Do I Need a New DAC?

Do I Need a New DAC?

Newbie here to seek advice on a new DAC with a budget of up to $2K

I am thinking about adding a new my DAC so my stereo setup can play a small collection of SACDs using a 4K DVD player.

Here is my current Stereo setup

CD Player: Emotiva ERC-1 (as a transport)

DVD Player: Sony UBP-X800M2

DAC: Monarchy Audio M33 DAC / pre-amp

Pre-amp: Audio Research SP-6E (I think)

Power-amp: Audio Research VT100 MIII

Speakers: KEF104.2 (re-capped; replaced ferrofluid)

Analog: SOTA Nova V, SME3009 III, Audio Technica AT440MLA cartridge

Interconnectors and speaker cables: DIY Gotham cable    

I have a decent collection of CDs (classical, jazz, and pop) that I listen to occasionally; I have no plan to rip and stream them for any time soon.

All the equipment except the DVD player have been with me for a while.  I am thinking about spending some money in the next several years to upgrade the DAC, the CD player, the pre-amp and the speakers in that order. 

The reason to add a new DAC as the Toslink In on the Monarchy M33 is broken and I cannot connect the Sony DVD player to the DAC (the digital In is currently connected with the CD player); also, I would like to get some updated technology on DAC. 

Based on web research, I am thinking about these DACs: Gustard R26, OKto Research, Soekris DAC2541, Schiit Yggdrasil + (a bit over budget), and Hegel HD30 DAC (used).  I have yet to hear the sound of any of these DACs.  I am OK with either new or used and open to other recommendations.

Shall I add a DAC or shall I forget about the SACDs (about 20 CDs); instead, buy a better CD player or save more money to buy a better pre-amp.  Not going to invest in a dedicated SACD player for now though.

Thank you very much for your time; looking forward to reading your comment.


For a first time DAC, I recommend the Ayre Codex, Cord Quetest,  or Schiit Yggdrasil. Nothing less. With these, you`re getting into serious DAC territory.

I like the suggestions.  If Yggy is too expensive, I have a friend with the gungir (one down) that he says compares well.   But the Yggy is much more dac.  

Not sure about your strategy for playing the CDs and SACDs.  Make sure you have a good digital out.  You may want to invest in a CD transport.  

I have never had good luck with toslink.  I use USB.  


you cant output sacd digitally from a dvd that is prohibited via sonys copyrighting design


so a dac wont work for sacd


dave and Troy


audio intellect nj

40 year audio veterans

I cannot connect the Sony DVD player to the DAC 

I recently acquired Sony's Signature DAC/headphone amp/preamp the TAZH1ES, it goes fantastic with my Sony UHPH1 universal transport and everything else I connected to it. Highly recommended.

Hi pmm.....thank you very much for your suggestion.  I just had a quick look on the Ayre Codex and Cord Quetest; it seems like the Schiit Yggdrasil + is more appealing to me and I am willing to spend $500 more for it.  Of course, I need to save a bit longer in order to get it; I will also consider used ones.  I will do more research on the Chord and Ayre before making the decision. Benchmark DAC3 a good DAC to consider?  When I search for DACs, I keep seeing DAC3 discussions on different sites. 

Hi Carlsbad...Yes.  I need to get a better CD transport / player for sure.  It is likely a purchase I will plan to make next year.  Again, my budget is limited to about $1-1.5K the most. 

I probably listen to 3 or 4 CDs in a week (mostly on weekends) on a good week.  I actually haven't powered on my system for about 3 weeks now which it why I keep delaying the upgrade plan until now.  I probably will put the SACD listening on hold if the Sony DVD player will not send audio signal to a DAC.  

Hi audiotroy....thank you for your information.  I never attempt to connect the dvd player to the Monarchy DAC.  I am going to do some research on this.  Worst come to worst, I am not going to play the SACDs at all until I can find a way to play them.  In fact, many of the SACDs are unopened and gathering dust on the CD rack for over 10 years.

I would  buy the $900 Topping 90 

and a $1,200 Bluesound streamer/ripper.





You need a DAC that will play the DSD layer of the SACD.  Otherwise all you are listening to is the CD layer.  That requires a DAC that accepts HDMI.  I output the DSD from my Oppo 105 over HDMI into a Bryston DAC 3.

  From a cost effective standpoint, you can always get a Sony Universal Player that will play your movies, 20 SACD, Blu Rays, DVDs, etc.  prices range from $300 on up and you can check Crutchfield for the latest.  I think Yamaha also makes a universal player that I haven’t heard.

Get the Gustard R26 — probably one of the highest performance/$ DACs extant today.  Here’s a good review if you haven’t seen it…

Forget bending over backwards to play a few SACDs.  Bite the bullet and start streaming through Qobuz where, for the price of one CD every month, you’ll have access to worlds of new music, much of it in hi-res that’ll make SACD mostly moot. When funds allow buy a used Innuos Zen Mk3 streamer/server that has an onboard CD drive so you can just load all your CDs into it and be done with a transport altogether.  Then you’ll have access to all your music from your chair in any order or playlist you wish along with worlds of new music, which is extremely more exciting than just playing your own music over and over.  Other than a few audiophile recordings that’ll likely never be available to stream, I rarely spin a CD anymore.  At this point, and given all the great music available to stream, spinning a CD now actually seems archaic — like a buggy whip or VCR.  Sorry to be a little preachy here, but just wanted to share my experience and hope it’s at least somewhat helpful.  Best of luck in your journey!

Concerning the Yggdrasil, check out the classified ads over at Head-Fi. I just checked and there are currently several units available used, all for well under $2K.  I also second the motion concerning Qobuz. I started in the music hobby in the late 1960s and Qobuz is the best deal ever for exploring new music as well as listening to your favorites. Hard to compete with a library of 80 million tracks at your fingertips, many in High-Rez. 

Recently, I purchased a dac with a dead optical input. Popped the lid and wrote down the receiver number. This was an rx176. Ordered from Ali baba. Unsolder old part. Install new part and solder.

If uncomfortable doing that, parts connexion would “probably” do it. Also if the dac was in need of an upgrade they, probably, would perform that work as well. It’s nice to have options :-). 

I've never found DAD/Blu-ray players are any good at CD/SACDs. Perhaps its due to the laser gap needs to be different.

I'd suggest you look at the Denon DCD-1700NE as an all in one solution. It plays CDs, SACDs, and you can even burn your HD files to DVD-r and it'll play them.

Hello Junge.  You do realize that the SACD is a multi channel medium, yes? Five channel anyway (front L & R, rear L & R, and center. Perhaps I missed it, but you don't mention having a multi channel playback system. The "universal" players should give you all those outputs and you shouldn't need an outboard DAC. Happy listening.

The Benchmark DAC 3 is good. I had the HGC version.
I also owned the Chord Qutest. If you don’t need AES input and XLR outs go for the Qutest. You can fine tune it and the sound using the orange warm filter is more liquid and engaging than the slightly cooler sound produced by the Benchmark.
Both are excellent DACs. The HGC version of the Benchmark DAC 3 has more features than the Qutest - headphone amp, adjustable gain XLR outs and preamp section, analog input.

"I would buy the $900 Topping 90 "

I would avoid all things Topping. There are a number of sites, including ASR which promotes the Topping brand fanatically, where a good percentage of users complain about the quality of Topping products. They appear to be built to measure very well but do have quality control problems. The Gustard is far better.

Apart from the ones mentioned, I would look at the Sonnet Morpheus.


Thank you so much again everyone for your comment and recommendations; I sincerely appreciate it.

Seems like there are many DAC options out there for the price range of up to $2K.  I have not heard of the Sony TAZH1ES and I will take a look at it.  I don't use headphone at all except when I exercise; I guess it doesn't harm to have the headphone amp function in a good DAC. 

I will do more research on the Gustard R26, Chord Quetest, Benchmark DAC3, Schiit Yggdrasil+ and the Topping DAC.  I have no clue about the Topping and the Chord; I read reviews about the other 3 and it is pretty much it.  I haven't heard of their sound at all.  The last decent audio equipment I purchased was the VT100 M3 power amp and the SOTA turntable which is over 10 years ago; I know I have a lot of catch up to do. 

Upgrade my CD player is on my to-do-list but the purchase will likely be next week with a budget of $1K to $1.5K max.  I saw an article about the Denon CD / SACD player as suggested by pedroeb.  I think it may be a good option for me. 

It did not occur to me that I have to consider things mentioned by mahler123 and boomerbillone about SACD play back.  I have a simple 2-channel stereo setup; I do have a cheap 7.2 channels AV receiver from Costco, but I don't plan to use it for music playback.  If it is the case, maybe I should forget about SACD playback at all like soix indicated as I just have a tiny collection.  I probably just play them as regular CDs. 

mahler123...I believe my Sony player is a universal player as it can play multiple media formats including SACD.  It has a HDMI out for audio; I guess I can connect it with a modern DAC that equip with IIS like the Gustard R26.

I have never thought about music streaming either with my own music collection or with a subscription service.  The reason is that I have not listened to all my CDs at least once.  My wife keeps telling me that with my current speed of listening to my music, I won't finish listening to all my CDs in 10 years.  I have to admit that it is true.  I start buying CDs in the late 80s when I was young.  I brought them with me when I came here to study in the early 90s.  After all these years, I still haven't listened to all the discs I brought to this country years ago, and I keep buying 10 to 20 discs a year.  Maybe I should take a look at streaming as suggested by mahler123 and mlsstl.  How much will be the initial investment in streaming?  

wturkey....I know how to do simple soldering; I need to check the part number and do the repair myself!  This will give me 1 more input selection though I still plan to get a better DAC.

Tim to sleep....Cheers!

Hey, wake up ... while checking Gustard do eyeball the X16.  Had it two years and not going anywhere ... 

Just a short note. Before I moved up to a project RS2T transport, which is to die for.  I used and still use in another system, an Audiolab 6000CDT transport, about $700  You will be impressed!! Redbook CD only. The audiolab transport I have mated to it a Benchmark DAC3, which sounds great. A Dac 3 new cost $1699 plus $100 for the remote.   30 day trial period, 5 year warranty, free shipping, Made in upstate NY. When calling and ask for RORY, he will answer any questions you may have, great to deal with. Just my 2 cents. Robert TN

@junge  "How much will be the initial investment in streaming?"

Once you pick a DAC, it doesn't cost a lot to try out streaming. You can get a WiiM for $90 (Mini, optical only output) or $150 (Pro, with optical & coax). Qobuz will cost you $13 a month and includes tons of hi-rez albums.  

Then, if you fall in love with streaming, you can then move on to a more upscale streamer and spend hundreds or thousands for a fancier unit.  If you don't fall in love, you haven't spent very much, and still have a great option to listen to find new artists or listen to new albums to find out which you like before running out to buy the CD. 

Thank you @robshaw blackbag20, @mlsstl ​​​​@rockrider and @blackbag20 for the information.

@robshaw...I definitely will check out the Audiolab CDT transport + the Benchmark DAC3 combo; review said the DAC3 HGC version is even better as recommended by @audphile1 above.  I am willing to spend up to $2500 or a bit more for the DAC as it will be a device to keep for the foreseeable future.

@mlsstl .....just browse the WiiMPro on Amazon; seems like a good investment to get into streaming.  Will do some homework on streaming setup and such.

After getting all the feedback for you folks, I have some idea on the DAC purchase but I need to research more on it before pulling the trigger.  Streaming sounds simple enough that I am willing to spend $150 to test the water.



+1 @pmm 


I must chime in on the Yggdrasil or Ayer. I own a Schiit Gungnir that I bought to help a friend choose a DAC… we bougt him a Yggy. My headphone system has a Ayre… a great DAC for the money. 

I would go for the Yggdrasil… unless you can afford better.