Looking for a DAC under 2k


I'm using a Small Green Computer Optical Rendu to bring usb to a DAC.
Looking for a new DAC around 2k new or used.

Recently, I had a Border Patrol Se-i which sounded beautiful with a great soundstage and a relaxed sound. Unfortunately, dynamics and bass definition were weak.

Next up, I tried the ifi Pro iDSD. Detailed and clean, but lots and lots of settings to play with. Became noisy after a couple hours and eventually stopped putting out sound and went silent. Can't deal with that kind of poor quality, but really would have prefer a little warmer sound.

I borrowed my Chord Qutest from my headphone system. Very good with my tube headphone system, and not bad on the speaker system, but would like something a bit more analog sounding, like a Border Patrol with dynamic punch and clearly defined, not muddy bass.

TIA, for suggestions.


traudio
Denafrips Pontus ll might be just the ticket.  Best of luck. 
there are a lot of threads in the digital section over the past year discussing very good dacs in your price range

search bar is your friend
I have the same streamer, actually 2 of them, and they feed a tube DAC, the Audio Mirror Tubadour (for $1500 or $2800) and a Benchmark DAC3B ($1700). Both are amazing with the opticalRendu. The DAC3B is super clean and clear and the AMT3SE adds a nice bit of warmth and more analog sound, without sacrificing too much. I use the AMT3SE with RAAL SR1a headphones which need warmth and are one best "speakers" I have ever heard. The AMT3SE is great with the RAAL.
I really like my Heed Abacus.  There is absolutely nothing about it that bothers me.  Sounds like faint praise, but it means I can listen to it for hours. Just sounds good.  
The absolute best deal for your $$ the Denafrips Pontus 2 dac 
just do a search it is a very good R2R dac with separate analog digital power supplies built in on 2 levels ,just do a search ,
then on You tube.
I can't offer comparisons, and primarily use a CD transport source, but I have also been quite happy with the Denafrips Pontus ll.
Chord Qutest  DAC  the best
Definitely look at the Denafrips dacs, I have the Ares 2, cracking bit of kit. 
Thanks.
No more Chinese junk after my ifi experience.
I’m very happy with my PONTUS
The Denafrips dacs are a far cry from the junk end of the market. PS rather rude rhetoric considering too 
Not everything that comes from China is junk.  Denafrips is not junk, and ignoring them is your loss. 
Bought a Topping D10 for less than 100,- usd best dac i ever bought. But if i compare my investment to a measuring mic for making room correction measurments with Mathaudio room eq towards the topping the measurung mic changed my sound for the better hands down 70% An the topping made it around 5% better (compared to my replaced Philips reference Cd player with 1541A dac). Don’t know how your current room acoustics is but i want to suggest give room correction a try an buy a measuring mic incombination with foobar2000 Mathaudio room eq is freeware .
https://hometheaterhifi.com/reviews/dac/topping-d10-usb-dac-and-usb-spdif-converter-review/
I've had the RME ADI-2 for about 3 years. Excellent w/lots of features. Built in Germany.
I would have said the Myth Brooklyn, but apparently Myth is undergoing a major change.  Benchmark
@traudio I also use an opticalRendu and recently had the same question. Hear to echo comments about how terrific the Denafrips Pontus II is. 
I've owned many dacs made all over the world from PS Audio -US, Metronome - France, Meridian - UK and others. The construction quality, fit/finish and most importantly, sound quality from the Denafrips are hard to rival. While I own American speakers, amp & preamp, along with a Swiss phono stage, my Denafrips doesn't in any way seem out of place or make you think Chinese = cheap. 
The Chord Qutest was the alternative that got the most consideration from me. After researching, although both are beloved by many, my take was that the Denafrips provided more of the design elements found in SOTA DACs( e.g. balanced, dual mono ladders & power supply). You can see that you're getting lots of value for your investment. That coupled with positive experiences listening to Denafrips, and voila. Cheers,
Spencer 
I'll consider looking at a Denafrips, but at the moment I leaning strongly towards re buying a PS Audio that I sold a few months back.
FYI, the company I work for has all of our products made in China, and I work with them daily, They CAN and DO make good products, (and they work really cheap) but it takes having people that work for us in place over there to inspect, lots of communications and supervision. 
They don't run production the way we do in the US. We have in process checks and inspections at most every step.They tend to run a product start to finish and check the results at the very end of the process. 
Therefore it's possible get a whole container load of product that can have many bad items in it, and you usually don't discover the issue until it lands in the hands of the consumer. I think my issue (and some friends) with iFi confirms this. Just my experience. 
They don’t run production the way we do in the US. We have in process checks and inspections at most every step. They tend to run a product start to finish and check the results at the very end of the process.

You’re doubling down on a dubious stereotype, and I’m being charitable with my language. Many of the electronics that people rely on daily around the world (e.g. TVs, smartphones, etc.) are manufactured in China, and are obviously highly reliable.

To avoid buying a Chinese product that has received virtually nothing short of rave reviews (e.g. a Denafrips DAC) solely because it is Chinese is analogous to someone having avoided buying Japanese products in the 1970s based on a similarly anachronistic reputation.

Of course there are exceptions, as there are a huge number of companies that operate in China. But the one that we are discussing was incorporated in 2012, is a boutique operation (originally five employees; now 40-50), and has a worldwide sales and distribution agent (Alvin Chee) based in Singapore, who is exceptionally responsive to questions and/or problems with the products.

Denafrips describes its production process and materials used here:

https://www.denafrips.com/single-post/2020/06/26/who-are-we-denafrips-explained

To be clear, I don’t care if anyone buys products from them, even though I am quite happy with my Pontus. I am pressing the point simply because I think that any moderately serious research will reveal that the company is well run, and makes excellent products. The fact that they happen to be a Chinese company is, in my view, irrelevant.
+1 for Denafrips.  I'm very happy with my Ares II.  
whipsaw,
I’m just passing on my experiences, not stereotyping. I’m sure Denafrips is a fine product, especially if it’s a smaller company that’s not contracted to make products that aren’t their own. IOW it sounds like they have some skin in the game.
The companies I deal with are basically contractors that make products for several companies within the same product area.
Also, I like being able to either pick up the phone, get a response on their forum, or an e mail within a reasonable amount of time if I have a problem or question. 
One more thing before this goes off the rails.....I am only speaking of companies and how they are ran (anywhere).
I have nothing against any people or country. 
@traudio 

I understand what you are saying, and didn't mean to imply that you were being a racist. I simply thought that what you suggested in your first couple of posts seemed over-the-top, and too sweeping.

In many cases, all other things being roughly equal, I would likely purchase, say, a German manufactured product over a Chinese equivalent, and in a broad sense, it would arguably be the safer choice. But if a Chinese manufacturer has a proven track record, I would see no reason not to purchase its products.

Funny thing is, in my case, that I almost invariably buy used audio components, and have been doing so since the 1980s. This Denafrips DAC is literally the first major component that I have bought new in ~30 years. Part of my willingness to buy from a small Chinese manufacturer was the obvious care with which its representative (the aforementioned Alvin Chee) communicates with customers (both current and prospective). He can be found on various forums answering questions and concerns about the products, and, in contrast to some others, makes virtually no effort to (directly) push for sales. He is also very good at communicating privately via email, and this is the type of support that bolsters my confidence when I am considering a purchase.

I have no doubt that there are many good DACs from many companies to consider. Denefrips seems to offer a nice combination of quality and value, but I'm sure that there are American (or German, etc.) made DACs that are equally worthy of consideration.
I have the Audio Mirror Tubadour 3-$1,500 and find it much more enjoyable than some others I have used. Hand made to order in Minnesota. Satisfaction guaranteed. Won't get that on most imports
from Asia.
I have the Audio Mirror Tubadour 3-$1,500 and find it much more enjoyable than some others I have used. Hand made to order in Minnesota. Satisfaction guaranteed. Won't get that on most imports
from Asia.
traudio OP
Looking for a DAC under 2k
Don’t think you could go passed a discrete R2R from Denmark at Soekris Audio .
http://www.soekris.dk/products.html

US/Canada Distrubuter https://soekris.modhouseaudio.com/soekris-audiophile-line

Cheers George
I also have the Audio Mirror Tubedour III. Base model is $1500. I paid more, just under $2000, due to requesting upgraded parts. Upgrades can be done to the basic model at any time after purchase.   
Singxer SDA-6, the only dac with AKM4499 and non-oversampling option.
- Non-feedback preamp.
- Mundorf capacitors.
- Galavanic isolation for USB input.
- CCHD-957 Clock

Here's my limited experience on US vs Chinese-made items that I've bought.  First off, if you buy Chinese, buy through a distributor and not directly from a Chinese company, because if you have an issue it's going to be very difficult to bridge the language gap if you don't speak their language (SHENZHENAUDIO).  In short, I've had good and bad experiences with both US and Chinese manufactured goods; the US products had hardware issues, the Chinese products involved miscommunication and minor defects.

US issues: PS Audio, had 2 issues - 1,) the Mute function would not work, and 2.) when a headphone was plugged in it did not bypass the main output.  For #1 they sent me another control IC that I installed, and #2, I had to send it back because the circuits that do the bypass were -- missing.  Since these two things were under warranty they fixed them at NO charge to me, so that's important as to customer service.  Also have a Power Plant which has had zero problems, except for that thing where they yanked the internet support that allowed you to monitor performance and change settings online. 

Just sent back a Schiit Audio Freya+ where the volume control motor stopped working after 10 months - had to pay shipping and insurance back to them for a fix. 

Chinese: Denafrips Ares II, bought through VINSHINE - no issues with DAC, no problems with communication BUT you cannot send it back to them if you decide you just don't like it. 

Bought a Topping D90 from SHENZENAUDIO with the graphics on the front printed upside down, offered me $20 credit to keep it.  I did.

Also bought a Topping A50 from them, they sent me a UK adaptor for the wall wart (I am in the US and they didn't give me a choice as to type when I ordered) and after a month of trying to get them to understand that I needed the US adaptor (with pictures of what I needed) and them sending me an IEC power cord (remember, wall wart) I gave up and bought a linear power supply.  Never did get the right part, but they sent very nice and polite responses to my pleas for the right part while never actually fixing the issue, and always asking me to retract any negative feedback I might've put out about them. 

I will mention that I had no issues with the Topping equipment functioning as it should, so again, deal with a trusted distributor.  
Pretty happy with the Ares II and had the Topping D90 and that was good as well, would pull the trigger on a Pontus if it was cheaper, in that vague justification that I might possibly be missing something.
BLACK ICE GLASS FX TUBE DAC DSD WI-FI
https://hometheaterhifi.com/reviews/dac/black-ice-glass-fx-tube-dac-dsd-wi-fi-review/

Heck of a lot cheaper than 2k and one of the best bargains in a dac out there period. Black ice is the old Jolida.

For a whole bunch less, the musical fidelity v90 dac @ $299... yup, I said it $299. I mention these two dacs for good reason, they are both excellent and prove you do not need to spend thousands on a dac to get great sound. I own both the v90 dac as well as the older Jolida glass fx tube dac.
Since Wadia has been shelved by the McIntosh Lab their 321 DAC can be had for a song and 3rd party support is available.
https://www.audioexcellence.ca/blog/2018/4/4/wadia-di322-introduction321-specials
wow, I didn't know that.
I was wondering if Wadia was still around. Went to a Head-fi met many years ago at Wadia when they were still in Saline, and it was a really impressive operation.
D100 is proly out there in the wild as well and is very similar I think, Same ESS Sabre  implementation with digital volume control. https://www.avforums.com/reviews/mcintosh-d100-digital-preamp-review.590

I own the MHDT Orchid DAC.  The TDA 1541 chip is rated one of the best sounding of the discreet R2R chips and the DAC can be purchased from a US distributer.

I purchased mine online and from a review a spare tube was to be sent if purchased form the US distributer.  I didn't get the spare tube when my order came so I contacted the US distributer and asked about it. 

Their response was that the promotion had ended BUT sent me a spare tube anyway 

I think it sounds fantastic but haven't been able to compare it to any other brands accept the ALLO Piano DAC with the reclocker.   I like it much better than that DAC.   After Covid I'm hoping the DIY club here n the Northwest will be able to facilitate a DAC OFF to actually compare to some of the other members DACs purchased and built.
for those that care and are interested in chi-fi dacs like topping singxer gustard etc etc, there is a us-based retail outfit called apos audio - they are in nor cal and they represent and sell a number of these well known chi-fi dac/electronics brands (but not denafrips)

i am NOT recommending these dacs, in fact i bought a topping d90 mqa from apos and returned it after trial - it wasn’t for me

but apos are responsive, stand up guys who take care of customers and live up to promises made on support and customer service for usa based buyers interested in their chi fi offerings
The TDA 1541 chip is rated one of the best sounding of the discreet R2R chips
The TDA1541 is not discrete.

This is the "Chip" TDA1541 (all microscopic resistors are inside it.)
https://img.canuckaudiomart.com/uploads/large/2649100-brand-new-philips-tda-1541-s1-crown-dac-chip.j...

This is the "Discrete" R2R resistor Ladder, "no chip", the hundreds of those resistor (circled in red) are separate and discrete.
https://ibb.co/72znmhd

Cheers George


Musician Pegasus R2R

OR

Denafrips Pontus R2R

These 2 DACs are many many notches above all the other crap out there that is priced the same.

P.S. if these 2 Chinese DACs are crap, every other Euro/American DAC out there at this pricepoint is absolute crap. Good luck patriot, LOL
Musician Pegasus R2R

OR

Denafrips Pontus R2R

These 2 DACs are many many notches above all the other crap out there that is priced the same.

agree on pontus

careful on the other one...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qH0MY044X8Q&t=3s
@jjss49

I have seen that video before and went with it anyways based on many positive experiences on head-fi.org. I have the Pegasus in my secondary bedroom setup now and couldn’t have asked for something more perfect at a steal of a price.

This is literally the equivalent of a 10k+ DAC from a couple of names i won’t name yet (you know who!)...Dacs like these get designed/made in China, makes it to North American/European shores, gets a Western brand name and the price tag goes to 20k (2000% markup from a lazy no talent vulture). The audio "patriot" will choose to pay that lazy zero talent vulture a fine sum of 20k, i suppose. But, I guess i’m just not that patriotic!!

Okto Dac8 stereo if you want to wait up to 16 weeks for delivery. Really amazing dac for $1500, plays well above it's weight.
A bit more analog sounding, under $2k, I recommend checking out the Doge 7 DAC. Has a fully balanced, beefy tube output stage. Really fantastic value for the money, outperformed the PS Audio PerfectWave that it replaced.
Another Audio Mirror vote.  Love mine and it's beaten a number of competitors in my system (ifi iDSD pro, Matrix X-Sabre Pro, Shiit Bifrost 2, Lampizator Amber 3, PS Audio Directstream DAC, & Holo Audio May KTE).
I stand corrected. Thanks learning is fun

Difference between Discrete Circuits and Integrated Circuits. A discrete circuit is constructed of components which are manufactured separately. Later, these components are connected together by using conducted wires on a circuit board or a printed circuit board.

According to the above definition a discrete chip can't exist. What do you call a chip made of of individual micro resistors?



The Ayre Codex is a worthy option. A Colorado based company that offers excellent support and service if needed. For under $2K it's a great DAC.

https://www.ayre.com/products/digital/codex/
Here is a very interesting review of Pegasus DAC with comparison to other DACs including Chord Qutest:
https://headfonics.com/musician-audio-pegasus-r2r-dac-review/2/#:~:text=The%20R2R%20of%20the%20Pegas....
I think the other system components are very important for choosing DAC.
The quality of transport or music server is very important.
I use a tube SET 300B amplifier. So in my system Qutest newer sounds bright or "digital".
RME ADI-2. Great sound, great display and very flexible. 
Someone mentioned the Jolida tube Dac. Very musical. That’s a really good one as well. Well under a thousand. 
The reviewer doing this review is one of my go to guys.
The One to Beat: Gustard X26 PRO DAC Review (soundnews.net)

I ended up getting this one yesterday ($1500) from SHENZENAUDIO. Got 30 days to return it or get rid of an existing DAC and keep the Gustard.