Recently I had to get rid of two of my CDPs (Jolida JD-100 and NAD C542) for finacial reasons. In doing so, I've had to go back to using my old Onkyo DX-C540 changer. Now it's not a bad sounding player for what it is, which is a Mid-FI changer circa late 90s. But both the NAD and Jolida certainly bested it in all areas of performance, and yes, I'm missing that level of performance. In any case am thinking down the road of either getting another CDP (possibly another NAD or used Jolida) or maybe going the NOS DAC route. I'm thinking of going the NOS DAC route as the Onkyo DOES have a optical output, and I think that it might make a decent transport, and give me changer capabilities. In addition, from what I've been reading the NOS DAC would probably give me the warm, musical presentation that I enjoyed with both the NAD and Jolida players. Also it appears that many of the NOS DACs fall within the "price point" that I would like to keep (less than $500). BTW, I consider myself more a "music lover" than an "audiophile", and going the DAC route would certainly be something new for me. Anyway, appreciate thoughs and suggestions from the community on which road they might go down and why they so. Thanks.
Use a computer for your transport and check the Buzz at for the current budget giant killer DACs .
The headphone crowd or in ear device group is very DAC minded for some reason. They like expensive bicyles and getting hurt on board sports even moutaineering is still quite admired. To appreciate the beauty of a broken clavicle you must be young and invincible. If you are young your broke and therefore always looking for low cost solutions.
My financial life has found new lows and is getting worse, but I see no benefit in spending a lot on separates when you can do well with an old newbie solution like mH CD-25. Just got my last material big object for the foreseeable future a desktop computer with 4 CPUs and 5 megs or something nuts and tons of storage like 2 log more than the RAM.
I am going to be bold and try a new thing at 50 the music server. I will use my outdated or "vintage" non picture phone to download very compressed and information challenged music by using a novel approach to an ancient Ideal. The very SET like decontented elemental pure and simple music file system I wrote. It's lost info for eternity routed files and shareware named LIFER (TM)
Get this most viridea are too large to make it onto one of the constantantly looping bits and bytes with a decoding clock that sets to an oscilating 12AT7 clock although a reasonably cheap Quartz watch would have at leat a trillion less errors pure hour that the tube oscilator timing resets will need. So we will put the tube at the recieving end of of a tube buffer for impedance reduction decogestant where it will not affect the sound at all but people like to know that a tube is in there DAC. And yes NOS recieving tubes do a much worse job but somehow still exceed all expectations by having even less of an effect on the sound. Incedible.
In truth I will be going wireless at the output level where the US Naval Observatory Atomic Clock wich sends out the correct time to virtually anyone who can find the time on a cell phone unwittingly takes advantage of. That Platinum meter bar in France thats a tricky one.
Valab is a musical sounding NOS DAC for $200 shipped. There is a review here on audiogon and also lots of discussion on Head-Fi.
Look at Valab NOS DAC on the Bay at $200 shipped, I use it at my office streaming Pandora or FM stations as well as playing music from my PC through a USB port. I hooked it up to my vintage McIntosh MAC 1900 receiver and it sounds really good (Monitor Audio bookshelf speakers).

It runs a little hot, also can pop when turn on/off. But it sounds really good with my Mc.

At home, I am using DACMagic from Cambridge Audio, $400 from Audio Advisor. You can occasionally get one for less on Agon. I feed it to my McIntosh MA6600 to my B&W speakers. While these are two different systems (should not be used to compare DAC, I prefer the system at work with the NOS DAC.

DACMagic is a nicer with Upsampling ++ Filters, Balanced out, etc. I also saw "litte dot" with USB port on the Bay, but the listing expired, quite an interesting DAC for about $310 shipped, you can choose to either oversample or NOS, it runs 24/44.1 or 24/192. The Valab is 16/44.1 (most USBs limit is 16/44.1 except Benchmark at $1300, its USB goes up to 24/192).

I really like the Valab, the DACMagic is a very popular unit that they run out of stock quite frequently.

First of all thanks for the responds so far (and please keep them coming). First of all if I go the NOS DAC route, I would be running the DAC between the changer/transport and my amp (Jolida 502a), basically not thinking of going the computer route (call me "old fashion"). Btw, I've heard of the Valab and the Paradisea, and have been reading the various reviews and comments on those units. I also wandered over to the Pacific Valve and Audio site, to check out some their offerings.

Here's the four I'd most likely be interested in.

Pacfic Valve Fathom DAC
Giga Lab Moon DAC
DAC AH Modified

So curious on whether anybody has an experience with these units, or even dealing with Pacific Valve and Electric and what their thoughs might be. Again, thanks.
Cleaneduphippy - NOS DAC is sensitive to jitter and will sound better with good transport. I would avoid using optical unless you need to break ground loops.

I use upsampling-jitter rejecting DAC (Benchmark DAC1)with the cheapest transport I could find ($70 DVD player) and I like the sound a lot (plus DVD players have great tracking).
" I would avoid using optical unless you need to break ground loops."

Unfortunately, the digital output on my changer is an opitical one. Amd yes I understand that NOS DACs are senitive to jitter, but how would one determine in advance whether ones transport is "jittery"? Fact of the matter is, if I go the NOS VAC route, then I understand I'll be buying in addition to the DAC, an upgraded power cable and the optical (Toslink) connection, now if I have to add another transport, than chances are I'll go the CDP route. Basically I'm trying to work with what I got.

Btw, curious on the sound of the Benchmark DAC. I generally go for a warmer, more analog type of sound than an analytical one, of course I do have tubes in my system, so perhaps my worries are unfounded.
Cleaneduphippy - Jitter is a noise in time domain. You can either get good dedicated transport (expensive) and good digital cable or jitter supressing DAC. How to determine if transport is jittery? Just check specifications or opinion on audio forums. Optical cable is probably the worst choice since signal edges are slow and jitter is most likely worst than coax.

I'm not sure what you call "analytical". Benchmark is very clean and transparent (not designed for warmish sound). It had also great reviews. Avoid used ones.

Exactly what spec do I check? Looking at my owner's manual I find this information.

"Proprietary AccuPulse Quartz System with Polysorb virtually elimates the possibility of timing errors in the in the clock oscillator"

"Wow and Flutter: Beyond the threshold of measurability"

That sounds to me that I shouldn't have a issue with "jitter" but hey, what do I know? Just trying to educate myself. Also I understand about the issues with optical cables, but if you had read my previous post then you would have clearly seen that my digital output IS an optical one. Pretty much eliminates other digital options, at least as far as using that player.

Btw, I have read some reviews on the Benchmark DAC and it does sound like a good DAC that many people would like, but I also get the feeling that it won't be delivering the sound presentation that I would be looking for, unless I willing to have the unit modded. Now is that road I would want to go down? Probably not.

Basically what you're telling me, is that for a $500 or less price point to forget about going the DAC route, especially using a NOS DAC. And it's a point well taken. Perhaps I would be better off for the money getting a used Jolida (which I had before and liked especially with a NOS 12AX7, and perhaps an upgraded "power cord") or some other simliarly price CDP unit (new/used). And as I'm the type of person who "searches for simplicity", and it appears going the DAC route might be more of a PITA than it worth, and perhaps it's something I should keep in mind.

Thanks for your comments.
Cleaneduphippy - I suspect that you like warm sound that I don't care for. Listen to few DACs of different types and decide yourself. My experience is limited and it is personal thing (matter of taste).

I never had high quality transport but good one shows amount of jitter in picoseconds. Statements like "virtually eliminates" should raise warning flag.

Also price should suggest quality - good, low jitter transports are often over $5k.
" I suspect that you like warm sound that I don't care for."


You're absolutely right, and I said so earlier in my intial post. Now if you don't care for that particular sound presentation that your business, to each his own.

Basically I appreciate advice that helps get's me what I'm looking for, and at a price point that I want to paid which is why I title this thread "NOS DAC or CDP?".

Straight forward information in the vein of "at the price you want to spend, and for the sound presentation you're looking for, this would be the best approach" is what I looking for here.

Now if you can help in that respect, and within the parameters I laid out in this thread, then the advise is appreciated. If not, you're not being very helpful.
Cleaneduphippy - no need to be rude. Nobody will be able to pick system for you and there is nothing "warm" about NOS DACs. I was merely suggesting that jitter rejecting DAC might give you more for the money plus great flexibility by being able to connect server/computer in future. Within given parameters, as you call your description, I stated that NOS player might be not very good match to your CDP especially using optical. It sounds to me that your mind was already set before you asked the question. Sorry that I couldn't be more helpful.
My new Valab NOS DAC is breaking someone told me, for $200-no brainer!
Jtwrace - I heard Valab recently at Mattzack2 place with very good tube gear and Dali speakers. It is really nice. I'm planning to insert my Benchmark into exactly same setup to compare. The main idea behind Valab is not the NOS itself but increasing resolution of traditional DACs by putting eight of them in parallel (averaging resistor ladder). I have even seen one implementation (DIY) where dacs where simply soldered one on the top of the other. TDA1453 used in Valab is decent (obsolute since 2000) DAC. Sigma-Delta converters have similar resolution limits (16-18 bits) because of timing inaccuracies. DCS Ring DACs (FMJ-23, Elgar) rotate 5 identical resistors in ladder positions to average tolerance and get more of the resolution. Any method is good, I guess, if it sounds better.

IF I came across as rude, it because you came across as condensending. Now IF (operative word) I do decide to go the NOS DAC route in my system, then I'll be doing so with the full knowledge that it may or may not work to my expectations, I might have jitter issues because my changer/transport is not up to par, but then again it might perform to my satisfaction. Truth is, that the way it is with audio gear, sometimes what you think should work well together, DOESN'T, and other times what you think shouldm't work well together, ends up working much better than expected. Why that happen, who knows? But as they say, you never know till you try.

Bottom line, IF (there's that word again) I go the NOS DAC route (btw, your comment "your mind was already set before you asked the question" is purely an erroneous assumption on your part as I'm considering various difference options) and things work out, I'll be happy (at least for while). But if they don't then I certainly can sell the NOS DAC on Audiogon and get most of my money back, and try another approach.

You know it's something that people do on Audiogon every day.
Btw, curious on the sound of the Benchmark DAC. I generally go for a warmer, more analog type of sound than an analytical one, of course I do have tubes in my system, so perhaps my worries are unfounded.

It isn't harsh in the usual digital sense - quite analog really. However, it is thin, light (in lower mids) and detailed as opposed to organic, heavy, warm or rich sounding - percussion is excellent on the DAC1. There are many reviews on line and pretty much everyone agrees on the sound. Based on your description you would probably want to couple it with tubes - if you sent that direction.
You could pair the Valab DAC with something like the Monarchy DIP. The Monarchy DIP is a jitter reduction device that is used between the transport and DAC. Good news is that you could get both and still be within your budget. However, its another piece in the chain and requires additional cables.

Thanks for the "heads up" about pairing a NOS DAC with the Monarchy DIP. Sounds like an affordable way of dealing with a possibe jitter issue. Also I'll do some more research on the Valab DAC. I read a few things about it, and most of it positive. Btw, do they have a distributor in the United States?
I don't do anything about jitter. Maybe that is because I am using a NOS DAC. From what I have heard, OS DACs do need jitter control, because the digital filter introduces phase instabilities. On my system OS DACs sound horribly contrived, not like real music at all.
I still am a big fan of NOS DACs even though I'm not using one right now. I don't agree with everything Muralman said about OS DACs, because again a lot is based on design. In my case my transport is slaved to my OS DAC so jitter is not really an issue.

I do agree that NOS DACs have a very organic or natural sound to them. Closest thing to analog IMO, but again if the design is done right. Audio Note and 47 Labs make some very nice NOS DACs, but they are out of the OPs budget.
From what I have heard, OS DACs do need jitter control, because the digital filter introduces phase instabilities.

Jitter comes from the digital interface connection between transport and your DAC. It is a universal problem that affects all DAC's, DSP's etc. It is unavoidable. Some DAC's use techniques to decouple the clock signal coming across on the digital interface => this can completely remove interface jitter in a good implementation such as the DAC1. (Of course the clock in the DAC itself will have some jitter itself - there is no "perfect" clock - however this internal jitter should be orders of magnitude less than what you get from any digital interface)

Phase issues occur when using brick wall filters in non-OS DAC's. The idea of an OS type DAC is to avoid the use of steep brick wall filters and the phase errors they inherently bring into the audible range.

Some people will prefer a more jittery sound - it will give more harshness and edge to the music and can help make laid back equipment sound more dynamic, exciting and revealing. (Remember that modern CD's are mostly hyper compressed to give a harsh edgy sound and some people prefer this - jitter is similar in the way it can affect the HF)
Cleaneduphippy - I'm sorry for sounding condescending. It is fuzzy issue with transport being adequate or not since it is difficult to spend over $5k for the transport or even get the loaner to listen at home. In addition differences might become more obvious only when other system elements improve in future.

Optical has much (about twice) higher jitter than coaxial and since you don't have coaxial output I thought it might be better to get jitter rejecting DAC.

Clio09 suggestion to buy Monarchy DIP is excellent one. It will solve your problem of optical only output since suppression on optical of Monarchy DIP is much higher than on coaxial and ends up with even lower jitter. Read this:

Muralman1 - jitter produces sidebands at very low levels, (around -80dB with average transport) that are still quite audible since not related to root frequency. In music it is just noise in the background. Jitter is formed in D/A conversion and filtering has nothing to do with it. It is possible that you have good transport to start with. It would be very interesting to try this Monarchy DIP on high resolution system like yours. On my system switch from good CDP to Benchmark gave me incredible clarity and transparency. It also revealed deficiencies of my system like harsh sounding tweeters or thin sounding speaker cable.
Shadorne, I fail to see what jitter sounds like. My sound is supremely cohesive, detailed to the minutest signal, and wonderfully analog. OS DACs sound terrible, and I don't care which one. I can demonstrated the difference here, and have, numerous times.

Anyone can put their ear to my ribbons, and hear pure music out of a black background.

By the way, change out those milk toast diodes out of your transport and DAC for some super Shotkeys and bring the live band in. AN folks don't want you to hear great things out of their lower DACs.
I can respect Muralman's opinions because I also felt that way at one time, but again there are benefits to OS designs IMO as well. Here is some interesting reading I have come across over the years (yes, perhaps embellished with some marketing language but I'm going to assume we're wise enough to read between the lines):

Lessloss Slaving (read through a few pages)

Lessloss Jitter (follow the steps under the diagram)

47 Labs NOS

Digital Diversions

All of this really just supports the fact that there is more than one way to do digital right.
My sound is supremely cohesive, detailed to the minutest signal, and wonderfully analog. OS DACs sound terrible, and I don't care which one. I can demonstrated the difference here, and have, numerous times.

Yes, I can see from your virtual system that you have an amazing setup. Well done!

By the way, change out those milk toast diodes out of your transport and DAC for some super Shotkeys and bring the live band in.

Interesting idea.

I can see you are dead against OS DAC's - no problem - I can understand your perspective as the early ones were indeed quite bad and probably no improvement over older DAC's (but that was before clock speeds/accuracy improved - it is always a moving target with time as to which architecture works best)
Clio09 - in April 2009 issue of Stereophile (also on their website) they review Meridian 808.2 CD player. It is upsampling player with different algorithm digital filter. They claim it is the best player they've heard ever (and better be for $16k). That would suggest some deficiencies in traditional digital filtering.
Cleanedup- You've obviously stumbled into a controversial area. I think I share your view of "listenable" audio. The NOS DAC I have (original MF V DAC) sounded terrible when driven from my Mac Mini until I added a jitter control device (Theta TLC). I have moved to a PS Audio DL3 OS DAC, which sounds pretty good but not "magical". Now your transport will have less jitter than the Mini so the NOS DAC may sound OK. You can always add an anti-jitter device later. On the other hand, there is a tremendous variety of used CD players with that warm sound. My Arcam Alpha 9 is really magical. There are many, many other really nice CD players with plenty of reviews on them on line. I'd go that way if I were you.
"Cleanedup- You've obviously stumbled into a controversial area."

Without a doubt, and both sides make good points in supporting their arguments on which types of DACs are best at doing the digital to analog conversion. As such I'm still in the research mode, and still "on the fence" on whether or not, to add a NOS DAC, and possible jitter control device, or else go with CDP that gives me the "sonic presentation" that I'm looking for. It appears either way, I'll be spending about the same amount of money, and probably be achieving somewhat a similiar result. Btw, thanks for mentioning your Arcam Alpha 9, might have to look into what Arcam has to offer.