Budget DAC

On Wednesday I will receive my pair of Vandersteen 1C loudspeakers. As that I am building this system piece by piece I purchased those first and as a temporary amp solution I've purchased an old NAD 3140 integrated amp to drive them while I look for an amp and save money.

Temporarily I'm forced to use a headphone jack to RCA cable to get audio from my TV as that it's only output is an SPDIF coax, and the Apple TV only has optical out. I'm pretty unhappy with this temporary solution, as you can imagine.

I intend to eventually move into a tube amp within the next few months; probably a Jolida, Yaqin, or Dynaco ST-70. Either way I'll need a DAC for output from my AppleTV, TV, and Macbook Pro.

I'm looking for a solid DAC that will provide me the following things: SPDIF coaxial input, optical input, USB input, and the best possible decode rate I can get for my money. I'd like something that looks good (if possible) and is <$300 (or thereabouts, lower is better). I am open to used equipment, and I'd love to go used to find something that gets me more bang for my buck.

I've been looking at the Peachtree Audio DACiT, Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 100, Music Hall DAC15.2, all of which can be had around $300... but I'm sure I'm missing some options.

Arcam RDAC
Parasound ZDAC with Asynchronous on all inputs. Zdac may not be the richest looking kid in class but, with its newest features and the sound it conveys, it’s one of the smarter ones and is possible to find a used one for around $300.
Parasound ZDAC

I did find one for $249 on some discount audio site that claims to have a full warranty. It's definitely something to consider. I'll start reading reviews.
You might be able to find a used Schitt BiFrost for around that budget.

Excellent unit.
I've also been looking at Schitt BitFrosts.

There's one on here without the USB and I'm pretty sure the USB is the least likely port for me to use because I'll be using an Apple TV with iTunes as my media server for most everything. I'm ripping all my old CDs to Apple Lossless as we speak.

Excellent suggestion.
Greatwhitebat, Apple TV converts 44.1kHz to 48kHz (native HD format) loosing sound quality on the conversion. Read this:


You have other options - one of them is Airport Express. It has horrible jitter artifacts if you use analog outputs but decent 258ps peak-peak jitter with Toslink out. This jitter would still be audible (it is audible above 50ps peak-peak), hence you need reclocker with it. Steve Nudgent highly recommends Sonos. Either way, I would buy reclocker (he makes one) because it is good thing to have, and would replace Apple TV, possibly with Sonos. Rate conversion can be done nicely (my Benchmark DAC1 does it) but Apple TV implementation produces loss of audio quality.
Greatwhitebat, Apple TV converts 44.1kHz to 48kHz (native HD format) loosing sound quality on the conversion. Read this...

This appears to only be the case when you are using airplay.
I the only time I use airplay is when someone else is at my house and I don't have the music they want to play in my home sharing library. On those occasions I really don't care enough to spend more than I would spend on any other single piece in this fairly low budget system on a re-clocking doowhacky. I'll read up more on this, but I feel like this is likely a non-issue for me.

Arcam RDAC

A nice suggestion for sure. I kept looking at the irDAC and it's out of my range.
TEAC DACs are worth a look
Peachtree DACit is very good, esp. on acoustic music , might be a bit smooth for a hard-core rocker though.
I am using the DACit in my 'polite listening' system between an Apple TV and a pair of NAD 214 amps vertically bi-amped to Kef C300 bookshelf speakers.

I stream exclusively through MOG, TBD what service I will use after MOG sunsets at the end of the month.

The DACit performs admirably. Certainly better, IMHO, than the only other similarly priced DAC I've tried, the Cambridge DACMagic.
Well I just ordered a silver Parasound Zdac from Audioadvisor.com for $299.00 shipped. I would have picked up a Dacitx if I could find it for the same price since I am using USB. From what I read, the standard Dacit USB is not very good.