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For "Bit Perfect" conversion of PCM you need a dac that has R2R Ladder Multibit D/A converters. The better implemented the better the sound. many top dac are going back this way again.
EG: If you can afford them just some of the top ones
Audial (Peja Rodgic)
AMR top dac and cdp (Thorsten Loschec)
DaVinci Light Harmonic
Forget Delta Sigma based dacs, (bitstream,1 bit,Sabre ect) they just don't do PCM (RedBook cd,DVD-A,DXD.) like a R2R Multibit d/a converter can.
Lots of good suggestions already - enough to keep you busy for a while. But, frankly, ignore those claims that you should ignore an entire class of DACS (Delta Sigma). If someone wants to suggest that a particular brand doesn't execute their DAC well, that's perfectly reasonable. That likely happens in every category, whether DS, R2R, etc. But to suggest an entire category, and all manufacturers and models within that category, should be ignored is over-generalization and crazy talk.
One of the very best redbook cd players I have ever heard (and which I prefer over the last version of the DCS stack--- although I have not listened carefully to the current version) is the Spectral Pro. That processor uses a double balanced implementation of the AD1853, a multi bit Sigma/Delta converter. Implementation is the key and Keith Johnson is the key master.
The Spectral Pro Dac which is their only dac used
"DACs are four UltraAnalog D20400A 20-bit types with HDCD filter chips, made of discrete and monolithic components encapsulated in a potted module, in a balanced configuration (left +, left -, right +, right -) " Which are R2R Ladder Multibit Dacs
The current CD player which you say you have not listened to carefully is
The Spectral SDR-4000SL which is a cd player, uses the cheaper AD1853 multi-bit Sigma/Delta DAC in it.
Yes this AMR DP-777 has two dac chips inside, a "Classic" R2R Ladder Multibit and a "HD" Delta Sigma based one (for dsd replay), they can be switched on the fly while listening, everything else is the same. Here is what a reviewer said when he compared the sound of both of them when he played RedBook cd and PCM files through them.
"16/44 sources replay using the HD DAC"
I remember reading somewhere Thorsten Losche (AMR’s designer) was asked why did you put in a Delta Sigma dac. As a token gesture for the HD crew, or similar was his answer.
Overdrive SE. Won a shootout here on Audiogon.
There is one that can be updated to SE on sale at audiocircle.com trading post-digital/sources
The SE beats much more expensive DACs, in the 15K+ range.
I wouldn’t say won, This is the AudioStream comparison to the MSB R2R Ladder Multibit chipped dac, make you own mind up on this quote
" Comparisons with Other DACs
with due respect to all A'gon members above, aren't we forgot one important point? we should first analyse what georgelfre music taste preference is i.e forward sounding(in a small club) or relax sound(chamber music?) and the genre of music he listens to.
I guess this way, we can gather our experience from different DACs which performs great with certain audio characteristics, i.e MSB dac is characterize for smoothness, relax, very analog & rounded which may suit music that sound harsh (use as a form of remedy) and great for country\acoustic genre? to capitalize on MSB strength ?
just my 2 cent
We have the first Chord Dave DAC In North America for evaluation. All we can say that it is absolutely stunning and easily compares to 100K systems by Esoteric and DCS. Lots of DACs nows day are optimized for DSD playback but they aren't as great for redbook. This Dave sounds better then the best R2R 16 bit non over sampling redbook DACs while being capable of handling every Hi Rez format in existence.