Peachtree Audio NOVA. Has HT bypass and built in sabre dac with remote. I know it's not enough money but $1200 new does get you a lot. Maybe 80WPC won't be enough for you.
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Thanks guys. Travis - I currently own a Peachtree Nova, and the preamp section is average at best. The amp section is useless honestly for anything approaching high end audio. The DAC is the jewel in this piece, and that is how I am currently using it; USB DAC line out straight to my amp. But then I have to degrade (and adjust) the signal by lowering the volume in iTunes (at 100% it is WAY too loud). Although I like the fact that I can use the HT bypass feature to pass Comcast and DVD signals to my Integra DHC9.9 and control volume and processing from there, this is not an optimal situation.
Optimally, I think a high(er) quality DAC/Preamp with remote and HT bypass paired with a high current, high damping factor amplifier would do the trick. I am considering the W4S DAC-2 that just came out (as a NEW purchase :( for $1500). Also, the Bel Canto DAC-3.5vb is a superb piece. But as it just came out this year too, I would have to purchase that new for $2500).
If I go the W4S route, that leaves me $2500 for the amp, and I think this is what I am going to need to spend on an amp to be where I want to be. Unless someone can tell me that the Bel Canto piece is far superior to the W4S piece, that is the way I am leaning.
Grant - I always appreciate your thoughts and comments! Maybe the BC Ref 500S with the BC DAC 3.5vb?? They sure would look sweet together!
6moons review of W4S DAC2 liked the W4S much better than the Peachtree's DAC. If you are playing out of a computer primarily, I'd be sure that you go for an option that has an excellent USB or Firewire implementation. At $1500 the Wyred would certainly qualify, with its async 24/192 USB implementation. Weiss firewire DACs also come to mind, but might be tough to fit into your budget.
Considering what you want to do and your budget, a high quality DAC with volume control directly to a power amp would most likely work very well for you. Some of the previous suggestions of Bel Canto and Wyred4Sound are along the lines of what I'm thinking. I haven't heard the W4S setups, but I am a Bel Canto dealer and use this approach in my system as well (although I'm not using USB as you mention in your original post). Good luck.
Have you heard the Naim Uniti? It's an excellent 1 box solution. My dealer and I played around with one, and couldn't tell the difference sonically between the Uniti and Nait 5i-2 and CD5i-2 combo.
In addition to being an integrated amp, CD player, and DAC, it also has FM and Internet radio, and will stream music from your computer. If has an optional iPod wire. Not sure if it's digital or analog. The Naim DAC and soon to be released UnitiQute have digital iPod connections though.
Naim's 50 watts go a long way. Not sure if it'll properly drive your Dyns, but it's a must audition if you have a Naim dealer nearby.
The SuperNait sounds a good bit better, but I'm pretty sure it's over your $4k budget, and it doesn't have all the stuff the Uniti does. The SuperNait has more power too.
If you get yourself a HiFace EVO USB to S/PDIF converter ($500) you can broaden the field of good DACs on the shopping list. The will sound at least as good as all but the best (and mostly out of your price range) USB DACs. You could then get a PS Audio perfectwave with volume control for less then 2,000, and still have 1,500 left good poweramps. for If you really want the USB DAC the Wired4Sound DAC4 is probably your best bet. Some of the best value for money poweramps in the 1,000 - 1,500 range range would be Odyssey Audio Stratos, but they are bulky. Getting used class D (Bel Canto 500s or two 300m) would work very well also.
Thanks everybody. Some excellent suggestions here! I have a USB to S/PDIF converter already from M-Audio.... Interesting idea/suggestion Edorr. That would indeed broaden my choices of high quality DACs. I think the route I am going generally, is the Dac with volume control (i.e. DAC/PRE) plus high powered (minimum 200 wpc into 8ohms) SS power amp. Bought and returned some Odysseys.... Still not sold on the ICE amps... Emotiva XPA2 anyone? Can a power amp for under $1000 really compare to the $4000 amps out there? Many Emotiva owners say yes... Then I could go out to dinner a few more times this year.
Johnny - that April Music piece looks fantastic! But ahh... the conundrum... to integrate or not to integrate?? That is the question.
UPDATE: I ordered a pair of Emotiva XPA-1s today ($2000) which I can audition for 30 days risk-free. That's 1000 wpc into 4 ohms -- and a total of 160 lbs of metal. Yikes! I also ordered a W4S DAC-2 for $1500, and a pair of Acoustic Zen Reference Matrix II balanced interconnects for $380. Total cost: $3880. Now wouldn't it be nice to get this type of performance from one stylish piece like the Stello i500? I honestly have no idea which would be better sonically. But I sure know which would be better ergonomically!
Perhaps I should audition it as well.
Edorr, I was about to buy a PS Audio PWD but then I read that the USB input was by far the worst of the four. Do you - or anybody - think that a S/PDIF connection into that unit would warrant the purchase of a $500 Hiface converter? How much of a difference does that make? And if I go that route (converter), are there better non-USB DACs out there with good preamp sections for less money than the PWD? My goal is computer-based playback first, whether that's via USB or S/PDIF doesn't matter (although my slight preference is USB).
As for amps.... seriously considering a pair of used Bel Canto Ref500m for $2500. And that Stello integrated really has me intrigued. I should demo that piece (the Stello) for a week, which I have been offered, regardless.