Best USB DAC for 1000-1500?

I'm looking for input on which USB DACs to look at for 1000-1500 used. This would be a present for a relative who is currently using a budget Scott Nixon Chibi 2 in his rig. I was thinking a Wavelength Brick but any other DACs to consider? Thanks
Without question or reservation I recommend the dbaudioblabs Tranquility USB DAC or the Tranquility SE USB DAC. Both have midrange's to die for. You can see excellent reviews of these DAC's by searching Audiogon chat

It's not just the DAC that matters, however. A good power cord and good USB cable are important as well. I suggest with the Tranquility a Ridge Street Audio Poiema!!! USB cable. dbaudiolabs has a very good Essential SE cable as well.

I also strongly suggest that it's coupled with a MacMini computer. 2007-2008 (aka 2,1) Minis are good, but the better way to go is the 2010 Mac Mini. A good peripheral firewire hard drive is important. I suggest a look at the Oyen Minipro 750 GB or 1 TB using the bus for power.

Give Eric Hider a call at dbaudiolabs. I've found him to be most interested in constructive customer service and advice and not just a bunch of sales hype. His experience and breadth of knowledge is very helpful.

I have to tell you that I wouldn't be contributing to this thread about the Tranquility DACs if I wasn't totally and completely pleased in all respects.

:) listening,


For whatever reason Wavelength DACs don't get a lot of talk here. Don't know why, as the guy behind it and the technology he developed are highly respected here. The Brick is probably a good choice. You know this is USB input only, correct? It is asynchronous USB input, which is quite important (vs. just USB).

Another good candidate would be Wyred4Sound DAC1 (I beleive $1000) or DAC2 ($1500). The DAC2 has a built in preamp too, and a host of inputs beyond asynch USB. Very well reviewed.

The Tranquility gets very good comments here, albeit always from the same few people. The manufacturer discloses no info about he's doing, so can't comment. I have not heard this unit. I know it has only USB input, but I don't know if it's asynch.

I hope this helps.
HRT Streamer is inexpensive and great. Asynch USB. I'm not using special cables, and it sounds great. I haven't compared with any of the more expensive brands, but I'm not compelled to either.
I have a WL Brick V3 that I use with a 2010 MacMini. Initially was less than happy using the combo in a big room and with small speakers (severe digititis). In its present setting and adding Pure Music and a good quality IC, I'm very happy. In order of increasing quality would rank Squeezebox Touch < Bryston BCP < MacMini/Brick < VPI Scout. It "only" goes to 24/96 (which covers everything I have so far). It also "only" does USB. OTOH It was simple to setup and is completely hassle-free to operate.
Interesting commentary on the Brick V3. My relative has a simple system consisting of Almarro 205a and Omega Super 5 XRS paired with the Scott Nixon DAC. He had a tight budget so he skimped a bit on the source but his system sounds really good for the money. Due to WAF issues he won't be able to upgrade to larger speakers and he doesn't own any vinyl so I figure the logical upgrade is a better DAC.
I haven't heard the Wavelength Brick but I own the Wavelength Proton and love it, I'm sure the Brick is even nicer.

I've also gotten to audition the Ayre QB-9 which also uses the Wavelength Asynchrous technology and was blown away. You may be able to pick up the Ayre used on the high end of your budget, but I'm not sure what they normally go for.
Another HUGE thumbs-up for the Tranquility DACs. I was so impressed with the original Tranquility that I upgraded to the SE. I recently bought the Ayre QB-9, just to compare it to the Tranquility SE. The QB-9 is a very impressive DAC, very detailed and accurate, but both my wife and I found that the Tranquility was more "musical". I really wanted to prefer the Ayre, due to its ability to handle hi-rez files, but the Mac Mini / Tranquility combo is just stellar.
I ended up buying a used Tranquility (non SE) after reading the lengthy thread on Audiocircle about it. Before I gift it to my relative I want to compare it in my system to my RAM modified XA9000es. That could be a big mistake on my part :) At any rate, I hope that this will be a huge step up sonically from his current Chibi 2 DAC.
Latinsamba1, if you really want to get the best sound out of the Tranquility, try using the latest Mac Mini for server with Pure Music or Fidelia. I have the latter, and it is noticeably better than iTunes.