Have you considered Ayre Codex?
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+1 Ayre Codex DAC. I also suggest you look at the Ayre Codex DAC. This DAC has USB and Optical (Toslink) inputs. It supports PCM 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz, 192 kHz, 352.8 kHz, 384 kHz (up to 24 bits), DSD64, DSD128. I own the Codex DAC and like it very much because if its very clear and musical sound. It has a very small footprint and costs $1,795. Please see:
The Codex DAC is designed to stand up but I have mine laying on its side supported by three Ayre myrtle blocks ($15). The Codex DAC does get hot and laying it on its side helps with the air circulation. My retailer recommended this and I like the way it looks.
The Ayre QB-9 DSD DAC has been discontinued and I am not familiar with the Metrum Hex DAC.
I agree that the Codex is a solid choice for it's price and value...maybe even a bit too smooth sounding for some :). It looks like NOS/R2R DACs are coming back in favor these days. You might want to check out the Holo Spring, Denafrips and Schiit Yggy. You could also wait to see how the Ayre QX8 stacks up, when it gets released in the fall. Good luck!
Codex is truly extraordinary and the latest thinking of a great company that seems to always produce timeless gear. There is just something right about it.
I have personally seen it take on different design efforts at all levels
and at any price. Watching the reaction when it happens is even more gratifying.
Its just more fun to run.
I own the QB-9 DSD and have listened to the Metrum Pavane. If the Hex sounds close to the Pavane, then I didn’t really hear anything that made me want to part with the Ayre. However, the Hex is more flexible with regards to digital inputs.
One thing to note, I believe the DSD update to the QB-9 included, among other things, an update to the USB receiver section to make it self-powered rather than draw current from the bus. Might be something to consider if you feel it of benefit.