I had the Rega DAC. Very nice and well within your budget. I upgraded to the PS Audio PWD MKII which is much nicer but out of yor budget range. Look on AGon for one used. You would be giving him a great DAC for half your budget.
How and where can my single, audiophile friends find a girlfriend like you? You are a rare find; I hope your boyfriend appreciates your efforts! I wish I could help with a DAC; so many to choose from. Some friends swear by the Shiit Bifrost DAC; very competitively priced but maybe not on the quality level of McIntosh.
If he has a preamp to control volume already these are just a couple among many really good ones. A Metrum Octave(1100.00) for a richer warm and musical sound or a Moon 300d(1600.00) for a slightly lighter and sweet musical sound. Having said that you want it to match the sound of his other stereo pieces. You might tell us what he has in the way of stereo equipment and also some of his favorite music and if you know what he likes about it. Some individuals here can be of some real help. Have fun.
Do you have a sister? Oh wait, I'm married ...
Anyway, I'd say give Bill at Morningstar Audio a call and order an Eastern Electric DAC Plus with an upgraded tube and the DEXA discrete op-amps. I think total price for that setup is around $1300. That's a seriously high end DAC that will compliment his Mac well.
If there was a way to stretch the budget just a bit you could get a PS Audio perfect wave DAC mk II. I've seen new ones for sale with the sound bridge for 2700 right here on audiogon. This DAC is supposed to compete with DACs at any price and it sounds excellent run directly to the amp and using it to control the volume.
Hi Sue, I agree with all those above - youre a wonderful girl and Im jealous. Youre hearts in the right place, but if your boyfriend is even a fraction as anal as most of us on Audiogon, this is likely to result in disappointment. We take our audio acquisitions very seriously and fret to no end before pulling the plug.
Am I wrong guys? Think about it - would you really want your girl surprising you with a new component you didnt ask for?
I agree with Phaelon. Think about giving him a card saying that his birthday present is any dac of his choice, 2k or less. Explain to him that you want to buy him the exact dac he wants. When someone is as hardcore about a hobby as it sounds he is, it's usually best to let them make their own decision. By the way, he should propose to you... like yesterday.