Best DAC $1000 and under used

What is the best dac you have used that would sell for under$1000 used?What dacs have you listened to that you are using for comparison?
Look at:

Scott Nixon
Bench Mark
Bel Canto
Audio Mirror
Good suggestions by Eldarado.

I've owned the Ack! 2.0, Bel Canto 1.1, Kora Hermes I and Audio Mirror D1. They're all good, but interestingly in their own way.

The choice really comes down to what sonic character you're looking for and how that DAC fits with your system in determining pound-for-pound best.
IMO you will get more mileage out of non-os DACs in your price range. The Audio Mirror, lower end Audio Note, Audio Sector, and Scott Nixon come to mind. Most of these will be available new in your price range with money left over for a nice digital cable.
My recommends:
* looking for analog or tube type sound in a bright system where your CD playback needs some warmth and body? The Ack! dAck! can't be beat.
* looking for detailed and neutral sound in an already warm or full bodied system? The Benchmark DAC is the way to go (and it is an excellent headphone amp, and even can be a preamp to boot!)
Parasound 2000 Ultra by far superior to the others mentioned!
Hi every one,I thank each of you that has taken the time to reply.To be more specific,I am looking for a dac that sells used for $1000 and under.If you know of any contenders that are far better, that go for as much as $1200-$1500 used price,I would be interested in hearing what you think.I do apologize if I have not been specific enough. Thanks,Gixerman
What type of attributes are you looking for sound wise? After all, many of the mentioned DACs do sound very different from each other.
I think the Northstar model 192 used around $1000 is an excellent value. They show up on Audiogon from time to time. Just one more to add to a very good list.
There is a balanced Timbre TT-1 dac on here right now for $850, list about $4K. I have no relation to the seller but I used to own this dac and it's still a great performer and very analog like. It was underrated even in it's day, the company is out of business, but one of the reviewers on Soundstage used it for a long term reference, his review is still online, googling it should turn it up. Good luck!
I have Vac Pa 160 amps,and a variety of tube preamps.My rig is smooth and rich.I do however miss (to a certain extent)the dynamics and speed of a big solid state amp.Can I have both? Also I can't stand a system that sounds hard in the treble or bright.However I don't like a sound that is too laid back and dark sounding.I am looking for something with good balance,and detail.I like my rig to sound rich and wet.The quality that I find the hardest to explain is involving and rhythmic.Does it make you tap your foot?Bob your head?Does it draw you in,and make you loss track of the time?Do you want to not leave the house?Thats what I am looking for. Thanks,Gixerman
Gixerman, I'll take a stab and say the Audio Mirror DAC might be a good candidate for your system. It's a non-oversampling DAC as Clio09 mentioned, so it sounds smooth, analog yet dynamic. It's the only solid state DAC I've tried that didn't have what I consider a recessed midrange. DACs like the Bel Canto and the Benchmark I'm guessing as well are brighter and leaner and impart will more detail. I found the Bel Canto to be a bit clinical and I thought the Ack! lacked pace and didn't create great scale in my system. The Audio Mirror has good boogie factor and throws a big soundstage, it's also darker sounding than the Ack!, and definitely more so than the Bel Canto and I'm sure the Benchmark as well. It's difficult to predict what effect a DAC will have on your system until you actually try it. The Ack!dAck! has a 21 day trial, so you can see how it will work in your home, and you can return it if you don't like it. How is the balance of your system now?
At this point my rig is fairly balanced.But the one thing I think could be inproved upon is: IMO the treble is just a little bit hard on the upper freq.thus contributing to listener fatigue.My rig boogies with some pre amps better than others.Boogie factor (#1)Rogue Audio 66 Mag w NOS RCA Cleartops (#2)Audio Research SP 6 C-1 revised (more detailed than the Rogue though) (3)Audible Illusions 2C (this will kick all their butts on unamplified accoustic music and I would call it a giant killer in that area)(4)Conrad Johnson PV11 (too laid back,great on vocals but at the expense of the rest of the music/band)
Yeah, I think the Audio Mirro would be a good one to investigate. It doesn't deviate excessively from neutrality, it has a nice smooth top end and is very dynamic and transparent.
How do you think a Cal Audio Alpha would compare to the ones listed thus far?
My friend and I directly compared his Audio Mirror D2 with my Bel Canto DAC2 in his system. Bel Canto sounds much smoother. Has stronger bass and dynamic drive. It is also much more fluid sounding in the midrange. And is not as bright as Audio Mirror, but at the same time does not lack detail. We compared the 2 dacs with the same interconnects and power cords, using the same digital cable, and both of us preffered the Bel Canto. It's all matter of synergy of course, but Audio Mirror, as good as it sounds, does not come close to Bel Canto. The difference is very audible.
Just observing the passing circus here, but find it interesting that no one has asked/specified what the transport is. (Or what DAC/player is currently used that Gixerman desires to upgrade. Or what the speakers are for that matter.) My own DAC will sound quite different when fed from different transports or players, even with a jitterbox in between. Without this info, recommendations could be like whistling in the dark...
Zaikesman, I am sorry you don't like the circus.I am using a Theta Data Basic II. I am also using a MSB link DAC III with p 1000 power supply and upsampling option.I run a Monarchy Audio Dip in between the two.The Theta is feed into the DIP via the D60 Illuminations and from the DIP to the MSB via the Green Hornet.The interconnects from the MSB to the pre amp Siltech SQ 28G3 the speakers are Paradigm Studio 100 version II.Do you feel better or do you want more info.
I second the vote on the Northstar 192. Versitle conections,very clean and dynamic. Plus the oversampling can be defeated. I have had mine for 2 years and am very happy.
Zaikesman, One could also use the nebulous one fits all:Try it and see what you think.OR That is system dependent and is a matter of opinion. Get real,I am asking everyone for their opinions.And as in most things,some have a broader knowledge than others,some put more thought into their answer than others.All have an opinion and the opinions may differ but none of them are wrong.
I want to thank you all for your time and your opinions.THANKS
Gixerman: Trust me, I'm being as "real" as real can be, and not just for my benefit. But don't get bent out of shape, read my post on your other thread.
Zaikesman, I read your review.I can tell you put a lot of thought and time into your comparison.And I do agree with you about a couple of points.For certain the cables and all the equipment in the digital front end is part of the sonic nature of the end product,I.E.what signal is being read and what signal is processed into analog to be amplified.The final factor IMHO is how ones ear perceives that information.Is it pleasing to us?Does it make us tap our foot and bob our heads or maybe tap our fingers?I agree that many people have a distorted sonic view of music.Is it accurate or is it musical? In live music it is both. digital music is not live music and ImHO digital music is even farther removed from live music than analog.standard I use personally is to hear live music as often as I can to keep my ears tuned.I play the harmonica and am around other musicians that play the electric guitar as well as acoustic.I also try to go take in a live blues show or go to a club with a good blues band playing to keep my ears in tune.I try as near as I can to come as close to the sound of real music as possible(within my means)I hope everyone goes out and keeps their ears tuned.Its good for the fun meter as well as being a good comparison for the Hi Fi rig back home.That said,I don't discount the findings in your review.And I agree with your process of using the analog to compare to the digital and A/B ing two sources.Another good tried and trued method is to have the same two recordings on Lp as well as CD and A/B the two and see how your digital front end compares to a good analog rig.For this test you must have a good phono stage that can make the most of the vinyl,and it would be helpful to have a good sence of real live music.I prefer acoustic recordings for comparison purposes as I feel there is less confusion as compared to amplified music. With more gain stages involved the sound is influnced,and not as pure and true.All that said,I again would like to stress the the main point of this dribble is;listen to live music and be true to what you hear.Then let your own ears be the judge of what sounds real to you.Live music when played well is pleasent,rythemic,involving,detailed,transparent and all the other things we want our rig at home to have.Isn't that what we are seeking.Then what beter measuring stick is there.
OK, I guess :-) You and I actually have similar systems in many ways, and I suppose if you posted this thread after the other one, then you may have come to the same conclusion about the Link as I was suggesting. My "just observing the passing circus" quip was more about me not purporting to have a specific recommendation than it was about the points I raised afterward, valid though I feel they are. Anyway, best of luck with whatever you try.
Yes I have come to some conclusions about the Msb unit (1)I believe the Link Dac is the week link in the digital front end.(2)I feel that the slightly hard sounding treble is the blame of the Link Dac.(3)most all things manufactured are built to meet a price point.For instance your car likely didn't come with the best stereo available,or the best tires money could buy,or for that matter the best suspension pieces.Your audio gear is no different.For around a $400 investment I could send the old Link DAC to Modwright and get it upgraded.This would include blackgate caps in the power supply,better op amps and other mods that are designed and tuned by ear to improve the sonic nature of the MSB Link.This is subject to the sonic tastes and opinions of the person doing the mod.I do think this appears to be a feasable concept.The orignal manufacture, MSB cut some corners to meet a price point.And for an investment of around $400, I can't think of any DACs in that price range that would be an improvement unless I were to spend double that.(or close to double)I think I will give Modwright a call and look into this a bit deeper.Thanks,John
I posted another thread about modding the MSB Link DAC.I was hoping to come across someone that has or had a MSB that has been modded.As of yet I have not heard from anyone that owns one other than with the factory upgrades.As Zaikesman has posted the MSB units might not be true to the music.I do wounder though if this can be improved upon with parts upgrades.Hell, its done all the time to the Sony units.(es9000,777, ect)Most people that have a modded Sony speak of them highly.
WRT Modwright... Dan modified my Perpetual P3 to his Level 2 and it totally changed the character of the beast for the better. Give him a call or drop him an e-mail about modding your Link DAC. He's a very nice guy, has a good ear and does good work.
I can't speak to the sonic differences between a modded Link and the Gold Link. But FWIW, a "hard" treble was not among the faults I found with the Gold -- quite the opposite in fact. Then again, reading your other thread, you and I hold pretty much opposite opinions of what the MSB upsampling does to the sound, and also the effect of the Monarchy DIP to a degree, so take that for what it's worth. And also this: I own a Pearl, and am familiar with the sound of the Data Basic. IMO, Theta transports have their virtues but treble sweetness is not prime among them. One thing you might also try, if you haven't already, is a "filtering"-type power cord on the digital stuff.
I will vote for the Benchmark DAC1. I like it better than a lot of other DAC in the price range based on my experience..
I can say this with conviction the Xindaak dac-8 which has a remote volume control ,8 seperate power supllys including 2 toroidal transformers,burr brown opamps, analog devises excellent 1852 dac Rubicon caps,Wima,
1% metal film resistors,high speed doides and a vacuum tube output stage for under $1000 it beats up on lavrys and benchmarks,just throw in a decent power cord and put in a good 1960s, 6922 vacuum tube and you are in business.
This used with a oppo980 as a transport it has can go toe to toe with any $5k cdp I know of and I have heard a lot .
Hello I was reading your views on the Xindak and i totally agree, my brother has the new Benchmark,it may be slightly more detailed than my Xindak- D/A-8 but that also depends what tube I am using ,as far as musicality no way ,the soundstage is far deeper all instruments sound much more live not razor sharp.and you can switch settings between
96mhz and 192,depending on the recording .
I like the idea that I can take 4 different vacuum tubes
and each one will make the dac sound different but still musical, the other guys no+ the parts qaulity is like I sent out the dac and got it modded .Rubicon capacitors
Stock, Wimas caps from Germany, and 1% resistors and 8 powersupplys.and it weighs over 23 lbs because of the massive power supplys it's your money, the 1 thing that
benchmark does more is Advertise ,why do you think
all the rave reviews politics.I compared even my brother agrees ,and is selling his .p.s a remote controlled
volume output stage to complement this .at 2x the cost it
is still a star.