Higher End DACs

I am looking for a DAC (potentially streamer&DAC) to be paired in a mcintosh system (c1100/611). Its my first foray into digital streaming and I have no need for a CD player.

I see a lot of love for Esoteric, however, most seems to be around their transports? Are they not as renowned for pure digital streaming and/or standalone DACs? I see DCS (for instance) often referenced for standalone DACs - how does Esoteric compare?
@asiufy @audiotroy 

I would be curious what 'level' of DAC would you say is commensurate with my general Mcintosh system of c1100/611 and B&W 800 d3 speakers?

is the MSB line/T+A 3100 overkill?  is it the next step up that would be lost in my current system, above?


originally, I was sort of looking at the Esoteric K1 transport and had started learning more about DCS and the reputation of their DACs and so my original question was really in relation to those two, which generally had a price point around 20-35k, I guess.

But I was not as familiar with other brands like T+A, MSB, etc - or necessarily well versed on various price vs return equations etc...so, its all good I guess! lol

I believe a Premier with 2 Discrete Power supplies will be suitable for your system. Add an MSB Reference Transport, if you're that inclined to play discs, or a Innuos Zenith mk3 if you prefer to stream.
If you still have any budget left, I'd add the $5000 Femto 93 clock upgrade for the MSB. 

Alma Music and Audio


Here is a link to a short stereophile clip  from APOXNA 2019 showing a system very similar to yours, C1100, MC611, and B& W 802D. Notice the streamer they used. I am not recommending any streamer over another nor am I trying to sell you anything.



  1. - the other concern is no MQA.  I recognize why...and I recognize that MQA is not the end-all-be-all, at least right now...however, it does strike me as a consideration that one of the differentiators of the T+A is it being 'future proofed' (as much as anything in the this world can be) - and yet it does not cover one of the growing formats that several other manufacturers are going through various updates in order to support.

I e-mailed T+A this week about MQA and this was their reply:

"thank you for your feedback! I'm pleased that you are very satisfied with your SDV3100HV!

There are plans to support the audio format MQA in the long term. But if or when we will be able to realize an update for SDV3100HV, I cannot answer you.

I wish you much joy with your SDV3100HV!

All the best!

T+A elektroakustik GmbH & Co. KG
Bernd Mölling
Planckstr. 9-11
DE 32052 Herford"

So hopefully this will be soon coming, personally I find MQA on certain material through Tidal has a good incremental addition in SQ....

OP has Mc amp and preamp. Given that, why would he/she even think about pairing it with a warm sounding dac?? I get it that also BW 800s, but I’d still think would want to swing for neutral or slightly analytical.

dcs or msb or esoteric sounds like a better synergistic compatible if OP intends to stick with Mc that he/she already has. Just my opinion based on reputations. I’ll be first to admit I have not heard (in my system) any of these $20k+ digital wonders being discussed.
This thread is really good btw. Nice job OP kicking it off and responding to all the suggestions and refining your search as more info presented. Can’t wait for the auditions and demos and head2heads if they happen.

Cables should not be the answer to mismatched components at this point in game (bc still free to purchase nicely compatible digital piece to go with what he/she already has). OP better off getting best synergistic match with the digital purchase with his existing kit and then using cables to tweak that last 1-2%.

Lack of MQA support on T+A would be dealbreaker for me.