DAC? how much more $$$ to get a significant improvement over Bluesound Node?

starting to get into dacs, never thought much of external dacs before

it seems like there are some state of the art pieces out there under 3k, Schitt and Benchmark come to mind

would that be my starting point to really gear a significant upgrade from my Node?

any recommendations below 3k to achieve this?

thanks in advance




I've recently gone through the DAC hunt to improve my experience.

You should provide a little more info on your system and what you want in terms of improvement and what you prefer in terms of music sound.

The Schiit Yggdrasil is an excellent DAC for the money. I have not heard a Bluesound, but is very likely to best it easily provided you have the right ancillary equipment to take advantage of its resolution and natural tone. 

I’d think even something like a Gustard X16 at $499 would be a significant upgrade, but you can certainly find further improvements from there depending on what characteristics you’re looking for.  

1) Musetec 005 (incredible DAC) $2969 on sale $3300 MSRP

2) Benchmark DAC3B $1700 a bit less bass and more treble than the Musetec so not as good, but I still love this DAC

3) Gustard X26 Pro $1250 on sale or $1500. Warmer and less detailed than the 005 or DAC3B. A very enjoyable DAC and maybe the choice to make if a warmer sound is desired

4) Topping D90SE $900, sounds like the DAC3B,

These are the DACs I have (just sold the Gustard) and have enjoyed them and can recommend them. 

good feedback, thank you all

I was considering the Gustard X26 and Topping D90SE, as well as the S.M.S.L VMV D2

I use Tidal and all those units seem to have MQA also

upon further review, the Gustard x16 seems like a more affordable dip into the dac waters



Bifrost 2 is what I use and think that it sounds killer. I also put a good power cable on both and have seen an additional improvement. Good luck!

yes depends greatly on the quality of the rest of your system

the current node's onboard dac is said to be improved somewhat over the one in the prior '2i' version

still, there is a lot of upside if the system in use is good and resolving

It doesn't take much to better Bluesound by a wide margin, for your budget of ~$3K, used Denafrips Terminator 1, or Holo May Spring 3 would be about the best value for money.

Avoid dacs focus only measurements but sound like cardboard cutouts, like the Benchmark and Topping.

Probably any outboard dac that’s a known company would best the node. 100 bucks and up, pick your poison 

Any of the better $800-$1K DACs would be a significant upgrade of the Node's DAC. If you go to ~$1800-$2500 range, you're in a different level for many of the manufacturers. There are tons of threads even just this month of people describing the pros/cons of each. 

To help narrow down your search, you might want to group in your mind different types like R2R ladder DACs vs. chip DACs, and based on your preference narrow further from there. 

For example, on my recent hunt to upgrade from my Schitt Gungnir Mulitbit, I first decided I wanted another R2R DAC or an FGPA DAC and not a DAC running an ESS chip or similar. From there, in price range I researched and narrowed down to the Denafrips Pontus II and the Chord Cutest. Then based on my listening to other Denafrips DACs, descriptive comparisons and taking into account connectivity, features, etc. I chose the Pontus. There's plenty of good ones out there, and it can be a little overwhelming if you don't break down the problem into manageable pieces. Cheers,


My guess is $500 will start to show an audible improvement.  Remember the Node cost around that for both a streamer/DAC.  I have heard the Node paired with a CA DAC Magic, which is long in the tooth for a DAC and goes for around $500, and with the Cambridge there was a notable boost.

the actual source matters too...I would hesitate to go much beyond a Denafrips Ares ll with the Node before I looked at a new streamer...the Node can only get you so far...I have the Ares ll and it is quite good...