The RME-ADI-2 DAC is worth a look.
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I previously owned the Parasound P5 for a very short time. In my opinion, it is always going to be a limiting factor in your system. It was an attractive looking unit, affordable and rich with features. However, it sounded decidedly mi-fi in my system. It just didn't provide the open, airiness I would expect from a hi-fi component. If you are looking for clarity and sound stage, I would suggest you audition a different pre-amp first. After you've decided on a pre-amp, if you want another improvement in sound quality, investigate an external DAC. BTW - Question: Are you currently using the DAC in the Node 21 or the DAC in the P5?
Do you have a budget for a new DAC? As noted above, are you able to hear any of these products at your local audio store? The best way to decide is for you to hear it.
Please note that I replaced my Parasound Hint 6 Integrated amp (after owning it for 2 months!) with the Ayre AX-7e Integrated amp. The sound quality and imaging was much improved with the Ayre amp. This is only my opinion and others may agree or disagree.
I previously owned the Ayre Codex DAC and it is excellent. It only has USB and Toslink inputs. I ran it balanced to the Ayre amp and the sound quality was excellent. The Codex DAC sounds best when used with its balanced XLR connections.
I hope you are able to audition these components to help you make a decision.
If you want to try a different pre-amp, just to see if it produces the sound quality improvement you seek, you could buy the really cheap Shiit SYS and give it a try. Only $49, 2 switched inputs and one output. No frills, volume control and 2 input switching only. Not a bad little piece of kit to have lying around for emergency backup either... For $49, you'll know your answer. Also, Shiit does offer 15 home trial for a 15% re-stocking fee.
Thanks for all the quick responses.
My budget is $1800 and less.
I can’t afford Chord Hugo, PS Audio and other higher priced products unless their used price drop.
I have tried both:
1) Node2i DAC: analog output to P5
2) P5 DAC: Node2i digital output to P5 with Audioquest Carbon toslink
I find Node2i DAC a little forward, bright, clearer and harsh compared to P5 DAC. But I have only had 1 week to break in Node2i DAC while the P5 has been used for over 1 year.
I can possibly audition Qutest and Codex but not Yggy as there is no show room.
I use the Node with an Ayre Codex.
John Rutan had a side by side demo between the onboard DAC and the Codex.
The difference was clear.
I also can say that the Schiit Gungnir or Yggy should provide approximately the same level of sound quality.
To be fair the onboard DAC of the Node isn't bad considering the price it sells for and you get network connectivity.
I'm not really doing any room treatment nor know how to do it.
I have hardwood floor and will not be able to put carpet or rug on it.
I have tray ceiling with a ceiling fan. And to make things worse, I have window with blinds to the left of the system because it's in my family room. And I have open kitchen behind my family room. So, it's definitely not an ideal listening environment.
Since the budget is $1800 here are options:
if you want clarity and realism and detail then the Schiit Yggy used is a good choice. Someone also mentioned the Gugnir. Also a good choice. Those are both multibit DACs. The Quetest is also good and in your price range. It has different filters and is adjustable to taste. A quality product FPGA DAC that is built like a tank. Another good DAC you can sometimes find used (I did) is the Mytek (a chip DAC) Brooklyn DAC+. I don’t have experience with the Codex. But these are all quality DAC and it’s a matter of taste.
Our club held a DAC Shootout last Saturday. 10 DACs involved.
The Schiit Yggy is $500 over your budget. Cutest is $100 over.
The majority of participants chose the $800 Black Ice Glass FX DSD Wifi
over almost all others including some at $6,000. This was a blind test.
Take it for what it's worth and Good Luck !!
PS: Before I spent a penny I would install some early reflection absorbers where possible.
@pc_audio - Here's another possibility. Looking at your system, based on the components you mentioned, you only have a single source - Node 2i. Since you are using the P5, which, based on experience with the unit in my system, is your weak link, you could buy a high quality DAC that also has a pre-amp or volume control built in. That way you could replace the DAC and pre-amp at the same time, with one box. Both replacing the pre-amp and adding a high quality DAC will likely provide significant improvements in SQ.
Not sure what current DACs have volume control. But I do know that the Mytek Liberty ($995) has digital volume control and the Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ ($2195) has a built-in pre-amp.
This is just something else to consider if you want a boost in SQ within your budget (if you sell the P5, the Brooklyn would be in your budget if you used the funds from the P5).
Thanks for all the suggestions. @reubent - you got me thinking about selling my P5 and using the funds towards a new and better preamp + DAC.
Assuming I can get $700-800 for my P5, my budget is now around $2500 for a DAC+pre-amp.
What do you all think of PS Audio DirectStream DAC Junior. It's discontinued by PS Audio. I can find used at around $2500. How does that compare to Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ or others?
@pc_audio - I don't own either one, so I can't really answer. I know there are folks on this forum that own the PS Audio and the Mytek. Might want to start a new thread with a title like "PS Audio DirectStream Junior vs. Mytek Brooklyn DAC+" and see who drops in to offer their take on it.
I've been thinking about possibly trying a Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ myself. I need an analog input, or a MM phone input as I have a turntable too. Just too busy right now to do any serious research into the subject or do an audition.
Good luck in your quest.
@PC_Audio, I was at the DAC event mentioned above. We actually had a Yggy and Qutest there. Both went to the final round. The end result:
1st Place = Black Ice Audio Glass FX DSD Wifi 2nd Place = Chord Qutest 3rd Place = Schiit Yggradsil.
For the the above three, it was very close and all are excellent sounding DACs. We also had a PS Audio Directstream Sr. there, it did not get many votes and even it’s owner chose another dac (Black Ice) over it in blind listening.
If you need a DAC with volume control to function as a preamp the Black Ice unit does that as well. Other DACs we had there that can function as preamps were the LKS MH-DA004, the previously mentioned PS Audio, the iFi Audio Pro iDSD, and the NuPrime Evolution DAC.
The iFi Audio Pro iDSD was well liked and narrowly lost to the Schiit Yggy by one vote. I believe it comes in right at your budget and has a lot of functionality. It might be worth considering.
I also liked the sound of the NuPrime Evolution DAC, it is over your budget though. There is a demo unit from the event for sale; you can hit up John over on the audio circle NuPrime forums for more info on that.
I will say, post the event I replaced my PS Audio Nuwave dac with the Black Ice unit and I am very pleased with the results.
prighello: Interesting results I have narrowed it down between the Qutest and the Black Ice is basically Jolida and uses Tubes so it doesn't surprise me people liked it the best, tubes tend to color the music to most peoples liking, hence is why I always use a Tube Pre/Amp. So the Qutest and the Black Ice Audio dac I am torn between those, but the price is sure nice on the Black Ice unit.