pc to dac?

Ok I have been to a couple stores and talked to some people they seem to push me to what they have not what is the best. I want to start using a PC or Mac for a source to a DAC. Right now I use a cary 303/300 which I like but can I get the same or better sound out of a dac and pc? What is the best set up. I would like to stay under 5k for the dac 3k would be better but tell me what I need to spend. I guess if I get a DAC also I could dump the cary 303 for just a cheaper transport, correct?

My system is
Vandersteen 5a
Aseticx clyspo tube pre amp
quicksilver v4 tube monoblocks amps
In your price range you're going to have a lot of options. I'm sure many will chime in with their suggestions. I guess if I were on this hunt (and in some way I am), the first thing I'd want to resolve is the preference for how I want to hook my PC up to a DAC. You've got a few options here: firewire, USB, Toslink (if using Mac), ethernet, and wireless.

What I've learned so far is there is no de-facto standard and each has benefits and disadvantages.

I suppose if I wanted to throw the money at this you are willing to the Modwright modified transporter could be an interesting option. So might the new Ayre USB DAC, Empirical Audio, Wavelength, VRS Audio, UltraFi....you get the point.

I was at CES and THE Show this year and bumped into a reviewer I know who is well respected. He did a comparison of a number of DACs that allow the use of computers as transports. His final take was that sonically there were subtle differences between each of the products, but no clear cut winner. That answer really bummed me out.

BTW - here is an interesting article:


It features a number interviewees responding to the same set of questions regarding computer audio.
Thanks for the feedback, I was thinking of a USB connection but if there is a better way I am open to it. Also the DAC would have to be balanced and would I use one dac for the pc and transport? Or just use the PC as the transport?

I feel for you every one I ask has no clear answer and I have gotten answers like going wifi which is just totally unaccaptable to me ( i am a computer person no way wifi will work well ) to this is the best solution but evey one has a way different opinion.
The Computer Audiophile online has a lot to say on this. The mac mini appears to be the most recommended CPU. People claim to be able to hear the difference in its USB ports and if you can believe it- power cords to the CPU. He likes the Berkley Audio DAC if you need volume controls or Bryston's new one if you don't. Personally I feel he has his act together sans product affiliation- IMHO of course. All in all this is a difficult research item. There are lots of variables if one is to directly compare outcomes. What CPU, what OS, what type of rip, playback software, 6+ types of connections, hard drive connections not to mention that a manufacturer may not implement the connections the same way (if people can hear the difference between USB cables, then the usb conversion itself must be important).
I am purchasing the Berkeley Alpha dac. But I also need a really good Sound card in your PC. Ihave an Audio 24/192 but was adviced to get a Lynx. The Berkely is one of the best I have heard & the cost is very good for what is does do.
A used Bel Canto DAC3 would work great and can be had for around 1500 used. You wouldn' t want to use the USB in that however. But it has all the other connections.
Just as there are many approaches to app dev and implementation in IT, there are several options in implementing computer audio as already mentioned, especially with your price range. I can't recommend a specific solution to match your Cary 303/300 if that's the standard you're aiming. But I can recommend the DacMagic and use it for both your PC and transport at the same time, and it has balanced output.
Shooting for "the best" out of the gate guarantees mostly only that you will spend a lot of money right away and likely spend even more later to actually get it right.

You don't have to spend a fortune to get excellent results, but there is a lot than can go right or wrong.

The music server rig on my system cost me ~ $1400 to put in, including laptop computer, network player, DAC, and cables, and I think it can at least compete in the same league as the best I have heard, kinda like the Tampa Bay Rays did last year.
Mapman, i don't mind spending money besides I find if I buy top end stuff it alwas has resale alot of time more than bottom end so at the end of the day I pay the same but get better stuff.

4est thanks for your comments that is in line what I herd from my dealer it seems like the briston and mac is a good combo I may have to pick that up the price is right.

I'll vouch for the Berkeley DAC combined with the Lynx soundcard (which cost nearly as much as the Dell computer I am using as the server). I've had this set-up for several months now, and I no longer think about upgrading my digital source, which is a first for me. The only upgrading I am going to be doing is getting more storage space for my hard drive (and backup external hard drive) as I continue to transfer my music over from CDs into FLAC and WAV files.

FWIW, the BADA DAC is great straight into the amp, but I actually prefer having my fully loaded Audio Horizons preamp in the chain. You can try it with your Aesthetix and see if you prefer the sound with or without. You may find that you end up running the Berkeley directly into your amps, in which case you could sell your preamp, recouping most if not all of your investment.

Good luck!
I think the Empirical off ramp turbo is the best way to extract data from the computer. That way you can get any dac you want. Look for a dac with 3-4 inputs. I run my computer audio, my dvd, and my transport thru the dac and it works great for music & movies. It almost presents a phantom center channel.