For your needs, I highly recommend the Benchmark DAC-1. Great DAC, gobs of detail w/o fatigue and an incredible soundstage. Bonus - it's got a headphone amp that is really spectacular. Leave it on all teh time, it sounds better that way anyway, although it does generate a bit of heat.
If you want to mess with having to turn a DAC on and off, then pick up an ACK! dACK! The liquid sound is truly unbelievable, but you do have to turn it off, as it runs on batteries. Worth it though, imho. Good luck!
Bel Canto is nice but a bit dark at the high frequencies. Skip the Perp Tech P-1 but the P-3 is very nice if you can find one with full ModWrights. Sounds nearly identical to the Bel Canto DAC2 but with a more open and extended high end. Bel Canto seemed to have a bit more bass but I think that's just because the top end is somewhat closed in.
Thanks Tom. When I said the P1, P3, I actually meant the P-1a digital correction, with P3 DAC, and monolithic power supply... I'll keep my eyes open for some with the mods.
Actually, also wanted to ask, if you meant were talking about the Bel Canto 1 or the 2. i think there is a big difference between the two, and i was actually considering the DAC2.
Dennis, I have owned a full blown modded P3 for 3 1/2 years and am quite happy with it. Got the itch about 8-10 months ago and bought a Bel Canto DAC2. Found it closed in at the top and a bit dark compared to the PT. I also had a P1 which did nothing meaningful and was too damn complicated, especially after getting the DAC modded. I sold the DAC2 two months after buying.
I think you'll get better music making from the fully modded P3 than the stock version with P1.
Besides the DAC, the digital cable is very important. If the signal to your dac is flawed, then so will be your sound. The DAC and the cable are more important then the transport really is in the chain.
MSB Gold link III. It does it all and sounds great. Very similar in sound to the Meridian 508.24 player, if you are familar with that.
For cheap you might be able to find a Meridian 563, which is a nice unit. It does do up sampling or any frequencies higher that 48 but it sound really good.
At one time I owned an Wadia 860x, which I loved. For whatever reason, it sounded great in my system. I'm guessing the P3a and the Benchmark 1 would be close in sound to the Wadia.
The meridian sounds like it'd be too laid back.
I'll make sure i get a good digital cable, thanks Bigkidz. I think the recommended length is 1.5m, right?
Kimber (Illuminati) D60 digital cable is quite nice. Don't know anything about suggested proper lengths, though.
Hi Steve, from ownership experience I can state that the BurnIT, while an excellent recorder, does not make a playback transport capable of matching the sound quality of a DAC like your old Wadia, not to mention the rest of your system. The transport is half the equation sound-wise. If you were to get an outboard DAC, I think you'd eventually want to complement it with a worthy transport. Although I still happily cling to my Theta 2-box front end, if I was starting over again today, I'd just look for a satisfactory 1-box playback solution instead. The recorder, plus the DAC, plus the transport, plus maybe an anti-jitter unit, adds up to a lot of boxes, which means a lot of interconnects and power cords too (trust me, I know whereof I speak ;^). I'd say keep it simple and keep it separate, but if you do go the DAC route, just be mindful that you can't maximize it by using the HHB as your transport. (FWIW after the preceding, I'm converted to van den Hul carbon interconnects for both analog and digital now - for S/PDIF RCA, it's The First Ultimate, 1m being fine. But I still think good 1-box is the way to go and save the money.)
ugh... just what i didn't want to hear alex. well, my other thought, as i still (believe it or not), don't have a dvd player, would be to get a muse model 9, as my player, and use it for dvd playback as well. but i have no idea what it's sonic signature is, just that people rave about it (anything they don't rave about?... oh yeh, my HHB + a DAC... ;)
Believe it? Hey, no Yo la tengo DVD either! Or so-called 'hi-rez' digital audio for that matter, though I'm not as interested in that (and am even less interested in HT). Still, that is part of why I'll also probably look at getting a universal player at some point - just as soon as today's good ones trickle down to Audiogon at half-price or less :-)
I've owned the Bel Canto DAC2, and I never found it 'closed in' or 'dark' at the top. If anything, it is slightly to the sunny side of neutral in the treble.