New DSD DAC. Recommendations please

Hi all,

I'm currently using a Emm Labs DAC2 and a Vitus CD player (using the DAC via macbook pro) but am looking for a new DAC that can play hi-res/DSD files.

I'm not up to speed with the latest DAC's so appreciate some advice. Any recommendations for a great DAC that can play DSD files. Don't want to spend too much money on it (+- $5000 for used item), so I explore how much improvement DSD will make.

Appreciate your feedback
I'm currently auditioning the exaSound e20 MK III and so far I am impressed with its sound, especially on DSD. I've only had it for one day so more info to follow after additional listening. The e20 is under $3k.

The MSB Analog DAC has always sounded excellent at the shows, but it is more like $7k.
If your more interested in an analog like presentation. There is a massive thread here. These come in many variations.

Dosen't Emm have a DSD?
Ayre Acoustics has just released an upgrade to their QB-9 DAC that you may find very interesting. It uses the ESS Sabre Reference chip and implements DSD, and designer Charles Hanson asserts that high res PCM sounds equally as great.

The original QB-9 is an amazing dac in its own right, with a great analog stage, zero feedback full balanced design, and full isolation of USB circuitry. Moreover, Ayre is offering a factory upgrade of older QB-9's for $500. So you can buy a used one for $1800 on Agon, get the upgrade, and enjoy a near state-of-the-art DAC for around $2300.
Make sure to get a DSD Dac that can play DSD128. the Ayre cant! Despite the paucity of material currently, more comes out everyday and many are ripping vinyl to this format.

The Ayre upgrade is also taking many months, and is USB only, so not ideal for all.

As far as I know the EMM Labs Dac 2x is DSD capable, so why the angst?

To me EMM, PBD aned Lampizator have the best DSD capabilities currently.
Re: "Make sure to get a DSD Dac that can play DSD128."

Bigger is better, right? So why would Charlie Hanson of Ayre Acoustics, a company whose components typically retail in the $5-$10k range, opt for single-rate DSD in his latest upgrade?

Check out this observation from Andreas Koch, one of the original developers for DSD and more recently, DOP:

"Double rate DSD pushes the noise shaper up in the frequency domain... That is most interesting for recording and post production when the intent is to release the product in DSD, because DSD2x gives the extra headroom that recording engineers need in order to record and edit without causing any degradation when releasing their final product in single rate DSD.

It may also be interesting for hobbyists who for instance want to archive their analog music library to a digital format. In such applications you may not care about the extra storage space that is required and you certainly wouldnÂ’t be bothered with bandwidth bottlenecks when sending DSD2x files through the internet.

However, as a delivery format from studio to end user, SINGLE RATE DSD seems to offer an optimal combination of sound quality, bandwidth and storage space."

Single rate DSD seems to be proliferating lately, but double rate? Not as much.

So unless I decide to become a recording engineer, PCM and single rate DSD will remain my high res media of choice for now. And if things change, I'm confident that Ayre will be there offering reasonably priced upgrades.

Oh...and although they are more flooded with orders now, my QB-9 upgrade took 3 weeks.
Sandstone. While I respect Charlie Hanson he is not the end all when it comes to DSD. He DOES NOT believe in any benefits of DSD and has stated such. Because of market demands he decided to at least offer DSD playback.

As far as Andreas Koch, who I hold in a much higher regard then most, you are taking his statement out out of context.

Yes, for Mastering there is a benefit for 2xDSD and then using that master as a 1xDSD for user playback. But He was also talking about "optimal combination of sound quality, bandwidth and storage space". See the part about storage space and optimal combination. I have read and seen video of Andreas and several other highly respected authorities on DSD and all have mentioned the audible benefits of 2xDSD over 1xDSD.
Single DSD is more plentiful then 2xDSD for several reasons. All SACD is single rate. Most Studios only are single rate capable.
But some are double rate and are starting to release 2xDSD and are planing to release only 2xDSD soon.

Look, there is nothing wrong with your Ayre. I like the house sound of Ayre.
But IMHO, I would also recommend that a 2xDSD DAC is the wisest choice.

That said:Hififreakk, I second the e20 MK III by exaSound. Though I would also get the .082 Clock upgrade. One of the things I like about it is that it uses an outboard power supply.
I am getting a Paul Hynes Power Supply that should be here in a few days. Once it has enough hours on it I will post my impressions.
But just with the wall wort style that it comes with the e20 MK III sounds great.

I would also add the Lynx Hilo, Playback Designs and the Antelope Zodiac Platinum to your list.
If you just want to get your feet wet with DSD, then this might be your ticket:

It's only $149 and does DSD only as Schiit believes that DSD filtering and other types are wholly incompatible which makes implementation difficult. That, and they don't really see the benefits of DSD but if you want to try it.....

All the best,
The exaSound DACs will play up to 4xDSD as well as DXD. Also, the e28 will handle up to 8 channels. Some more comments here:
Sandstone, it just SOUNDS better. I don't know why. Its not a bigger is better thing, I make the statement off unexcited experience. I did not expect (or want DSD128) to be better, but it is. Best digital I have heard so far.

Oh, and nothing against Ayre, as I really like Charles. However, unless you buy the new QB-9 with DSD, you will wait months for an upgrade (check comp audiophile). Additionally, its only DSD64. Charles said he would not do more as there is not enough 128 media. However, I find a lot of the benefit come simply from upsampling DSD64 to 128 offline and playing back at 128. Te same can be done even for RBCD, so media is not a limitation.