New DAC suggestions

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by JM1911, Sep 14, 2020.

  1. JM1911

    JM1911 Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Since I don't need all the features of the Brooklyn, would the Liberty perform as well as the Brooklyn as just a DAC?
     
  2. BIGGER Dave

    BIGGER Dave Forum Resident

    I recently moved from a Gungnir MB to a Benchmark DAC3 HGC ($2,200). The DAC3 HGC includes a preamp and headphone amp. If you don’t need the preamp and headphone amp, you can opt for the DAC3 B at $1,700 MSRP. Contact an authorized Benchmark dealer and you can probably get the DAC3 B for about your target price ($1,500).

    Benchmark DAC3 B - Digital to Analog Audio Converter

    And, the DAC3 is a Stereophile Class A+ Recommended Component - Fall 2018 - Digital Processors.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2020
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  3. ls35a

    ls35a Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eagle, Idaho
    I have a Qutest - it's wonderful. It's so good I just dropped $500 on a new phono cartridge so my vinyl rig can keep up.
     
  4. Shangri-La

    Shangri-La Active Member

    Location:
    CA
    Stereophile's latest review favors the Denafrips Ares II over the Qutest..
     
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  5. Bachtoven

    Bachtoven Forum Resident

    Location:
    Davis, CA
    Very likely.
     
  6. JM1911

    JM1911 Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Do you happen to have a link to this? Would be interested to read this.
    Thanks
     
  7. displayname

    displayname Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dallas
  8. Shangri-La

    Shangri-La Active Member

    Location:
    CA
    The best DAC I've listened to in my system is the Benchmark DAC3. Along with AHB2 this would be my dream front end. The reason I haven't made the purchase is that I'm a little hesitant buying a few year old DAC, which is the component in the entire audio chain that's benefit the most from fast-advancing technologies. (Also money is tight during this crazy Covid time lol)

    So I'm shopping for a sub-1k$ 'transitional' DAC and currently home auditioning the SMSL M400 just to see what all the fuzz is about with the Chi-Fi DACs. And I am in awe. Overall sound quality came awfully close to the Benchmark DAC3 that I home-auditioned last summer, though they have different personalities. The DAC3 has better resolution/separation, and the SMSL has a more musical/intimate sound. I don't care how well it measures but it just produces beautiful, beautiful sound. I can't really say how much better the DAC3 is (if at all), as I can't side-by-side A/B test and the amp used is different. BTW my system is GoldenEar Triton Reference (Stereophile Class A speaker) and Akitika GT-102 (a DIY Stereophile Class B amp). From I read, the Topping D90 should be neck and neck in performance compared to the SMSL M400 and it's just a matter of personal choice what type of sound you prefer. The Topping should be closer to DAC3 in sound signature.

    But reading/watching all the reviews and posts about Denafrips, I couldn't resist ordering an Ares II lol. Let's see how that goes...
     
  9. jonwoody

    jonwoody Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington DC
    Does anyone buy used gear anymore? A Dac is something I would almost always buy used as digital gear depreciates so quickly.

    For example here's a $5 grand new Lessloss Dac that uses the fabulous multibit PCM-1704K chip for $1595.

    LessLoss 2004 NOS and PCM DAC MKII - Siver faceplate / DEMO in Mint Condition

    A 1st gen Berkeley Alpha Dac for $1290

    Berkeley Alpha DAC

    An Audio Note Dac Zero awesome little tubed Dac

    Audio note Dac 0.1x USB w/box | DA Converters | Houston, Texas 77006 | Audiogon

    Just a few thoughts on how to stretch your dollar and good luck on the Dac hunt!
     
  10. BIGGER Dave

    BIGGER Dave Forum Resident

    I understand where you’re coming from about the DAC3 being a couple years old, I was thinking the same thing a few months ago when I was deciding if I should purchase it. But since it received a Sterephile Class A+ Award in the Fall of 2018, I don’t think it can be amazing one day and unlistenable the next. So I bought it. Will there be a better DAC “4” soon? Maybe, possibly, probably. But I’m not going to spend my life chasing the latest and greatest technology. Have to jump in eventually.
     
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  11. ls35a

    ls35a Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eagle, Idaho
    I can buy Chord products from a dealer I can talk to on the phone who buys things from an importer in this country.
     
  12. Lenny

    Lenny Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York
    What generally happens when a question like this is asked is that each responder suggests that the DAC he bought is the best one at the price. He did his research and/or listening and that's why he bought it. I'll do the same.

    The LKS MH-DA004 direct from China has dual ES9038PRO DAC chips with Crystek femtosecond clock, large dual toroidal linear power supply (50 watts each) with 13 groups of regulation, all JFET discrete analog output stage, independently powered Amanero USB module with two Crystek femtosecond clocks, 2 I2S inputs, 2 spdif and one optical input, Mundorf caps, Cardas RCAs, Neutrik XLRs, Furutech IEC, and even a Swiss Shute fuse plus a remote with volume and other controls in a 15.4 lbs. package with formed, not sheet, metal. The overall design is conservative. Think of the $4500 Wyred4Sound DAC on steroids for $1500. The LKS has been compared favorably to many other high $$$ DACs. Support has been excellent from the designer/manufacturer and also very generous from a user group on head-fi.org.
     
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  13. BIGGER Dave

    BIGGER Dave Forum Resident

    And you’re absolutely correct! Q - What is the best DAC for around $$$? A - The one I own!

    But I’ll add this, I’ve owned a few DAC’s including; BiFrost, PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell DAC, Gungnir MB and now the Benchmark DAC3 HGC (in that order). Each time I switched DAC’s, I’ve noticed an improvement (at least I think I did ;) ).

    * Bifrost to PS Audio SGC DAC - noticed an improvement.
    * PS Audio SGC DAC to Gungnir MB - definitely noticed an improvement.
    * Gungnir MB to Benchmark DAC3 HGC - noticed an improvement. I also like the DAC3’s small form factor, and the inclusion of a preamp and headphone amp. Allowed me to do away with three devices (preamp, DAC and headphone amp) and replace all three with the half-width DAC3. And I have to mention I’m very happy to be free of the relay clicking noise between every audio file with the Gungnir MB. Drove me nuts!

    Which brings me back to the OP’s question. I still recommend he (or she) gives the Benchmark DAC3 B a look. It offers the same DAC that’s in the DAC3 HGC that won Stereophile’s A+ rating in the Fall of 2018, and it comes in at around the OP’s budget (if purchased at a discount from an authorized Benchmark dealer).
     
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  14. Shangri-La

    Shangri-La Active Member

    Location:
    CA
    Everything comes at a cost. Every option is a compromise. If the Denafrip DACs are available on Amazon/traditional dealer channel, the price could possibly double. Would people prefer that? Some would, some wouldn't. Of course the cost of current low price is less local support/no return/etc.

    Good thing is we are given with choices. Whatever DAC I choose, quality options like the Ares II keep the market competitive and benefit us consumers.
     
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  15. JM1911

    JM1911 Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    So I went ahead and picked up a Qutest from a local dealer with the option to return it in 15 days. It is not going back at this point. I am quite thrilled with it. I knew it would make a difference but I thought it would be more subtle. I hear so many things, but what comes to mind is clean, detailed, black backgrounds, and I hate to use the term clean and detailed because that can start to sound bright, but it is not bright at all, I would call it very neutral. Each note is so defined and clean, yet not a hint of analytical or sterile or bright at all, and I haven't even played with the filters on it, I am using the incisive neutral. It is also soooo much more open, each instrument more separated from the rest, duets each have their own detail separate voice in the mic. I am very happy with it.
     
  16. Shangri-La

    Shangri-La Active Member

    Location:
    CA
    Good for you. Regarding how DAC upgrade exceeded your expectation... I persoanlly have never experienced with 5k DACs, but if what this video says is true, then I get 2 messages out of it. 1, better DAC output, whether that's from using a better DAC or any other means to improve the same DAC output, does make a meaningful improvement in final system sound quality. 2, Even highend DACs like the Hugo TT2 still have room to improve. And I believe devices like the M-scaler can be had for much cheaper as digital audio technologies rapidly advance. Lots of things to look forward to.
     
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  17. Shangri-La

    Shangri-La Active Member

    Location:
    CA
    ^^ can't edit my post. Jump to 16:30 for sound quality comparison.
     

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