Best used or new DAC under $3500

What would be the best DAC for under $3500, new or used? I currently use the Chord Dave and I LOVE it. However, I'm looking to downgrade to save some dough. Some reference points:

1) Yggdrasil:  Sold it as the staging was too narrow/flat and it seemed a little lifeless
2) Ayre QB-9 DSD: Feel its a bit too bright/tizzy - at this point I'm done trying Sabre DACs.

Can anyone recommend a DAC that is not a mainstream sabre chip based DAC? I dont mind it if its an older generation or vintage DAC either - Just something I can get for under $3500. I don't want a discussion to defend Sabre DACs please.


Go to they have some dacs for sale
Weiss DAC202

No Sabre DACs for me :)

Go to they have some dacs for sale

Got any suggestions on what is the best?

I have no idea if they’re the best, but border patrol dac and altmann attraction are way under 3500, not Sabre, and sound great. 
I have no idea if they’re the best, but border patrol dac and altmann attraction are way under 3500, not Sabre, and sound great. 
Exogal Comet Plus
If you buy s Lumin d1 player it uses Dual Wolfson best dacs 
Mojo make a a Great 12 volt external power supply for around $2700 you have s setup thst will best dacs 3z-4 x thst ,no B.S.. 
Mojo audio even gives you 40 days to prove just how good his Linear 12v Linear dupply is, or money back. 
I tried several lesser power supplies. 
Exogal DAC chip is PCM4104, which is delta-sigma.
But regardless of it they have proprietary DSP prior to it, and it is a very, very good DAC, expecially at used prices.
I briefly had it - and it was better then OPPO-105, but lost greatly to AYON CD-5 (with 4 1704 chips in differential mode and spectacular 6H30 balanced analog stage with tube rectification). I got AYON used at the price  lower then your limit. But it does not support DSD and USB input is crap (not like I care but some people do).
1) Yggdrasil: Sold it as the staging was too narrow/flat and it seemed a little lifeless
As I've read on head-fi in such an instance, "you’ve made someone else very happy"!

can you not get into the ladder DAC's at that price range they seem to be the best for organic sound. some one may be able to chime in here.

 no chip is the best chip.  ;-)

check out AudioStream  ( Digital web site related to Stereophile) so much info on DAC's(digital in general)  and many many reviews.

+1 for the AudioNote DAC's they are fantastic..

I am a month into enjoying a Holo Spring level 3 DAC. In my system (Audio Research, Aurender and ProAc) this DAC has great 3D soundstage and detail without sounding overly bright and analytical. It has NOS and 3 oversampling features. Price-wise, it is well within your budget.
I really love the Audio Alchemy DDP-1

Amazing performance for the price 



Reports and owner feedback say that the Border Patrol DAC is exceptionally good sounding. As has been mentioned above used Audio Note DACs are highly regarded if you aren't bothered by tubes.
Hands down either the ps audio directstream with bridge II or the directstream jr. these compete with dacs many times the price. I have 1, the bridge puts the dac in another league 
Ayon CD5s which has excellent DAC and Preamp with asynchronous USB and analogue volume control. With tubed power and output, best sound that I have heard just more musical and dynamic. Selling nice one, just factory checked. PM for details
@gammajo CD5s is even better then CD5, from what I heard )),
Mikhaelkuz, Thank you. Yes a very good sound especially with NOS Russian Reflector tubes for the 6H30's. It seems to have more life, natural liquidity, dynamics and microdetail, while being just as transparent  and quiet as the upper end solid state designs.
QB9 uses Burr-Brown, no? Codex uses Sabre.

Like said above, how about Hugo TT or the new Qutest?

Otherwise Metrum Onyx/Jade or Audial Model S USB

Another great DAC you might find used is the Resolution Audio Cantata.
Metrum Pavane level 1 used
Metrum Onyx/Jade
Holo Audio Spring Kitsune Tuned Edition
PS Audio DSD used
Playback Designs Merlot used

The Ayon CD5s uses NOS Burr-Brown - nice chip
EMM Labs DCC2 / DAC6 - from my perspective, at their used prices, they really represent the knee of the cost / performance curve.  Can easily be found for $2.5k used.
DAC DAC,  Digital Audio Company
+2 Holo Spring, streamed to HQPlayer. HUGE soundstage via DSD.  


I would love to know the top 3 choices for solid-state and Tube Dacs for redbook purposes within the price listed in this thread. I'm partial to tubes but can swing either way when it comes down to musicality.



Look into the Border Patrol DAC SE . I think its organic and open/transparent character would appeal to you based on past and current systems/components you’ve had. A used Audio Note DAC 3.1 or used Concert Fidelity DAC (may be more expensive than 3500.00).  I believe you would like these as well.
i think the original Mytek Manhattan is a spectacular dac competitive with dacs up to 10k. Great build quality and excellent feature set. It was at least as musical in a trial with a much more expensive dac that is very popular and well regarded. In addition it can be updated if one feels the need to attain MkII status. FWIW
If you want just a dac and not willing to do any mod, the current best value/quality you like (dynamic w/ wide sound stage) below $3500  is gustard  x22.

However, i found the best purchase i made in past a few years is oppo 205. It is perfect as a network player, disk player, cd/Dvd player and best  dac under $$4000(after simple power supply mod) using balanced output. Every time i listning
 Four seasons in dsd128, i can not help waving with the rythem.  

This oppo 205 designe is what a highend digital frontend  suppose to be done, it makes use of lm Ic in i/van and buffer stage,which is better than those discret solid state design.

I can advise you how to mod 205 with minimum effort.


Thanks for all of your suggestions! I'm first going to try the Synchro-Mesh Reclocker on my modified Modwright Marantz SA 8005 Tube CD Player and from users responses I have read, this device could quash any desires for a Dac at the moment but we will see...

That could be the solution.  It so let us know your outcome.
+1 for PS Audio DSjr with Bridge II or PS Audio DS with Bridge II.  I have both of these DACs (and a Yiggy).  The DS with Bridge II is my current favorite.
Thanks for all the suggestions. Currently considering the following:

1) DirectStream with Bridge II
2) Holo Spring Level 3 Kitsune Edition

Has anyone compared these side by side?
I sold a Weiss DAC202 and an Auralic Vega for it.
My buddy sold his Weiss Medus for it.
It is the LessLoss Echos End ladder dac. The most natural and musical sounding digital reproduction I have ever heard ( or my buddy. And he's heard it all and has the means to buy anything. He's sticking with the LessLoss ).
While new it is a tad over your budget, used its within reach.
Good luck.
Cheers,                  Crazy Bill
@rsimon. That’s a lot of dacs!
How does the yggy compare to PS Audio DS dacs?
I have a yggy, but have been looking at PSAudio lately.
Jozurr?    When was the time you heard the Yggdrasil?

This is brand new news....
If you can find a PS Audio Direct Stream DAC for under 3K it is certainly good enough to present an amazing hologram with the right system and set up. I love mine....the PS Audio Perfect DAC II was also very musically pleasing (under 1500 used)....The Ayre Codex is also in the league but offers minimalist connections as does the QB 9 DSD...both Ayres can be found used under 1500. Benchmarks latest has been highly regarded as well.
Audio Research DAC8(released 2010) is a great sounding DAC. It’s good for 24/192. They don’t come up for sale often though. I own one and just ordered a second I lucked into from TMR Audio. The USB does not work well unless you have a 2012 Mac Mini(or older) with the correct driver AND OS X 10.9. And forget using it with Windows! I now use Bluesound Node 2s via coax and the sound is amazing. Expect to pay 1800-2400 if you can find one.

Curious on which of the three Dacs listed below are better since Benchmark utilizing something no other Dac use, inter-sampling:

- Yiggy
- Holo Springs
- Benchmark Dac3

A used Audio Note 3 series tube DACs  may be a good choice for you, and obtainable for your $3k budget. It has up to 96/192 rate and, to my ear, just sounds right.  
That Audio Note 3 is definitely on my radar but was curious on those Dacs based upon excellent reviews and lots of buz...

What other Dacs have you compared to your AN3? Just found this from a quick search on Audiogon:

I have spent a bunch of time with the PS Audio DirectStream Junior (DSJ) and have a review coming out soon. The only other DAC in this discussion that I’ve heard is the Chord Dave. With the latest software update (Redcloud), I believe the DSJ comes pretty close to the Dave. It is not as quiet and clean but at least via its Bridge II network interface, it is extremely natural, direct-sounding (free of digital haze) and musically satisfying. My previous reference DAC was the PCM1704-based Monarchy NM24 with tube output and upgraded caps and I/V resistor. The DSJ exceeds it in most every parameter except lower midrange richness, which is close but it’s hard to beat tubes. You can find some comments on the sound after the software update on my blog,
Hello, I have a chord qbd76hdsd that I purchased earlier this year because I didn't want to point up for a Dave. It's a great unit. PM if you're interested as I was looking to sell and possibly move up to a Dave. Says nothing negative about the qbd, I just love trying new gear
If you can snag an Aqua La Scala with the Optologic upgrade you'll be in tall cotton.
If you know you like Chord, why not the new Quetest?
Curious on which of the three Dacs listed below are better since Benchmark utilizing something no other Dac use, inter-sampling

Supposedly the Yggdrasil also uses something no other DAC uses: 

Yggdrasil is the *world’s only closed-form multibit DAC*, delivering 21 bits of resolution with no guessing anywhere in the digital or analog path. We’ve thrown out delta-sigma D/As and traditional digital filters to preserve the original samples all the way through from input to output