Please help -- DAC newbie needs wisdom.....

Hi all,

Please forgive me for treading old ground, but it seems like there are many new USB/firewire DACs on the market, and I really have no idea what I am doing!! If you can help, I would be most appreciative.

Right now I have a system I love: Jolida 302 tube amp, Quad 21l2 speakers, and a Music Hall CDP 25.2. I am slowly re-ripping all of my cds to Apple lossless for my macbook (connected to an external hard drive -- too many cds...).

I would like to begin using my mac as a music server, and have been hearing about many good new USB/firewire dacs around $200-300, that did not appear to be on the market July '08 when I was shopping for my system (or maybe I was ignorant?)

Anyway, can anyone recommend a dac that would work well for jazz and classical chamber music and not break the bank? Between the Jolida and the quads, the bass is not amazing, but my system has great-midrange and enough detail and soundstage to keep me happy given my salary.


PS -- Can you run two sources into a DAC? I have an old DVD player that has an optical output. Perhaps I can use that as a cd source with a new DAC and sell the Music Hall?
Look into Beresford and Valab- opposite sides of a coin.
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.

Good Luck
Marty I like the Wavelength Proton DAC for
best value.
Checkout computer audiophile for additional information.
I suggest you spend some time reading the reviews/measurements of USB DACs in Stereophile (, It seems that several products that provide a USB input aren't that concerned about the quality of that input. So, if you just want it to work, any USB DAC is probably fine. However, if sound quality is a goal, then you'll need to verify the quality of the USB input specifically not just the DAC in general.
Devilsound DAC is very nice especially for the $$$ ($299 new I think)
There is a new Devilsound coming out that is $399, will try and check it out. Also, Jolida is coming out with one for $!00!!! This may be worth exploring... How do I decide? If I can't try them all, what are the factors I should be looking out? My mac has an optical out, so I am not limited to USB.
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.