Look into Beresford and Valab- opposite sides of a coin.
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The Cambridge DAC magic is a great sounding unit and cheap. It has 3 inputs so you could plug in your computer via USB and still have 2 optical/RCA inputs for sallelite dish or DVD player. Slightly better sound with a few hundred higher price tag is the MHDT Paradisea +. It's amazing how good of sounding DACs they are making now days for so cheap.
I recently bought a Musical Fidelity V-DAC to use with my MacBook. It has a USB input, as well as Coax & Toslink. It's suppose to have the internals of a high end DAC, in a basic (cheap) chassis. Supposedly an "audiophile grade" chassis adds a lot of unnecessary expense. In my highly resolving headphone system, the V-DAC sounds very, very good for $299 or for any price. It's suppose to be even better with the external power supply. I haven't felt the need for the external power supply yet.
I think I just posted on your other thread, but I recently ( in the last few months) replaced a 2500 retail dac with a Scott Nixon 200.00 used dac. You have to check Audiogon many times a day to find one used as they go that fast, ( I just got my friend one after 2 weeks of watching and 3 missed ones) but his new prices are very fair considering their performance.
So here I am with the dilemma:
cheap dac as an addition, or better dac and computer/dvd player as cd transport.
1) Use the macbook for internet radio and lossless, as well as a
transport to a $300 DAC (Scott Nixon, HRT streamer+) and sell the Music Hall cd player on this website
(2) keep the music hall and get the a $100 dac (streamer, jolida) for mp3 cds and occasional internet radio.
I had never really thought about ditching the player entirely and
using a computer for both saved music and as a transport but it is becoming more appealing giving the great reviews under $300 dacs are getting.
I know this is hard to answer, but what kind of difference would I see
by ditching the cdplayer and using a USB or optical DAC and and the
macbook ( I guess through the USB or optical out)? When I bought
everything, from what I read the Music Hall 25.2 was basically the
best in class in my price range (the Rega Apollo was not an option
I know this much. I just borrowed a Ayre Qb9 dac and played a cd through it from my laptop and compared it to my McIntosh cd player guess what sounded better to me? Now I'm trying a usb benchmark with my laptop it doesn't sound bad either. To try and answer your question a lot of guys (and gals) are using thier laptops and a pretty good dac and seem pretty satisfied. If someone could mention a few good dacs for a few hundred bucks I also would be interested.