Best DAC to go with Aurender N100H?


I am upgrading my digital front end.  I currently have a Logitech Squeezebox Touch with Metrum Octave DAC.  I have pretty much decided on an Aurender N100H streamer, but am undecided on DAC.  Budget is $2500.  I am considering Chord Qutest and a Metrum Onyx.  Has anyone heard the Aurender with either of those DACs?  Any recommendations??
mabonn
Mabonn,

An Aurender N100H will sound good with any dac.

There are way more good dacs then just the ones you have mentioned.

You should determine the kind of sound and qualities you like and what you want to bring out in your system.

The Chords tend toward detail and resolution, good soundstaging but are not known for tone and musicality.

The Meturm’s and NOS dacs are known for an oragnic quality and an ease of listenablity.

If you haven’t purchased a server you may want to look at an server/dac which would combine both pieces into one chassis as well.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ




Audiotroy, do you have recommendations for a 1 box solution I should consider?
Total budget for streamer plus DAC about $5000 max.  Thanks, Matt
@mabonn 

What's the rest of your system?  That should at least help with narrowing down some suggestions.

I really like the Lumin D2 for a one-box solution, and it's under your budget.  You can also get a PS Audio DSD with/ Bridge II for under $5K if you look around for some deals.  Also - the Auralic Vega G2 (if you can find one used) should be high on your list.

If you're set on using the Aurender, then @audiotroy is probably correct - it should sound great with just about any quality DAC.  You'll have to tell us more in regards to what you'd like to accomplish. 
@mabonn,

Aurender also makes one box streamer and a DAC, A10 and A100.  Please visit their site to and decide for yourself which one of these best suits your need.  They both are great choices under $5500 and also eliminates the need for a preamp. 

https://aurender.com/a100/

https://aurender.com/a10/
I have a Primaluna Dialogue Premium Integrated amp and Acoustic Zen Adagio speakers.  I also have a Linn Sondek LP12 turntable with Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood cartridge.  My PrimaLuna has the built in phono preamp.
i like my music with a wide and deep sound stage, and tonally rich and “musical”.
With above set of components, I would suggest to go separate route and get a DAC that complements Primaluna Integrated. Aurender N100H or N100C would provide a solid foundation for streaming tunes off Tidal or Qobuz.

I don’t think Chord DAC’s are known to be totally rich, they are quite neutral in a non-musical sense. Metrum would be a good start with N100. With outboard DAC, the option for future upgrades will be limitless. Also check out Border Patrol DAC.

http://www.borderpatrol.net/DAC.htm

If one thing stayed static in my system over the last 5 years, it’s my Aurender N10. Since acquiring N10, I gone through 4 different DAC’s and finally settled with EMM Labs DA2 last year.
I have a collection of multiple DACs. I disagree with the above descriptions of the Chord Qutest. It has multiple filters, good PCM and DSD functionality and does sound musical. It is adjustable to taste with the filters. DACs in general are taste driven. But the Qutest is an awesome DAC and was very impressed when I first auditioned the Magico lineup. But I also have a Schiit Yggy and a PSA DS DAC. Also sound great in their own way. I think you should audition these DACs. 
@mabonn as @audiotroy mentioned you can pair the Aurender with any DAC and you'll have excellent results assuming the DAC is providing you with the sound character you are looking for. If you want an all-in-one solution, Aurender's A10 or A100 might be perfect.

Since you mention using a Primaluna integrated amp and Acoustic Zen speakers, and right now a Linn Sondek turntable, you might prefer a DAC that is less like the AK4490 found in the Aurender and a bit closer to what you already hear. Unless you know you have what you want from the Primaluna and Acoustic Zen and want to couple them with the very clean and neutral sound of the AK4490.

If you want something a bit more "musical" or "analog" sounding within your budget, then I would recommend looking at a Lumin with transformer-coupled outputs like the D2 or a used A1 or T1. Lumin devices don't have built-in hard disks like Aurender though, in case that is an important consideration for you.

I'll also promote my own D100 Mk2 DAC which also has transformer coupled outputs, for use with a network streamer, but it wouldn't be an all-in-one unit anymore.

You might also consider Auralic Altair or Vega for an all-in-one unit. But they use ESS SABRE DAC chips, which probably isn't what you'd prefer given your existing choice of gear.
A special one: Weiss (CH)
You asked for our recommendation and that is an easy one.

Lumin T2 which is dramatically better than the older T1.

The Lumin T2 is a next generation platform and shares much of the sound quality of the Lumin Reference X1.

The Lumin has a wonderful mix of liquidity, and detail. The T2 floats both a wide and deep soundstage and has a very well balanced combination of good treble detail and a clean midrange without sounding bright.

The Lumin has many advantages over other streamers:

1: Dual ESS 9028 pro dacs run one per channel this enables the internal dac to process dual differential equations which generates much less distortion.

2: Full MQA decoding

3: Roon Capable

4: Can be used as both an Spdif and a full USB transport if you ever want to upgrade to an exterernal dac.

5: Great easy to use app with Spotify, Qubuzz, Tidal

6: Apple Airplay built in

7: Very reliable, over the air upgrades.

8: Allows you to upconvert and transcode PCM to DSD or play files natively, this means you can upconvert Tidal to DSD or to high oversampled PCM>

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Lumin Dealers
I like the Aurender a lot. If it were me though, I'd stretch just a bit to get the new Ayre QX-8 (network version). At $5650 it is a Roon end point and exceptionally musical DAC in one box. Aurender's software is nice, but I'd hate to be tied to an iPad and closed system. The only better DACs I've heard sell for at least a couple thousand $ more!
Thanks for all your responses.  I am a relative newbie to this digital world.  There’s lots of info to research, absorb, and process.  A one box solution is ok, as long as it has digital outputs so that I could use a separate DAC down the road.  Looks like the Lumin has that capability (?).
Yes the Lumin T2 can be used as a dedicated USB server so in the future you can move to an even better dac.


Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Lumin dealers
@mabonn the reason I recommended an older Lumin T1, A1, or current D2 over the T2 is because the T2 uses ESS SABRE chips without a transformer-coupled output stage. Based on your existing gear and what you've described as your preference in sound, I don't think you would like the T2 sound over the other options. But of course the best option is if you can audition one yourself.
I had been running my Aurender N100A through the DAC of my Hegel 360, but I found the sound slightly harsh and lacking bass. My audio dealer, Alma Audio in San Diego, suggested I try the Aqua Voce S2 DAC, and allowed me a home trial. Wow- what a difference- all harshness disappeared and the bas was round, full, and balanced. The Aqua is in the $3,000 price range, and what a bargain for what it does (doesn't do MQA if that's important to you). Needless to say, I purchase the unit. Since then I had the unit upgraded to S3 level (it had to go back to Italy for this and cost $1,000). Not sure there was a big difference from the original S2 to my ears. Nonetheless, this DAC is wonderful.   
nekoaudio, there is no comparison between the older Lumin A1 or T1 vs the new T2 platform. 

On paper the T1 or A1 with the Lundhal transformers and outboard linear power supply should sound better, but that would be suicide for a manufactuer to make a new product which isn't better than the older series.

So the T2 with the dual Ess chips still handily outperforms the older units sonically run the T2 as a DSD upconverter and the sound is a bit lusher and the T2 just sounds amazing. Huge 3d soundstage, great resolution and it is still very musical.

The bingster, the built in Hegel dacs are good but do have a sound which is clean with good details, but the built in dac would be equvilent to probably a $1,200-2,000 externral dac from Hegel.

The Aqua Hifi Dacs are much more liquid sounding, so it is not surprising that you found a $4k outboard dac that would sound better. 

The Aqua Hifi La Voice MK III is even better than your older MK II the nice thing with Aqua is you can upgrade your older model into the current one pretty easily as you have found out, give the MK III upgrades a few hundred hours and you will see the improvements in the MK III they actually replace quite a number of boads so the break in is substantial. 

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Lumin and Aqua Dealers


I do have a bias towards NOS DACs.
As I research this further, I come to find out that Metrum makes a streamer called the Ambre.
Has anybody out there heard the Ambre+Onyx combo??
Primaluna’s new DAC offering “sounds” like it may be right up your alley. 
I also run my Aurender (ACS10) thru an EEM DAC2 and it delivers all I could ask in terms of sound; it is the combination I was looking for.  The Aurender Conductor software provides flexibility  and the built-in TEAC drive for ripping is convenient and provides plenty of hard drive storage.
I recommend you consider the Ayre CODEX DAC.  It is excellent and its cost is $1,999.   Please see:

https://www.ayre.com/products/digital/codex/

It operates as a DAC or a Preamp/DAC.   It only has a USB and Toslink inputs.  I strongly recommend you use its balanced XLR cables to your amplifier.  It sounds much better when used with its balanced XLR connections.   

Another option might be the Schiit YGGY DAC.   I hope you are streaming Qobuz hi-res on your Aurender N100H.  Their 24-bit/96 and 24-bit/192 albums are terrific sounding.   Enjoy.  


I’m not surprised that audiotroy recommended a Lumin, he is a dealer for them. A little slanted recommendation in my opinion.
As for the comment, an aurender will sound good with any dac, bs! A source component will only sound as good as the weakest link in the chain of components. Any aurender teamed up with a $300 dac will sound like a $300 dac. There are many decent music servers out there, Lumin is a decent server. 
As for a 1 box solution, I would stay away from that. If you would have bought a 1 box solution a year ago and then wanted MQA for example, you would have to replace the whole box. If you would buy a FPGA based dac, you could get MQA probably for free. There are changes in the digital world, higher resolution formats, MQA, and who knows what’s being worked on that we don’t know about, find a good streamer (if you want to go down this path) and get a very good FPGA dac
I run the Ambre with Onyx via I2S and it’s fantastic  
Rbstereno, please get your facts straight, we are a dealer for Lumin because the Lumin products are consistantly some of the best sounding and best designed audio products out there...period.

We also sell a ton of great dacs.

If you look at Lumins reviews they are universally rated as making some of the best gear in each of their price points, they are famous for service, support, upgradability via fimrware upgrades.

Lumin is a giant company with resourses much greater than many tiny, tiny audio companies. Their parent company makes most of the cable boxes used in Asia as well as building broadcast video products. 

Lumin's products are based on real engineering not flavor of the month parts and concepts which is why it has taken five years for them to beat their older platform. To this day a five year old Lumin A1 will still outperform many brand new dacs how do we know this because we had an A1 traded in and it still sounded ridiculously musical.

And in terms of your facts about FPGA again totally wrong, many manufactureres used FPGA to hold software, what is or is not relevant is if the company is offering upgrades to that core. 

In the case of Chord whose dacs are FPGA  based they almost never offer upgrades to their software as the code is a mature code honned over many years and there is no reason to change it as it is not possible for Robert Watts to come up with an improved version of the ideas and execution of his transient and time aligned digital filter. 

FPGA is just a way of being able to hold software that is easy to change. 

Lumin has added MQA and was one of the first to support it as well as Roon and they did that via an over the air upgrade!

Other issues is jitter transmitted from a server to a dac, you have a huge reduction in noise and jitter with an all in one streamer/dac not to mention you usually save money, howerver, we have seen in our testing that an Innnous server feeding an ethernet dac over ethernet did sound signfigantly better via the Innous feeding it then via a direct ethernet connection to the router.

As per our any comment, come on how many people are going to pay $2,800.00 for a server and use it with a $300 dac? Common sense means that this person would be looking at a suitable dac priced from $2k-5k.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ