Looking for a DAC under €1K !

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Roland Bart, Mar 20, 2022.

  1. Roland Bart

    Roland Bart French doctor Thread Starter

    Location:
    France
    Hi !

    I'm looking for a new DAC in place of my actual SMSL Su-8 for my "Wi-Fi office system" (McIntosh ma252 / Harbeth P3ESR se / laptop).
    I need an USB input and balanced outputs (not mandatory).
    I already have some other dacs but they don't match those requirements (AN Dac2 / pcm 5102).
    I borrowed a Border Patrol to a friend and found it very enjoyable (good soundstaging, meat on the midrange and easy to listen for long sessions).
    But, in France, those BP Dacs are very rare.
    So I would love to have a decent soundstage and absolutely no harshness.

    Any idea to help me ?

    Thank you !
     
  2. digreyfox

    digreyfox Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Lisbon, Portugal
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  3. Roland Bart

    Roland Bart French doctor Thread Starter

    Location:
    France
    Thank you !
    I'll take info on this Gungnir ;-)
     
  4. ubiknik

    ubiknik Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL USA
    Look into the Denafrips Ares.
    The next model up the Pontus is what I have and I had a Border Patrol at the same time.
    I ended up keeping the Pontus and selling off the BP.
     
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  5. Roland Bart

    Roland Bart French doctor Thread Starter

    Location:
    France
    Thank you !
    Is there a big gap between Ares and Pontus models ?
     
  6. ubiknik

    ubiknik Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL USA
    I never heard the Ares, so I can't speak to that.
    It's a R2R dac similar to the BP is about all I could say.
    The Pontus sells for about the same as the BP.
     
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  7. Roland Bart

    Roland Bart French doctor Thread Starter

    Location:
    France
    The biggest issue with those r2r dacs is that I can't listen to them before purchase. I heard the BP but with a different amplifier, a clearer one, and it sounded excellent, very forgiving with some bad mastered digital files.
     
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  8. Paratus

    Paratus Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Portland
    The Topping D90SE might meet your needs
     
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  9. Roland Bart

    Roland Bart French doctor Thread Starter

    Location:
    France
    Thank you !
    Could you tell me more ? You have (or had) it ?
     
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  10. Paratus

    Paratus Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Portland
    I do not own this particular DAC, but its feature set tends to check all the boxes you are looking for and reviews and feedback I've seen from actual owners tend to give it very high praise. Same with the Ares others have mentioned. I own the Mytek Liberty DAC, which is in your price range, and love it, so that's another one you might want to investigate. I also own many Schitt products, including the Modius DAC (below the Gungnir model mentioned earlier) and it does quite well. Honestly, all the models that have been recommended so far are probably going to serve you well. If there's a way for you to listen to any of these before you buy that would be best. The only problem is unless you try them in your exact system it will be hard to know if it was the DAC or other system components that is to your liking. All the best in your search!
     
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  11. Roland Bart

    Roland Bart French doctor Thread Starter

    Location:
    France
    The only products I can test are Topping/SMSL and other brands distributed by Amazon or the "classic european Hi-Fi" gear distributed by local stores. Thank you for your message !
     
  12. Paratus

    Paratus Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Portland
    For what it's worth, here is an article comparing those brands: TOPPING D90SE vs SMSL VMV D1SE
     
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  13. Tajo1960

    Tajo1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    EU, Cro
    Maybe Gustard X18?
    Audiophonics.fr is your home store :) and the device is priced within the limits you set. The ESS 9038 inside is a great DAC chip.

    https://www.audiophonics.fr/en/dac-...bluetooth-50-32bit-768khz-dsd512-mqa-black-p- 15888.html? Search_query = gustard% 20x18 & fast_search = fs

    The Gustard X26Pro is a much more serious and better DAC than the Model 18, but it also pretty much goes beyond the price range you set.
    Still, its own 2 transformers inside speak of a very serious construction.
    Think about it :)

    https://www.audiophonics.fr/en/dac-...bluetooth-50-mqa-32bit-768khz-dsd512-black-p- 15096.html? Search_query = gustard% 20x26 & fast_search = fs
     
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  14. Dhreview16

    Dhreview16 Forum Resident

    Location:
    London UK
    Chord ?
    Cambridge ?
     
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  15. Roland Bart

    Roland Bart French doctor Thread Starter

    Location:
    France
    Thank you !
    I've heard about those Gustards on YouTube and they seem to be very good.
    I'll have a look at Audiophonics.
    I'm looking for an hearable upgrade from the actual Su-8 (which is very good at his price level), I wan't the "wow effect" I had when listening the Border Patrol (this "analogic" touch ;-) ).
     
  16. Roland Bart

    Roland Bart French doctor Thread Starter

    Location:
    France
    I'd love to listen to the Qutest, it's a little out of my budget but it can be found used. I've been told it needs a very good power supply.
    What Cambridge dac are you thinking of ?
    Thank you.
     
  17. Toneh

    Toneh Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Zealand
    What would you like to know? I own one - the Topping D90SE that is... :)
     
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  18. Roland Bart

    Roland Bart French doctor Thread Starter

    Location:
    France
    Hi Toneh !
    I want to know everything ;-)
    I'm looking for a detailed, luxurious, spacy, embodied and "natural" sounding thing that I can listen all day long with my usual 70% jazz/ 30% other mixture.
    And, is it a real step-up from the SMSL su-8 ??
    Thank you !
     
  19. Gi54

    Gi54 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Scotland
    Have a look around for a secondhand exogal comet dac - can be had for 1k to 1.5k - has seperate psu. Sublime soundstage, holographics and tone. Maybe a little less punch than a Chord qutest dac, but doesn't feel sugar coated.
     
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  20. Roland Bart

    Roland Bart French doctor Thread Starter

    Location:
    France
    Never heard of this brand before. I'll Google it immediatly.
    Thank you !
     
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  21. Toneh

    Toneh Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Zealand
    Mmmm, I'm afraid I don't know the SMSL... so I cannot offer any comparison.

    I can only tell you that the Topping produces a very detailed, transparent sound and that probably has quite a lot to do with the "blackness" of it's background. Sorry - I know it's a terrible cliché to say that - and I don't want to make a fuss of how well the DAC measures because measurements can't really tell you everything about how a component sounds. But it does measure extremely well which isn't a bad thing either?

    I looked up your equipment profile and notice you have Harbeth speakers... they might have some similarity of character to the Linton's I own - while I love the Linton's I wanted to extract more "sparkle" and air from the top end. The Topping has helped quite a bit in this regard. The top end is very clean and sounds well extended, but without sibilance or "hash". If I was to mention one standout quality I would say the bass, which IMO is just about a perfect balance between weight, texture and speed. I love it.

    But - lets just say if you're looking for a digital component that mimics a sort of analogue "warmth"... well this isn't that sort of sound if you know what I mean?
    While the sound is very refined - more "high end" than if has a right to be at such relatively modest cost - the Topping is all about precision, cleanliness and transparency. It's not glassy and hard at all and I don't find it fatiguing to listen to at all... but I don't know if I'd call it "sweet" or syrupy either?

    I listen to quite a bit of jazz myself and well recorded/mastered electronica as well as quite a bit of acoustic stuff (folk, small ensemble or solo classical works) and I wouldn't say there's any favoritism among genres... it's very consistent.

    Hope that helps. Good luck on your search.

    P.S, Edit - I've heard that the Denefrips Ares produces a vast soundstage... the Topping is "OK" in this regard. When I first got it I thought the soundstage was small and compressed but over the months it has opened up quite a bit. Also it seems to image very well... very solidly delineated.
     
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  22. Roland Bart

    Roland Bart French doctor Thread Starter

    Location:
    France
    Thank you so much for your "review" !
    I'd never been into dacs before and perhaps I'm asking too much (or even a thing that doesn't exists) for my actual budget.
    I was happy before I heard better ;-)
     
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  23. Toneh

    Toneh Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Zealand
    You're welcome.

    The only way to know for sure is hear them side by side... my feeling is most of these "1k" DAC's are all really good... they maybe offer a little more or less of this or that... but it's hard to imagine there's one that is night and day better. I think the reviewers who tie themselves up in knots trying to describe the differences between models are often overstating small differences to make a differentiation? I'm not saying they're attempting to mislead... just that the options are probably more similar than they are different?

    As always it will be a matter of taste and what matches well with the rest of your system.
     
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  24. Roland Bart

    Roland Bart French doctor Thread Starter

    Location:
    France
    Totally agree with you !
    When you run a YouTube channel you need to find a "Final Dac", "Giant killer dac", "this might be your last dac", etc... each day ;-)
    And the words don't have the same meaning for everybody, some must laugh when I ask for a "liquid sounding, organic, clear and detailed but with no glare" dac...
     
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  25. Roland Bart

    Roland Bart French doctor Thread Starter

    Location:
    France
    Additional question !
    Do someone have an experience of "CS43(1)98" based dacs ? It seems that mediums are very enjoyable, "velvety" I've read.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2022

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