In my direct experience you cannot go wrong with an MHDT Havana in that price range. Stupendous for the money. That said, there's a ton of stuff out there that are worth of consideration. For a bit less money the MHDT Paradisea+ doesn't give up that much to the Havana and has slightly smoother midrange but at the expense of some low end impact. My personal experience with two units would have me steer way clear of Benchmark, but that's a matter of taste. Cullen is doing some interesting mods to that PS Audio unit that are well reviewed. VALAB, another inexpensive DAC from the far east is another good candidate getting really good feedback from users. TADAC has quite a following. April Music's Stello 100 and 200. Plenty of choices...probably various different flavors.
I've auditioned the Music Hall (and the Cambridge DACMagic FWIW) and IMVHO they are both very trounced by the Apogee Mini-DAC. A wee tad over budget but can be found second hand for less. Yes, very even-sounding, a tad on the warm side of neutral, detailed but not dry.
I have the MHDT Paradisea + and the Cambridge DAC magic. They are both great sounding DACs. I think the Paradisea + is a bit better but it has a tube if that bugs you. I leave mine on all the time and the tube is supposed to last 8000 hours. The DAC magic is not quite as transparent but still sounds great and offers 3 inputs switchable from the front.
Compared to CD players and some very expensive ones at that both these DACs are as good as sounding as anything I've heard. I'd be interested to listen to a few more in this price range.
For what it's worth I think both these sounded better than the Wavelength Cosencant which is pretty good but no way worth that kind of money and I also had the Ultra Fi musicstream which was horrible in my opinion as well as had the worst customer service and experience I've ever had in hifi.
Some interesting ideas here, thanks. The Havana sounds very interesting...the tubes don't bother me in the least. However, does the Havana only have a 16bit DAC?
Has anyone put the Cambridge DAC magic against the 840C?
Anyone play with the PS Audio?
Yes, the Havana is an NOS DAC (it does not upsample or oversample). Lavry would be another candidate as well.
Another option is the Super Pro 707 DAC. I would recommend doing the modification to it to to bypass all passive components that act like filters and buffers by coming directly off the DAC chip.
This little DAC (the size of a cigarette pack) with the modification is outstanding.
cayin, better sound, value.
I recently had a chance to hear what I consider the best (USB) DAC compared to a more expensive AMR and others. The Tranquility USB DAC even beat my modified JAS Musik 1.2. Its noise floor and clarity plus its sustain and decay, which was more like analog, were top notch. I'm getting one after the 1st of the yr and selling my CDP.
Great responses. THANKS!
Considering that I used to have a CAL Alpha and am using the PS Audio as my base comparison, I have a lot of homework to do. I'll keep you folks posted.
I will toss in my recomendation: audition an April Music Stello DA100 Signature. The MSRP fits your budget and I have found it a very musical DAC for a committed analog guy.
I am very interested in the MHDT Havana or Paradisea+
for a music server I am planning.
Has anyone compared these 2 MHDT DACs using Glass
Toslink vs USB? I ask because I am either going with
a MacMini or an AppleTV. The AppleTV is my first
choice but it only has Toslink. If USB sounds better than
Toslink on the MHDT DACs, then I will end up getting
the MacMini which is able to stream digital over the
Has anyone compared these 2 MHDT DACs using Glass
Toslink vs USB?
I've done some comparisons. The SPDIF options are clearly superior on the Paradisea + that I recently sold, offering a better soundstage and image specificity. I haven't tried the same on a Havana, but have compared Havana to Paradisea using SPDIF. I'd say the Havana had superior extension at both ends, while I thought he Paradisea had a slightly smoother midrange. Overall, the extension was enough to make the Havana a clear choice to my ears, but I would not kick the Paradisea out of bed either. They are both fine DACs for the money. The Havana also gives you the option of rolling opamps for a slightly different sound. You'll have to hit someone else up on experience there as I have none. I'd definitely go for the SPDIF, unless the Havana converts USB straight to I2s.
Has everything you need, and more. Most likely under a year old. Superior to any of the lower priced dacs.
The AppleTV only has Toslink for Digital out and the
MacMini has both USB and Toslink. Neither have coax SPDIF.
So it looks like Toslink and USB are my only choices.
Do you have any impressions comparing Toslink vs USB
Toslink is a SPDIF interface. In the case of the Paradisea I was using Toslink as the basis of comparing between the USB connection to the computer (I did also try a coaxial connection). I preferred the coaxial and the toslink connection in that order, over the USB interface.
Why have you ruled out using Firewire and checking out something like an Apogee Duet? Hell, if you have the space for a MOTU 896HD it'll both record and output 24/192. My needledrops sound amazing.
Thanks for the explanation Jax2.. I'll be on the
watch for a used Havana DAC.