Best DAC - Preamp Combo $5 to $10K Budget


I'm waiting for the day my Levinson 380S bites the dust like my Chord DAC 64 just did.  Both of them are/were 15 to 20 years old with heavy use.  Anyway, is there a really reference level DAC - Preamp combination out there for from $5K to $10K?  Thanks in advance!
fixedincome
Try the Benchmark LA4 preamp with whatever flavor of amp you want.

https://benchmarkmedia.com/collections/preamplifiers

There is a 30 free home trial. The reviews have been stellar and essentially saying the unit imparts no sound into the equipment mix. So if you like a certain sound get that from the amp, wires, etc...

I did demo the Benchmark DAC3 HGC, which is a DAC with analog preamp, with the most recent $20K ML monoblocks + Magico A3 speakers. It was not as good as the ML $20K preamp. However, the new LA4 is a bigger step up from the DAC3 HGC and maybe a great solution for a preamp since it is dead silent.

I will be doing a home demo of this LA4 preamp soon and testing it with a Luxman m900u amp (next purchase). I will also be buying the Luxman c900u preamp at some point. So I will really be able to tell if the LA4 is really a competitor to $20K preamps as some reviewers are stating.

I am also looking at the Benchmark AHB2 amp to have 4 pieces in the house. I have owned the AHB2 amp in the past and sold it to invest that money. The LA4 + AHB2 are $5500 combined and I have a feeling will be a long term keeper for me.
I would look into the Rockna Wavedream or Chord Dave. Both are in the $10k range & have volume control.
ML 585 or 585.5 integrated amp can be found for less than 10k. You get a great amp section too. Very nice piece. 
The ML 585 was another piece I demo with the Magico A3 and it thought it was about 85% of the ML separate preamp + 2 ML mono blocks (= $60K). The 585 can be had now used for under $7K.
Check out PS Audio Pre & DAC combo.  In that price range and have a trial period I do believe.
I would suggest looking into the Chord TT2 and Dave. They are both excellent. If you can stretch a bit I strongly suggest the dCS Bartok. I owned the TT2 and auditioned the Dave and found that the I preferred the Bartok to both of them. It also has a built in network streamer. 
How about a used Bricasti M12. There was one recently that sold for below the 10k mark here on Agon was only on here for a few days and sold. I heard it at Axpona and was mighty impressed.
I'm leaning toward the Chord Dave but it does not have MQA.  Will I be missing something significant?

Also looking at the Mytek Manhattan II.  Unfortunately I live in the mountains of Wyoming and comparison shopping is not available.  Does anyone have experience with the Mytek and the Chord?
PS Audio DirectStream DAC, Bryston BP-26 or BP-17 cubed...
Although maybe a little low rent from a price perspective given your budget and some of the other excellent DACs mentioned above, I’d recommend trying one of Bel Canto’s legacy eOne DACs from their 3 series with outboard power supply.  I had the DAC3VB (with external Virtual Battery Supply ((VBS)) included) in my system on extended demo a while back and found its performance to be near flawless as far as I could tell.  It managed that much sought-after (but rarely achieved) ability in digital products to present a high level of detail, tone, 3D imaging, space, and palpability in a highly coherent, natural, and effortlessly believable way.  I got to compare it directly to the base DAC3 without the external power supply, and as good as the DAC3 is — and it is very good indeed — the external power supply takes it to a higher level entirely.  In fact, despite a new wave of excellent DACs now on the market, I’m now contemplating buying a used DAC3.xVB myself not only for its outstanding DAC performance but also for its completely transparent preamplifier section as I look to simplify my current system. 

When I auditioned the DAC3VB in my system I had a Bryston BP6 preamp that remains the most complete embodiment of straight wire with gain I’ve heard from any electronic component — a true clear window on a performance.  Almost as an afterthought, and certainly not expecting much, I compared the DAC3VB as a DAC only with my preamp as well as with the DAC operating with its own preamp alone.  I was shocked and stunned.  After much switching between the DAC’s pre and my $2500 uber-transparent Bryston I could discern absolutely no sonic difference between them.  Nothing.  Zilch.  Nada.  In fact, if the BC DAC had a balance control, which I needed at the time, I would’ve sold my BP6 and happily bought the DAC3VB. 

The reason I dedicated a paragraph to the preamp performance is that many reviews I read of other DACs with a volume control often find the preamp performance in some way compromises the resulting sound versus using a good separate stereo preamp.  That the DAC3VB can successfully pull off the straight-wire-with-gain transparency test I think is pretty remarkable, especially at its relatively reasonable original retail price.  Assuming the DAC3.7VB (with the improved VBL power supply) is an improvement over the older DAC3VB as it benefits from trickle-down technology from the pricier BC Black series, being able to purchase that unit used for under $3000 would get a big recommendation from me for a DAC/pre unit.  And, as a bonus, if it doesn’t knock your socks off you can likely sell it for little/no loss given the relatively liquid used market for BC products. 

If the DAC3.xVB option is too low rent, there’s also the newer BC e1X DAC/pre that likely embodies more of the flagship Black series technology and design and ups the ante to $6500.  As I found the external power supply to be so profoundly beneficial to the eOne DACs, I’m curious as to how the power supply issue is addressed in the one-box e1X.  Also, as I’ve not heard nor seen any reviews of the e1X and really know nothing of it I’m not as comfortable recommending it despite it possibly being an improvement over the older models.

Holy crap, I did NOT set out for this to be so long, so my apologies for blabbing but hope this is at least somewhat useful.  Best of luck. 


Audio byte Hydro Vox. It has an external power supply. Also it will have a matching streamer that can get is powered by the same external power supply as the DAC. I believe 11stereo.com is a dealer. Then pick your preamp. Maybe something with tubes to get a nice natural sound out of the DAC. Or another way is the Hegel for $11,000 integrated amp. I was told it has a better DAC then there stand alone DAC and a ton of power. I would test it with your setup first. The AMP/ preamp setup was a little to sterile for me, but maybe the H590 is not the same. I believe in everything being separate for my main system. 
I use an Ayre QX5 twenty in that role.  It is able to do digital volume without loss but... does not do MQA.  Using Roon on my server I get the first MQA unfold so it now sends 96/24 to the DAC when i play the Tidal MQA files.  Recently added Quobz and directly stream 192/24 high resolution files. Either way I'm not missing full MQA.
Hello,

From my years of efforts of trying to eliminate a preamp I have only one advice to give. Please do not confuse a DAC with volume control with a proper preamp, and do not go for a DAC which you will use as a volume control unless you plan to have put an integrated amp in front of it.

There is a big difference between a preamp/DAC (it has an analog volume control probably active) and a DAC with volume control (usually digital).

Out of all options other have mentioned the only one that has an actual preamp within is a used Bricasti M12, it has a DAC and an insane DSD engine that will make you forget vinyl, other than that under the 10000$ the only other one I am aware is the Mola Mola preamp/dac (forget its name, makua I think). I would recommend from personal experience  the M12 that has a streamer also built-in. But still an active preamp is better (or an integrated that has a preamp built-in) which is what I am going for after I get around to selling my M12.
Matrix  Element  X uses a hybrid  analog/ digital volume control similar  to what's used in CH Presicion. It has an array  of relay-driven resistors in the analog and the digital is part of the DA chip itself. 
I used to own the Mytek Manhatten.  I used it mostly as a DAC but for a month I had to use it as a Pre Amp.  In the latter capacity I found it a bit to hard and with glare, and was relieved when my Pre Amp reentered the system.  It is a superb DAC, however
Amen,
I always feel when you use a DAC as a preamp you start losing something. It’s like slowly turning your music into an MP3 as you lower the volume. When your Preamp goes down or your waiting for your new tubes it is nice to have the option. I cannot imagine going without my system for more than a week. 
it’s just not the same without a preamp. i’ve tried rationalizing that i could save all that money. but direct just wasn’t good. imo
Second for the Rockna.  Phenomenal piece of equipment.