Rega and Bel Canto dealer here*********
I would suggest that you take a listen to the Rega DAC. Matches up quite well with the Apollo.
Also, since you are familiar with Bel Canto, I would also suggest the DAC1.5 (or if you want to spend a little more $$, then the DAC2.5).
The DAC inside the Rega Apollo is pretty good. I also use a Beresford DAC/ Headphone Amp with the Rega Apollo and prefer how the Apollo sounds by itself.
I have a Rega Apollo and just added the Audio Research DAC7. Adding the DAC7 to my system was significant. I don't know if the Apollo is that bad or the DAC7 is that good, but the soundstage, low end, and any other audiophile term you would like to throw in has been improved. I want to compare my Apollo to a dedicated transport to see if I can hear any differences. I will let you know.
Just curious ... what made you add a $3500 DAC to a $1000 cd player? For those dollars, I would expect a significant change ... but do you feel you now have the equivalent of a $5k unit
I don't have an Apollo,but my experience with an Arcam CD72 has been that whether I've used a PS Audio Digi Link 3, Stello DA220MK2, or Audio Note 1.1 DAC, and then the Arcam as a transport that they all added better presence, dynamics, soundstage, etc. (Using the Stello presently with it).
(In my main system I use a Blue Circle BC509 DAC and Stello CDT 100 transport)
I didn't pay $3500 for the DAC7. I do everything in stages and after much discussion with my dealer, based on what I wanted to spend, my current equipment, and what my weakest link was, the DAC7 was the best option(didn't want to spend 5K on DAC8). In the future I plan on comparing the Apollo to different transports. If I can hear a difference with-in my price range I will sell the Apollo.
I don't know if it's equivalent to a 5K unit, because I haven't compared the two. I know adding the DAC7 more than served its purpose and provided me the flexibility to try PC audio.
I know you may of heard this before
But I would get your speakers off the Roller wheels level and spike your speakers first.
Something better in a Transport /dac may not register
as better with you until this takes place.
Your system set up this way will continue to blur the transients.
By doing this your whole systems clarity will suffer.
The pictures of my system were taken when I first received the Sophia IIIs. I removed the rollers and spiked them after they were set-up.
I owned the Apollo for about 3 years. Never heard any brightness with it personally. Not that I doubt your ears/findings, just saying mine are/were different. I used a Bryston B60 and Audio Physic Yara Evolution Bookshelves with the Apollo. With that being said...
The DACs you mention are downgrades IMO. The V-DAC can't compete with the Apollo in any way. Then again, it's a $300 DAC compared to a $1k CDP, so it's really not fair to either component to compare them. Haven't heard the M-1, but Musical Fidelity's house sound is pretty far from Rega's IMO.
I haven't heard any of the rest of your system, so I can't speak of synergy nor what may be giving you some brightness. It may also be the room?
If you like what the Apollo is doing but want to take that up a level or two, the Rega DAC is a great choice. It does everything the Apollo does, only a great deal better to my ears. The only thing I had to adjust my ears to was the soundstage became a little more pushed back. It's bigger and deeper, but it's not as close. That may be a good thing in your system. In mine, it was just a change.
The Rega DAC sounds warmer and fuller than my Apollo did. In every way, to my ears the DAC is far better. The sound is on par with the Saturn. Not necessarily better than the Saturn, just a bit different. People have commented it sounds more along the lines of the Jupiter than the Saturn. Haven't heard the Jupiter in z very long time, and haven't heard the Saturn and DAC side by side to give an honest assessment of that statement.
To connect the Apollo to any DAC, UAE the coax (RCA) digital out. Toslink (aka optical) can sound very good if you're using a glass cable, but my experience with the Apollo told my ears that the coax out was a good bit better. That'll probably depend on the DAC as well. I didn't try my Apollo with the Rega DAC, but had auditioned several others (including the V-DAC) with it.
Thank you to all who have responded. The comments and advice are useful. I mentioned the Musical Fidelity V-DAC and the more expensive M-I based on the budget level of the first, and initial very good reviews of the second
Because of a recent splurge of upgrade spending, I am trying to limit the DAC expennse to about $500....used or new?? I don't know the DAC field well enough to refine my search. According to an internet dealer, Peachtree is supposed to introduce a $450 DAC that will outperform the new Rega and MF.....but in the audio business,such claims are like the perennial joke about "fish stories"
I wish someone would manufacturer a simple DAC, without USB or other computer file related features. I don't need them, or would use them, but the audio business too often designs for overkill application. Jim
Half of the people complain when a product doesn't have every feature. The other half want a stripped down product that has only what they need. I'm pretty sure most people will buy a product that sounds good and has some features that they won't use. Very few will buy a product that doesn't have the features they feel they need.
Manufacturers can't limit their market, especially in today's market.
I'd be a bit hesitant about Peachtree. Their products haven't been the most reliable by any means. The company is reportedly very good with repairs, but it's been having stuff that has been defective several times turns a lot of people off. I haven't owned Peachtree stuff, just going by people's reports here and a few other forums. I've heard Peachtree gear and while it has been quite good, it doesn't compare to the level of gear you have IMO. I wouldn't buy into the latest fad. If you can get an in-home trial without risk, maybe give their gear a shot. My ears tell me Peachtree is good, but not as great as they've been made out to be.
People point to the ESS Sabre chips a bit too much IMO. They're great chips, but there's far more to a DAC than the chip. Power supplies and output stages have a very big impact on the final sound, as I've learned from a few older DACs that shouldn't be able to compete with the latest DACs with current chips. Yet my decade old Theta Cobalt DAC outperformed every sub $500 current DAC on the market in my system. The only logical reason I've come up with is the Theta's power supply and output stages are far better.
Just my opinions. They've spurred some controversy here in the past!