to my old Mac Pro 5,1 and that feeds my Receiver via some old Radio Shack RCA cables. I am looking forward to stepping up my game in a few months with the Vega.
  15. The Topping D50 can be used as a preamp too.
  16. When I speak of multibit magic I'm specifically referring to the Schiit Multibits and not multibit DACs in general. All multibit DACs don't have a common magic any more than all D-S DACs have a common delta-sigma smear. Just because you listened to a TDA1541A based DAC doesn't mean there will be any multibit magic that I would recognize. It all depends on implementation and the filter used. The reason I like the Schiits is because of their oversampling filter. And that oversampling filter depends on it being a multibit DAC. The Schiit combo-burrito filter is the magic sauce that I like. I've heard other good multibit DACs and they don't quite do the same. And I've heard multibit DACs that don't even come close and that I would never consider adding to my system. Just being a multibit DAC doesn't mean I'll like it. So just because you've tried a TDA1541A multibit DAC doesn't mean anything. There are good multibits and bad multibits. Try a very good one and then I'll care.

    If Schiit hadn't come along with their multibit DACs I'd have had to look for something else. In the Delta-Sigma land that something else would be something like the Berkeley Alpha DAC Series 2. The Berkely DAC on the used market is around $3K. Before the Schiit multibits came out that Berkeley DAC was what I was prepared to buy. But I didn't really like the idea of paying $3K for a DAC (used) or around $5K new. I was getting prepared to pay $3K for a used Berkeley delta-sigma DAC, but the $1.2K Gungnir Multibit convicted me that it was close enough to what I'm after that I'm good. What's really neat about the $250 Modi Multibit is that when I use it in my transportable setup away from home I'm as happy with the sound style as I am when listening to the Gungnir Multibit at home. The Gungnir has more resolution and better bass and bigger soundstage, but the $250 Modi MB has the same style of sound that makes me happy. And when I'm away from home I'm happy with that. I can't think of a similar priced delta-sigma DAC that I could be happy with for that use.
    Puma Cat likes this.
  17. quicksrt

    quicksrt Senior Member

    City of Angels
    I got my Topping D50 from Amazon. Will have to wait until I get time this weekend to try it out. $199 no tax no shipping added.

    I now need to figure out how to create a “zone” for 2-channel output to this USB DAC from computer with JRiver, and another “zone” for multichannel via HDMI to the Oppo for decoding that material.

    So two zones for two DACs from JRiver. I read that this is easier than it seems at first thought.

    I’m excited to hear stereo digital sound better than it did. DSD is particular should gain some sharpness and clarity right?
    jmrife and LeeS like this.
  18. LeeS

    LeeS Blue Note Fan

    jmrife and Xarkkon like this.
  19. Xarkkon

    Xarkkon Would you like a Custom Title?

    I was just going to link the exact same thing! :D Can't really go wrong with amirm on ASR. I know there's a lot of love for Schitt but some (not all) of their products measure really badly for no real justifiable reason apart from them cutting costs and people still paying for it because of their branding.

    As many have said in this thread, if you're choosing between the 2, go for Topping. If you're looking for the ultimate bang for buck, go for the Khadas Tone Board which amirm has also provided measurements for here:

    Review and Measurements of WesionTEK Khadas Tone Board DAC

    EDIT: Also, the Multibit measurements here. Measurements for the Modi 3 are better than the Multibit

    Review: Battle of Schiit Audio DACs
    jmrife and LeeS like this.
  20. SMc

    SMc Forum Resident

    Austin TX
    I'd consider the cheaper Topping D30 as well.

    I see the XMC-1 has a magic 2-channel xlr input. How about a dac with a balanced xlr output? Cambridge, Teac and NAD might be discounted into your price range.
  21. head_unit

    head_unit Forum Resident

    Los Angeles CA USA
    ..which might not sound any better. Hopefully so! But my advice is be sure whatever you get is easily returnable. I have a USB Monolith and like it. However, what features do you need? That is more of a headphone DAC though you could certainly drive an amp with an adaptor.
    jmrife likes this.
  22. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Brooklyn, NY
    Border Patrol, Woo Audio, Metrum Acoustics, Sparkler Audio
    Kristofferabild likes this.
  23. UCrazyKid

    UCrazyKid Grand Puba of Funk

    Another R2R DAC that you might want to check out that gets good reviews:
    Audio-GD R2R-11 睿志音响
    rodentdog likes this.
  24. The Holo Spring is also a nice NOS DAC. But kinda out of budget for an inexpensive DAC thread.
    There's lots of choices available if you're looking for a NOS DAC.
    Just like how all oversampling multibit DACs don't sound the same, all NOS DACs don't sound the same. So try them. Don't write off NOS just because you may hear one that you don't like. Try another.
    jmrife likes this.
  25. BigMikeATL

    BigMikeATL Well-Known Member

    I gave serious consideration to the Schiit and the Topping. After doing a ridiculous amount of research, I settled on JDS Labs ODAC. The thing may be tiny, but it gives far more expensive DACs a run for their money. It's an incredible value and I'm extremely pleased with it.

    The DIY version is available direct from JDS Labs' website for $99 and they have a few assembled versios left on their amazon storefront for $149:

    I highly recommend picking one up. If you aren't satisfied, Amazon makes returns/refunds a breeze.
    jmrife likes this.

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