Mod my B C DAC 3, or just get another DAC?

Hi folks

As I suffer from the disease of ‘more’ and I’d like very much to gain another level of performance in terms of honesty in the tones, and greater immediacy with imaging and sound stage representation, I’m looking for input here so I can decide which is better for me right now:

1. Modding my current stock BC DAC3
2. Sell it and buy another brand & model entirely?

I’m guessing the modding route one of greater value as it could likely be less expensive a way to go for me to gain what I seek.

My hesitancy to have it modded, revolves around the possibility of me winding up with a DAC that is transformed into something so critically revealing and resolute so as to be without the involvement which comes from the truth & naturalness of real music, thereby reducing the music I can play through it.

I listen to everything but the baser urban genres. Rap & most Hip Hop usually aren’t my cup of tea. All else? Yep. Pretty much and now I’m starting to get into classical as well. Mainly though it is jazz, big band jazz, vocalists, Bluegrass, R&B, Folk, Country, World, Rock, Blues, etc, etc.

Anyone who has had a DAC3 modded and would take the time to provide some feedback as to the results would be immensely appreciated.

Of course, any other thoughts on the topic in general are welcome too, and perhaps in terms of which mod master tends to voice their mods in SUCH & SUCH A WAY… OR THE LIKE.

I feel naturalness & honesty in tone, timber, dynamic range, as well as ambient retrieval are of significant consequence to capture the soul of the musical recreation and enhance the illusion of they are here, or you are there, which I get a fair degree of now.

Naturally, a higher level of resolution is amenable to that end, yet it should not be the spotlit attribute of a presentation. I listen for hours on end now and would wish that frame not be truncated by listening fatigue.

I’ve seen only the notes from Underwood HiFi on their level one and two mods, and the recent claims of the new VBS technology available thru Bel Canto for some of their e One level components.

As all of my system is and will continue to be digitally sourced a DAC is the key item for me. I must add too I do like what the DAC3 does for my stereo and my HT rig presently.

Thanks a lot for the input and consideration on this inquiry.
Naturally, a higher level of resolution is amenable to that end, yet it should not be the spotlit attribute of a presentation. I listen for hours on end now and would wish that frame not be truncated by listening fatigue.
I've always been a bit puzzled by this type of statement. It is not uncommon to see people claim that the drawback of some "higher resolution" or "extremely accurate" systems is listener fatigue.

When I attend live music events I am never fatigued by the music (unless it involves poor quality amplification or is much too loud.)

There are, of course, some recordings that are not what they could be and a good system will show that, but more often than not the systems I heard that are described as ruthlessly revealing often are not really accurate to my ears but rather have a tilt up or extra edge in the high frequency ranges.

This can give an initially "revealing" impressive zip to things but ultimately is tiring because it is not a natural presentation. Therefore if a music system is fatiguing it is obviously missing the boat on something in the realm of accuracy.

All of that said, I can recommend the Lavry DA-10 (they also have a DA-11 now). I've used it for a couple of years and have no urge to change to anything else.
I would suggest trying a different DAC rather than modding, since it does not seem like you like the "house sound" of the DAC 3 to begin with. I've modded several pieces of digital gear, but I liked the pieces to began with and only sought to improve on what they already did well. Trying to change the basic character of a DAC through modding is a riskier proposition, IMHO. Also, as far as value, you will get little return, monetarily, from modding. So, I would sell the DAC 3, and add the money you have allotted for modding, and upgrade to something new.


I sort of thought I said what I felt was a good thing, but perhaps did not account as well for what is IMO a bad thing, yet you did.

I’ve heard time and again, system after system which promote resolution over what I feel is natural or realistic sound. As you said, “… tipped up..” . Another perception of mine is this, “Dry” or maybe thin.

Let’s face it to, there are devices out there which are not really great sounding, or terms like bright, dry, forward, aggressive, thin, etc, wouldn’t be terms one see’s as negative characteristics of a component… and those devices do exist… subjective as they may or may not be in fact.

I gave the DA10 a go… liked it a lot, but went with the DAC 3 as it provided me more of what my rig needed than did the Lavry… it also gave more resolution, better bass, and a better presentation of the stage and it’s images. Not to mention the better control of jitter. Albeit, to insert the BC DAC 3 into a 100% SS rig, one might be well served to matching and it’s setup, therein. IMO

If I had a DAC blender, a mix of the Lavry and BC D3 would be a hard one to beat.

I’d like to have such a ‘blend’ on a higher level then either maker’s stock DAC provides now.

>I would suggest trying a different DAC rather than modding, since it does not seem like you like the "house sound" of the DAC 3 to begin with.<

Thanks. You must have missed the part where I said in my next to last paragraph….

I definitely get the part about the possibility of it being a poor investment, but I’ve not looked at stereo gear as investment properties per se. Not with losses of 30% to 50% right off the bat following the purchase. But I do appreciate that reminder…. It is what it is, mod or no mod, the depreciation is worse on gear than on a new car driven off a new car sales lot.

Knowing who in fact does mods now on the Bel Canto DAC 3 other than underwood H FiI, I think might help.

The statement Wally makes as to the results of their level 2 mod on the BC DAC 3 are the sorts of results I’d be seeking.

I guess what I’m seeking here is validation of those efforts/mods by another who has had them done…. Or someone who had similar mods done to their DAC via some other modder.

I’ve found no online reviews, here or elsewhere indicating what benefits or caveats were attained following their mods on DACs. I’ve seen a good number of accounts on CDP mods, some on amps, just not on the BC DAC3.
i have been on a search for a dac that satisfies my unreasonable expectations and ordered a berkeley alpha dac last week. i did this based solely on what i have read and the experience of couple of guys i know. this is supposed to be a special piece of gear so i am quite excited. i was not sure of your budget but that is the dac i chose...

good luck on your quest blindjim...
I would give Wyred a call. Heard their new DAC and was quite impressed. It's based on the Sabre 908 chip.
I would not recommend modding the DAC. Your satisfaction with the result is uncertain, and the re-sale potential of a modded component is poor. The return is about a dime on the dollar.

For a different flavor, consider a used Audio Note DAC.
Good luck on your search.

However, I'm a little confused by the jitter comment. The BC3 reviews I've seen show very good performance but with some variability depending on input type. The Lavry is in the same range but varies less with source. With a proper setup jitter should be a non-issue with either one.

Guess I'm just lucky in one fashion - I'm very pleased with my system and haven't had an urge to go changing things for quite some time.
How would one know if the resulting sound from say the BC DAC3 vs the Lavry is due to jitter rejection or analog filtering current/voltage conversion post DAC, or simply the dac IC itself? I think excessive attention to jitter performance can misguide many audiophiles, certainly myself. Yes jitter is bad, but once that is dealt with there is no shortage of other challenges. I have had the BC DAC3 (for over a year), a benchmark DAC1 (non usb) and just recently the Benchmark DAC1 HDR. In all cases the DAC's sounded different, not one clearly better over the other. In general I found that the Benchmarks to have a more vivid presentation, a touch more upfront, but the DAC3 somewhat recessed with a tendency to bunch the images, but with a good 'tone' nonetheless. Both dacs claim, and the data indeed does prove it, top notch jitter specs. Both dacs use well selected operational amps in the chip configuration (pretty much all cd players and dacs are implementing op-amps either with an IC or discrete). The DAC3 uses digital attentuation, while the dac1 HDR was a more traditional analog pot.

Back to the OP. I think modding the DAC3 would be a mistake and a misuse of time/effort. The DAC3 is a superb example of engineering with premimum parts already and I would bet that modding isn't really going to do much for you and may even produce a worse result.

For me, i've been pretty dissapointed after a few years of messing around with DACs and so called high end cd players. It's the same story: at first i'm blown away by this or that difference, and then I get bored... and after a long enough soak, I realize that the difference between these and lesser sources, like my squeezebox (with the linear) are actually pretty small, and certainly not worth the extra $$$. I think in my case, I am overly excited by the new toy and over hype the sonic results approximately in proportion to how much the new component cost (over the old). I thought the DAC3 would be the end all be all, based on the engineering and reputation, and reviews, but like Blindjim, I got bored with it. It's less a problem of the dac3 and more a problem of my subjective scrutiny of all these toys. Sigh. I need a new hobby. Sorry for the long blathering post. Maybe the Bryston Dac will be the one ;)


Having heard them both, DA10 & BC D3 in my home, I felt the D3 did a better job in the jitter regard... and those other areas I mentioned. In fact I posted a review of them both here on the 'gon.

Using USB as a main interface is not something I'll do predominately. It's just a nice thing to have about.

The remote control switching of sources, and it's use as a preamp, if needed or desired, also swayed my vote and justified the added cost of the DAC 3 over the Lavry. But again, that is my circumstance and preffs. All my gear resides in another room from my listening room so remote switching of inputs was quite nice the preamp part? used it once or twice so far. I use it mostly as a test tool not a preamp. I have a preamp I prefer more.

Thanks at any length though. I appreciated the thoughts.


Yeah. I believe I get it now completely having thought more about it since it's first mention here. If following a mod it is something I disagree with, I'm lost. I'd probably be unable to live with it in that new condition.

A part of me keeps saying any modder worth his or her salt would not transform a good thing into something worse, or in this case something less musical.

Thanks for the reminder of 'Audio Note' too. I've been very curious about them for a while prior to the BC D3 buy. Additionally, the Wavelength DACs have always been on my short list, yet feature sets being what they are in his line up, and my seldom seeing them for sale preowned, kept me away.


The B.A.D. review I read at computer audiophile dot com put it on my radar. It's price tag took it off again.

I'm figuring on putting around $1000 into mods on my DAC 3, if I go that way. So even selling my DAC and adding in that additional balance I'm out of that club altogether... if new, for sure.

Thanks kindly for all other thoughts here folks, I sincerely appreciate you for them. Keep 'em coming please.

Maybe someone in the modding game professionally, will chime in and provide another perspective or two, like Chris, Steve, Walter, or Dan, on what one should expect a mod to accomplish for them, or the like at some point.
I wouldnt mod it.Something completely diff for a diff sound?I have one and thats what I would do,YMMV,good luck,Bob
Dpac996 makes an excellent point - how can one ascribe all audible differences between two DACs to a single factor, especially when the jitter figure differences between the two are fairly insignificant?

While the word may conjur up a certain mental image, I don't believe DAC jitter exhibits as a single phenomenon (e.g., as tape flutter or record wow might.)

There are a lot of other design and parts differences between the two pieces of gear. Some of those likely play a role in the differences you hear.

If I were you (and I'm obviously not) I think the thing I'd want to do first is identify what specific parameters I'd like to see improve. You might even find changing another component a more effective route to accomplish your goal.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is step back and reevaluate priorities and see if we're really spending our energy where it can make the biggest difference.


Very thoughtful remarks, thanks.

I'm simply investigating the prospecs of improvements which can or are gained from modding. I clearly see the possible dollar loss in that venture. I wonder not so much about that though viable it is, but as to peeling back another layer from the onion, or mist from the window and thereby gain greater insights into the reproduced musical event.

I felt the DAC3 the likely candidate for the injection of mo' dough.

From several sources querried by an online mag writer, all were asked the same 10 Q's. All I've read thus far attribute jitter as the most likely candidate for poor sound reproduction in the digital realm.

Sure, there's more to a DAC or player than just the ckt that addresses jitter reduction. Of course. sorry I pointed to that single item as the why of things when I compared the Lavry to the BC DAC.

I'm thinking I'd like to get a bit more transparency, more liquidity, some bit more depth in the stage, and more immediacy in the images. I doubt seriously I'll get that with $2500.... consequently enhancing the DAC seems a likely path... as I've already got the DAC.

$1000 won't get me another amp and I want to keep those I have now. It definitely won't do me better in the preamp arena, I feel mine's a keeper. I'm doubtful I'll make much of a step up by selling my speakers and adding another grand there.

I've been putting off trying out another set of ICs, and heard using a better sound card could help. I've also contacted BC to inquire about their new VBS tech... so we'll see what they say about that.
I would stay away from mods unless the person doing the work can send you a finished product for demo. Otherwise, there's just no way you know what you're getting.

Also, if you are as particular as you seem to be, I would invest the time in taking the DAC3 into dealers and demoing it against a potential purchase in the same system, if not your own. Home demos are not always feasable. If you just want something good, you can buy it over the net unheard. There's lots of good stuff out there. But if you really want something that takes you personally to the next level, I think a dealer audition is the only way. IMO. Thanks.

I believe those notions are spot on. I've often wondered why one is usually unable to preview an already outfitted (modded) device beforehand. It adds to the mystery of mods to be sure.

One would think, as with so many other makers whose products can be previewed in home for some reasonable period, the best way to decide in truth too, these pro modders who do a fantastic printed sales job as to the outcome would then allow serious parties to see first hand that handywork up close and personal. I mean, were I in their places and the professed upgrades did as advertised, I certainly would. that should for good and all, eliminate the doubts and doubters.

True too, there is indeed a LOT of good out there. I'm not seeking more 'good' but more aptly put I hope greater performance. Neither am I bored or seeking another flavor.

I think by and large we are all picky. Some more than others to be sure. I hope I am nnot comming off as such. I simply know what I'm getting and enjoy it... yet feel it can be improved upon without making wholesale changes.

I did that wholesale thing a little while back and it wasn't fun. Too much had to be changed and not just the components.

I'll await for a time, a response from BC on their new VBS gizmo, and see about trying out a more resolute yet refined set of source ICs in the interim.

Maybe better ICs will peel off a layer or two for me right there and questionable or unknown mods can be forgotten altogether.
The listed Underwood BC mods(Cree SiC diodes, OPA627 op amps, Connex silver IC, Riken resistors, Multicap PPFXS coupling caps) should together make a decisive improvement, but $1200 for around $150 in parts plus six hours work may be a bit rich.
I once purchased a used Underwood Music Hall CD25.2T, and it sounded excellent. Now, I never heard the stock player, so I can't make a comparison, but I suspect the modded player was a good improvement over stock. Certainly the parts content would suggest so.

I paid less than half the Underwood retail cost for the unit, and I later sold it for what I paid. That's the benefit of buying the modded stuff used.
Blindjim - I am not in any way implying that modded products are not good or excellent. They may well be, but in this hobby, we are trying to find gear that satisfies our personal tastes, which may be largely dictated by our room and system, as well as preferences. This may not coincide with the tastes of the person doing the mods.

Modwright sent a friend of mine a Sony tube DVD/SACD player, which he obviously thought enough of to purchase. All I was trying to say was, once you are on the level of the BC3, you should quit the hit-and-miss game and find something you really love. In my experience, it ususally cost more than I wanted to spend, but that's life.


I'm hip... to the likely gains, and woefully, hip, to the expenses.



Exactly...and there's the hesitation.

there's a solid point made by you as to ensuring further moves going forward. I agree.