123 responses Add your response
I can't think of anything I've heard that "punches above its price point". The old maxim, "you get what you pay for" is true for most things. Sometimes you're paying for something other than sound quality (audio jewelry), but a $150 DAC is not going to sound the same as the best DAC you can buy for $2,000 - $3,000. Some in that price point might sound as bad as something that only cost $150 however.
I've heard some things that sound really good "for their price", but they are always making compromises in way or another. For example, I have a couple of sets of headphones that are in the $150 - $200 range that I really enjoy listening to. They are super comfortable and easy to listen to and in the case of one, it's tipped down quite a bit and is really good for listening to EDM, but in terms of sound quality, they don't really compete with my higher end headphones.
Why don't you just tell us what your budget is and get some suggestions in that price range?
I did not state a budget because I’m not sure where the best value DAC lies in the price/performance envelope before point of diminishing returns kick in. From few posts here, it appears that giant killer options do not exist which is comprehensible. Ideally something up to $500 would be nice but if that’s not possible it can go up to say $2,000. New or used.
I would not worry about getting a DAC that punches above its price point.
Many great DAC`s from $1000-$5000(seems to be the sweet spot).
What some, here, may claim PAPP, may not match your tastes. You need to audition a few, and settle for what you like best. That will be: "your best bang for your buck".
Maybe the Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital priced at $499 as per your comment "Ideally something up to $500 would be nice".
+1"Maybe the Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital priced at $499 as per your comment "Ideally something up to $500 would be nice".
I use one of these in my office system. It sounds great -- on the detailed side but not shrill in any way. It works best with my headphones and has RCA jacks to connect powered speakers or an amp.
Just purchased the Denafrips Ares II, too early to give any deep insight/s but it seems to outperform my MHDT Lab Orchid, at least on some levels. Either one works pretty damn well-except I did I roll the stock chip to a Philips TDA Double Crown on the Orchid come to think of it and it has an input tube you can roll as well.
I wish I had enough time to demo all of these suggestions. This is such a rewarding “hobby.” I sometimes feel uneasy calling it a hobby, it feels more like a lifestyle in a sense. I am currently building my dream system and cannot wait to finally get it all together. I hope the OP finds what he/she is looking for. Sorry for the rambling…
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the RME-2 DAC fs. It most definitely punches above its weight. It sounds great, It has a ridiculously robust feature set, but is also very simple to use if you just want to hook it up and go. Very favorably reviewed across the board and has a killer headphone amp section to boot. Very hard to beat even with products well above its price range.
Unlike other audio components, I don’t think you’ll find a “bargain” DAC who’s performance punches way above their price point. I’ve been looking for audiophile component bargains for the last 5 years including DACs so I can get the best price/performance components for my audio system. Also, buying used usually saves you significant $.
If you like Chord DACs then you may be interested in upping the DAC sound with the Chord MScaler - although it can be used with any DAC there seems to be an even greater synergy when connected to the Chord Dave and likely other Chord DACs.
If you want to see punching, go to a boxing match..if you want the best DAC, I highly recommend the MSB Discrete, Premier, Reference or Select.
People have different opinions that are meaningless in the context of your sound reproduction system and your auditory system.
Listen to a variety of different DACS in your own set-up before you decide - do not rely on the opinions of other folks who mostly just post to a thread but do not listen to music!!!
I've owned more budget DAC's than you can count. Also built a couple from diyinhk.com..... For me without a doubt the SMSL SU9 is the best sounding thing that has hit my system under 1k.
Beware, I had to send it to SMSL to get a firmware update to eliminate a minor distortion issue. This DAC has many settings, the settings seem almost imperceivable differences, but once you go through many and get a combination that works, it performs VERY well.
the Wyred4sound 10th anniversary dac is extremely good, I put it up against the Sim audio dac here in Canada which cost $15,00 and it was much better, one of the reviewers put it up against his $9,000 cos1 and he said the 10th anniversary dac was better and then he also put it up against Bricasti,Chord and a few other high price dacs he said the 10th anniversary was better, and another reviewer put it up against his VPI turntable with a $5,000 Japanese cartridge and he said the 10th anniversary was every bit as analog sounding, and I have to agree this is the most analog sounding deck I've ever had in my system, and my system is worth $60,000 Canadian.The 10th anniversary deck is $4,500 US. I would love to put it up against DCS to see how good it is, but this thing is so good I don't think I'll ever need another dac.Please go read the reviews.
Recently bought the Denifrips Aries II, could not be happier. The Denifrips seems to suit my system, Audiolab 6000 CDT, Vincent Audio Pre / Power Amps and Audio Physic Sitara 25 speakers, with twin subwoofers. I compared several DACs, in my system including the Chord Cutest, could not say which is best but preferred the Denifrips. Mytech Liberty, much preferred the Denifrips. iFi Neo, much preferred the Denifrips. In my desktop system I use the iFi iDSD BL its nice and very useful with my MacBook. In that system I tried Audioquest Black and red, preferred the iFi and also preferred my Meridian Explorer 2 which I use on the go. Have tried both the Musical Fidelity V90, sort of OK and the Project Pre - Box, horrible. So overall I regard the Denifrips as a true bargain.
As a diehard vinyl listener, I’ve actively avoided digital audio for the past 32 years until COVID struck this past year. With working at home for a year and a half now, the advantages of being able to change music without getting up became much more important than pre-COVID. So I built a front-end for listening to digital music both via local files and Qobuz streaming. As part of the process, I’ve listened to 8 DACs in the past year:
That is the kind of comparison info that is most helpful. Thanks for taking the time! I was curious though whether or not you used a re-clocker with any of those DACs. Did you? I tried a couple of DACs and the one that came highly recommended by my very experienced relative was the Ayre QB9 with the Twenty upgrade. I thought it sounded great in my system until I borrowed an Innuos Phoenix USB reclocker. Wow, what a difference In soundstage and vocals. It took away the digital edginess, which was minimal in my digital setup but, was there.
I've had the Gustard X16 for less than a year and love it! ($500)
Check out review at ASR:
Purchase at Amazon or here:
Let us know which way you go!