DAC under $1K


Has to sound noticably better than the CD players I already have, ie. Philips CD-80 & CAL Tercet MKIII. Will use the CD-80 as transport. Tried AVA Omega & Fet Valve DAC's in the past & these are no better than what I have. Never heard, but am familiar with by reading reviews, etc. with Ack, Attraction, DAC AH, used Classe DAC-1, etc. I am DIY ready if the DAC AH is worth the bother of rebuilding? Using DIY 2A3 Loftin-White amp & Klipsch KLF-20 speakers.
5u4
The Monarchy M24 DAC may be of interest to you.
In my opinion, the BelCanto DAC2 (or even the DAC1) would be better than anything else you mention. The DAC2 can be found used for under $750 and the DAC1 for less than $500.
Both are most musical, analog sounding DACs I've ever heard that don't cost stupid money.

-Wendell
The New PS Audio Digital Link III is amazing. USB Input, Balanced Outputs, Upsampling and no op-amps. And can be had for under 1K.
What sonics are you looking for? Different DACs gow quite in different direcion. (Take a look at the reference DAC thread for example) I find myself being very selective about sources in general.

Here is a list of DACs I considered recently for about $1k:

Benchmark DAC1
Lavry DA10
Wavelength Brick (USB only for PC audio)
Altmann Atraction
Monarch D24

After long back and forth I decided to get the Lavry and Wavelength Brick. Two very different flavors, but the two looked the most promising. I will be doing a comparison as soon as both are here. Ultimately I have been hoping to switch from my Audio Aero Prima CDP to a PC based system. The AA Prima will be a tough one to beat. Form my first impressions the Lavry is very good but quite different from my Prima. Also, it is unbelievable what differences transports make to the Lavry.

I would have loved to try the Altmann :)

Good luck with your search!

Rene
An Apogee DA-1000E like mine.
Thanks for your suggestions. A few of these I never heard of, like the Lavry DA10, etc., will look into these. As far as sound, dynamic bass, transparent mids & smooth highs + analog sound, leaning towards the mellow side, definately nothing bright.
As far as sound, dynamic bass, transparent mids & smooth highs + analog sound, leaning towards the mellow side, definitely nothing bright.

The Lavry probably has the most natural smooth highs, I have heard from digital solid state. It is overall very neutral, not quite as reverberant sounding as the Audio Aero. The Audio Aero is more forward, more colored sounding, but also has more swing. Still haven't explored all transport variations with the Lavry.

Also, if you are considering CD players: The Audio Aero Prima and Rega Apollo are close to your desired sound.
"As far as sound, dynamic bass, transparent mids & smooth highs + analog sound, leaning towards the mellow side, definately nothing bright."

You may find the Mhdt Paradisea NON OS tubed output Dac to your liking. You can find them on Ebay from time to time for $499 plus shipping. They go fast..so you have to check regularly to snatch one up. The Dac is very transport dependent. So the better the upstream clocking.. the better the Dac.
While the aesthetics may not be your cup of tea, Kora's Hermes dac is available used at your price point from time to time. It's one I would consider without hesitation given your stated preferences. I would also consider a used Electrocompaniet dac, very much in line with your desired sound.
I've never heard it myself, but all descriptions (by users) of the Electrocompaniet EMC-1UP upsampling DAC exactly match your descriptions. It's about $1200 used, just above your budget, but could easily be resold for about the same money.
The Kora Hermes is a very nice DAC which responds well to NOS tubes.