Best DAC under 2k US ?

I'm thinking of a DAC for my nearfield focal monitors (CMS series). I'm looking for a nuetral to warmish sounding DAC without overly harsh or bright tonality and also musical.

I don't know much about DAC's and I can't audition where I am right now.

Calyx DAC, Bel Canto, Peachtree, Ayer, W4S, Weiss Minerva. Anything else?

Which would suit me best.

A non oversampling DAC such as the 47 Labs Shigaraki could be a consideration as it fulfills your criteria. Pre-owned ones show up on Audiogon from time to time at favorable pricing. New retail pricing may make them less competitive with some other lower cost offerings. I'm very happy with mine that I've been using for the past few years.
You should probably consider the Eastern Electric Minimax. Maybe even the previous version used.
There is a Metrum Octave on here new for just under $1000. It is a NOS dac that has gotten exceptional reviews.I am currently waiting on one from the factory myself. I had a Rega NOS dac and really liked it; the Metrum is suppose to be better, although the Rega has more outputs and inputs for those who need them.
The Mhdt Labs DAC's such as the Paradisea and Havana are also good choices and worth looking into. Lots of reviews on each of those. I had an original version of the Paradisea that was quite nice sounding. Choice of 5670 tube can tailor the sound to your personal preference.

The Metrum Octave DAC mentioned above has received very favorable user comments. It appears to be a very good value.
I would also highly recommend the MHDT paradisea or Havana DAC. I have had both and still use the paradisea in one of my systems. It's a great DAC especially for the price
Blue Circle 509
Well you are being given recommendations under 1K and I would agree that those are solid recommendations. I personally prefer the W4S over both the Havana and Minimax Plus which I also own with the cavaet "in my system and for my tastes". The Havana offers what you are looking for in that it is warm without any harshness whatsoever, no sins of commission for sure but ultimately sins of ommission in my experience. The Plus has the detail but in my system it sounds somewhat lean across the board, less preferable to me than either the Wyred or Havana, YMMV. The W4S offers warmth, detail with substantially more weight in the tone of instruments than either of the other two with no harshness, it also is a bit pricier. Not to belabor the point but we all have different systems and different priorities.

You might want to try a Havana used and hear first hand what all the fuss is about, NOS tube based. It is every thing you request at a great price point. If you find that you want more, particularly detail and frequency extension, you might want to try the W4S or some of the other pricier ones that probably offer that. Not knowing your system and not having auditioned all of them my comments above are based on extensive listening to each in two separate but very different systems with the conclusions being the same for both myself and the owner of the other system. I also own an Oppo 95 which IMO for all that it offers is the best value in low cost digital that I have come across. I am currently using it as a transport but can see sometime in the future having the modwright tube mod performed. There are many great choices out there for budget buyers but one thing to keep in mind is that some of the fringe/esoteric manufacturers' products might be better purchasing used than new. Otherwise you might take a bigger hit if you decide to move on to something else.
You will need to either 1) make some basic choices (see below), or 2) trust your ears.

Choices - How are you going to connect to the DAC: USB, S/PDIF or optical? Do you prefer upsampling/oversampling, or NOS/native rate? Do want to drive headphones directly from your DAC? Do you want a volume/gain control on your DAC? Remote?

For me, right now, I'm a big fan of the Antelope Audio Zodiac DACs. Three models with diferent price points, but they all sound great. But, frankly, there are no bad DACs; at least I have never heard one. Just some that I prefer more than others.
Neko Audio D100 is PERFECT for your requirements.
I heard the Calyx and would say it meets your ask dead on. Natural sounding but still musical and sweet. Detailed without being etched.
The Calyx is interesting. Gotta try one soon.
For me the asynch USB performance connected to a Mac Mini is important
I've been most impressed by my Channel Islands VDA-2. For sure opt for the VAC-1 power supply. That leaves you with plenty of cash left over so that you can buy some decent cables as well. And it's Made in the USA as well. My second recommendation would be a used Adcom GDA-700. There's one on eBay right now.
Where to get the calyx in the usa?

Also, how does the bel canto dac compare (the new one)?

Which Bel Canto? I'm assuming not the 3.5VB since it's way over $2k. I had the DAC 2.5 before the Calyx and much prefer the Calyx. Warmer, sweeter, and technically superior in every way. While the Bel Canto is still a very good DAC, it was a little too sterile for my tastes and no match for the Calyx.
You thought this was going to be easy? Here are some sites to get your foot in the door.

Darko DAC Index

Audiophilleo (a USB interface that you may choose to use even if your DAC choice inputs 192kHz) It seems many manufactures claimed jitter rejection is not what its claimed to be and this thing seems to prove it.

Anido DAC


Audio-gd NFB 7.1 DAC

Eastern Electric Minimax DAC

Mhdt Labs


You'll be introduced to many more choices by searching for comparisons of these. The Darko index and the Computer Audiophile (forum) will have more information. Don't forget to get some sleep.
Stanwal, I tried posting a ping to you and another Metrum Octave subject line and they must have been moderated out. Anyway-

I'm in the market and the Totaldac review really stopped me looking at the usual suspects which lead me to the 6Moons review of the Octave. If its half as good as that review I'm all in. Also, I became interested in the Audiophilleo.

Could you post an update?
I put 2 up today.
W4S DAC 2 will suit your needs. A bargain at the price, because sold direct.

I wholeheartedly recommend the Metrum Octave. I've owned the top two dacs from MHDT, Weiss Minerva, and used a Peachtree as a DAC. IMO, the Minerva would "exaggerate" highs and lows. I thought it was great until I started listening to NOS dacs. It's then when I thought the Minerva sounded too "aggressive". I used the Peachtree Nova as a dac. The dac is the best part of the Nova I think, but a bit too much on the bright side when compared to NOS dacs. The MHDT Havana is ok, but for a few bucks more, and well within your budget, try the Metrum Octave. IMO, it is very natural and organic. Sounds less like hi-fi and more like music.
I just ordered the Metrum Octave DAC in Blanc at the current 01/29/2012 exchange rate for $1156.63 which includes shipping, PayPal fee, and a 5-7 week lead time.

I'm considering the Audiophilleo-2 @ $579.

Devilboy's system would seem more than capable of revealing the different presentations of his direct experiences. Thanks.

I was seconds away from a half hearted order of the W4S DAC-1 with the cap and BNC upgrades. With California sales tax and shipping it would have been a bit more expensive.
Vicdamone: I believe you made a wise choice. My Octave took about eight weeks. I hope you get yours soon.
I posted the wrong price for the Metrum Octave DAC.

The correct price at the current rate of exchange as of 1/31/2012 is $977.01, which includes shipping and PayPal fees.

Can you purchase the Metrum Octave Dac entirely in black including the faceplate and does it play in full resolution via a USB?
If I'm not mistaken the Metrum Octave can be ordered with a black extrusion body but it looks like the face plate remains aluminum. Email to be sure.

The Octave is non over sampling (NOS) 24bit 176.5hKz DAC with switched SPDIF/RCA and optical inputs and L/R RCA outputs.

I was looking for a DAC with all the features myself. After weeks of prowling the internet I was struck first by the very successful topology of the French Totaldac but it is way beyond my budget. I was lead to the Octave which has a somewhat similar topology using different components at an incredible savings while maintaining unanimously well reviewed sonics.

My digital library is predominately 16-41kHz and 24-96kHz, I can't imagine I'll even notice the lack of those few extra kHz.

Adding an Audiophilleo USB to SPDIF converter with no more than 2-8ps measured jitter and your still at or under $1500. The Audiophilleo website is a must read including ALL the links under their comparison chart.
Vicdamone: I'm trying to learn more about the Audiophilleo converter. Is it better to use the converter because it lowers jitter? I imagine the optical output of my computer has very high jitter.
Devilboy, I'm just learning about it myself. I found their website more informative than most in the digital audio industry. They published jitter measurements from multiple methods, each one very low.

I like the sensibility that it attaches directly to a DAC. Like the Octave, I have yet to read a negative review aside from a few reviews being done on uber expensive DAC's were the Audiophilleo had less of an affect than it did on less expensive DAC's.

Two strong reasons to use this converter are if your DAC does not have a USB input. It may even greatly improve DAC's with less effective USB receivers.

Its direct connection to the DAC eliminates the digital SPDIF cable.

NuForce DAC-9.
i like the new Marantz 2800, which also plays cd's and sacd's. Not the best but great nonetheless and only a grand.
Sorry, marantz SA 8004.
Check out if in the U.S.
They are currently running a loaner program for their D100 Mk2 - a "reference stereo DAC featuring a 100% passive fully balanced transformer-based analog output stage." $1495 to buy one new.
I like the PS Audio DL III. Around $500 used on Audiogon or $800 new.
Rockadanny, you took the words right out of my mouth! The Neko is the best digital I've ever heard.
Why not import the JK32 DAC simply stunnig. Check out the reviews
Musical Fidelity M1 dac
There is no definitive "best" of anything. There are way too many variables involved. The "best" you can hope for is to find something that works well in your system. You can then say it's the "best" for you until you find something you think is better !!!!
As a Lampizator owner I'm curious about the lamp 2 in that price range.
From your list, if you want to keep it minimalistic, I would go for the Calyx. If you want more inputs and perhaps volume control, Bel Canto 2.5 is nice. It's a very highly competitive price bracket, and many others to choose from for instance the M2Tech Young and AURALiC ARK MX+.
DA-160 under 1k.
There is a certain level of player you have to get to achieve "good enough." The really cheap one's even though good for what they cost won't get you there. I'm saying well under $1K.
I would take a listen to a Rega Dac , i have found it to be superb .
Metrum Octave.
Haven't heard them yet, but I'm very curious about the NAD M51 and the upcoming Schiit Statement DAC.
+1 to the Octave. Paul Hynes is also doing mods on them now. The m51 sounded nice also at THE Show in Newport but the Metrum still does it for me.
I second the Metrum Octave.
Metrum octave vs Linn Magick DS or Akurate?
Calling Ray Charles
Has anyone heard of the Exasound e18DAC ? 1999.00 Risk -free in house testing. Mick at Supratek has written a bit about it in his blog,Supratek News.
What about a used PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC? There are a boatload of them for sale on Audiogon right now. Apparently, owners have a hard time giving them away, which might be all you need to know.

(I actually own the Perfect Wave DAC. It sounds very good with the Perfect Wave Transport, which I think may be the stand out PS Audio digital component. In all honesty, the DAC sounds pretty mediocre from every other digital source -- S/PDIF, AES/EBU, and the PS Audio Bridge. Even with the MK2 upgrade, the DAC doesn't sound that great unless you also own the Transport. And even then, the DAC has a pretty narrow soundstage. In some ways, a cheap Northstar M192 I once owned threw a much more convincing, absorbing soundstage than the Perfect Wave DAC. And the Northstar sold used for about $800.)
I see only 2 private sales listed. the rest are commercial sellers.
Guess it is that time of year for deals as there are always less buyers at this time.
As for the SQ, either you are not set up properly or have a defect somewhere.
Many with goldener ears than you and I have made gracious statements in the opposite direction and even when comparing to much higher priced equipment.
So anyone looking for a no brainer upgrade, do some googling or speak to any serious owner for a recommendation and this might be your chance to pick up a deal before they are gone.
As a famous American once said " I don't agree at all with you my friend, but I will put up a darned good fight for you right to say it".
or something like that. Peace.
wow!...not sure where Mcondon is coming from with his comments. i purchased the PWT/PWD at release back in august of 2009. have the semi-recent MKII upgrade as well.

"pretty mediocre"??. i've had the pleasure of comparing it to many nice DAC's in the past three years (some costing much more). almost every person who took part in these comparisons now owns a PWD and that says it all. lots of mediocre gear out there but the PWD isn't on that list imho.

"can't give them away" is also a stretch. a good friend had to sell his entire set-up due to unemployment and his PWD literally sold overnight....for $1500. not bad for digital gear....and considering many paid well south of $3000 for the PWD's new (got mine at 2k each using the trade in option offered at release.

too each his own but a few of your comments make it seem like you have a axe to grind regarding the PWD.