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Dac question budget £150 your thoughts

Discussion in 'audio' started by Miss Ariel, Apr 10, 2021.

  1. Miss Ariel

    Miss Ariel pfm Member

    I know very little about digital and mainly listen to vinyl and cassettes and FM radio.
    I do listen to Compact Discs on an elderly Pioneer PDS 801 with Legato link conversion and the stable platter mechanism.The player gets used occasionally and was well liked in reviews when i got it in the early nineties.
    It sounds fine with my Bryston 12B - 2B @ Focal Profil 77 floorstanders but sometimes sounds slightly bright.
    And going back to my LP12 everything is smooth and more relaxing.
    The PDS 801 has an optical output would it be worth investing in a DAC like a Topping or Raspberry Pi
    Would it make it sound smoother ?
    Thanks guys for your input
    the caretaker likes this.
  2. Dave***t

    Dave***t Revolutionary relativist

    Prepare to be told that all DACs sound virtually the same as long as they’re competently designed.

    IME they absolutely don’t. But regardless, for smoother sound from a budget design, ‘non-over sampling’ (aka NOS) is a decent feature to consider. Basically, slightly old-fashioned tech that often has less treble emphasis than more modern over sampling (or delta-sigma) designs.

    If you keep an eye out, you might see a Starting Point Systems DAC 3 come up for sale within your budget. Optical input, NOS design, neat little thing from a cottage-type manufacturer chap in France. I’ve used one for a while now and although I paid a bit more and bought new, I think it’s been great VFM.

    FWIW I’m looking at posher DACs to replace it at the mo, and I already found I preferred it (NB - it’s not better, but I preferred it) to one much, much more expensive model so far.
  3. RoA

    RoA pfm Member

    Topping, SMLS etc products (usually) use ESS and AKM DAC's which are state of the art, high resolving, very low noise.

    A lot of detail and resolution, perfect measuring but perhaps not for you.

    I'd agree with Dave, you may be better off with a NOS or tube DAC.

    Alternatively you may consider a tube buffer between DAC (or CD player) and amplifier. This adds distortion to achieve the warmer, smoother sound you seek.
  4. Seanm

    Seanm pfm Member

    Mainstream digital has come a long way and it might be worth investigating a cheap option like a Topping E30 to begin with - you won’t lose much money if you decide to explore more exotic approaches.
    Miss Ariel likes this.
  5. matt j

    matt j pfm Member

    I can't say how it would compare to the on board DAC of your Pioneer but I've had a Topping D50S for a while now and it is a great bit of kit for the money, certainly doesn't have me considering any sort of upgrade, plus I find the remote really handy.

    I'm a bit of a digital luddite though in that I don't use any of it's features or high res capabilities, purely a coax feed from my Sonos thing to playback 16/44 from Amazon Music.
    Miss Ariel likes this.
  6. Dan K

    Dan K pfm Member

    I had a Pioneer PD-S 904 for many years, the DAC that clearly bettered its internal item (to my ears) was a Metrum Octave. Yours should be very decent.

    LP12 should not be smooth - anything but

    The DAC inside a JVC AX-Z1010TN will be massively better

    If I were you I would get the JVC and then add the matching tuner and casette deck. All available brand new from Canada, although not for £150

    Miss Ariel likes this.
  7. miktec

    miktec unissued

    I have a Topping D30
    Just within your budget if you can find one
    Straightforward to operate and does a decent job of it

    You could probably get a lot better for a lot more money, but that is not what you asked. ;)
    Miss Ariel likes this.
  8. paulfromcamden

    paulfromcamden Baffled

    These sound interesting. Are they still being made? The website doesn't seem to be up.
  9. Robert M

    Robert M pfm Member

    Schiit modi dac3
    90125, the caretaker and Miss Ariel like this.
  10. Mr Pig

    Mr Pig ^'- -'^

    I have only owned/used a few DACs but I am very happy with my Rega DAC. One of those should come up close to £150, I got one for my son for not much more than that.

    The first thing that struck about the Rega was that it has a tonal balance very similar to that of a turntable. Most DACs/CD players do not sound like vinyl so integrating both in the system can be tricky. It's easy with the Rega.

    It's not perfect but the two things that win for me are the fact that it can play any CD without sounding harsh, while still being toe tapping and musical, and the fact that your attention is always drawn away from the flaws and into the music. I'm sure better DACs exist but the Rega does all I need.
    Curtis, Miss Ariel and deebster like this.
  11. say it as it is

    say it as it is pfm Member

    Agree Rega DAC is nice and lifts a cd player or streamer ( unless they are already exceptional ) not cutting edge but enjoyable and the security of Rega support if ever needed
    Mr Pig and Miss Ariel like this.
  12. Robn

    Robn pfm Member

    I have tried two so far to connect to my Squeezebox Touch (SBT). I tried a Topping E30, it is a doddle to use and has good functionality, a choice of filters too. Yet in my set up I found it lacking dynamics and excitement, also the instruments and voices just didn't have a sense of reality. I bought new on the strength of reviews and had hoped to be happy with it as are many others, but I actually preferred the SBT using its own DAC. I then bought a second hand Micromega MyDac which is an 8 year old design which I much prefer: it gives music punch, weight and a sense of realism. All in my opinion of course, maybe very different in other systems or maybe the Topping I bought was defective.
    Mr Pig and Miss Ariel like this.
  13. miktec

    miktec unissued

    I also find Topping products a bit hit and miss (despite some rave reviews)

    First thing I got from them (a good while back) was a desktop amp - OK at low volumes but distorted like crazy if turned past half way.
    Second was the D30 DAC - has been rock solid and has a good full sound.
    Lastly, an L30 headphone amp - pretty weedy even though Amir was all over it and praised it to the heavens.
    Mr Pig and Miss Ariel like this.
  14. legacylenslover

    legacylenslover Active Member

    Another vote for the Modi 3 (which I used to own). Schiit have now released the Modi 3+. However, you may have difficulty sourcing a new one in the UK at the moment. I imported mine from the USA.
  15. Snufkin

    Snufkin pfm Member

    I fear the chap in Canada has sold out. The last time I checked he wasn’t listing any of those 1010 items. Agree though, that K dac is a wonderful thing and the 1010 tuner is pretty good as well.
  16. Seanf

    Seanf pfm Member

    I would recommend the Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100. It costs around £150 and produces a wonderful open sound. I once tried it with my old Arcam Aplha 5 CD player that I have had lurking around since the 90s (and cost around £450 I think). I used to think this was a superb player at the time, but when I recently connected the digital-out to the DacMagic, it was transformed, which I suppose testifies how good DACs have become since the 90s.
    Miss Ariel likes this.
  17. Amber Audio

    Amber Audio This is the Day

    Had a couple of the new Chinese DACs, for £150 I’d agree with the original Rega DAC, had one fed by a SBT into Brio/RS1, defo an improvement over a bare SBT. Another older DAC worth considering if you’re not fussed about the latest High Res stuff is a Cambridge DAC Magic 100, factory refurbs on eBay £119, got a used one for £80 working well with a SONOS ZP80.
    Miss Ariel likes this.
  18. Del monaco

    Del monaco Del Monaco

    Dacmagic 100 or Rega.
    Miss Ariel likes this.
  19. Dan K

    Dan K pfm Member

    YMMV, IMHO etc...

    The Dacmagic is rubbish and is in no way in the same league as something like an Smsl SU-8 or a Metrum
    Del monaco likes this.
  20. Del monaco

    Del monaco Del Monaco

    A thoughtful critique.

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