Best DAC for around $2,500 or less


What are your opinions on the best DAC for under $2,500?  Looking at the Schiit Yggy or many of recommend Denafrips so looking at their Pontus.  Any thoughts on how these two compare?  It might be misguided by I tend to think your getting a little more for your money with a direct to consumer company like Schiit and I know they are highly regarded for their DACS.  Anything else to look at in this price range? 
mvrooman1526
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Naim nDAC (used) with a Teddy Pardo TeddyXPS.
I’m fond of my Wyred 4 Sound DAC. Truth be told, at this price point you’re opening the door to many excellent units. A lot will depend on your listening preferences and synergy with the rest of your components.
Had a schitt YGGDRASIL DAC that I thought was pretty good. Price new is $2500.00
Schiit also has a 15 day money back guarantee 
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Although it’s only been my second dac, the Schiit Gungnir multibit I have now has been a game changer in my system. After this experience, I’m inclined to think the only other dac I might be interested in is one of the Denafrips, which I haven’t heard, but a friend of a friend who has heard my system says they are on par with each other. 
Audio Mirror Tubadour III SE. I had a Denafrips Terminator before the AM, but like the Tubadour III SE better. It's more natural and musical sounding and still has plenty of detail and openess.


As someone who bought the DAC3B last week and owned a DAC2 and a DAC1 (and even a DAC3 HGC). I say get the DAC2 if you like the Benchmark sound. I could not really tell the difference between the 2 and the 3.

I got the new DAC3B for $1560 and the DAC2 can be found used for around $1200ish. I did not get the DAC2 since I could not find one last week when I was buying.

I would also say that the benefits of the Benchmark DACs are lost if your other components are not as quiet.
The last three DACs I have had are the Wyred 4 Sound DAC 2, Yggdrasil Analog 2, and now the Denafrips Terminator. Each was a nice step up for me, particularly going from the W4S to the Yggy. I tend to like a somewhat forward, detailed sound with plenty of energy.

I wasn't a real fan of the W4S  - I found the sound kind of flat and boring. But I've made a lot of other changes to my system since then. Also, W4S has come out with at least one upgrade model since the one I had.

The Yggy and Terminator really work well in my system (to my ears), but if you're looking for a more laid back sound that's more forgiving on recording quality, you might prefer other options. 
I owned a peachtree idac (very pleasant but missing something)  -- then tried a ps audio directsream junior, chord qutest, nad m51, and settled on an Ayre Codex -- and its game over!
Detailed without any edge/fatigue -- playing through a Theil 2.7s

get a chord 2qute or qutest

or RME ADI2

save $1000-1500

thank me later :)
mvrooman1526
Best DAC for around $2,500 or less

 You should be able to pickup a Denafrips Terminator for that used.
Stunning sounding discrete R2R Multibit dac.
https://www.denafrips.com/terminator
Or a Holo Spring Dac new, similar to the Denafrips above.
https://www.stereophile.com/content/holoaudio-spring-kitsun%C3%A9-tuned-edition-level-3-da-processor

Cheers George
I sold my Schiit Yggdrasil (analog 2) in favor of my Border Patrol SEi.

I guess it depends on what type of sound you are looking for.  The Border Patrol has a sweeter sound that I prefer.  The Schiit is slightly more detailed but not as engaging emotionally IMO
"I’m fond of my Wyred 4 Sound DAC." Me Too! V2
The Wyred is pretty laid back. Good or bad.
If you go by measurements get Topping E30 and spend the rest of the money on something else :) 
Sonnet Morpheus. (A little more expensive but a killer deal for the price)...

Obviously, there's no single best because, after all, what criteria would you use to determine best?

Denafrips, Audio Mirror, and MHDT would be were I would be looking.

RME ADI-2 DAC. Best kept secret.
I have a Topping DX3, the Mytek Brooklyn is far better sounding to my ears. Both measure exceptionally well.

Oscilloscopes don’t enjoy music, so I don’t go exclusively by measurements unless those measurements have been proven to agree with my enjoyment. Few have.

The Brooklyn Bridge is just a little more than your budget and comes with built in Roon client.
Oscilloscopes don’t enjoy music, so I don’t go exclusively by measurements unless those measurements have been proven to agree with my enjoyment. Few have.

Couldn't agree more.  The measurement thing is such a red herring.  This is about music, how it sounds, how it pleases and brings joy.  What does measurement have to do with it?  We all have ears.
I've often found that my enjoyment of a product is inversely correlated to how it measures (at least traditional measurements like THD and signal to noise). The only measurements that I've found to be at all meaningful in my evaluation of audio products are input and output impedance, and speaker waterfall charts.

The impedance numbers give some indication of likely compatibility between components. I'd never purchase a speaker based on its waterfall chart, but if there are obvious ringing or decay problems, I won't waste my time auditioning them because this does tend to correlate to my likely enjoyment of them.
I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the Benchmark products. Check the connections and capabilities first. They are an even better value on the used market, usually under $2K. I have heard good things about Schiit products, but I have not owned them.
jjss49
The measurement thing is such a red herring.

I have never yet met a hiend Audio Equipment Designer that wasn’t also an Audiophile.

Every decent piece of audio equipment that you listen to that impresses you, has been painstakingly designed by electronic engineers/audiophiles that use EE laws, measurements, specs and use test bench gear to design those pieces.

Then it is listened to and if not liked they change and re-jig those specs and laws and figures to get to their final released product.

And if you can understand those specs and measurements, it can be a great aid when purchasing and what to listen for.

If your or the equipment your buying wasn’t done this way you are listening to BS voodoo snake oil products.

Cheers George
MHDT Orchid. Roll into a WE396A D getter. Once you go tube you’ll never need lube. 
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Find yourself a used Yamamoto YDA-01.

Was around $2,400 NEW.

Get one around $1K.

LOVING mine.
So many current dacs of today sound hyper detailed and not natural at all. Get yourself an r2r DAC or something like the Yamamoto that I have. In my opinion, it sounds more like real music.
What a BS statement, belying a BS thought process and a BS attitude.

Really, now your showing your ignorance, if you don’t think specs and measurement can’t aid and assist one to getting the right equipment for their purpose, then you can't see the forest for the trees. 
Yet first thing I saw, you obsess over measuring your own amps biasing. Can’t have it both ways sunshine. Bet I can find more wonders if I tried..

RME ADI-2 fs is an outstanding DAC. Remarkable what this thing does and how wonderful it sounds for the money. Was using the DAC in my Cambridge 851C with SR Black fuses and it’s no slouch but the RME is just better across the board. Even out of the box the RME pulled away from my Cambridge; by comparison the Cambridge sounds harsh and it’s not. Highly recommend regardless of the price. $1,099 new from BH Photo.
The Schiit GUNGNIR Multibit sounded so good after 2 weeks I upgraded to the Yggdrasil. I couldn’t be happier. 
Keep in mind beyond the price of a dac is the cabling, power cord, shelf, isolation costs then it goes into a preamp which may or may not be capable of showing the dac off in the best light
I have an Oppo 105 which I bought exclusively to listen to SACD/DVD-A discs. A couple years back my red book player (used as a transport) died and while I was in search of its replacement I used my 105 for red book too, via Silver Surfer XLRs to my preamp/dac.


I came across 2 105 upgrades on Ebay; one being a Furutech rhodium IEC with pure silver tail that attached directly to the OEM power supply. Seeing how easy it was to pop the top and how pathetic the OEM PS is, I then replaced the OEM PS with an aftermarket that has a large toroid and much better parts (~ $200).


Eventually I bypassed my Marantz HD CD 1 and my preamp and use the 105 for red book too. Sounds great and for about a $1000 less than a dac, let alone all the ancillaries
Another big improvement was replacing the Silver Surfer XLRs with WireWorld Eclipse


hth
I prefer FPGA dacs.  if if you don’t need balanced connections and can deal with limited inputs  I would look seriously at the Chord Hugo 2.  Definitely a step up from the Qutest and you can attach the 2Go streamer.  Works as home or portable.  
I am very partial to my Benchmark DAC 2 HGC but I have not had the opportunity to compare it to any other DACs in this price range.
I suggest the Ayre CODEX DAC.  The CODEX DAC has many design features not commonly found in a DAC that retails for $1,795.  One is a pure analog, linear power supply instead of the more commonly found switching power supply.  

The CODEX DAC has "A fully-balanced signal path throughout the analog circuitry provides an inherently clean and quiet backdrop for your music. The zero-feedback design maintains all of the pace and rhythm of your favorite artist, rendering your digital music as effortlessly as if it were live”.   Please see this link:

https://www.ayre.com/products/digital/codex/
You might be able to snag a used Lampizator Amber 3 in your price range. Otherwise, the Audio Mirror Tubadour is an excellent suggestion. I had them both, and they are very close in performance.
Chord qutest. Fantastic. Very analog sounding. 
Buy used.  I bought a BelCantoDAC 3.5 with its VBS1 (virtual battery) for $1500 on Audiogon.  This DAC is extraordinary, beautifully clear, never bright or digital sounding.  Highly recommended.  The amp it works with is a Threshold A21.  
Sorry folks, I'm an idiot.  The amp is a Parasound A21.
I compared the Yggy to the Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ and choose the Mytek.  I firmly agree with crn3371 when he says "A lot will depend on your listening preferences and synergy with the rest of your components".  If at all possible, arrange for an in home demo; it's impossible to determine which one is the best for you without one.
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Under 1k.  Find a used Oppo Sonica.  Measures well, has a big power supply, and uses top end chips.  


I had a Yggy upgraded to Analog 2 with the USB Gen5 and also had the W4S DAC2DSDSE upgraded to 2v2 and vastly prefered the W4S.  A W4S trade in can be had for $ 2000.  I think it is a steal. 
I now have a Terminator and it way outperforms both.  I am intrigued by the tubadour-iii-non-oversampling-tube-dac but I have found you cant get a $ 5000 DAC for $2500 unless it is used.
Unless the Oppo Sonica is better than the 205 which I own, the RME ADI-2 fs is superior. It’s not just a different sound, but cleaner, smother, bottom end more extended and controlled... better all around. I have not heard the Sonica so it might be better than the UDP 205, but if the same there’s better for the money.
These previously mention DACs have multiple favorable reviews:
Mytek Brooklyn DAC
Benchmark DAC3
Schiit Yqqdrasil

Also good reviews:
HoloAudio Spring DAV Level 3 "Kitsune Tuned Edition"
ifi Audio Pro iDSD DAC

If you can spend up to $3k:
PrimaLuna EVO 100 Tube DAC

I'm not confident you can find a Denafrips Terminator used for $2.5k, but if you do get one it's also worth purchasing the dsp upgrade card ~$220usd at  https://www.vinshineaudio.com/shop

Yes, you can also shop used - that's where I purchased my Denafrips Terminator. But because audio digital technology is growing/changing rapidly, the newer digital components commonly outperforms the older tech stuff - building on what was learned before.