A warm DAC?

Help me pair a DAC with my Prima Luna integrated, Focal 1038 be and PS Audio Perfect Wave transport...Speakers are quite detailed. Looking to level out the high end. Prefer analog warmth. No interest in streaming, expect to use for CD play only...budget $2500.
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RME ADI-2 DAC fs. Was going to type something real long - just check it out. $1099 new, thirty day trial. 
My understanding is that the RME ADI-2 is more neutral than warm, not that it's a negative in any way, but not what the OP is asking for. I think an R2R DAC from the likes of Denafrips, MHDT, etc, or tube-based might be a better fit.
The Schiit Gungnir Multibit 5 has a warm tone that is lacking in other DACs including the Yiggy IMO.

The RME is neutral but on the warmer side than analytical. If it’s sounds bright on ones system then they probably should work on theIr equipment or their room first. In my system the RME has me listening to music I haven’t in years as my system has become more revealing over the years, poor recordings were unlistenable but with the RME I’m playing through and enjoying music I’ve been avoiding.

Maybe it’s using a decent spdif, balance out and power cable that has elevated the RME or just great synergy with my system but I feel it’s warm/polite enough without being rolled off and I have never heard the bottom end I am getting in my system until drooping this DAC in.

I’ve not heard the latest R2R DACs but came close to purchasing from a couple companies many mention here and decided to spend my money on a country I’d rather support. I’m sure the ones I passed on sound wonderful but I’m very pleased with the RME and don’t feel the need to mod the heck out of it as it sounded great out of the box from day one.

 Might not be for everyone, but too simply pass on it without some research would be a mistake. Yep, I took a chance on it but knew I could return if I didn’t like and the ones that seldom pop up used go for nearly the cost of a new unit and more than likely not the current fs version.

I listen to analog/vinyl often on a tube phono preamp and feel the digital side of my system has come close, very close my table. If you spin vinyl this DAC should please if set up properly. I do have it plugged into a PS Audio P5, so maybe that’s where the magic is coming from?
i think an R2R DAC from the likes of Denafrips, MHDT, etc, or tube-based might be a better fit.
Another vote for a R2R DAC. Border Patrol is also highly regarded for its organic presentation.

I use a PS Audio PWT into an Audio Note NOS R2R Dac.
These DAC's have warmth due to the use of a tube circuit.

To me the good R2R Multibit dacs usually have a bigger fuller sound with more weight behind them, I suppose you could call that warmer without being soft.

Cheer George
If you’re looking for coloration aka distortion then go with an R2R dac or tube dac if you want accuracy then the RME or Benchmark something along those lines.
Hi larseand

you didn’t mention budget so I’ll guess between $1000.00 - $2000.00? 

I would look at the Border Patrol dac which is supposed to be a very nice sounding dac that is designed for regular red book cd’s. This company makes amps that sell for $10,000.00 so they know high end. I forgot the model number but they only make one dac and there are a couple of versions. Their top of the line one sells for under 2k and is supposed to be a giant killer. 

There is also a company in England called SW1X Audio that makes DACs that are also designed to maximize the sound quality of red book cd’s. They make some very nice DACs that start at, I think, $1500.00. These are all hand built in the UK. I bought one of his Dac III’s and the sound quality is great. His DACs can go up as high as $30,000.00 US. Good luck with whatever you choose.


If you want a " warm" DAC whatever that means then the Border Patrol might fit the bill. It distorts so bad you might as well call it broken.

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Many of these threads can contain posts that ignore the OP’s question. Look at his request again. He clearly states his mission, his concerns and the equipment he has.
The major variables in this game are the listening room accoustics, desired audio levels, and the recordings played. And then there is the equipment. Like countless other audiophiles it sounds like the OP purchased quality efficient speakers and other components. Playing digital music can bring a of lot desired qualities to the table: big sound stage, clarity, speed, and detail. Digitally sourced audio can also be like a digital photograph that has too much sharpening added: at first glance at a distance it looks great, but a closer more focused look reveals an unnatural false graininess.
Some systems (even expensive ones) can sound wonderful at first, but longer listening periods bring fatigue and a desire to turn the volume down. The common quest is system matching to fix this. Focussing only on sine wave measurements without actual listening just makes this harder...
To the OP: you state your budget is $2500.

This DAC gets a lot of great attention from owners and pro reviewers. It fits your budget down to the penny.


I currently have a Linn Majik DSM in my second system. I am thinking about getting a Lumin U1 streamer and the Tubadour instead...
I don't see an issue with posts that provide an alternate point of view. I have initiated several threads in the past where I wanted to focus on something very specific. But that was because I didn't know what I didn't know. I see no harm done :)

Secondly, this is a public forum. The answers provided might not help the OP directly but might provide insights to other members who are following the topic.
If you want a " warm" DAC whatever that means then the Border Patrol might fit the bill. It distorts so bad you might as well call it broken.
How is this helpful to the OP?
How about including a link to a review instead of test measurements.

If the OP knows how to read the data it's very helpful. A lot more so than someone blathering on about the subjective loveliness of distortion. 
The RME is a good DAC, Chord, Mytek, Benchmark, if he wants R2R instead of Delta Sigma then Holo Springs or Denefrips Ares are worth looking at.
No. Have you tried jumping off a building to see if you can fly ? Never know unless you try, right? I can understand the measurements, it's  a noisy mess. 
DACs have the front end where the chip/tubes resides plus the power supply, the analogue conversion circuit, the cables, the case, the various connectivity ports, the feet, etc, etc. All of this combines to produce “the sound” and level of quality. The balanced RCA might be very good on a DAC but the USB port could be of super cheap quality. It all matters. 
A cheap DAC might have a SS chip that measures well but the rest of the unit might be all cheap as possible components. The analog circuitry has a bigger influence on the sound signature than the chip. 

This is why many audiophiles will take their time doing careful listening. Everyone’s ears and level of focused listening will be different. If you look at Amir’s graph listing all the DACs he has measured you will see that there are a lot of DACs that have similar measurements but many of them have very different prices, connectivity options and sound signatures. Success in picking one will depend on the rest of your system, your room, your music and how you (and only you) prefer your sound. 
If you look at Amir’s graph listing all the DACs he has measured you will see that there are a lot of DACs that have similar measurements but many of them have very different prices, connectivity options and sound signatures. Success in picking one will depend on the rest of your system, your room, your music and how you (and only you) prefer your sound.

DACs aren't supposed to have sound signatures if they color or distort the sound then they have become tone controls. A DAC should convert the digital to analog reproducing exactly what was sent to it. If you want to color the sound use EQ or tubes or basic tone controls. Take 2 DACs one $10,000 and one $150, if the SINAD of both are 115 and inserted into the same system I'm not going to be able to tell one from the other. 
Then why do companies research, develop, market and successfully sell DACs that cost $2000, $5000, $10,000 or $80,000? Why do financially successful people buy them? Why do people who have spent time, effort, listening tests and lots of money on their speaker systems and amplification then spend more time and money auditioning different DACs with the specific goal of achieving a specific sound without unwanted issues? Why not just spend $150 and be happy?

I just spent months on all this myself. I visited five dealerships in a four hour radius, spent countless hours reading about the pros and cons of gear, and then auditioned a wide number of speakers, amps, pre amps, DACs, all in one streamers, etc. I took my time and LISTENED. Now pretty happy with my system. I might look at other DACs someday, but for now just going to rest a bit.

As the saying goes: your mileage may vary...
Why not just spend $150 and be happy?

I don’t know, why not?

Toyota will get you the grocery at 45 mph as easy as a Lexus, why buy a Lexus? Status, bling, cause I can afford it. You still drive 45mph to the grocery. If I can’t hear a difference between a $80,000 DAC and a $2000 DAC without knowing which is which then I guess I would only buy the $80,000 dac for status, bling, because I can afford it.
Surprised there's no mention of the MHDT Orchid.  Specifically, @grannyring's modified version.  He's great to deal with, and he prefers warm sounding gear but not at the expense of detail and resolution.  I'm sure he selects and designs his upgrades accordingly.  A lot forum members on here and elsewhere have commented that it has bested a lot of DACs mentioned in this thread.
Fair point. But your determination (or mine) does not become the de-facto metric for everyone. 

I think in this audio arena the most useless term is “always”. I find that almost all absolutist statements can be countered with “it depends”. 
Folks in this hobby mix and match all manners of tube, solid state, Class A, Class D, etc, equipment in an infinite array of combinations and price points. Some are very casual and some approach this pursuit very intently. 
Some believe 100% in the “bits are bits” approach and never waiver from thinking that streamers, DACs, cables, different interconnects, power supplies, reckockers, isolation feet, racks, etc, etc, matter. Others think it all matters. 
In the end what counts is this: do you enjoy the music from your system? Are you ok with the money you have spent to get there? 
Audio Note has an interesting design philosophy. They build a component and of course take measurements, record the specs, then they listen to it.
They make adjustments until it is pleasing to the designer's ear. The owner of the company is the first to admit his products, in this case DACs, do not have the best specs when measured by an independent source. But they're doing something right because their DACs sound wonderful, like real music.
And they are coveted by owners who pay high prices for these well designed, well built Dacs containing premium parts. 

It's also interesting to me that when describing a component as full of distortions, that analogue turntables aren't mentioned. The vinyl medium that many prefer to digital is full of distortions and colourations.

I'm auditioning the Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ with PrimaLuna HP integrated. They sound great together! So much so that I'm buying the DAC and an EVO 400i.
I'm not sure I said always. I have heard differences in DACs but not DACs that measure very close. IMO the DAC is the least component to concern yourself with. Get one that measures well so you get what the artist, sound engineers etc.. intended, what's on the recording. Tube amps, EQs, tone controls, Room Correction software, flavor of speaker, room acoustics and treatments, speaker position, there's enough there for me to figure out without getting a lousy measuring DAC like a Border Patrol which is the one I was talking about in the first place.  I mentioned about 5 or 6 DS and R2R DACs that the OP might consider or not. 
analogue turntables aren't mentioned. The vinyl medium that many prefer to digital is full of distortions and colourations.
I never post on the analog section I quit listening to vinyl and tape years ago. 
djones, my intention wasn't to single you out with regard to vinyl. My point is that the issue of specs doesn't come up when discussing analogue, it's a given that there are distortions. Most likely vinyl is pleasing to the ear due to even order harmonics.
DACs that can produce these harmonics, such as R2R, may be considered organic, natural, or warm. It's an alternative to Dacs that have an analytical sonic signature. But not necessarily; I had a Schiit Gumby Multibit that was neutral and very revealing. So much so that it was fatiguing to listen to.
And a tube Dac can be warm or neutral depending on tube selection. 

My point is to listen to a component. Test results may indicate distortion or nonlinear specs on a scope. Many of these results may not be audible.
As I stated earlier, I like Audio Note's philosophy; specs don't matter as long as it sounds good and it's faithful to the original recording.

Chord qutest. Analog sounding that presents the music accurately and uncolored. Just might fit your system. 

As I stated earlier, I like Audio Note's philosophy; specs don't matter as long as it sounds good and it's faithful to the original recording.
Ideally a DAC is designed to be flat across the frequency range of our hearing, so any deviations from the ideal are considered non-linearities aka distortion. If the DAC adds distortion how can it be faithful to the original recording? In vinyl this is a given there is distortion, but in digital any noise or distorion in well designed DACs have been pushed beyond human hearing. To purposely introduce distortion is not being faithful to the original recording. 
I’ll agree with your last statement. Although the distortion may be a manufacturing flaw and unintentional. Or not audible.
But I still ask, how does it sound?

The Audio Mirror Tubadour III SE is an excellent DAC.  I honestly preferred it over a DirectStream Sr.  I'm using it with a Herron pre amp and Innous Zenith MKII streamer.  
If it's a manufacturer flaw or unintentional that's different than
" specs don't matter". I've never heard the DAC you're talking about. The ones I've had that measure well sound good to me. I could never tell them apart. I've had a couple that measure lousy, I didn't know at the time and they sounded OK. Was never happy with them which I guess is why I went looking for  a new one.  The DAC I use now I have no idea how it measures since I'm using the one in my integrated amp and I've never seen any third party measurements of it. The few specs provided by the manufacturer show it measures well enough for me. At 64 years of age  that's all I can hope for and it sounds wonderful. The DAC it replaced was a Benchmark DAC3 one most consider anaylitical. Since the DAC  in the amp sounds the same to me I guess it would be considered that way as well. 
Does the DAC have to be new. You may want to look into the Concert Fidelity 040. It’s a tube DAC that allows easy tube rolling. There are few used ones out there.
Some one mentioned schiit audio DAC’s they are not warm, they are r2r so they do that liquid thing but they are rather on the  lean side of neutral not warm in my experience. Tube dac Or tube preamp May help here 
In djones do we have a rival for kenjit? Otherwise as far as DACs go all the usual suspects have been mentioned, except perhaps Lampizator.
What DAC do you have now?  I have the same speakers and a Raven integrated tube amp. Had a topping DAC (delta sigma) that was good but found the top end a bit bright, and sound slightly dry/clinical. Initially thought about upgrading to a DAC w/ akm chip but went another route by looking at R2R and tube DACs. From what I read that was best way to take the edge off the highs and get more analog warmth plus bigger soundstage. Ended up with a used  Lampizator Amber 3 tube DAC for price around your budget. Soundstage exploded, sound more tubey and analog, don't have issue with top end being bright anymore. I think the DAC upgrade has made the biggest change to my system's sound other than the Focal speakers.  The other DACs I was considering were the Denafrips Ares II or Pontus R2R DACs, the Holo Audio Spring  R2R DAC, or the Musical Paradise tube DAC, but never got to listen to them. My second choice probably would have been the Holo Audio DAC, lots of good reviews including being a Stereophile class A recommended component if that means anything but again never heard it.

Will also mention that before I upgraded the DAC I got a Schitt Loki and turned down the top end just a hair and that definitely helped with brightness.  But now with the Lampizator DAC don't need the Loki. 
People forget that this is a hobby, not a freakin’ science project. I don’t have a problem with someone basing their buying decisions solely on measurements - to each his own. But to unilaterally declare it as some sort of a universal truth is rather juvenile. It’s perfectly fine to say that one would never buy a product that does not measure well on paper, we can certainly respect that point of view.  Nowadays, most manufacturers have access to equipment to measure their products, it’s not rocket science anymore. This is exactly why a company like Topping can produce equipment that measures extremely well and sounds excellent by all accounts. But why is it so hard to understand that sometimes designers want to express themselves in a way that might not satisfy the measurement nazis but appeal to a specific segment.

Secondly, I’m always amazed when someone proclaims that the equipment should be true to the recording/source. Exactly how do you know how a recording is supposed to sound like? Were you there when it was being recorded? And why can’t we use a DAC to "color" the sound? Where does it say that coloration is only allowed downstream?
The OP said his budget is $ 2500 !  

I am suggesting he pair his PSA PWT with a slightly used PSA  Direct Stream DAC without a Bridge.  The 2 work excellent together when using the I2S connection. 

Happy Listening !
I had the Chord Qutest but thought was a little too analytical for me (in my system)
I love the ExoGal Comet (slightly above your price at 3000, or 3500 with linear PS) but magical and very analog sounding (again in my system)
At times I feared this thread had drifted into the weeds with nothing  more than agenda filled rants. But when you distill all the contributions this is an excellent thread!

Why? The answer is the passion from all viewpoints. In a way this is what makes this hobby so fascinating. 
Cheers everyone!