I need a new DAC! Advice/Recommendations?


The good old Cambridge Dacmagic is finally done for, making this the last product from CA in my collection. My gut combined with a general understanding of quality (I bought used and owned it for six months) tells me to stay away from Cambridge Audio, but I did enjoy the sound from that DAC. It's probably one of the better things they made in my opinion. After a short, but good sounding run with the DAC it appears the unit needs servicing, harsh audible distortion at anything over -10bd. We all know it's not worth servicing , which leads me to my next point:

What Next?

A little about me; I'm young with excellent ears, I produce, mix, and critically listen to music everyday of my adult life. I knew the dacmagic was going to be a stepping stone into High End audio, so no, I don't want the dragonfly. Moreover, I don't want something that's only powered via USB with an rca out. I'd like something with a few input options to run my audio interface with preferably XLR inputs. Sample rate is not of huge importance to me. DSD compatibility would be nice. Something that's made in house would also be nice for quality control purposes. Id also really like this next dac purchase to be an investment and last for a long time. 

My budget: $1000 give or take, probably $1500 max. 

My current ideas in no particular order:

1. The Naim dac v1 because Naim has the reputation of lasting forever, sounding great, and it just looks so good. I've never heard this one, but unless it's like the NAC 112 in regards to sound I'd probably be satisfied. Also, the idea of being able to use a nap 100 and the v1 alone is promising, possibly adding a stageline when I'm in the mood for vinyl. 

2. The Rega DAC-R because it's Rega. Not a lot needs to be said in that regard. I also have the brio-r so the remote feature would be nice. (Neither one mentioned so far have XLR) 

3. The musical fidelity dac M1. It seems to fit bill with what I want, and the price is reasonable  considering it's age. The only concern I have is the quality control being made in Taiwan. 

Other ideas include, w4s's dac v2, building my own DAC and gaining solder practice at the same time, and getting a life outside of posting on Audiogon for DAC recommendations. 


Any help or for that matter any response at all would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for the help! 











audiodoggy
audition Teac & OPPO Sonica also
Benchmark DAC 
No DSD but if you're looking for something made in-house with QC then take a look at Shiit (http://schiit.com/) - especially the multibit models if you listen to mostly CDs.
Save some money LOOK at Parasound ZDac. I bought a refurbished unit for $425 Great equipment
A used Ayre Codex, or stretch a few hundred bucks for a new one.  I have one in my system and it is one of most prized possessions! 
+1 Parasound ZDAC

It is really really nice for the price, plenty of inputs. Sounds good even ice cold.
Ayre Codex or PS Audio NuWave DSD; great bang for the buck and a Balanced design.
This one kills for the money:
http://www.audiogon.com/listings/da-converters-hegel-hd12-dac-2017-06-28-digital

Read the reviews. They are true.

Dave

+1 Ayre Codex DAC.  I own the Ayre Codex DAC and it is Outstanding and highly recommended (new or used). 

https://www.ayre.com/codex.htm
There are two Ayre Codex DAC's for sale on Audiogon today, July 11th.  I suggest you check them out.  
For price/performance you can't go wrong with a used Ayre Codex or per Cedargrover's comment for a few hundred more, you can a new one.
Do you need Variable out ?  if not this little gem is outstanding

https://www.vinshineaudio.com/product-page/denafrips-ares-r2r-dac

Theres a few interface setbacks - the indicator LED's are microscopic and the legend is dark Gray ink on Black.  SQ is outstanding

Good Listening

Peter
Check out my Electrocompaniet ECD-1 dac for sale on another Audio selling site. Very analog sounding. Has balanced digital input plus others and balanced analog outs.
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.
Oppo Sonica DAC
Resolution Audio Cantata v1.0 on used market is around $1500.  The version 2.0 on used market around $3k.  Incredible musicality, has all digital inputs plus network, CD, balanced and SE outputs.  Oh, and it's beautiful and made in USA. I've had one for two years now...
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!
Just auditioned the Oppo Sonica and it more than held its own against my Bryston BDA-2. And you can modify it to sound even better. The Sonica is very versatile as well. 
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.  
My mistake. The 851N is a streamer/Dac. The 851D is the Dac:)
@mr_m 

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. 

buy any dac that has some room inside and send it to me for upgrades.  An old musical fidelity would work fine.  All the above recommendations are fine if you want your sound to be the same old thing.  If you want something better, you know where to find me.

Happy Listening.
I looked into the Codex when I was looking for a DAC but the absence of a coax RCA input was a deal breaker for me. Great if you're a USB user.
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..

http://schiit.com/products/gungnir

Good luck with your decision.
@audiodoggy   

Glad to see from your Cambridge experience you are aware of the pitfalls of buying stuff on anecdotes rather than performance. So why not use that experience in your next purchase?
Simaudio 300D v2 are now going for well under $1000...the original zdac often is under $200 which is a great value...
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.
Bwl Canto 2.5 dac....sued around $900 or less
Greetings
Anyone in the NJ tri state area that wants to clarify their opinion and compare their DAC, benchmark,wired 4 sound etc or any of the recommended dacs above VS an Ayre Codex please feel free to bring it in.
 
 Best,
 JohnnyR
JohnnyR, bet I can predict the outcome!
yea you need to get yourself solid and big DAC.
For $1,500, you'll be hard pressed to beat a Denafrips Ares or Gustard x20 Pro. If you're streaming music through USB, then add a DDC, like the Singxer SU-1. You'll thank me.
Peachtree Dacs! Know a number of philes who swear their biggest bang for buck! 
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. 
https://www.audiogon.com/listings/da-converters-arcam-d33-free-harmonic-tech-digital-cable-2017-07-0...

N
If you don’t need DSD there are 2 Wadia 321s on Amazon and I think they are new for around $900. This was a $3k DAC but the new di321 added DSD so you can find these new 1 to 2 year old models for cheap. I think they are basically the same as the new di321 just PCM only. I got mine for ~$1.5K when they first went on sale. It has been in service now for a year or so and I really like it. I demo’d it to a guy who lives down the block from me and he promptly bought one, haha. Build quality is rock solid but the foot print is large so that can be a negative.  They made it the same size as the amp so you could do the wafer stack.
My dac is somewhere between 12 and 9 years old. I bought it used and absolutely love it. New it was very expensive and now it is not worth much. I have a few more dacs where depreciation has killed my "investment"
Why am I mentioning this.
I believe that technology is improving with leaps and bounds and that dacs will improve continiously.
The only way to protect yourself/ourselves against this is to get a dac that is FGPA or modular in construction so that one can get software or modular updates. 
One of the brands offering this is PS Audio. This is way out of your price range - but have a look at the PS Audio Jnr.
As others have said - best value is to buy used. And after that if you wish to get into high res and MQAetc maybe use software rather than hardware to stay off the continous upgrade path.
Good value for money can also be found in Audio GD dacs.
Easy........the new Metrum Amethyst.
Amazing.
Tascam DA 3000 has everything your looking for except a USB input. You would need a USB -Coaxial/AES/EBU/optical converter. It is a pro audio recorder (PCM or DSD) that can be used as an excellent dac for playback. Can be found at most pro audio dealers for about 1K or try Ebay for less $$$.

http://http//tascam.com/product/da-3000/
I would look at the best R-2R you can find for the money, either used or new. Or build the ANK Audio Kit DAC 2.1 for a wicked tube R-2R DAC.

T((((tascam DA 3000 has everything you're looking for)))
 Its fine if Op amps are acceptable
 This is where the Ayre Codex pulls away with discreet DD output stage extraordinary performance.
 Best
 JohnnyR 
Save some of your money. Get a used Rega DAC-R to match your Brio-R. Live happily ever after (or at east until you can afford to upgrade to Rega Elicit-R integrated amp).

Last year I switched from separates to Rega Elicit-R and Saturn-R and I've stopped looking at electronic (I still look at speakers!).

Enjoy!
Check out the Lumin D-1 it will cost you around $1700
,and can do pretty much anything no more digital cable,
it has the upgrade as booster power supply $350,
or ever a much bigger upgrade the Linesr tube Audio power supply 
get the upgraded cable , for around $700
Fantastic , you  like myself wondered why I overlooked this excellent player.

I looked the Lumina D1, looks like a great unit, but my research found it was only a music streamer, there are no inputs to connect an external source such as a CD Transport. 
@Peter(pbnaudio),
That Vinshine DAC looks interesting. Wonder how it compares with the Holo Spring Level 3 DAC, since both are R2R DACs. I saw that they have 4 levels from SGD 888 to SGD 5600. Which one do you have? Can you please share your thoughts?
MP

For the asking price I think the Ares is hard to beat - I definitely recommend it. I don't have any experience with the others you mention.

Good Listening

peter 
@jventer 

Yes, DAC technology is always improving. Which is why buying used is a good strategy to "move up" into better technology.

But yesterday's $5,000 DACs will be easily beaten (or matched)  by today's $1,000 DACs. It all depends on how much value you place on being on the 'bleeding' (i.e. latest and greatest) edge of technology?

I recently sold my 2-year-old Teac UD-501 DAC to someone who was replacing the DAC he bought 12 years ago for $3,000. On Redbook CD, they were very close. But he had started to collect hi-res digital files. The difference on hi-res playback was very evident to him (and me).
The Lumin has  2  usb  inputs  I just bought a T5 Samsung SS drive and it is 
Biasing fast the Lumin app same or similar to the Lynn.  Soon, Tidal 
1,000s radio stations you set it up this player is a great piece of gear. With linear 
Quality power supply such as the Linear Tube Audio .I bought with Audience custom wire Umbilical cord under $700 and many think better then their T-1.
Just read all the accolades, before the PS upgrade.