You will note a significant SQ upgrade moving from the Node 2i DAC to something in the $1500+ range for sure (e.g. Schiit Yggy, Benchmark DAC3, Chord Qutest). In one of my systems I'm using the Node 2 to stream into a Benchmark DAC3 and it's a big improvement...but then again it should be at that price relative to the price of the Node 2 DAC.
My experience was that there was a noticeable, but subtle improvement in sound quality using an external DAC with the Node 2 (I didn't have the 2i). DACs used were the Auralic Vega, Mytek Liberty, and the DAC in my Sony TA-ZH1ES headphone amp (which is very good).
I obtained a much bigger increase in sound quality by replacing the Node 2 with a TEAC NT-505. It has a warmer, more detailed sound, and has a much bigger soundstage.
If you're going to add a $1500 DAC to the Node 2i, you'd get more bang for you buck buying the NT-505 in my opinion. It's about $2K and you can sell the Node 2i for $300-$400, so you might actually come out a few bucks ahead after selling the Node 2i.
Haven't heard the Gungnir but the Yggdrasil is definitely a big step up in performance from a Node 2i on its own.
The thing with the Yggy IMHO is that it's looking for balanced in and out to perform it's best so although the Node 2i works great the Yggy really deserves a better source in order to maximize its performance.
I did find that digital cables made a difference between the two components using both coax and BNC.
Gungy and Yggy are definite upgrades.
An Ayre Codex would be my choice on a budget
Gumby and Yggy would be a nice upgrade with the Node 2i. I used the Yggy for a while with the Node2i.
Also consider one of the Denafrips DACs. These are also an excellent value. I'm currently using the Terminator which is a definite step up from the Yggy, but isn't in the same price range. But from what I've heard, their lower priced DACs are quite exceptional for the $$$.
Thank you everyone for the information. I like the idea of possibly upgrading to the TEAC rather than keeping the Node 2i and adding an external DAC such as the Yggy. Plus the fact that the Yggy is looking for balance in/out which the Node 2i doesn’t offer (Or am I misunderstanding) makes me wonder if the $2,500 addition would be in vein. Fun things to ponder. Thank you everyone.
I heard a real difference when I compared the Node 2i's own DAC with my MHDT Orchid R2R tube DAC (about $1200). Makes sense, right? Node 2i is just $500 and only a small fraction spent on their DAC.
Don't limit yourself to schiit DACs. Look into some good tube based R2R dacs.
I used Node 2i into Benchmark 3HGC. The outboard DAC made a significant improvement. I changed from Node 2i to Lumin U1 Mini. Again significant improvement.
It might be worthwile more costeffectice investing into a Lumin D2. You have a better Streamer and a better DAC.
The nice thing is you can do this in stages. Get a better DAC to start, and then upgrade to a better dedicated streamer later when funds allow. My preference is to keep DAC and streamer separate to increase flexibility, but that’s just personal preference. Best of luck.
Plus the fact that the Yggy is looking for balance in/out which the Node 2i doesn’t offer (Or am I misunderstanding)
The Gumby and Yggy support balanced outputs but they also have single ended outputs. They both have USB, SPDIF and optical inputs. The Yggy also has AES3 (balanced digital) input as well, but it sounds great using other inputs as well. Both will sound excellent with the Node 2i as a streamer.
I'd also take a look at the Denafrips R2R DACs. I'm currently using the Terminator which sounds fabulous, but the lower priced Denafrips DACs have also received rave reviews - particularly the Ares II, which for well under $1K is really a steal.
I agree a good quality external DAC can improve the sound quality but whether or not you can hear the difference will ultimately depend on the quality of the rest of your system. Also keep in mind you may not be able to take advantage of the fully MQA encoded content if the outboard DAC does not support MQA. If that’s important to you, you should then consider an MQA-capable DAC.
Separates for flexibility and much higher gains in SQ vs. one box streamer/DAC component.
You know, I recommend that you just enjoy your 2i for a couple of months before getting antsy and start spending the long bucks.
Yes, the 2i sells so well because of its satisfying sound quality at a reasonable price, but I bet that over a 1,000 2is sell for each one of the high cost units. The others are not going anywhere, just enjoy for awhile what you have and then make a decision.
@jetter - there's something to be said for that. It's a damn good product for the money, and you have to spend considerably more to better it by a noticeable amount.
the 2i will benefit from a better DAC, but is still ultimately limited as a source, so I wouldn't spend big money on a DAC...maybe a Bifrost or Gungnir, or Denafrips Ares ll
I think I'll plan on investing in a higher end DAC knowing that I'll replace the Node2i with a better source in the future. It will be "good" for now but will slowly upgrade as I go along.
This discussion has been extremely helpful. Thanks to all for sharing their experience/knowledge.