Most organic / real / analogue sounding DAC (ideally with Volume Control) for $1500??????

I’d say I’m completely jaded with digital Hifi.   All sounds so thin & clinical.

I people raving about Benchmark DACs & Chord Mojos etc. They sound like hell to me.   Nothing at all like real live voices & instruments.

I’ve been reading about R2R Ladders & NOS.   The descriptions match what I’m looking for.   I want natural sound that makes me forget about Hifi & just listen to the music.
like Reel to Reel without the faff.

Lifelike is my aim, but I certainly prefer a warm, dark sound over clinical.

Don't need a load of inputs.  Only need 2 or 3.
I don’t have any analog sources, so prefer the DAC to have Volume Control to eliminate the need for a Pre Amp.   However, if the best sounding DACs don’t have Volume Control & there are clear sonic benefits to having a Preamp, then I could be persuaded.

I’m in UK btw, so need brands that ship to UK.

Suggestions please?


I have to agree with midareff1! I sold high end car audio for 13 years. The brands had different signature sounds etc. but it wasn’t until I really jumped into home audio. Did I realize home audio systems Must have synergy if you expect to be satisfied with yours. Just a single cable can change the sound to be completely different. So getting your system molded to your particular needs/wants is a work in progress. Go to your local hifi shop and listen to gear in person! You can only read so many reviews and skim through the forums until it’s time for an in person demonstrations. When I sold car audio. I had to provide great demos so customers could truly decide what they enjoyed most about the brands and different gear. I am satisfied with the system I currently own but I wasted a lot of money buying and reselling stuff that wasn’t what I wanted my system to sound like. For you to truly be happy. There's nothing better than getting the experience first hand and figuring out what you like before you even plug it in at home. 

I agree with you concerning dacs like the benchmark, it simply sounds thin and digital to me. Even the DCS One which I’ve listened to quite a bit is nothing to really talk about compared to a good analog rig. Two of the most real sounding dacs I know of and which I own and fit your price requirements are the Museatex Bidat which has the ability to use a wired volume control which is very very good and the Museatex (Melior) Bitstream which is also incredibly good. They are full sounding and simply sound more like a higher end analog rig than most of the new stuff being hyped. If you have John Wright in Calgary put the latest mods on them, it’s game over.

The Bidat and the Bitstream are very similar in sound. The Bitstream is the surprise. That thing is simply head and shoulders above the newer dacs I’ve heard and yes, that includes the $80k DCS One. You should be able to find a modified Bitstream for under $900.00, non modified for like $425.00.

I’ll put it this way, between my AMR CD 77.1, Bidat, Bitstream and AMR DP 777 se I am no longer the least bit interested in hi-res, MQA, DSD or any of the latest and greatest formats. Redbook sounds incredible on these machines. I do have 800 DSD files and an iFi iDSD Pro and iDSD Black Label so I can play native dsd and yes, it sounds fantastic and there is merit to the format. I normally use HQPlayer to convert the DSD to 16 bit 44.1khz and feed it to the Bitstream, Bidat or DP 777 SE. I switch up :)

The iDSD Pro is my office system and I listen natively, DSD/MQA/RB, etc with that setup.

You need to experience the Bitstream to believe it. You will literally forget about the new gear being offered.
When talking about R2R NOS-DACs, Metrum Acoustic is worth considering.
Metrum makes their own DAC chips, which divide 24 bit in two 12 bit DACs and fuse it together after for real 24 bit in the new DACs.
My philosophy is a mellow and natural sound a wee on the warm side.
I got there with a point-to-point tube amp and a Metrum Amethyst DAC.
This DAC is around €1.300 and the predecessor the Metrum Octave is already a wonder of natural sound. The Amethyst adds to the perfect sound of the Octave just a bit more grunt and bass fundament.
Metrum makes a 2k DAC, the Metrum Jade, which is even a wee more sophisticated and is a digital preamp with loudness control. I have not heard the Jade yet though.


I formerly owned the Metrum Octave and I agree with you, it is a very very good dac. In fact, my octave dethroned my former much more expensive MSB Power Dac ($4k) which used MSB’s custom made ladder dacs and was battery or grid powered. It was no contest, the Octave slapped it down and I sold the MSB. Then came the AMR DP 777 (the SE was not yet in existence). To my dismay the AMR, simply made the Octave sound mechanical. I say dismay, because that meant I had to come out of pocket :) I’ve now owned the DP since like 2011. 
For new dacs, Metrum is hard to beat for the dollar spent. 
Metrum makes their own DAC chips
They may make their own discrete R2R resistor boards, like MSB Holo Denafrips ect, but I doubt they have their own R2R chip IC’s manufacturing processes.

Cheers George