Please help me find perfect dac for me


I am looking for a new dac, and i hope you can give me some suggestions. I find dac world is so competitive, and moving so fast... It is difficult to know where to "start"

Here are my constraints
- Budget : ~2K Euros - 2.5K USD
- No tube
- Pure dac, no preamp 
- Silver color
- Bonus : small form factor, 10" width (25cm) max would be ideal but not mandatory

Now for sonic, i want something that sound live, not too much analytical (i don't like when i heard too many details), large soundstage in width and depth, with neutral tonality
Here is a list of what i have heard / owned and what i did not like. (Unfortunaly each listen was with different system, so my judgment may be biased)

- Audio research DAC 9 : i love this dac, probably my favorite I heard, but way much out of budget. If you have cheaper alternative which sound like it and without tube i would like to know !
- Audio GD (don't remember which one 7) : Sound is too smooth and slow.
- Mytek DSD : sound is too bright and dry. maybe pro stuff is not for me
- McIntosh D100 : sound is flat. I just find it boring
- Lampizator DSD (currently owning): details retrieval is perfect, I really like the sound of this dac, except i find soundstage too narrow. higher model (atlantic, lite 7...) are out of budget. Besides i want to get rid of tube in my dac

I read lot of good thing about yggy, but i am affraid it may be too clinical for me, and seems hard to get. HOLO is black so i have to pass on this one ...

Any suggestions ?

Thanks :)

Do you want to just do PCM (Redbook cd DXD ect) or do you want to do DSD as well?

PCM is best done with R2R Multibit (Holo, Deafrips, Yaggy, MSB some AudioGD ect ect)

But if you need to do DSD as well only some of the more expensive R2R dacs can convert it, otherwise you have to go for a DSD dac which are Delta Sigma based, and the the PCM can take a hit.

Here as of 2017 (there are more now) are the companies now doing expensive to produce "discrete" R2R ladder dacs for PCM (Redbook) replay. Schiit uses a R2R chip (not for audio) but for missile guidance as there are none now available for audio use, because DS was so much cheaper to make.

Up to $3k: Border Patrol, Monarchy, Denafrips, Audio-gd, MHDT, Holo, Soeskris, Metrum, Schiit

$5-$15K: Audio Note, MSB, Metrum, Computer Audio Design, Aqua, LessLoss, Totaldac, Lampizator

$15K+: CH Precision, Aries Cerat, Light Harmonic, Audio Note, MSB, Totaldac, Lampizator

**Special mention to MSB, Monarchy and Audio Note, who never gave up R2R. Even after the takeover of delta-sigma.

Cheers George
The Border Patrol DAC. It's Non-oversampling and has a tube but it's not used in the audio path. 
PCM only is fine (95% of my collection is PCM, and i can convert my 5% DSD to PCM with HQPlayer)

thanks for the list will definitly do some research on each of them tomorrow (quite late here)

I had the ARC DAC 8, and replaced it with the Mytek Brooklyn.

The 8 was waaay too laid back for me. The Mytek is fantastic.

I've read reviews of the previous Mytek, the DSD and the Brooklyn sounds nothing like those. I highly recommend it. 


Chord Hugo2 meets all of your requirements or for less money the new Qutest but it only comes in black.  Reviews in UK magazine Hi Fi Choice.  
sphilia OP1 posts06-03-2018 7:44am
PCM only is fine (95% of my collection is PCM, and i can convert my 5% DSD to PCM with HQPlayer)

thanks for the list will definitly do some research on each of them tomorrow

Just be careful with R2R Multibit, do some reading/reviews/test ect.

Just because a dac may have this type of R2R Multibit conversion, isn’t an automatic thumbs up for magic PCM/Redbook sound.

As after that R2R Multibit converter circuit (chip or discrete), there is an I/V stage (current to voltage stage) and after that an output buffer. The I/V has also got to be a good one to allow the R2R to shine through and give it’s best from PCM/Redbook music.

Here is an AD844 I/V stage I started, an it’s been very popular especially approx half way through it’s 120 pages, when I started to parallel (stack) them up.

Cheers George

I recommend a used Empirical Audio Overdrive SE. Includes great volume control, balanced outs and selection of interfaces.  No DSD, but one of the best sounding DACs for 16/44.1.

You can convert it to an SX when you can afford this later.  One of two DACs that won the PCM DAC shootout on Audiogon.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

@sphilia The first DAC that made (and has left) an impression was the AR DAC7. This was 10 years or so ago.

There is no perfect DAC.....I would let that go.

Only you can ’find’ the right DAC for yourself.
@rhljazz I think i will give chord a try first. Chord is more easily available in France than other mentionned, i think i can have a listening session at my local dealer for this one.

@david_ten Yeah i know there is no perfect dac, especially at my price range. But there is so many DAC in market that i want to restrict my search.

For others suggestions i will try to listen to them if brand offer return policy

I am really curious about R2R, need to listen to some !

thanks for advice

Luxman DA-06 fits the bill.

Chord is a great choice. I owned one and liked its sense of realism.
 I highly recommend you replace the stock wall-wart (switch mode power supply) with a linear PS. This upgrade will result in a more dynamic presentation and a larger soundstage.
Lowrider, which Chord dac did you have?  I have the Hugo which is battery powered and much prefer the sound in pure battery mode with the charger unplugged from the wall whilst listening. 
Chord Qutest is the one I believe you are looking for. Excellent piece and a nice evolution to the 2Qute series. It is silly good.
April Music Eximus DP1
Lot of chord fan !! i will try to have an listening session soonish
More i read about chord, more i am interested !

Luxman i like this brand for their amp, but never heard their dac. There are some authorized dealers arround, it may be worth to give a try too. But I would need to find a used one...

Exogal, will do some research about it :)

Another vote for Chord. 
The Hugo2 comes in silver, but can be used as a preamp. The Qutest (what I own) is more purist, but black only. Still amazed by it.
@rhljazz , I'm sure battery power sounds better than with a wall-wart PS.

About 5 years ago I owned the Qute EX. I loved the organic Chord sonics, but it lacked low-end extension using the stock power supply.
Yes, Chord. Hard to go wrong there for your interest. Check out HoloAudio Spring Kitsune Tuned Edition Level 3 if you can find one where you are. Yes, Empirical Audio Overdrive. Auralic Vega. For the just the facts mam, look at Mytek Brooklyn+ or Benchmark Media Systems DAC3 HGC. These last two maybe a bit dry for you but have their fans and worth a listen.
Mojo Audio Mystique Dac 2plus

I recommend Caylx Femto.  You can get a used one near your budget.  It's
really a wonderful sounding machine.
I would tell you just buy a low priced DAC  2K 
OR lower because you will be buying more then  this one.   That DAC s.o.t.a.  is changing to fast. 
 Let's get that right  
+1 Exogal Comet Plus. From your description it fills your bill.
BTW the BorderPatrol DAC sounds really great IMO. High value--but as previously mentioned it does have a tube.
+1 Empirical Audio Overdrive SE @audioengr

I just completed the latest upgrades for an SE from a customer in China.  Sounds stellar.  This is music.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

was busy these days, i could not check the thread earlier
I think i will go for chord, as it is easily available (and resellable in future) in Europe !

@twoch I am agree, it move so fast... that why i don't like to spend a lot on DAC (it depreciates too much over time)

I do have a question (little bit off topic)
I do have linear power supply for my PC server, but much overpowered (12V - 200w, but pc does not need that much, 100w at the most)
Can i power DAC and PC with juste one power supply ? what type of cable would be needed in this case ?