Best DACs under $7,000.00

I'm tentatively beginning the search for a DAC upgrade.  Currently, I have Innuos Zen MK3 as a streamer connected via USB to a Denafrips Iris DDC that is connected via I2S to a Denafrips Pontus II DAC.  The Pontus II is excellent but I feel it's the one point where I could gain incremental improvement toward that illusive natural, layered, analog end-of-the-rainbow.  I simply can't / won't spend above $5,000.00 - $7,000.00 on the DAC. The rest of my system:  top-of-line Prima Luna Evo 400 Integrated Amp and a set of Harbeth speakers.  Right now, I'm looking at Denafrips Terminator II or Holo Audio May DAC.  I've never seen an a/b comparison of these two, but both stand out and have a following.  Of course, the unsettling thing is DACs have evolved so much and are still in a blooming state technologically, making it a given that whatever we have today will probably be surpassed by better for less later, like electric vehicles. But that's the nature of the beast.  Does anyone have alternative suggestions in this current climate?


I'm very pleased with my Bricasti M1 SE MDX with network card. Purchased used it's within your price range. Also serves as a network player, can't say how it compares to the Innuos. 

Another vote for Aqua La Scala Optologic, especially if you can score a pair of NOS Telefunken tubes. 

Check out the T+A DAC 200, which retails at $6900.

I am an authorized T+A dealer but have owned T+A for years prior to becoming a dealer. I personally own T+A’s $38.5K reference DAC but also have the DAC 200 on my floor. I prefer the DAC 200 to many higher priced DAC’s like the Mola Mola Tambaqui, which which I’ve done direct comparisons. The Mola Mola is more analytical and clinical in delivery, where the T+A DAC 200 has the same level of detail and separation but with more tonal richness and gravitas in delivery. The T+A  DAC 200 also has separate DACs, up to 32-bit 768Khz PCM and 1-bit DSD 1024.

Great review by The Computer Audiophile on Audiophile Style, just came out:


If you are in the Tri-state area contact us for a demonstration on DACs, etc.  I think you will find things are not equal in DAC land.

If you like the Pontus' performance, moving up to a Terminator Plus makes a lot of sense. I went from a Venus II to a Terminator Plus because I really liked the Venus, but wanted more of everything. The Terminator Plus delivered that.


For what it's worth.