Bel Canto DAC3 vs ARC DAC 7 ? Anyone

I have a BelCanto DAC3 and I'm wondering if purchasing the newer Audio Research DAC 7 would be a real up grade? Any experiences that someone may have had with both DACs would be appreciated.
Bryston BDA-1
hi , I have done side by side comparisons between both dacs and Iike the Dac three over the Dac 7 . its smoother and less grainy and in your face. if you own the dac three check out the Bel Canto VBS power supply upgrade, it takes a great dac and makes it even better. I have it and love it ! Good luck , Chris
I have had both in my system, and many others.

Bryston BDA-1 is the best I have tried, including; Berkeley Alpha Dac, Tube Audio Design Predac, Benchmark Dac1 usb, MHDT Labs Havana (this is very nice btw), PS Audio III, the Bel Canto and the ARC. I have tried some others not worth mentioning too, and I jumped on the Bryston once it was in my system. Best all around DAC I have used.


Would you mind saying 'why' or in what areas the Bryston excells over the DAC3? or how it surpasses the rest on that list?

I'm most surprised the Berkley unit found no favor in that group... which BTW has some definite desparities given just their pricing structure, let alone their feature sets differ as well.

I'm certain your thoughts here would be well received and most enlightening, were you to provide them to us and those others who might be speculating on DACs, now or later on.

Berkeley was great, very detailed, full sound, not bright at all, and the ARC sounded very much like the Berkeley. A buddy of mine took the Berkeley, and he couldn't be happier, and it does sound stellar in his set up.

But with my gear the Bryston had a bigger soundstage, and was warmer than either. A more coherent sound.

Bel Canto was extremely detailed, with a big soundstage, but was a bit on the bright side. Tube Audio Design PreDac, well I didn't like it. Benchmark and PS Audio were VERY bright in my rig.

MHDT Havana was great, warm, nice soundstage (great price), but I wanted just a bit more detail. I would go back to the Havana before any of the others if I decided to get rid of the Bryston, but I am not going to do that.

That said, it really does depend on your gear. I always look for a little extra warmth since I have Maggies and powerful SS amps. I guess that's why I really like vinyl better than digital, and any digital I use I look for warmth.
I replaced a Bel Canto DAC3 with the Bryston BDA-1.
Just out of curiosity how did you have your Berkeley connected to your system? Were you able to try the lynx aes16 sound card via xlr aes cable in your comparrisons?
I used the Toslink from my AppleTV. RCA's to the preamp (my Cary SLP98P does not have XLR's).


In my deal, the BC DAC3 restructured the sound stage, to a more intuitive one, established far better bass impact, added that higher resolution you mentioned, and gained me more venue ambience and more 'you're there & they're here' events.

No question it's a highly resolving piece, but bright was not my take and I'm quite sensitive to that and reject it outright.

The BNC SPDIF, & AES inputs exceed the optical input by a pretty good ways.

Even when I play the D3 with the HT rig, there's no hint of brightness, etching, glare, etc. Merely not enough texture & immediacy as the (I suspect) lower echelon build of the Onkyo receiver. Those notes account for use with several amps too.

the mix is the deal... as always.

THX for the notes on the Berkley DAC.

I'm thinking of it yet probably will mod/upgrade the BC D3 instead, given the Berkely's price tag.
I would be very interested in hearing what some of you are using as transports, notably Blindjim, Macdadtexas, and Drubin. Thanks!
I have an Oppo BD83 connected via SPDIF, but I rarely use it. I almost exclusively use my AppleTV on digital, and to be honest, I probably listen about 90% to vinyl. But, I do really like the Bryston.
Dgaylin, I primarily use a music server setup, feeding the Bryston from a Mac Mini via either an Empirical Audio Offramp (USB to S/PDIF) or a TC Electronic Konnekt 8 (Firewire to S/PDIF).


...and here comes one more twist on the pc to analog theme....

I went through all sorts of itterations before I planted the flag on my current 'source'. This desktop or that, laptop, Vista, XP, XP Pro, USB sound cards,media players, ASIO drivers, came and went, etc.

Previously it was a Sony SCD xA 777es. Ultimately I managed to improve upon the CDP with these two sources:

Toshiba Satellite 350 laptop running Vista, via USB into a cheap USB SC > stereovox XV2 > Bel Canto D3 > Nirvana SX Ltd or SR resolution Ref x2, into my Onkyo receiver or Thor tube preamp… depending on the event/mood.

My main approach is via an older Dell Dimension 4600 I’ve added more RAM and an M Audio 24/192 PCI audio card > Stereovox xv2 > BC D3 > SX Ltd > Thor pre > HT Magic IIs. On this box I’ve trimmed down almost all the windows services & utilities running in the background. That helped a whole lot. This box and the DAC3 sit in the Sound Anchor rack with each component using Bright Star nodes.

Files are loaded and served up from a 1TB Iomega x2 NAS drive which sits on a different rack atop Bright star nodes. Just those little things there added more clarity and ease in the presentation. All pc’s but the laptop use Ethernet wires.

Lengthy USB & VGA extension cables for keyboard & mouse allow my use of it from an adjacent room, and I can either use the HDMI video output into the rec + FPJ onto the big screen, or simply use a LCD monitor on a TV dinner table in order to manage files. I’ve used this box for playback of DVDs I’ve downloaded onto the NAS drive but prefer using the newer Optiplex 620 w/ ATI Radeon PCI Express as it outputs multi ch audio over the HDMI interface.

I found using a better pc on the BC D3, AND the desktop help out tremendously. I have a Voodoo Tesla II on the D3, and a VD Power III on the Dell. Both are fed by a Running springs Haley which is fed by a Elrod sig III pc.

The NAS drive is fed via a PSA Duet connected to a Python VX, as are other spinning digital items.

All ckts are dedicated. Rotating stuff is on one ckt. Power items are split over another two ckts. The 4th ded ckt runs all the pc accessories and my daily office box, the 620.

The media player is primarily J River MC12, using FLAC, ALAC, and some WAV files regardless the personal confuser or operating system selected.

I have found that using some sort of sound card or USB to SPDIF converter is sonically better than going strictly USB into the D3, or with an ASIO driver and I bought the German one too. The better card or converter there… well, the better, and all the inputs vary too. AES, BNC, and SPDIF/coax, are PREFFERABLE to TOS/OPTICAL.

I tried a few far more pricey coax cables too and settled on Stereovox.

I use the up sampling output feature of the JR MC 12 player set to output 24/96 from the usual 16/44.1 – 48, encoding of the orig files.

The only area (s) I feel I can massage now is either the DAC3 or the sound card. Positive moves there have always proven out as noticed gains. Modding the DAC 3 or adding the new BC VBS option seems another way. Otherwise… maybe a dedicated server, but I don’t feel that link is as important as the others I pointed out.

I use a 400 CDP once in a while when I’m really lazy and plan on adding one more after I get an Oppo BDP 83, though. It connects to the BC D3 via TOS. Now and then I use an Oppo 980, about 5% of the time, pretty much as a barometer I guess.

Hope that helps some.