Audio Note Kits 2.1. They will sell you an assembled one for that price. (less actually)
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Check out the Chord QuteEX and the new Chord Hugo. The Hugo is meant to be a portable device, but Chord is calling it a Reference Product, which means a lot for them to say, just a portable DAC. They basically put their $25,000 DAC that was under development into a portable product. It is just shipping but there are a lot of very favorable comments out there. There is a long thread on Head HiFi about the Hugo, since it is a portable device. The QuteHD is also very good if you do not need 2x DSD or 384KHz. Chord does not use a commercial DAC chip but rather they do there own coding for the conversions. That gives them a lot more flexibility than most manufacturers. And, it seems to be producing excellent products.
Analog-sounding is over used term in audio and does not necessarily mean better or that you'll like. You just must try before you buy (from manufacturer with fair return policy) with your gear in your listening space. Relying upon online opinions while sometimes helpful is risky to base purchase on.
J_fav, I see you went with Genesis speakers over Vapor Audio finally but picked up the BMC DAC from I'm guessing Ryan at Vapor? I think that was a smart choice :)
Those Revel Salon 2's you had prior to the Genesis 5.2's were pretty sweet too!
FWIW, I also like the BMC products and the sound from Audio Note is anything but old.
The Octave MkII recommended above is very musical and if you can swing just a bit more, I have been very happy with their higher end model the HEX, which has an internally powered (not BUS powered) asynchronous USB input, better power supply, and is fully balanced. If you call around and push a little you should be able to find one at just over $3K new.
The BMC sounds interesting. Has anyone tried it directly into the amp via it's preamp function? The Chord Hugo is also intriguing considering it's raved about sound and MAC and iWhatever friendliness. They're both about the same price too.
Given I'm just looking to use this for a dedicated 2 channel rig might the BMC be the better choice given no power chord on the Hugo?
I second Dtc's recommendation for the Chord. I own the Qute HD with Teddy Pardo power supply and I love it. Previously had a Wyred DAC 2 (not the SE upgraded version, so that is probably worth a look as well -- Wyred folks are great to deal with). When I bought the DAC2, I liked it better than the Benchmark in my system. But the Qute was the largest upgrade (next to speakers) in my system (especially for redbook CD). And as Dtc mentioned, the Hugo is supposed to be better than the Qute in every way.
isn't the Bel Canto 2.5 in that price range? if it's a bit more, I'd say it's worth it.
I'd not overlook what the BC line up offers prior to pulling my wallet out.
. excellent audio and versatility lay in the entire point 5 line up. Even if nothing else is later added on like one of their USB links, or some other brand USB link..
IÂve heard a number of DAC along the way, and BC is definitely worth looking into if the sound is what really matters.
I have a Wyred4Sound DAC-2 that I am about to send in for the SE upgrade, that includes the femto clock and other component improvements. I will post a review when it is back and I've had a chance to listen. $1299 plus shipping one way. I am already very happy with this DAC so I am very interested to see where this will take it.
The Qute DAC with an upgrade linear supply and the Short-Block is very good indeed. I think it beats most DACs for HF detail rendering, even more expensive ones. The bass and dynamics are not the best however. I tried it with my Dynamo Hynes-based power supply and the Short-Block USB filter. Both improved things about equally. With these two I think it is the winner at that price point.