|I currently use the Rega DAC in a system comprised of Merlin TSM-MXr speakers on Skylan stands. Amp is the Manley Stingray II tube amp. Oppo CD player and Mac Mini feeds the Rega DAC with Pure Music and Cardas cables. My friends system is currently using an ARC integrated with Vanderteen 5a's. He's had the W4S Dac II, EE Minimax Plus, ARC 8 DAC and is currently trying out another borrowed Rega because I won't loan him mine again!|
In recent weeks we've tried these DACs in both systems, tweaked and tried various setups. I posted in another thread that the Rega won out against the Minimax Plus and the W4S 2 and that he was partial to the little Centrance.
So here's the thing. The Rega and the ARC sound pretty much the same. So does the W4S 2 and the Minimax. We STRUGGLE to hear the tiny differences between these units! And by "struggle" I mean we use top level recordings and LISTEN LIKE MANIACS again and again. 99% of the time we could not pick these units apart. 100% of the we find that we could be happy with ANY of them! Of course there was a preference for the Rega and the ARC, but boy was it slight! The smallest tweak could shift the balance. A different set of cables, speakers or higher ceiling could easily effect things.
Between the two of us we have something like 65 years of experience with audio. I find it absolutely hilarious when someone posts that a DAC sounds "much" better than another DAC. How is it that we can't hear the same thing, nor can ANY of our friends? We certainly hear a HUGE difference in speakers and amps and very audible ones with cables. But GOOD stand-alone DACs appear to be doing a very good job. MOST people simply list the one or two they've heard in stores as their favorites. If you're looking for a "safe bet" in a DAC you can go with ANY of the models I mentioned above or some of the other fine units out there. Unless someone has your exact system, in the same room and your precise tastes, try not to worry overmuch about DAC A blowing away DAC B.
This was most apparent in trying out the EE Minimax Plus. He tried various tubes and it always sounded best in SS mode! And in that mode it sounded quite like all of the others and about as good as the much less expensive Centrance. So the point of this is to put your efforts and money into speakers and amp/pre. That's 95% of the type of sound you'll get. They determine the character of the system more than anything else.