DAC to match $2-3K CD player

Listened to the Rolling Stones' Beggars Banquet last night--first streaming Apple Lossless files via Squeezebox Duet, then on my Naim CD5x. Of course, with the bare Squeezebox and no external DAC, there was no comparison. What I'm wondering is how far up the DAC food chain would you need to start looking to match the sound quality of a $2-3K dedicated player? (I tried a Musical Fidelity V-DAC in my office and was unimpressed, so I'm not looking for a giant killer.) I'm not going all digital any time soon, so my question is really out of curiosity and to start a conversation if anyone else is interested.
I would want to include the APL DAC-S in my considerations.


I have a SQ Duet and Wyred 4 Sound DAC-1. Also had a Naim CD5x at same time.Compared them. Sold CD5x. 'nuf said.
08-08-10: Metralla
I would want to include the APL DAC-S...
A $5000 DAC to match the sound quality of a $2-3K CD player?

Interesting choice.
One of the more overachieving DACs out there is the Monarchy Audio NM24.
Another vote for W4S.
PS Audio Digital link 3, with mods would be even better.
I don't know anything about the Monarchy Audio NM24, Clio09, will have to check it out.

Is the modded PS Audio DL3 a different beast, Jimhsu? In what way? I ask because a friend bought the stock model to replace a Cambridge Audio Dacmagic and ended up going back to the Dacmagic; he thought it was too smooth and not as dynamic as the Dacmagic. (My sense of the Dacmagic is that, while it would improve the Squeezebox, it can't compare with the CD5x.)

The W4S DAC-1 sounds very interesting. It gets at the idea behind my question: that a $1000-1500 DAC might give a $2-3K cd player a run for its money--and offer more flexibility to boot. I'm curious, Smholl, is the presentation similar to the CD5x?
We have the Wyred for Sound Dac 2, listened on the weekend to a nearly decade old Classe CDP 1.5 and a brand new Arcam CD 17. Dac 2 through Squeezebox was the best sounding by a very small margin. It's a bit more up front in it's presentation compared to the Classe which is very smooth sounding. Mind you the Dac 2 has only about 50 hours on it thus far. We are liking it very, very much!
Afranta- W4S DAC-1 has more detail (don't take that as harsh, etchy)and bass is more solid. CD5x tended to call attention to some parts of the audio spectrum, while seeming to attenuate others. Not knocking the CD5x, I had it for about 2 years and enjoyed the sound.
But as I started to get more and more into ripping CD's and purchased the DAC-1 to go with the Duet, I was using the CD5X less. I enjoyed the ripped CD going through the Duet/DAC-1 more than listening to the same CD through the CD5x. Just a matter of preference I suppose.
Smholl, I have read your comments with great interest. What is the rest of your system? Thanks.
Thanks, Smholl (and Audiowoman). I've begun ripping my cds, and your description of the W4S dac makes me think that maybe I'm closer to going that route than I thought ...
Big surprise coming from D'boy......A $5,000 dac will SMOKE a $2-3K player going from a transport or, here's another one.....a hard drive. To the OP: Is $2-3K really what you consider on par with a source feeding a $5,000 dac? What dacs have you heard that can't compete with a $2-3K cdp? I'd love to know.
But the W4S DAC-1 is $995, right? Who's talking about a $5K dac?
08-09-10: Afranta
Who's talking about a $5K dac?
First response in the thread...

08-08-10: Metralla
I would want to include the APL DAC-S in my considerations.
My understanding is that the APL DAC-S costs $5000.
Thanks, Tvad, forgot about that one. The only dacs I've heard (enough to have an opinion about them) are the Musical Fidelity V-DAC and Cambridge Audio Dacmagic; no surprise that I wouldn't trade my cd player for either one. Hence my original question about dacs that compete with $2-3K players--and the suggestions about the W4S DAC-1, among others.
PS Audio PerfectWave DAC.
Weiss DAC2 (pro-audio) + firewire + mac
The modest exposure I've had to the Ayre QB-9 has been impressive, and the reviews are good. I think it's about a $3k idea.

Full disclosure: I don't have that piece, but have other Ayre gear that I enjoy.
The CD5x is a great CDP IMO. The new Naim DAC runs circles around it, for about the same price. If you like what your CD5x is doing, and Naim in general, check out the Naim DAC. You won't be sorry.

I hate it when people compare the entry level DACs to $3k CDPs. Let's be serious. The DACmagic, V-DAC, and PS DLII are very good DACs. But they're no where near a Naim CD5x. Not even close. I'd say the $1k DACs start to compete with the better $3k CDPs. They're different, no a better/worse thing IMO. Keep in mind there are some great DACs for the money, and some not so great. Same for any component.

If you can swing $3k, the Naim DAC is where its at IMO. The Bryston BDA-1 at about $2k does some things better than the CD5x too. A bit different, but I could easily live with either.
Just to add...

Work on the British street is Rega is getting ready to release a DAC that's at least on par with the Saturn, and may better it. Estimated at 500 GBP, or $1k. As to when it'll be available is anyone's guess.

The Arcam rDAC at $479 reportedly is on par with the CD37. That should be out soon too.
Thanks, Kbarkamian, your suggestions are really helpful. In my very limited experience, I think you're absolutely right about budget DACs. I'm very happy with the CD5x now, but W4S (sooner) and Naim (later) sound like strong contenders. Interesting that no one mentioned the Benchmark DAC-1.
The Benchmark is a very good DAC. Sound preferences are a different story. Synergy also plays a big part. In my Bryston and Audio Physic system, the Benchmark would be horrible. Everything is too revealing of it. The Benchmark sounded very etched and strident in a dealer's Bryston/AP system. In a Mac/B&W system, it sounded great.

The BDA-1 is very honest, yet remains smooth and musical. A very interesting and delicate balance that works magnificently IMO.

I tend to shy away from anything I can't hear before buying, unless I can sell/return it for little or no loss. Synergy will make or break a source or any other component IMO.

I've heard the entry level DACs and wanted them to out perform my Rega Apollo. I'd have been able to sell the Apollo, get better sound, and have a few bucks left over for a new CD or three. Needless to say, the Apollo hasn't been replaced. I think the CD5x is a good deal better than the Apollo. It would have been my next upgrade had the whole music server thing not been my latest foray.

Everyone's ears are different. People rave about the V-DAC and call it a giant killer. I have no idea what they're used to. Its great for $300, but won't come close to replacing any decent $1k-ish CDP I've ever heard. Same can be said for the DACmagic and PS DLIII.

Just my opinion.
Looking back at your last few posts, I'd say save up for a true upgrade to the CD5x. I haven't heard the W4S DAC, but I'm pretty sure it'll be different sounding than the CD5x. If you like your CD5x, I'm pretty confident that you'll love the Naim DAC. Skip a step, it'll save you some money in the long run. If the CD5x is your main source and is working very well, no point in buying something just to buy something IMO.

That's why I've held onto my Theta Cobalt DAC. When the Rega DAC comes out, the Theta and Apollo will get sold off. Until then, no need to change anything for the sake of what people tell me is 'better.'
Thanks again, Kbarkamian. That strikes me as very good advice, especially as I'm very happy with the CD5x (it is my main source; normally, I use the Squeezebox for Pandora or internet radio only). I'm in no hurry to change it.
this may sound like heresy, but, consider the eastern electric sabre dac with a nos 12au7 or 5814.

i'll duck now.

i happen to have one and will be reviewing it shortly.
It's not heresy if it sounds great! I haven't heard it, so no comments from me.

In my book, heresy is suggesting the Musical Fatality V-DAC or the like will sounds as goog as a CD5x.
Any thoughts about the Neco dac? Its gotten good reviews and is in the similar price range of thw Wyred.
Correction: NEKO DAC