I'd start with the used benchmark and build around that as needed.
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Not that the benchmark is less than a good product for the money, I have seen many (as Truman above) on this forum characterized it as bright or analytical. It remains a popular DAC however. As one that has a system based on a digital front end feeding a tube pre/SS amp combination, if I was using a DAC to feed directly into a SS amp, particularly an inexpensive one, I would look into one having a tube output stage. I prefer a warm sound over a overly analytical one and I have found tubes to provide this, especially with digital audio. As I have not auditioned any such DACs, I cant make a specific recommendation. However, I have seen others mention liking the EE DAC on this forum.
Good luck in your search!
Thanks for the input fellas. I should have added that I only need an digital co-ax input, no usb.
I also prefer a warm sound with substance as opposed to thin and cold. I do like the micro details and sparkle though.
I've been looking at Schitt also. The bifrost looks nice but I heard the gungir is a great dac... No volume control on either of them though, if I remember correctly.
I'll check out that eastern electric mini max also.
Thanks again for the input. I'll check out any other recommendations also!
I'd look at the new Parasound Zdac v.2. I have the original model and think that it's ridiculously good for the money. It's very, very close in performance to my Benchmark DAC1 but with a touch of welcome warmth that the Benchmark lacks. The new Zdac has a volume control so it can drive a amplifier directly.
I found a benchmark dac 1 local for $425 but I think its going to be too bright for my tastes...
I purchased some older Monitor Audio 2.5 Golds yesterday and I think they might already be on the bright side. They're beautiful and in mint condition so I figured if I didn't like them I can flip them.
I'm looking into that constatine! Thx for that suggestion. It looks promising.
I'll also look into the bifrost some more. It looks like a quality piece.
My last dac was a z dac and I thought it was really nice. I liked it quite a bit. I'd like to try something different but I may end up buying another one anyways, just because I did like it. You can pick up the first version for $299 now...
Anyways, thanks for the replies! If anyone can think of some more let me know! I research any and all recommendations!
Okay, the Bifrost is lookin good!
A few questions. If I don't add the usb connection right now, that is something that can be added later, correct?
I would definitely want to do the uber upgrade right away but since I am not using usb, and have no plans to, that would be a waste for me at the moment.
Second question: should I go ahead and get the Schiit Sys preamp also? It's pretty inexpensive at $50 and it would match the Bifrost aesthetically. Could I beat it for $50-$100 with some other preamp? I'll probably get another Lightspeed Attenuator later when I have the funds simply because I had one before and really liked it.
I would consider the MHDT also but I can't find one for sale and I also think that Schiit might have customer service that's easier to access.
That ifi looks really cool also, but I don't understand what "True Native PCM768, Octa-Speed DSD512 and 2x DXD" is. Would any of that apply to me since my only source is a wadia 170i streaming spotify premium?
Also, could I use the ifi as a stand alone dac later if I wanted to upgrade and go with a different preamp. Is the ifi compatible with a Lightspeed attenuator?
Thanks again everyone for steering my straight on all of this!
The USB module for the Bifrost can be added. However, if I were not in need of USB I wouldnt be concerned. I like the idea of using a USB/SPDIF converter. There are are many on the market and improving. I have the SCHiit SYS. It seems to work well driving a B&K amp for a 2nd system. For $56 delivered not a great risk.
Gustard x12 dac might be worth looking into. It can be purchased for under $600 new with shipping included and a 14 day money back guarantee from Vintage Audio Lab on Ebay.
I bought the Gustard u12 usb/spdif converter and it has make the biggest difference in my SQ with Jadis and Art Audio amps and Audio Note dac.
Gustard is coming out with their "flagship dac", the X20 pretty soon, so I am very curious to hear the reviews on it.
Here is some copy from an Ebay ad for the X12
Gustard X12 ES9018 Sabre Asynchronous 32bit 192K USB DAC with XLR Balanced Output
2015 new version with DSDx64(2.8224MHz) DSDx128(5.6448MHz) support --- through USB port and DOP64 through Coaxial RCA/ AES and Toslink Posts
ESS Technology Sabre Reference 32bit ES9018 is best performance dac chip on market. This chip is not a audio friendly chip which will product very aggressive analytic sound on optimised circuit design. So it is quite a challenge chip for dac designer. This is most musical es9018 based dac we ever heard. You will like its ultra transparent, high resolution and vivid analog sound which is quite close to high quality vinyl record.
1. Update version ESS Technology Sabre Reference 32bit ES9018S (new version) dac chip
2. Two sealed high grade transformer deployed, one for digital, another for analog circuit.
3. XMOS X-CORE 32bit USB receiver chip which is best performance asynchronous USB audio solution.
4. Discrete transistor based balanced analog output stage for extended dynamic and analog sound
5. Precision 100 steps digital volume control; from 0db to 99 db attenuation, 1 db per step
6. Vishay round SMD precision resistors and carefully chosen parts for best sound performance.
7. Professional circuit layout to get best circuit stability and great performance.
8. Aluminium housing, hair skin surface procession.
9. Digital Input: balanced Spdif AES/EBU port, RCA, Toslink Optical input and USB
10. Analog Output: balanced analog output via XLR port, single ended output via RCA port.
11. Dimension: 190 x 70 x 313 mm (W x H x D)
12. Both 110/120v and 220/240v version supported.
Digital Input Format Support：
PCM：16-24bit /44.1、48、88.2、96、176.4、192 kHz
PCM:16-24bit /44.1、48、88.2、96、176.4、192 kHz
PCM:16-24bit /44.1、48、88.2、96、176.4、192 kHz
PCM:16-32bit /44.1、48、88.2、96、176.4、192 、352.8、384kHz
USB： 16-32bit / 44.1、48、88.2、96、176.4、192、352.8、384 kHz
RCA Output ：2.5 Vrms @0dBFS
XLR Output ：5 Vrms @0dBFS (XLR format：1: Ground 、2: Hot、3: Cool)
Frequency ：20-20K Hz +/-0.15dB
Update driver for Windows XP/Vista/7/8 can be download here:
Mac OS X 10.6.4 or newer version do not need external driver, just plug and play.
DSD Plug-in downlod here:
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