Best significant upgrade? Dac? Preamp?


Hi guys!

Im hoping some of you with knowledge of my system can help me make a good decision about my next upgrade.
I would like a surprising and obvious difference not hard to spot subtle change.
From my research i think the next move should be the Dac.
I would like to explore DSD,i have some SACDs now.
my system:
Mark Levinson 320s preamp
(Would i see a difference with a ML no.52?) I am also looking at the no.52 ,would i see a big difference compared to the 320s? Worth the extra $$ ?
interconnects: Acoustic Research master series silver high definition RG6
ML 431 amp
XLR: +bo ? +ba ? Only info on them

Wilson Audio Watt Puppy 5.1 speakers (serie 7 tweeters) +transparent music wave plus cables
Arcam rdac (wifi) with Teddy Pardo power supply.
Running on mac air (usb) ,Tidal HIFI
(i currently listen most of the time to this vs rarely SACD).
Thanks!



Convert?fit=crop&h=128&rotate=exif&w=128nicsaudio
The PS Audio Direct Stream DAC is supposed to be amazing.  I have the previous incarnation, the Perfect Wave DAC mk II and it is outstanding. From what I am told, the DSD version is a significant upgrade.  Either of these units is a big step up from the Arcam model you have now.
Without question a dac upgrade.  I also don't see any reference to ac power isolation/conditioning. Any?
How much are you interested in spending? (I have no industry affiliations :) Pete
Get a tube amplifier. Something like a VAC 300.1 or VAC Phi 200. Or perhaps one of the big boys from VTL or BAT.
I know PS Audio ,nice design and i heard good reviews,will look into that!

I must have looked at DACs for at least 10 hours and its getting confusing as to what i should buy.  :-/
Its a risky investment due to high purchase price and quick depreciation because of technologie advances.

Should get a TUBE to warm up my sound a bit?

Budget around $1000-$1500 looking for a deal worth more since i tend to be able to keep a few years and sale at purchase price without losing.

I have a Monster 3600 MK II power filter.
How important is it to pay more? 
I always thought my power filter was doing a good enough job.



I meant "get a TUBE DAC*"
Concerning DACs inhave seen good reviews on Lampi and Chord but they are really expensive !
I'm Cleary biased since I now sell PS audio gear, but the new torreys operating system that is in beta right now takes the DS dac to another new even higher level.  The direct stream Jr is lower cost and uses the same OS.    
I also agree power conditioning makes a huge difference.    I'll make a post about the new one from audioquest I just got in. 
 The previous incarnation of the PS audio top-of-the-line DAC doesn't do DSD, but it is an amazing performer. And it is in your price range. I recommend looking at the perfect wave DAC Mark two, wIth bridge Mark two if you can find it. If not you can always  upgrade the bridge directly through PS audio.   Best of all, with this type of investment which is already greatly depreciated, you can sell it for nearly what you paid for it if you decide to move on. The other option for you in the future is to upgrade this unit for the newer DSD model by replacing the internals which are available  from PS audio. 
I would say room treatment. 50% of the sound is room acoustics. GIK polyfusors are very effective at absorbing some bass and also diffusing mids and highs. 4 of those in a room can do wonders.
I second the motion to spend money on room acoustics before spending more on equipment. It is 50% of SQ. You can find used ASC tube traps from time to time on eBay, or try locally. I treated my room and it was a significant upgrade. Now that my room is fixed, I am able to evaluate more accurately the effects of equipment upgrades.
Dac first for sure. So many good designs now and changing fast. Really like the moon products and much better output stage than the ps audio dac. With the mind option you can stream tidal etc. Very nice dacs from meridian as well. At your price point you may want to look at on-line companies which are making some excellent dacs-myteck (sp?) etc.
Can't argue w/ (carefully chosen and especially bass-trap type) room treatments, but I also agree that the right Dac can make a bigger improvement than you might expect.  For me, upgrading to a Schiit Gungnir Multibit (upgrading from a Stereophile A+ rated dac, by the way) made a surprising improvement in terms of overall listening enjoyment, and is arguably the new MVP in a system where some individual components are 5x its cost.  No DSD on this one though. It is warm enough that I would suggest trying it first before adding tubes to the system.  

Also upgrading a usb source from an (albeit older) mac mini to an Auralic Aries mini provided a surprising improvement and high ROI IMO. 
 
  
C_S, is your USB input on your DAC asynchronous?  Auralic doesn't have USB out if I remember correctly, wondering why going Digital USB from the Mini to Digital coax/toshlink from the Auralic would make such a difference.  Thanks
To paraphrase Bill Clinton, "It's the room, stupid". If you love your speakers, working on room acoustics & setup will give you the most dramatic improvement. Cheers,
Spencer
Hi johnziomas, the Gungnir dac has async USB and the  Auralic Aries Mini has a usb dac out.  The Aries Mini usb out is significantly better than both my (c. 2008) mac mini usb out and sonos coax out (which sounded quite different from each other, btw)  To me it just sounds more like music: less harsh, more tonally balanced , more detailed and with better layering and imaging.  Even my wife noted the improvement (fairly rare) As to why, I can only speculate. I only thought to try it because of the interest around this sort of thing on the forums (computer audiophile, DAR, etc)  At any rate it solved some long standing issues that I'd been trying to address through preamps, DACs, cabling, tubes, etc., wish I would've looked into it sooner.        
thanks for the feedback, contemplating between mini, auralic, and Bluesound..
@c_s Your comments echo my experiences after moving to a Schiit Gungnir Multibit DAC. I also found that moving from a MacMini as music server to a dedicated audio streamer/renderer (in my case Sonore microRendu) adds another big improvement.

Digital audio is much closer to top analog than ever IMHO. These changes have taken me from 90%/10% analog listening a few years ago to more like 60%/40% now. I can finally listen to digital and not be reminded that I am listening to digital. That is a big breakthrough for me. Cheers,
Spencer
I switched over to analog for my critical listening about a year ago, so I'm satisfied with the DAC in my Classe Sigma SSP for my casual (i.e., multitasking) digital listening. But were I looking to upgrade the digital side of my system today I'd seriously look at products that support MQA.  As I'm not looking to upgrade that side, I haven't taken the time to verify the "game changer" claims I've read in many reviews of MQA and supporting DACs, but I'd certainly look into it.
First of all the emotion is inside the music. You need to create an audio set that reveals all the emotion of the music.

Emotion is being created by diversity in the middle frequencies. And diversity in dynamics and volume.

When you use a dac with tubes you will not get more emotion out of the music.

Because a tube colours the ’real’ sound.

These days most dacs use USB. When you talk to the people who developed the dacs many will say; USB is not ideal for audio.

And you know why? You loose dynamics and you will loose diversity in the middle freq. Here you find the most important part to create emotion by us human beings.

When we audition a dac you often hear that the middle frequencies almost have the same kind of sound. Like there is almost no diversity in sound.

This is why techinacal people try to find a much better solution to create a better transport of 0/1 with a dac. But this time with more diversity in the middle frequencies.

When I explain my story about emotion to my clients and I give a shootout between a Lumin and a separate dac people directly choose for the Lumin. And it is even clear why the separate dac plays music with less emotion.

I listen for about 5-6 hours to new music each week. I buy for about 250 dollar new music each month. I buy 44.1 till 192 khz 24 bit and also DSD.

The format had influence on the recording, but still how the recording is done and with what kind of equipment is still more importan than the format.

That is why a new format like MQA wil not make music that much better. Because an average recording will sound average on any format.

Each person will always choose for the most involving and emotional sound. And that is why I would advice a networkplayer with an inbuild dac and not a separate one. Because it had a more complete and involving sound.