Absolute top tier DAC for standard res Redbook CD

Hi All.

Putting together a reference level system.
My Source is predominantly standard 16/44 played from a MacMini using iTunes and Amarra. Some of my music is purchased from iTunes and the rest is ripped from standard CD's.
For my tastes in music, my high def catalogues are still limited; so Redbook 16/44 will be my primary source for quite some time.

I'm not spending DCS or MSB money. But $15-20k retail is not out of the question.

Upsampling vs non-upsampling?
USB input vs SPDIF?

All opinions welcome.

And I know I need to hear them, but getting these ultra $$$ DAC's into your house for an audition ain't easy.

Looking for musical, emotional, engaging, accurate , with great dimension. Not looking for analytical and sterile.
The Overdrive SE DAC has earned several best of shows and just got a positive review from Audiostream:


This has the big advantage of eliminating the preamp as well as providing a way to insert other analog sources using the Final Drives.

You don't need to resort to tubes to get the analog sound, even with 44.1 tracks. This is due to the clean power, digital filtering, point-to-point wiring and simple analog section. Sounds like a NOS DAC only more detailed. Accepts up to 24/192 with both coax and USB inputs.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
If tubes are implemented correctly by a talented designer [Lampizator for example] they can provide fantastic natural sound. I agree with Steve that merely inserting tubes into a DAC won`t automatically yield good results, it isn`t that simple. Solid state analog circuits can sound just as superb with proper execution. I agree with Jwm and Ctsooner. The sound of live instruments have a degree of fullness,tonal warmth and harmonic richness that the "accurate" type components fail to preserve and thus sound relatively bleached and artificial. It`s all a matter of what type of sound a listener desires. I would personally choose natural over hifi accurate. There are DAC choices that satisfy one or the other groups.I believe that simple discrete analog circuits along with a high quality robust power supply have a significant impact on sound quality.
Charles - my last reference DAC was a tubeDAC, the Spoiler. Do a search and you will find it was excellent.

The problem was that the bass was never as tight as I can get with SS, even using Siemens CCA grey-plates. It is very musical, but leaves some parts of the music lacking. I still have yet to hear a tubeDAC that does everything right, top to bottom. I think the ultimate tube just does not exist. The new Chinese Psvane tubes are impressive however. I have monoblocks with these in them.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I love true "accuracy". But I will give up "accuracy" to be engaged. If you want to call being emotionally involved and lost in the music - colored, then feel free to take my Audiophiles of America card away! There are many components that are accurate and engaging. I don't think it's too much to ask for both.

I didn't mean to imply that "accurate" meant lean or detached. But there is a style or voicing that emphasizes pure accuracy and detail that some people love. All I am saying is that is not my taste.

We all know what I'm talking about. I want a DAC that will make me forget I'm listening and just get lost in the music. The rest of my system gets me there. I want to find my toes tapping or hands conducting when I intended to critically listen.

My new Rowland Criterion pre-amp arrived today. My DirectStream will be arriving early June. I am trying to arrange for some other DAC's to be available to me for audition when my DirectStream comes in.

From a tubed standpoint, the Accustic Arts Tube DAC II mark 2 and the Concert Fidelity DAC-040 seam to be the two that come up frequently at the top of the game.

From a solid state standpoint I'm going to focus on 3; the Empirical Audio Overdrive SE, the Rowland Aeris and the new PS Audio Direct Stream. If I can get in an EMM Labs DAC2x for the shoutout I would be thrilled.