DAC Recommendation around 2.5K

There are so many new DACs, it makes one head swim.

I currently have a PS Audio DL III w/ level 3 Cullen mods
it sounds great, very analog and musical, however will not do 24/192 even via coax. So.....

Hegel HD25? NAD M51? I want to have a usb 24/192 to avoid another device in the chain (in order to use coax)


Jolida fusion preamp (with mods)
channel island d-200 moon block amps
acoustic zen adagio speakers
kimber silver cable
soundstring cable
"anti-cables" for speaker wire

Listen to ALL types of music, so dac needs to be comfortable with classical and jazz but also lots of classic rock

Thank You

PS: i do not care about DSD capability, don't buy it....
Try the Mytek stereo 192 dac. $1695
Very dynamic and beautiful sounding with all Hi-rez material
Also sounds great with redbook. Like mine a lot
Even though you don't care about DSD capability, you should still check out the MYTEK - STEREO192 DSD DAC, which is $1595. The Cable Company carries it so you could do a test run. It gets very good reviews.
Too bad you need USB 24/192. There's a Bel Canto DAC 3.5VB for sale here at a little above your price target but likely negotiable, but pretty sure it requires a USB converter. Very positively reviewed against some of the best DACs out there so still might be worth a look. I auditioned the DAC 3.0VB in my system and it was pretty amazing and would still be here if the wife approved. Dammit. Best of luck.
I love the NAD M51 which you can find for around $1800. It accepts USB as you desire and also can output SACD and DVDA via its HDMI input (and it sounds fantastic doing so).
How about the ps audio perfect wave II? They can be had brand new at your price if you look.
Do yourself a BIG favor and demo an e20 MKII by exaSound. They offer a 30 day home demo. But you will end up keeping it. It sounds GREAT with Redbook, HiRez PCM and DSD. If you can go a little higher in price get the MKIII and add the .082ps clock option (not sure you can get it in the MKII) for only a $100 over the MKIII (must order at time of purchase. Well worth it.

Also DO NOT dismiss DSD. BIG things are happening next year.
Lynx Hilo can be had for $1850. A used PWD II can be had for $2.2k, A-gd Master is also a fine DAC.
+1 on the used PWD II DAC. I think it's the most analog sounding DAC you can get anywhere near this price range. Anthony Cordesman of TAS as well as a host of others reviewers agree.
thanks all keep it coming. i see the e20 uses a wall wart, does it require a outboard better power supply?
"09-04-13: Mlapenta
thanks all keep it coming. i see the e20 uses a wall wart, does it require a outboard better power supply?"

No, it does not require a better outboard PS. It sounds really good with the "wall wart". It was designed to sound really good with the included PS. But the designer wanted to put the best possible sound in the most cost affective box he could. So he made it possible to get better sound by having the PS external so it can be upgraded if wanted.
Several other great sounding players, most at a higher price, also use the same setup (Naim, Lynx, Antelope, MSB).
Several trusted sources have tried a better power supply and said it is a worthy upgrade as funds permit.

I must say that mine (e20 MKIII with .082 clock) sounds so good I can not imagine the improvement with the upgraded PS but I trust these guys.

When funds permit I will get an upgraded PS but I am very happy and in no rush.

Also, I owned a PS Audio PW MKII DAC with Bridge (from the begining MKI) and the e20 MKII and MKIII beat it hands down in many ways. Maybe their MKIII, when it comes out, will be better but I am sure it will cost a lot more too.

PS I had the e20 MKII and was very happy with the sound also.
Bryston BDA-2.
I've had my M51 about a month and love it. I am putting all of my CDs on a hard drive so I can play them through my Blu Ray player. It sounds great, I also have some hi rez files on the drive that sound incredible.....
I had the same question as you. See my thread at: http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?ddgtl&1375907174&&&/Berkeley-DAC-Series-1-anything-better-2-

For now I settled on a Triode TRV DAC 1 SE. To my ears it handily beat the NAD M51.
The Burson audio conductor have 24/192 capability and you can also switch Dac pcb to your liking.
Chordette QuteHD with upgraded linear PS
(I have the Channel Island 12V)
If you can up your budget, there's a great deal on a Aesthetix Panadora DAC on Agon.
Can't believe there has been no mention of the Ayre QB-9. Does 24/192.
Everyone has their favorite to recommend, including me.

I have tried several high end DACs, and they are all good. I keep coming back to the Antelope Audio Zodiac Gold for it's great I/O and the fact that the volume attenuator is on the analog side of the chain. Personally, I haven't heard anything better.
You might enjoy this review:
Not to steal the thread, but does anyone know if the NAD M51 handles DSD on the USB input?

Stickman451, the NAD cannot decode DSD data from any input. This has been confirmed by NAD who said that it would require a hardware redesign to accommodate DSD.
As I read this thread, it occurs to me that I have been guilty of using hyberbole when describing a high end DAC. IMHO, once one reaches a certain level, the differences between modern DACs are often a matter of subtle preference and feature set. I have not heard the uber DACs in the $20k + range, but I know people who have and who sold them in favor of "more bang for the buck." In the most recent Stereophile, John Atkinson concedes that with certain files he was "hard pressed " to hear a difference between MSB's $43k DAC and the new $3,490 Marantz NA-11S1.

To determine which DAC is "best" at $2500 is a tall order and probably impossible. I have no doubt that all the ones mentioned here are excellent. I seriously doubt that any one would "trounce" another. On the other hand, I am sure one DAC does one thing better than another and, depending upon what you want, that may matter a lot or a little.

Above all, I want a DAC that is "musical" and would gladly trade mine for one that is significantly more musical even if it could never read a hi-res file. I also have my suspicions about the current DSD craze. Until I can obtain the vast majority of what I listen to on DSD, I will patiently wait on the sidelines until the music is there. It's been nearly three years since I bought a hi-res DAC and I still only own a handful of hi-res recordings that are worth the price I paid for them and that "blow away" what I have on Redbook. (And now I discover that I don't actually own my downloads and can never re-sell or trade them...eek!)

I am glad to have a DAC which handles 16/44 well and will continue to use that as my litmus for buying a DAC until there's significantly more truly good music to bring me to the table.
Good post Vhiner.

The Lampi Dacs are very musical and this carries thru from their PCM dac to the DSD option that has recently become available (PURE DSD, no conversion to multibit Delta-Sigma internally...just poss pass filtration). They are excellent on RBCD, as that is where most of the effort is directed!

DSD128 is sublime though, no doubt about it. Many leading edge audiophiles are ripping their vinyl to DSD128 and claim that they cant hear a difference in Playback! Frankly, with the amount of material on DSD based on ability to rip SACDs, I cant understand why anyone would NOT want to have DSD playback ability on top of an excellent PCM DAC.
typo... LOW Pass filtration...

I have heard the Lampizator 4 several times (without DSD option) and it is a great DAC, no doubt. I did not think it represented enough of an upgrade to justify switching from my current "musical" DAC. As I said, I find the differences between the better high end DACs to be subtle. That is not meant to be a slight...just an explanation of what I hear.

As to DSD, I fault no one for choosing or wanting it. *I* want it to take off but the fact is that very few titles I listen to are available in DSD and, based upon the very "iffy" hi-res material you can pay top dollar for on HDTracks, I remain skeptical that this format will change what I've already experienced with the hi- res bandwagon. Ninety-five percent of what l choose to listen to is 16/44 and only four or five hi -res recordings seriously beat the best Redbook I own. I find the vast majority of "audiophile only" recordings to be boring and/or creatively lacking. A friend of mine and I recently downloaded a half dozen rock recordings from HDtracks and compared them to the Redbook versions we owned. None of the "hi-res" versions were better. For example, the best one of the crop, Paul McCartney's Ram, is easily bested by Steve Hoffmann's gold Redbook disc remaster of the same sessions. Just because something has 24/96 or DSD label doesn't mean it's worth a purchase. So, when someone can offer truly better versions of even half of the music I already own, I'll get a ticket for the show.

Fair enough on your opinion of what justifies the cost of upgrade. What Dac do you have? Also, which L4 did you hear? Gen 4 as of May 2013? As you know Lampis have subtle differences over time.

Regarding format, DSD IS different! It does dsound different and one advantage it does have is that since editing is limited, they would not have been messed with as much post recording as PCM. Now here I refer to native DSD recordings or analog to DSD transfers. PCM to DSD transfers by definition should not be as impressive and frankly better left as PCM. DSD has its own sound signature and I find more consistently of high quality that PCM hires offerings, given that most are SACD rips that we can make via a PS3.

One can build up a huge library that way, given that SACD prices are often cheaper than hires downloads. The new frontier is DSD128 rips of vinyl from a classy analog setup. I hear that this is "delicious". I am trying to source a couple tracks to confirm.

We're getting pretty far off the OP's original topic, but here goes;

I don't remember which Gen it was but definitely not anything from 2013. Again, it was a fine piece of kit. I own the PSAudio PerfectWave MKII DAC and transport. I use top-of-the line Shunyata Zitron wire and PC's throughout.

I don't doubt DSD is different, but I think a wide and diverse selection of DSD is far in the future. I wish all music companies would authorize someone to transfer their VINYL titles PROPERLY to a distributable file for sale. I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen. Few of them are even recording in true hi-res PCM, much less DSD.

I am far from deaf and have a serious system. I know a good recording when it bites me on the ass. ;-) I have simply lost patience chasing formats that never pan out. I'm happy to wait until I can get everything from Brubeck to Vampire Weekend on "perfect" DSD. Then I'll lay out the green for a serious DSD DAC. By then, everything people bought this year may be looking a bit ragged. Oh, yeah, and maybe by then someone will have created a killer, true audiophile plug and play music network system that doesn't require a hours of futzing to maintain. Hope springs eternal.

Vhiner, you are a riot.
We are getting off topic a bit, but can continue viua PM at Audiocircle, in order not to hijack this thread. I use the same user name there.

I will end by saying that I have nearly 2TB of DSD material, so I am NOT starved for DSD content by any means. The fringies are ripping vinyl to DSD128. Unfortunately, I dont have a vinyl rig nor a collection of LPs. I get my content from SACDs primarily.
Why not the PS Audio PWD MkII, especially if you had a good experience within the PS Audio family. You can easily find a gently used one within your budget. It will suit yiour needs and based on my experience with it, is a top notch, very versatikle performer.


Happy to entertain. ;-)

I'll be a happy man when there's 2 TB of DSD material that suits my tastes.
See you on the 'circle.
M51 ob HDMI WILL NOT READ SACD, only redbook layer
I have the DL3 unmoded, just purchased a Bryston BDA-1. I like the sound of the DL, the Bryston is an improvement. THE BDA-1 doe not have the USB capability that you are looking for, however the newer BDA-2 does, I believe. I prefer to use a separate USB/SPDIF converter for computer, used a M2Tech Hiface with the DL and now with the Bryston. Looking to upgrade the Hiface. The BDA-1 has several inputs but lacks I2s and Hdmi.
thanks for the all the assistance. love the dialog (even the dsd stuff) btw, i don't buy the dsd hype yet either. i'm sick of chasing formats when you don't know if it is the format or just better mastering by newer gear... anyway

regarding why not stay in ps audio family it is a thought but my current dac the PS audio DLIII was only so so til full Cullen mods and Cullen is gone.......
Closure: Thanks for all the help. Purchased a Chord QuteHD DAC. It is wonderful. Highly recommend. It is making known recordings seem more "open" and "real" I don't know the whole color vs. revealing thing, but it just sounds "musical".
Congrats, Mlapenta! Happy listening!