The next DAC I am going to get is the Naim. List is $3000 but in this market I suspect $2500 will buy one.
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I suppose that Hegel is such an exotic piece in US that probably you have no luck to receive much answers form here about Hegel source/Ayon amp owners. I just hope that I`m wrong on this.
Just be sure that there will be no major impedance mismatch with Hegel output and your integrated amp input when you buy the Hegel source.
Anyway I must say that I have never tried any Hegel gear, but in my last 10+ years testing/owning many fine digital gear, I can still confirm that as strange as it is my absolute reference digital is STILL Marantz SA-1 (of course it does not have USB input).
Yes I have owned the new SA-7S1 and many much more expensive players and dac/transport combos from Accuphase, Audio Aero, Burmester, Wadia, Mcintosh, Zanden, Ayon, Esoteric, Ayre, Metronome and the most hyped new PS combo plus many different USB solutions with optimized Mac and PC to several dac`s in several configurations, but it still sound inferior to decent standalone players combos.
From my experience after Marantz SA-1 the Burmester (Top Line) is some of the best after my SA-1 and the second after is Zanden (MK III, not the current model) that has unbeatable "in your room" singer feeling but there are some other slight flaws that I don`t mention here (nothing major).
If I remember correctly there are only 500 or 1000 pieces of SA-1 made worldwide (pls. correct me if I`m wrong) and I doubt that someone can find such passionate design and jewelery quality made piece of gear in current new products. The prices for SA-1 are actually rising as are CD-7, Linn-12 and many other top of the line gear with limited production. I take it as good investment that makes you loads of enjoyment with no financial loss.
Sorry my last text takes too financial smell and it does not fit here because enjoying fine music or other fine arts is deep aesthetic enjoyment and this can`t be measured with any material value.
NB! English is not my main language so sorry for my incorrect grammar.
All the best!