audition Teac & OPPO Sonica also
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Do you need Variable out ? if not this little gem is outstanding
Theres a few interface setbacks - the indicator LED's are microscopic and the legend is dark Gray ink on Black. SQ is outstanding
Don't be quick to dismiss Cambridge. Yes, you had a failure. Any brand can have that. I have had and still do have a Cambridge CD Player with accessible DAC's. Had a 840-C and still have a 851C. Both player/Dac's have been as reliable as the rising sun, ten years running.....Cambridge has a Dac called the 851N I believe. A highly rated Dac at a reasonable price that can compete with the big boys.
Lots of good Dacs out there in and around that price range as you can see from all the various recommendation. My suggestion, buy used and buy smart so you can audition, resell without a loss, and audition until you find a Dac you love. It’s easy to do, Dac's being fairly small and easily shippable compared to other components. Plus it’s fun checking out different gear, at least I think so. Whichever way you go good luck and happy listening and trust your own ears!
I agree with mr. M. I've had the Cambridge BD650 in my HT system for seven or eight years, loaned it out, got it back--never missed a beat. Use it mostly for CDs and SACDs, and the odd DVD-a. In my main system I recently added the 851N streamer and it has a killer DAC. Absolutely changed my view on Redbook CDs. I see the 851D used for less than $1,000, and it has the identical DAC as the streamer.
Don't be quick to dismiss Cambridge.
I'd like to point out that I entered into high fidelity audio with support of Cambridge because I saw, and in certain aspects still see it's worth in the high end community as producing realistically priced equipment that sounds good. With that being said, the dacmagic wasn't my first bad experience with a Cambridge Audio product. The first being my Azur 640a integrated that went into protection mode for no apparent reason, diagnosed as a glitch, and consequently forced to disable protection mode to get the thing to amplify any signals. This is a problem that exists amongst several Cambridge users. In my opinion it's unacceptable especially in regards to the Hi-fi community where there's hundreds of manufacturers making high quality products priced around the same. Shitt, for example. Also, on both the dacmagic and the azur I had to literally break off two screws because they became so stripped that it my best option without drilling them out. I mean, the least they could do is ensure their warehouse uses quality screws. This opinion I have isn't just brand-xenophobia as much as it's first hand experience that is given more weight when you compare it to other brands. I'm not meaning to to start an argument or anything like that. I just don't want to be viewed as the "if it's not expensive it's not good" type.
@dlcockrum @hgeifman @pbnaudio
Thanks for the suggestions! I'm looking into the hegel especially. The codex seems interesting, and the r2r dac seems great!
Even though I want this to be more of an investment that sits on the rack for years to come, @jond brought up a good point with getting something that holds its value. The only thing about that is apart from the big brands I'm not really certain which other DAC's are generally desired on the used market. I've seen Hegel pop up a few times, but the only dealers around me do Rega, Naim, Creek, ect, ect. So my point of reference isn't that large.
Already many great-sounding suggestions, I’m sure. I’ll add another vote for a DAC from Schiit and in particular, the Gungnir with Multibit upgrade. New, it will come in slightly under your $1500 top budget at $1249. No XLR input but the Gungnir does have a pair of balanced XLRs OUT (as well as 2 pairs RCA out). It is a true balanced design. Inputs are BNC, Optical & RCA SPDIF + USB (now standard). It doesn’t "do" DSD as @djohnson54 also noted. Find all the info at the link to their site, below. Do note the 5 year warranty along with a 15 day in home trial period (money back less a 5% restock fee). You will need to burn in any new Gungnir a solid 10 days (at least!) processing signal 24 hrs/day to start to hear what it really "sounds" like.
FWIW - I just had my Gungnir upgraded to Multibit and have been knocked out by the new and unexpected high level of performance that resulted...and I was already very happy with it before sending it in. It’s almost worth getting the stock Gungnir first ($849) so you can appreciate what the MB upgrade does.
Prior experience was with a Musical Fidelity V-DAC (1st gen) in combination with their V-Link..
Good luck with your decision.
I had W4S DAC-2, Rega DAC-R, Ayre Codex and Hegel HD25 on my system for extended period of time. For your budget ($1000), I'd highly recommend a used Ayre Codex or Hegel HD25. The both have some limitations such as connection ports or DSD support. But they both give you excellent sound quality compared to the their prices.
Rega DAC-R has been in my system since November of 2015. It's the most budget-minded component I have, but it more than holds its own. There's plenty of detail to compensate for the slight euphonic coloration. I use the USB input after having compared it extensively with the optical. The DAC-R USB implementation is solid. With Audirvana as my player, I use the max upsample to feed 192khz to the Rega on all my lossless files and Tidal.
I really like the component.
I would recommend the Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista 21 Tube DAC;
I'm using this tube dac with a Sony DVP-NS9100ES DVD CD player as a transport. This Musical Fidelity dac sounds very analog.
Also someone mentioned above the Electrocompaniet ECD-1 dac.
I have heard this dac and also liked the sound to it.
I've heard the Ayre Codex, it's crazy good. But it has limited input features. No Coaxial,, no XLR inputs,, Optical and USB only. But that's not a deal breaker for me. And it is fully balanced with XLR output. In addition, it has an awsome power supply with a power cord. Not a wipmy wall wart. I have Ayre. Ayre does digital and does it well.
If you liked the Cambridge sound, perhaps look at the Arcam D33. Lot of functionality.