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?
Even if money is no object, i will still stick to the Playback Design.

When i sold off my MSB DAC, I then went off to Total DAC and then Lampi. Both of these dacs are very fine too and not much to complain about. I did have Noise issues with the Lampi which drove me nuts. The Total DAC was another good contender.

MSB to my Ears is a very fine DAC. It gets silly expensive as you go up the line and the difference in quality becomes smaller and smaller.

Overall--Im so settled now with the Dream DAC that i care not about any new Tech or DACs that hit the market. I just can’t seem to part ways with this sonic signature anymore. This is what I was always been looking for in a  DAC, which can allow me to listen to music without always feeling something was lacking or fatigue putting me to a stop. I have an Ultra Revealing setup. I am always lost in the music and always seem to lose track of time. I could never say the same about the other dacs I previously owned. 

To me, this is one of the most Underrated Hardware in Digital at the moment. Playback Design doesn’t seem to pump much money into marketing. IF they did, it would have a higher commanding price, and I am sure it will win more hearts and mind. To some point, I’m glad they have kept the price to more real-world affordability.

 gone are those days where you need 80-120K to justify a Digital Playback System.

Digital Source is getting better and better,

Playback Design is the only DAC on the planet to my knowledge that uses Proprietary PLink Connector from Streamer to DAC (Fiber Optic) 

Here is a Snippet from the following Review: https://darko.audio/2018/07/playback-designs-mpd-8-dream-dac-review/

How does the MPD-8 process files?

“All digital input signals (including DSD64) are converted to DSD128 with our proprietary frequency and time domain algorithms that also includes an apodizing filter. DSD256 is processed separately. Before the DSD128 or processed DSD256 signals are converted to analog, we use another proprietary and new algorithm to convert the signal to a different format with a bit rate of 2048 (16 times DSD128).”

Why do you prefer DSD processing in your DAC designs?

“Because DSD is single bit it inherently avoids all non-linearity distortions that multibit converters have. Most of the challenges in a single bit converter are on the digital side where you can use virtually unlimited, programmable and mostly very predictable resources to tackle the job. The signal in our converters right before the actual conversion to analog is so close to being analog already, that the conversion is no challenge at all with no exotic components. That makes the system performance very consistent and predictable. Exactly the reason why SACD was launched 20 years ago

Not just Playback has an optical link .... Chord DX DACs can have the benefit of a high resolution optical link from source/upscaler to DAC using OPTO-DX. And for those totally on digital streaming, the combination of a software PCM upsampler (Roon+HQPlayer) direct to DAC (Dave or Hugo TT2) gets pretty close to endgame. No galvanic link means zero conducted RF noise on the signal as all the computational heavy lifting is separated from the DAC. And then paying attention to DAC power RF isolation and radiated RF (and magnetic field) isolation means you don't need to jump to an uber expensive DAC. At this high level, it's all about RF elimination.
DAC sound as different as phono cartridges. We seem to be stuck comparing really good DAC's that alter balance a little here or there, verses comparingnthem to lesser DAC's that are just not able to even compete in the "best" DAC space. I had a so called giant killer DAC and it is good, but it isn't near the SD3100HV's capability in sound or flexibility. It wasn't designed to be. It was designed to be as good as it can be for a price and it met that goal.

Can a "giant killer" VW GTI or HONDA civic type R compete with a 911 turbo?  Stop the madness, of course not. In DAC's we seem to have this odd fixation that a DAC that is reaching good performance for the price is good at any price. Nonesense.

I had the opportunity to listen to a T+A MP3100 HV, which has the SACD unit built-in, compared to my DAC in the exact same system, mine, and DAC to DAC. As good as my old DAC is (it rates class A even today) the T+A was solidly better. To my ear and that difference is of course subjective, but there was no going back. Clarity, drive, openness everything took a leap up. It was like new mixes of my sources. And yes, the price leaped about as far as the sound change did.

I now OWN the stand alone SD3100HV DAC. This DAC is incredible for the sound, and why I bought it. The extreme flexibility is a bonus, and not worth a cent without the sound. It is an expensive DAC for sure but the cost works in this case. A DAC is the "sound" of your system now-a-days. We like to start as "perfect" as we can and erode from there. You can't replace what isn't there to start with. Your initial source is so important. For digital the SD3100HV is that level of perfection. There can be nuances at the very top, but we are comparing like DAC's with appropriate capability.

Be realistic, though. Don't bring a VW GTI to a Porsche 911 fight and claim you were on the same lap in a one lap race when in a two lap race you'd be lapped and passed. There can be an admirable loss, but a loss is a loss. If you want to get ahead, there is a true cost to it. 

Everything has a proper level of argument and to be fair to products and the effots to get the best at a set price we need to honor that effort but in the proper context. To move something clear out of it's cost to benefit mix is a disservice to everyone who wants a clear ranking of these DAC's. I heard that "argument" and it didn't get too far. The GTI was dead in the water before the first word is spoken in the wrong company. Why is a DAC any different? No offense to GTI owners, I own one and I know when and why it loses. I also know when and why my older good DAC isn't a GREAT DAC. But pull the price down and that good DAC becomes a compellingly good purchase, like the GTI.

Audio is like the stock market, a commodity  price has been set with the weaknesses boiled in. If a $2,000 level technology DAC was really as good as a $35K DAC, the answer would not stay a secret for long. My GTI surprises no one. Neither will a cheaper DAC. 
Playback Design is the only DAC on the planet to my knowledge that uses Proprietary PLink Connector from Streamer to DAC (Fiber Optic)
Meitner uses a proprietary Optical Link ("Optilink") which is a glass fiber cable to connect the Meitner/EMM Labs DAC and Transport (or streamer, if you go that route).
the Lumin X1 and the new Linn Klimax DSM DAC both take a Fibre Optic cable as a streaming input.

New Linn Klimax DSM With Organik DAC - Bits and Bytes - Audiophile Style

Anybody on this thread have a listen to the new Gustard X26 Pro DAC. I own one and think it is  great DAC using a Sonore OpticalRendu for streaming. I am not looking to change it but was curious as to how it compares to more expensive DACs.