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Unicorn hunting - DACs . . .

Discussion in 'audio' started by Bob Edwards, Aug 11, 2021.

  1. Bob Edwards

    Bob Edwards pfm Member

    All -

    Been having a lot fun listening to music through the LP12 - and thank you all for your thoughts on it.

    I'd like to experiment with improving the DAC side of things - I have a Naim nDAC/Pardo TXPS, which sounds great, but would like it to be even better. I can't quite go up to the dCS level financially (well, I could, but it'd irresponsible), so something short of that. One thing the Naim/Pardo combo does well is bass and drive - I wouldn't want to lose that. Transport is either a Meridian 500Mk2 or Exposure 3010S2 CD player.

    While I don't stream much, I'd prefer to get a DAC that has multiple inputs and can decode most things on the market. Used is preferable, though not averse to new if that's the best way forward. I'm also not averse to a single box CD player like the Rega Saturn-R if it would be a substantial leap forward (the Isis is out price-wise, sadly).

    The usual caveats - it's got to be from a 'real' company, which I define as one that has been around a while, is likely to continue, and offers good support. While I know we can debate the 'good support' aspect, I'd put Exposure, Linn, Rega, Naim, Chord, etc. on that list. I tried a Topping E30 from amazon, and was not impressed, even though it only cost $150.

    So I suppose I'm unicorn hunting - but if I don't look, I'll never find it if it exists, right?
  2. david ellwood

    david ellwood Kirabosi Kognoscente

    I use an Arcam D33 and that’s one of the most musical to my ear. I’d be interested to compare it to one of the better denafrips to see if things have moved on.
    clap, Linds, wainwj and 1 other person like this.
  3. Gervais Cote

    Gervais Cote Predator

    My DAC is a highly modified AK4497 based Chinese unit with tight tolerance resistors and upgraded chips and it sounds awesome. It doesn’t fall in your category as a "recognized brand with long term service" but it stopped me from upgrading again and again........

    Nevertheless, if I was looking for a good DAC from reputable brands, my two choices would be Aqua La Voce or Sugden. Not cheap but both allow for music listening without thinking of what could be better IMHO.

    Denafrip Pontus would be third on my list only because I'm not sure of product support in a few decades and replacing the jam packed capacitors could be a night mare.

    OTHO, DAC technology is getting better and better every year so is it worth to pay $$$$$ knowing a $500.00 DAC will beat the crap out of your fancy thick polished metal box in a few years ?

    Just a thought......
  4. Gervais Cote

    Gervais Cote Predator

    Oh, and your transports are more than good enough if you use an external DAC IMO.
  5. AndyU

    AndyU pfm Member

    I’ve been very pleased with the Chord DACs I’ve owned. A variety of prices and sizes. If you need analogue inputs, Benchmark DACs are worth considering.
  6. hifinutt

    hifinutt hifinutt

    seen one on forums for sale recently
  7. hifinutt

    hifinutt hifinutt

    friend still uses dac64 which is still good. Me I am sold on jolida !! Still using 2 modded modwright jolida valve dac
    the caretaker likes this.
  8. evand

    evand pfm Member

    Have a Benchmark DAC3 HGC and a 1st gen Schitt Yggy. Both very good value for money. Denafrips is getting good reviews (but may not meet your 'real' company definition, who knows). When building is done and my SCM100ASLT's are back in the mix I may just try the DCS, Theta & Berkeley to scratch an itch. Night and day improvements would have to be evident to sway me.
    Nigel likes this.
  9. Mr_Sukebe

    Mr_Sukebe pfm Member

    If you're happy with 2 channel, my view is a Linn Akurate or Klimax DSM.
    Not only do you get a very good DAC, but also:
    - Streaming capability
    - Room correction
    - Pre-amp capability with volume control
    - Balanced input and output (useful if your power amp supports it)
    New they're not cheap, but they've now been out long enough to make s/h ones available.
    denni55 likes this.
  10. Weirdness

    Weirdness pfm Member

    The Metrum Octave is the closest I've come it's been awhile but still the only digital component I miss roughly 5 years later. Wonderfully analogue sound.
    w00fer likes this.
  11. dan m

    dan m pfm Member


    Since you are CO based why not try a PS Audio DAC? The Music Room has a number of Directstream DACs for <$3.5K or a Jr for less. You could demo it in your home with little to no cost to you since you can pick up / drop off in person.

    I got my PW transport from them - a really solid transport.

  12. dan m

    dan m pfm Member

    BTW, I was in your position and realized that what I really wanted was a DAC / streamer / SSD local storage. Ended up with an Auralic Altair G1. Zero regrets. Qobuz works great for music discovery.
  13. JezmondTutu

    JezmondTutu pfm Member

    Just another one to throw into the equation.

    Both myself and one or two others in this parish (DV, SteveS1) have been very happy with our Weiss DACS. I tried various ones before I settled on Weiss, it has a very analogue sound in my opinion with a fantastically transparent midrange. I’d heard nothing before that really drew me into the music like my LP12 does.
  14. RBrinsdon

    RBrinsdon pfm Member

    Hello Bob, I migrated from an all Naim system (plus LP12) to Pardo based Pre/Powers and Teddy DAC with a Musical Fidelity CD Transport to replace the CDX2 and it has been excellent. I mention this because you already know the TP brand and would like the options his DAC has
  15. Brits

    Brits pfm Member

    Try the Exogal Comet. I love mine
    clap likes this.
  16. McNaim

    McNaim pfm Member

  17. JezmondTutu

    JezmondTutu pfm Member

    FYI I tried a Teddydac and it certainly did the PRaT thing very well but I thought the Weiss DAC2 bettered it so settled on that - with a 72/HiCap/250 at the time.
  18. synapse

    synapse pfm Member

    sorry to jump on this thread with a slight aside but where did you go from the DAC2...which I still have, but, have got an itch for Pontus or some such
  19. ajm

    ajm pfm Member

    Just because the nDAC is over ten years old don't assume that it doesn't still compete with Naim's latest offerings - it uses the same DAC chips that are used in their current flagship ND555 streamer even if it doesn't have the spring loaded suspension and other gubbins of the ND555. I've twice tried an NDX2 and found the nDAC superior to my ears.

    In my experience the nDAC does seem very sensitive to the digital transport used into it. If you already like the nDAC's sound signature you might be surprised what improvement a CDX2.2 cd player brings to it.

    The only way to know for sure is to try it for yourself - you should be able to resell the CDX2.2 for pretty much what you pay for it should you find that it doesn't improve things.
    Dark Lord likes this.
  20. tuga

    tuga Legal Alien

    What does "analogue sound" like?
    Zombie likes this.

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