Take a look at this thread >
@mikelavigne and @thyname have current MSB DACs
@mikelavigne and @thyname have current MSB DACs
Interesting coincidence—I was looking more or less into the same thing, just after the holidays. I auditioned the reported "cream" of DAC-dom, listening to large orchestral & opera, blues, & rock.
Conclusions: at your level, you are looking at the following,
-------- Outstanding, but not in the same league (IMO, etc):
Of these, the Ideon Absolute digital front end combo was by far the most musically cogent, both using their own server & an "Extreme" (by SGM). It was like re-living the experience years ago, listening to A Parsons "Fall of the House of Usher" on a Goldmund Reference TT with a Goldfinger cartridge played thru an FM Acoustics phono...
On its own (i.e. without the "Time") the Absolute seemed to put forth the highest level of dynamic energy-visceral impact of the lot while retaining the refinement and detail at both frequency extremes. The Select retained the detail & the refinement offering a more laid-back presentation.
Both of these repeatedly sounded in a league of their own, suddenly making me forget the digital medium altogether. If anything, certain hi-res files sounded pleasingly analogue with more dynamic impact, low-end energy & high-end detail (note: from both new and OLD master-tapes!!!)
By comparison, the Vivaldi sounded a tad less refined (i.e. there was a suspicion of harshness & maybe somewhat less detail...). Note: I never auditioned their full combo, hence the inclusion in the "TOP" list.
I am not challenging the outstanding quality of many other devices out there-just reporting my experience.
Chord dacs are good better with headphones than speakers to my ears. I sold my TT2 to upgrade to the dCS Bartok. I couldnt be more pleased. We tested this against my friends dave with the mscaler and preferred the Bartok on speakers on headphones it depends on what you own. Then we tested his MSB Premire that was fully upgraded. The MSB is incredible as well. The Bartok falls somewhere between the chord and MSB to my ears.
The Lampizator Pacific is Exceptional in the way it presents music
with dynamics,detail, and you ar3 there realism , and has the ability to be tuned to different brands to tubes to suit your system
and having a tube rectified power supply adds it’s soundstage width and depth . Is something solid state just can’t match .
Here are two top tier DACs I don't see mentioned above:
1. For $38,000: http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/theory-application-elektroakustik-sdv-3100-hv-dacpreamplifier-and-pdt-3100-hv-cdsacd-transport/
2. For $65,000: https://www.nagraaudio.com/nagra-hd-dac-x/
On Darkos list ,they left out all the major True hi end dacs over $10 k
its not all about $$ but when you have no restrictions on build it opens the door
to perfect the design. Having owned a Audio store I learned rule of thumb on average roughly only 25% of the cost goes into the build ,the rest overhead profit
and markup. This is for electronics and Loudspeakers, cables can be the largest profitmarkup up to 10x the actual cost in some cases.the builder decides on Everything how much per hr $$ their R&D time should be worth!!
throwing in my rec here as i recently went through a dac serach. for me and my system, i found the rockna wavedream signature to be very nice and then when paired with the rockna wavedream net it really just went to a new level. i'm done looking at digital front ends (i'm 100% digital btw).
please dm me if you have further questions but here's a quick description of what i'm hearing: i'm getting vinyl like tone and texture with a beautifully large soundstage. detail wise, i would say this is up there with any dcs or msb but i run mine on the hybrid filter which is more reminscent of the msb sound. the designer used to use and design msb modules but now he is creating them in house. it doesn't have the beautiful chassis of a dcs or msb but thats where you save some money too. i couldn't be happier with my purchase. (it feeds a soulution 721 pre which goes into a symphonic line kraft 300 that power s5 mk2's)
I have not had a chance to compare any of these to any of the other ones on your list so I can only comment on what I’ve heard. Based on everything you read my vote would go to the DCS. A good friend of mine owns a high end audio store in the Chicago area and he is a DCS dealer and has been so for the last 3 years. His top digital brands used to be Esoteric, Berkeley & Playback Design, All well respected brands. When he got the DCS on the floor and customers started comparing this dac against that dac it was not even close. In the first year alone, he sold three times as many DCS dacs then all 3 of the other brands combined.
I visit sit there frequently so I get a chance to listen to both the Bartok and the Rossini on many different types of electronics and speakers and the DCS stuff just sounds so good. They are very reliable as well. He has been in business for over 40 years and he claims that the DCS gear is the best digital he’s ever heard. I agree. If you want a streamer/dac I think the DCS is going to be tough to beat. Good luck with whatever you choose.
This thread feels like a bunch of people arguing over the right shade of white. You can pretty much guarantee that whatever is hooked up to this level of DAC is going to have a far greater impact on the sound ... far far greater, than the DAC itself, so unless you are demoing it in your system, it is at best a crap shoot.