DAC for entry level system

I have an entry level system.
Speakers: Vienna acoustics Bach.
Plinius 8100 integrated amp.
Arcam CD72 player.
Logitech squeesbox touch.
I would like to buy a DAC to my system(prefer used to get more for the money), but I don’t know what price level of DAC will get me much better result compare to the internal DAC that I have now in the Arcam and the Logitec. Will(example of price groups) $179 HRT music steamer II will do it? Or $379 Musical fidelity V-DAC MKII, or $649 Simaudio 100D, or $995 Rega dac.
Had 3 of the DACS you list, HRT II, VDAC II and Rega. All were worthy performers. The best of those for me was probably the Rega. (I could not do head to head comparisons so take this with a grain of salt and from memory) You won't know which one is best in your setup until you hear it and compare to your current sound. Those 3 can be auditioned in your system and returned if they don't enhance the sound from your speakers.
I just got a 2 year old Rega with a year left on warranty for $550 online. So you can have one for much less if that is the route you want to take.

Still waiting for it in the mail. So cant say much about the Rega yet. It will be used with a Marantz CDP 5004 as a transport.

Sterophile has a review comparing V-Dac and Rega. The reviewer liked both said it depends on your system and preference.

The HRT streamers (top of line $375) has a review which says its amazing but you have to use extra USB power hubs to get the amazing results.

All have got a good bit of online press so there is a lot of research that can be done.
Foster_9, thank you for your input. I guess there is no short cut here, and I need to start to audition different level of DACs in my system.
Take a look at the ODAC sold at JDS Labs. There are a number of reviews on it, especially in the headphone forums. For the hefty price of $150 you won't be disappointed.
Take a look at the ODAC sold at JDS Labs. There are a number of reviews on it, especially in the headphone forums. For the hefty price of $150 you won't be disappointed.

Unless I'm mistaken, the ODAC is a USB DAC only.
Thank you Detredwings. I'm not familiar with the ODAC, and I'll read about it. At list it's good starting point due to the low price.
Thanks Darkstar1. It's interesting to read that the V-Dac was "competing" with the Rega that coasts more than twice.
I'll try to get few units and get a filling for what I should expect to get for different price level of DACs.
whatever dac you get suggest you get a decent digital cable between it and your transport - it will make a difference

Yes the ODAC only has a USB input. No frills, but the sound is good.


The HRT Streamer II+ is something I may also have to try.
It seems to me that you are looking for a DAC that will serve both the Arcam and the Squeesbox, and therefore looking for 2 SPDIF inputs. Is this true?
You right Mesch, although I hope to use the Squeesbox as the main source and not deal so much with CD's.
I am sorry that sterophile review was comparing Musical Fidelity M1 DAC to the Rega Dac not the $379 Musical fidelity V-DAC MKII.

The MF M1 DAC sells for $799.00. Much closer to the price of the Rega but still cheaper for people who want to buy new.

I just got my Rega and I still need time to really get a good grip of the dac as a whole.

First impressions so far this DAC leads me to believe that many of the reviews on the web are dead on. It has added some new details that my Marantz 5004 CDP missed ($350). Though clearly the added details are small.What it does do is add alot of body and fullness to music. Room filling body. It also throws a nice sound stage which is a big improvement over the Marantz on all recordings. Much less digital sound and the the way it presents music is nice and very cohesive. You can clearly hear voices and instruments yet they flow together instead of hearing things separate but don't seem to come together and make a song come together(Marantz).

I do think the bass is a little much. It does add bass that is not as tight. The bass was terrible with a cheap digital cord from Best Buy. A blue jeans cable has helped the bass and I guess a better cord would do more to help improve the bass. Note that I am in a small room which always held back my bass.
Since no one has mentioned it, I'll throw out the Emotiva XDA-2 DAC. I don't think that anyone will say that it's the best sounding DAC out there, but it does sound good and offers a lot of flexibility for the price tag of $400.

When I first got my XDA-1, I compared it to a few lower priced DACs such as the V-Dac, the little Arcam (can't remember the model) and one or two others. I sent them all back. Not because they necessarily sounded any worse, but because they weren't worth the sacrifice in flexibility.
I have the Cambridge Audio dacmagic and haven't heard anything that trumps it except the naim DAC, but I did a serious upgrade to the power supply.

Dacmagic 2 also doubles as a headphone amp and up samples to 24/384

Another good one is the schiit bifrost - well built, upgradable and built in America.

And finally there is the zdac, which has received good reviews, but I've never heard one (sadly)

Hope this helps
The problem for me has been to find a quality DAC that has 2 coaxial SPDIF inputs. I don't like using Toslink optical. As 'quality' is budget dependent, and given that you have a nice system , what are you willing to spend on a DAC? Are you willing to buy used?
Thank you all for you responds.
Mesch, I want to spend around $500(need to buy digital cable and power cord). Yes, I'm willing to buy used unit.
The Rega does have 2 coaxial inputs but would put you over bugets $50-130.

Another Dac that people suggested for me when I was the looking at the same price point used was the Parasound Z Dac. It has good reivews and you can buy new for $500.00 and try it out in house for 30 days through audio advisors.

I ended up going over my $500 budget by $70 getting the rega + shipping. A lot of the used DAC that were priced between $800-$1200 are still above your price used. So you end up having to strech a little or look into buying new $500 DACS.

aLot of good reviews for MDBT Havana (tube) but they don't seem to come up for sale as often.
If you would like to have a very musical dac that is inexpensive and fun to use, I would recomend the Jolida tube dac. It is about 500.00 new and comes with 2 12ax7 tubes. It is well constructed and uses premium parts ( such as Clarity caps). Tube rolling is easy and it has USB, coax, and optical inputs. It is so very musical. I use mine off of my Apple TV (mostly the radio channels) and my XM/Sirious tuner ( before I got rid of it).
It is a very good quality unit.... Very open in sound, good bass and huge soundstage.

My 0.0263 cents
FYI: I am using the new Mullard re-issue at the moment with fantastic results. The Tung- Sols are great as well.
Honestly, if all you're trying to do is do better than the DAC in the Touch, that isn't going to be very hard to do. As I mentioned, I'm running a very modest XDA-1 DAC and it is a clear improvement over the internal DAC of the Touch.

There are lots of DACs out there and many of them sound good, albeit different.

What I'd do is pick up a used PS Audio DL III. It's a nice DAC and goes for around $400, used.

I'd also like to make a comment about equipment with tubes. If you decide to go with tubes, be prepared because it is a bottomless pitt. I'm just dipping my toes in the tube pool and am finding that good tubes start at about $100 a pair and go UP from there.
Thansk you all for the responds.
Tonyangel, I was just talking to a friend and he also sugested the PS audio DL III. Since it was originally relesed few years ago, do you still think that it's a good DAC compare to relativelly new units like Musical Fidelity M1-DAC that was sold here for $525?
Darkstar1, Good Idea to try the Z DAC at home. I'll read more about the unit. I'm planning to go this weekend to the T.H.E show in Newport, and I just saw that Parasound will demonstrate there Z line componants. It will be intersting to hear it.
Since I have solid state amplification, I also thought that a tube based DAC might be good idea. I never had tube equipment before, and I hope I'll be able to try it. I saw that the MDBT Havan was sold used for around $700, then I think it's above my budget.
MDBT does have Dacs that are cheaper that have good reviews. I really wanted the Havana but it seemed like it would have taken a while to find it so I went ahead and pulled the trigger on the Rega because it had many of the qualities I wanted.

The Havana sells for $800 something NEW on ebay so I think a used one should go for below $700. The MHDT Labs Paradisea has a sale pending on another site for around $370. It is the middle tier dac in their line. The things I have read have been good but never hear any of the MHDT stuff.

I still have to say I am happy with the Rega. If I get the bass better controled I will be very happy. My room is really small so it plays a huge role but I suspect a more expensive digital cord will help a good bit too. The blue Jean cable ($20) including shipping was a great improvement of a cord that cost $17.00 at Best Buy.

What ever you get make sure you share it with us. Your in the price range I can afford so anything in that range interests me.

I will give a nod to the Rega if bought used. Its a good dac for someone who wants a thick and rich sound. Good sound stage. Not overly detailed but very nice presention that really makes music flow together very non digital/slight warmness to sonud. It does seem to boost the bass a bit in my system but I think that is why the sound is so rich. Its thick but not slow if that makes sense.

Just a quick word about tubes....
Some of the newer re-makes and some of the easy to find brands in general are getting to be very good and not expensive at all. The new remake Mullards are wonderful tubes and not that far off from the original. JJ has made improvements and the newer Tung-sol's are great to listen to. I think that I paid about 150.00 for a match quad of the new Genelex Gold Lions and they are just incredible... now thats tubes for my amp and not my dac. The smaller tubes for a dac that you may purchase will run you about 20.00 per tube. There are good places to purchase them as well. The Tube Store has always treated me fair and just finding a good outlet that tests, and gives advise is half the fun. Beware ! You can go crazy!!! Personally I don't let myself get suckered into the mega-dollar tubes. I will agree that some may sound better... But it is a diminishing return. As stated, the newer runs of tubes from most manufacturers are just great.

Just my 0.0263 cents
Come on, do some tubes... You will be happy that you did.

the better dac,the better sound you will get,even entry level systems benefit from quality dac
If you are considering the PS Audio DL III for ~$400-$450 I'd look for a good deal on the much newer NuWave for ~$600-$650. If you are moving towards PC audio the NuWave has a great USB section (I'm also using a SB Touch, w/ EDO USB to USB). I tried the DL III prior to the NuWave and the NuWave is way nicer in just about every way.

I can't comment about Musical Fidelity gear, except to say that I've found that it sounds kind of thin in my system. Lots of guys like them, though.

Look, I've found that once you get into a price point, most things are going to be equally good, but in different ways. I really don't believe that there's any such thing as something that just blows everything away. If there was, everyone would have one.

There is such a thing as system synergy. That point where everything in your system comes together and gives you that satisfied feeling. You just have to hunt for it. I haven't been into this for very long, but my limited experience has been that I've come across very few components that I absolutely hated. Choices were just based on what I liked more.

As for the DL III, I only mentioned it because the tech isn't that old and it's a good sounding DAC that you can make a pretty good deal on. Look up the specs and see if there are any limitations that you just can't live with.

If you want to mess with tubes a bit, I just bought a tube buffer that I run in line between my DAC and pre. It does add a bit of flavor that I've found pleasant, for now. Some say that they don't do anything. I think they do. For me, it was just a way to try tubes without having to jump in the pool.
I have to append what I said above on the DLIII. After having posted what I did above, I started having second thoughts and went and checked the specs on the DLIII.

What I found (as opposed to what I remembered) is that the DL III can only handle a 16/44.1 incoming stream. It may be nice upgrade for a CD player, but not for a Squeezebox Touch, since the Touch can do 24/96 in stock form and 24/192 with a simple software mod.
The Emotiva DAC brand new priced at $400.00 and trial period. Well featured and solid build with remote control. I have the first edition with no experience with another but enjoy the music through it and question the need to spend more.
Thank you all for your comments. I think I got the answer that almost every DAC(that can handel files up too 24/196kes) will be better compare to the Logitech intrnal DAC. i'll have to try to listen to few units and decide which one to buy.
Tubeears, :)
I'm not saying no to tubes. I need to try it.
Darkstar1, I'll definatly update when I'll buy the DAC. The Rega DAC is definatly one of the units that is intersting me.
Dragon1952, the Nuwave looks like a great product. The price that you mentioned is for new or used unit?
The NuWave for $600-$650 would be used. I recently got a mint unit for under $650 shipped. Some people got them for $695-$795 new w/ trade-ins so if you are patient you can find a great deal on a used one.
Thank's Dragon1952. just one more question for you. Are you using the balance output or the non balance output of the Newave? Since I don't have balance input in my amp, I wanted to ask you if you checked both of them in your system, and if you found one of them better then the other one?
I don't have balanced inputs on my tube integrated so just the unbalanced.