Try and find a Music Hall 25.2 used. I have the .3 and am loving it and I have a very revealing system.
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The HRT music streamer II can be found for under $100 used. Goo as a starter allowing you to explor the DAC market. Alot of good $3-500 DACs available which will be offered on the future used market.
+1 Williewonka. The bitfrost is a good DAC but with USB may cost more than $300 used. Have not heard the Modi but would be tempted to try one as a starter DAC.
The iFi DAC recommendation is sound (no pun) and within budget new.
One additional thought, if you get a DAC with a coaxial input in addition to the USB, you can upgrade your digital source with use of a USB/SPDIF converter at a later date.
Good luck, let us know what you find.
Mesch - you might get a used one with USB for $300, but it won't have the Uber Upgrade which makes all the difference.
Mentioning the Bifrost was just so J135 knew I had experience of some of their Schiit :-)
The Modi and Loki are more in the price range, but have no idea how they sound.
Anyone out there with a Modi or Loki?
Willie, I am sure you are correct given that a new Bitfrost with Uber retails at $550. Would make for a great deal at $300 used. Maybe in another year? I am tempted to try out a Modi for a second system and would like to hear from someone who has one.
I see that Music Direct is selling the Moon 100D DAc for $325. They allow 30 day return. I have no experience with this DAC but it has gotten positive reviews at a retail price 2x the MD sale price. I would be tempted if in the market for a $300 DAC.
Though I have not heard the Music Hall 25.2, I trust Ctsooner's recommendation if one could be found within budget.
Anyone heard the Music Fidelity V90 ($300) or the Music Hall 15.2 ($300)?
Jl35 - as much as I like Moon gear - I have one of their phono stages - you are correct in that the usb interface as they have implemented it is lacking.
You would need a USB/spdif converter, like the v-link, to bring it up to the performance of the other inputs.
Re: the Modi - it's upper limit is 24/96 - what do you require?
What about the Cambridge Audio Dacmagic 100 - $299
Looks pretty impressive - but I haven't heard it
It will process 24/192 via the usb input, but you have to switch it to USB-2 mode.
Reviews seem quite positive
Something to ponder :-)
I have heard a bunch of the sub 2k DAC's since I was in that market. I wanted balanced since my Ayre is balanced. Most under 1k aren't balanced. I thought that most of the sub 1k DACs didn't do piano correctly. Too digital for my ears and my system. The MH is just right for the money. Even the RCA out with the tube sounds great. most folks with this price DAC don't have ultra high rez systems and they can often be too tizzy on top. The MH was one of the only DAC's I heard that was more analog like. I heard the top Shitt system and was unimpressed. It was just ok to me. What some pass as high rez, often times is just digital distortion on the high end and it creates listener fatigue. The MF V90 didn't do much for me other than give me a 15 minute headache. That said, it could have been the system I heard it in, but even the store owner didn't like it. He preferred the MH 25.3 which he had just picked up. Roy Hall has always offered you more for your money. My DAC is in a 10k plus system. I feel that digital is about to change dramatically and I don't want to much wrapped up in products that will lose their value greatly over the next few years, so a new 500 DAC made sense to me. That's just me. I also heard the Cambridge vs the MH DAC's side by side and it was no contest. I have heard all of these DAC's on speakers that were in the 5-10k range and with top of the line electronics and cables set up properly. Some DACS just sound digital to me (most). I leave it on all the time an it's fun to listen again. I spend hours a day listening now.
Based on this thread and other threads I read, I made up a short list and a Halide HD DAC was the first to pop up at a good price, so I purchased it. If none had appeared would have bought a new Modi. I like that the Halide is a dedicated product as I do not need a headphone amp or other features. Thanks all for the help.