Dated but still A rated DACs


Looking to purchase a great sounding used DAC , unless I can obtain equal quality on a new one. Your thoughts?
goldenear1948
Just purchased a Theta Pro Prime II for $260. Checked this off my bucket list. Radically good sound for a 20+ year old DAC. This was designed (I believe) by Mike Moffat who currently resides at Schiit.
Mr. Moffat has damn good ears IMHO!
The AMR DP-777 is a keeper, best DAC according to me in the 2.5K used range. I went through a lot of DACs in this price range before settling on AMR. It can compete with a vinyl rig of the same price as its MRP (I tested this out), couldn't make out the difference on the same track between digital (redbook on AMR) and my analog rig. I sold my analog and kept the DAC.
MSB Link DAC III (Nelson edition) With powerbase :-)
I still like my ps audio pw dac (mark 2)...
In my opinion all these are the best for doing Redbook pcm and the last, and in my view the best of the R2R Mutibit dacs, before they were stopped because of high cost of manufacture EG: laser trimming resistors ect. Now they’er making a big comeback as discrete R2R Multibit.

Mark Levinson No39 cdp hdcd but can be used as dac.
Naim CD555/P555 hdcd most stunning Redbook pcm player I’ve heard maybe also be used as a dac.
Linn CD12 hdcd player very close to the Naim.
Cary 303/200 hdcd for the budget minded.

Cheers George

A+ rated by Stereophile : Benchmark DAC 2 

You could afford the newer DAC3 brand new on your budget...no need to buy dated components.
Ayre Codex. New around 2K, and much less on resale.
Hegel HD25.  Picked mine up for around $1100 and it sounds fabulous.  If you don't *need* DSD, MQA or more than 192 PCM then it could be all you need.  Personally I prefer native redbook or HD files - it sounds beautiful with either.

Are you planning to use it for Redbook CD or streaming/hi-rez file download? There seems to be a general debate that the multibit or R2R design DACs sound better for CD content. I don't recall but there is one brand goes as far as using multibit for its digital coax input and Delta Sigma for its USB. They must be agreeing with the general science and the popular usecases.

Search for PCM1704 and the DACs that use them.


Mytek Brooklyn DAC+

Absolutely beautiful sound playing Redbook. Multiple filters to choose from to dial in your sound preference.

In the future, if you ever decide to play DSD or MQA it will handle that as well.

Also adds a better-than-decent phono preamp, line input, and great headphone amp. Can plug it into a power amp directly, and have your choice of analog/digital for volume control.

Just under $2200 brand new, it’s a steal. Stereophile A rating, and their digital component of the year award 2017.

I love mine.


kalali Search for PCM1704 and the DACs that use them.

goldenear1948
Kalali has given great advice if RedBook pcm is you priority, search here on this massive list of just about every dac or cdp made for ones which use the PCM1704 or even the PCM1702 converters, and with hdcd as well if you can get it.

http://vasiltech.narod.ru/CD-Player-DAC-Transport.htm

Cheers George
I'd try a used Metrum Hex DAC or used Bel Canto DAC 3.7 or 3.5 but only the VB models with the Virtual Battery Supply.  Both have gotten reviews that put them on the level of much more expensive DACs.  I had the DAC3 VB in my system for a bit, and it was extremely good.  

I consider Mytek's fairly new, and very good sounding.

Theta's always sound good too. An underrated performer, the Casanova, goes up to 96kHz/24, and does sound much better on hi-res than Redbook.
Benchmark DAC2 if you have an integrated or a preamp, or DAC2 HGC if you don't.
If you can find a used Antelope Audio Zodiac Plus or Gold model they sound amazing.
I love my Luxman DA-06.   Typically sell for $2,500 used. 
Find a nice used PS Audio DAC Mark II ( w Bridge if possible ) and never look back ... I just got mine 2 weeks ago and I'm still being amazed by everything I put through it . 

"...unless I can obtain equal quality on a new one..."

Surprisingly no one suggested the usual suspect, Schiit Yggdrasil. No personal experience but lots of positive reviews and lots of love...

Who cares if a device is "A rated" or unrated. Those ratings are just subjective opinions of reviewers that may have certain "motivations" unrelated to how a unit may actually perform.
@kalali noooooooooooooooooooo...........I was hoping we might get through one thread, one, with no one mentioning Shciit. Or Tekton for that matter. Oh well.
Surprisingly no one suggested the usual suspect, Schiit Yggdrasil. No personal experience but lots of positive reviews and lots of love...

Seeing it was bought up, yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! for the Schiit Yggdrasil.

But I believe the OP wanted "Dated but still A rated DACs" not new but best old school R2R format dac’s for doing RedBook.
Just incase here a link for the OP to follow.
http://www.schiit.com/products/yggdrasil

Cheers George
Thank you all for your recommendations... and yes, Redbook only
My current and last dac I plan to own is an older McIntosh MDA 1000. Just an amazing analog sounding dac. Also have an Electrocompaniet ECD-1 which the Mac replaced. Very close to the sonics of the Mac but less costly. It's currently for sale on USA A Mart.
I still have my Theta Prime dac & Pearl transport . I bought these new in the early 90s , and they haven't disappointed me yet.
Just FYI, Mytek seems to have some pretty significant growing pains.  Sounds like they make a great product, but if they can't invest in the business enough to respond to customers and deliver product you have to consider if this is a good investment down the road.  Don't get me wrong, I'm VERY much rooting for them.  But the audio trash heap is littered with great products that had no real long-term business plan or financing, which ultimately led to their failure.  I'd echo my previous recommendations for Bel Canto or Metrum.  Again, best of luck. 

Pass Labs D1, i havent found anything yet that beats it.
Pass Labs D1, i havent found anything yet that beats it.

Very nice old girl for doing Redbook with,  r2r multibit ladder dacs PCM63K's x 4 and discrete I/V stage, only the PCM1702's and then the last 1704's betters the 63's.

Cheers George
You don't often see them come up, and when they do they're not as cheap as you would expect given their age.  But the Timbre DAC featured a sound that endeared itself to some who preferred analog to digital in a big way
Many believe the 63's were the best on standard Redbook, the 1704's only excelled when 24/96 recordings are used.  Pass themselves agree with this.  I am a HUGE fan of the 1704s and have owned numerous pieces, too many to count, with them.  The 63s are something special.
I am a HUGE fan of the 1704s and have owned numerous pieces, too many to count, with them. The 63s are something special.
Had them both over many dacs and cdp's, and tinkered and modded them to the hilt.
The PCM1704 is top dog for all Redbook pcm, far lower noise, almost glitch free, so it doesn't upset wide bandwidth I/V stages as much.

Cheers George
Mojo Mystique Dac 
best R2R Dac
The problem with digital gear is that it keeps evolving so quickly.  Today's $5000 wonder is tomorrow's $2200 White Elephant.

I run a Peachtree DAC I bought several years ago for $500.  Still sounds great and I need to make no apologies for it.  More than one visitor has proclaimed my system to be of "reference quality".  You can pick one of these things off of EBay for $200 or so.  

They have both a USB input and an optical input.  I feed it a USB line from my media computer and an optical cable from my CD player.  Sounds identical both ways.

Go ahead and drop thousands on something else and all you'll get is a very, very rapidly depreciating box you'll eventually drop off at Goodwill in 3 or 4 years.
If you mean by dated...vintage....an older Muse 192 was an awesomely good sounding DAC in its day. No USB....but for redbook it was very sweet sounding. Nevertheless, a PS Audio PWD II is more impressive in every way.....and has loads of inputs. Same with the Benchmarks 2 and 3.....used Ayre QB 9 DSDs are essentially affordable now...along with the CODEX and again are much better than vintage DACs.....I remember the Musical Fidelity 192 DAC and liked it but it sounds dated compared to what was available even 3 years ago. Go new....many to choose from.
The NAD M51 is still the best sounding DAC I've heard.  You should be able to find a used one for about $1000, even less.
If you can find one, Meridian 566 was always a great sounding DAC to my ears.  Meridian has always been at the forefront of the digital domain and build quality is excellent too.  Balanced output if that’s useful.
Lite DAC-83, if you can find one used. I remember reading a while back this model being the best for CD playback. I think they also had a transport to pair with this DAC.
Hi, I would suggest the following, I have owned or own most of these:

Museatex Bidat (currently own) simply outstanding even to this day, especially if you have John Wright install the "Plus" mod.

AMR DP 777 SE (currently own) probably the best all around dac I have heard and as a poster above mentioned it is competitive and in many cases better than analog rigs up to around the $7k range. 

Metrum Hex/Octave (owned the Hex, the AMR displaced it)

Wada 9 (stunning audibly and aesthetically) extended loan some years ago as I considered its purchase

Newer unit to consider: Denafrips Terminator
As far as dac chips go, the BB PCM-63K, and the PCM 1704 were tops but the king in my opinion is non other than the Philips TDA 1541 S2 Double Crown. the 1541 has a sound that is hard to describe. I have two custom AMR CD 77.1's one of which has already been retrofitted with a genuine 1541 S2 Double Crown and the other is awaiting transplant of my other 1541 S2 Double Crown chip. 

I should have mentioned probably one of the best bargains for a dac, the Monarchy NM24. People don't go after it because the name doesn't impress their friends but that thing runs PCM-63's and I have owned it before. It is above the fray and I think you can still get them new from Monarchy before his stock runs out. 
Just picked up a used CALYX w. Linear power supply for use with Headphone setup (Mac .. CALYX .. Icon(headlamp) .. LCD 3)
Amazing performer.  
The CALYX replaced a Jeff Rowland Aeris
However I think you may have a problem locating one




Nice to see the nod for the ARC DAC 7 by @vdotman  +1
I'll second the Hegel HD12, and add the Classe DAC1
I have an "all digital source" music audio system and believe that DACs are the things that are being "most improved" these days.

For the last 3+ years I've been enjoying a PS Audio DirectStream DAC whose unique design (based on an FPGA chip, instead of an off-the-shelf DAC chipset) allows them to publish firmware updates (which seem to be available 1 or 2 times per year), which improve the performance of the DAC.

If the DirectStream DAC can't be had for the money you want to spend, they also offer a DirectStream Jr DAC, for about 2/3's the price of it's bigger brother.

PS Audio is a fantastic company to deal with.
Dangerous Music Convert-2. Breathtakingly realistic - impresses me with a never ending series of wow moments when listening to good recordings.  Built like a tank. Very responsive and helpful support if needed - they assisted with a couple of technical questions I had. Price: $2,499.
Oops - just realised you are spinning cds (rather than playing files from a computer or streaming). I have only used the Convert-2 briefly for spinning cds -with an Oppo 83 and 105D with coaxial. While the Convert improved their respective sounds, playing downloaded red book files and streaming Tidal HiFi via USB is giving me much better resolution.

[Convert-2 balanced analog out to a pair of Geithain RL906 active monitors]
Ayre QB-9 DSD is still an amazing unit.  Digital doesn't get much better, and certainly not at the price point you can find a used one.
Thank you all for your recommendations... and yes, Redbook only
Redbook only..then possibly...buy a Adcom GDA-700, and have someone mod it out.

Tough to beat.

The assemblage dacs are also very hard to beat. rare. Assemblage 3.0 and 3.1. 24/96 r-2-r dacs. last of the best.