Please Recommend Transport + DAC for $5K total


My current Jolida cdp is growing pretty long in the tooth. I could just replace it with another cdp, but it seems more prudent to go with separate transport and DAC, at this point. Would prefer gear made in N. America. Total expenditure not to exceed 5K. I'm considering Sim Audio Moon 260CD or Bryston BDP-3 as a transport. The thing is, I prefer the option of demoing at home and I haven't (so far) found any vendors offering that option with the Sim Audio piece. As for a DAC, same thing: it has to be something I can try out at home, like a Schiit Yggy or Benchmark DAC2HGC. Can anyone suggest other possibilities, given these parameters? My system: Wells Audio Majestic Integrated, Silverline 17.5 monitors, JD100 cdp. Speaker wire: Audio Art SE. Power cables: Audio Art Statement. IC's: Audioquest Cheetah.  Thanks! 
stuartk
At that price point I would focus on the DAC and use anything with an optical or coaxial out (provided the DAC has an input for it).  To get a $2500 transport and $2500 DAC may be cutting it too thin.  

Maybe you could use your Jolida CDP for transport (does it have an output?) and pick up a new DAC to go with it.  

I use my old Musical Fidelity A5 CD player, because it is basically worthless on the used market and bought a new DAC.  Worked out well.  

The answer is No, I have no idea how much a transport matters in relation to a DAC, so I am merely suggesting the option without making a hard case for it.  I have moved to some CD playing and mostly Streaming now, which lends itself to my choice.
chadlesko; I guess I could give up the "made in N. America" demand and  go with something like a Cyrus, Cambridge or Oppo for a transport, which would allow me to spend more on a DAC. They are all available to demo from online merchants. 
Schiit Yggdrasil without question. I too had the same concerns about buying without listening. But after reading web site after web site of pro and consumer reviews, in addition to other do diligence, I took the leap of faith. Boy am I glad I did. Frankly I’d recommend a Yggy if your budget were 10K. They do give a 15 day trial, albeit with a 5% penalty should you decide to return it. But the 15 days begins from when you sign the fedex receipt. As for a transport, anything really that can send the Yggy digital via coax, usb, aes/ebu or optical.
There are many fine DACs in that price range. Suggest listening to as many as possible before deciding.

Dave
Bought CEC TL3N transport, very nice unit at Approx. $2000.
Made in Japan so may not fit your criteria

I’ve seen used Exogal with power supply around $1500 on the Gon.
(Must pair Exogal with optional power supply for optimum sound quality)
Many reviews available. From the folks that brought you Wadia.
gdhal: I've encountered a variety of opinions re: Yggdrasil. One common observation is that 15 days is an inadequate trial period, due to a very long burn-in time. What was your experience in this regard?

rja: yes: the Exogal looks like a very nice piece. Not sure how I'd demo
 one, though. 

dlcockrum: what you suggest is always good advice but somewhat difficult to execute. I learned "the hard way," early on, that in-store demos are unreliable indicators of how a system might sound in different surroundings. 
The Sim Audio cd player is built in Canada, not America.
An old top line Sony ES player (the ones that weigh 40 lbs), a Chord Hugo, and a Tara RSC digital cable.  You should get by for around 2 grand.  Then you've got 3 grand left for other stuff. 

The Jolida actually makes a very nice transport, if you just want to continue playing CDs.  Or look at a Cambridge CXC if you want a CD only transport to replace the Jolida.

If you want hi-res, you can also look at PS Audio Perfectwave Transport in addition to stuff like the Bryston BDP-3.  Both of these use linear power supplies (better).  With the Bryston, you still need a computer to rip CDs into wav/flac files.

For DAC, I would personally avoid anything with switching power supply, like Benchmark.  I have heard Yggy is good, but needs to be powered on for 24 hours before sounding good.

You can look at LKS MH-DA004.  I'm actually planning on buying this DAC next year.  I've done a lot of R&D with DAC circuits and power supplies over the years and the LKS does almost everything right.  All linear power supplies (even for digital section), Nichicon Gold tune or Mundorf caps, very large shunt regulated power supply for analog, fully discrete Class A analog output, uses through-hole components for almost all elements (except for SMD items on the discrete analog stage), etc.  The only things I would do differently is to use film-on-foil caps in the analog stage instead of silver mica, and maybe replace the Nichicon Fine Gold caps with Muse KZ.  But I think the LKS will be hard to beat.

You can also look at Audio-GD.  Models R2R-7 or NFB-7.77

I am aiming for the same target, and pretty much decided on the Sim 260d as a transport only. Since I am only interested in Redbook, the Border Patrol with better power supply seems to be a pretty safe bet--old school R2R (chip), no oversampling, no filtering, tube power supply (that you can switch off, but keep the electronics on standby). If you don’t need the USB, it comes in pretty cheaply.
I also looked at the ANKits.
I know this reverses the priorities among digital cognoscenti (which I’m not, I’m a long time vinyl guy), but it seems like a safe bet to buy a decent transport and the Border Patrol appears to hit a sweet spot for Redbook. Have I listened to it? No. I doubt I will before I buy, which runs contrary to my usual approach. I’m willing to make a leap of faith here.

Crutchfield does have a 30 day return policy, but I would not abuse it.  I would say you should be 90% sure of your choice before buying.

I would say the transport decision is not going to be as critical because there is not going to be as much difference between transports as there are between actual DACs.  Just make sure the transport has good digital clocks and linear power supply.  These are the two critical elements in my opinion.

Any of the Stereophile Class A or A+ DAC should float anyone's boat. Why not burn your collection to a PC and get rid of the transport. Transports are inefficient and poor form a playback compared to a PC and a hardrive. Mac Mini has optical out or USB to connect a modern DAC.
gdhal: I’ve encountered a variety of opinions re: Yggdrasil. One common observation is that 15 days is an inadequate trial period, due to a very long burn-in time. What was your experience in this regard?
@stuartk

I’ll preface this reply by stating that I’d typically be considered a rebel in most everything and that includes audio/video. That said, you’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head. I too have encountered a variety of opinions regarding the burn-in time and whether or not to keep it on 24/7. And that may not just be a result of this forum, but other forums as well as feedback from electronics repair guys. PM me if you want the number to some outstanding electronics repair people in the Long Island and Manhattan NY area who can speak to burn-in and pluses/minus of leaving equipment on/off. Each scenario has advantages/disadvantages.

My experience in the 18 days or so that I’ve had the Yggy is that (a) it does NOT need to be kept on 24/7 to sound its best, (b) sounds amazing from a cold start, (c) is worthwhile breaking-in once when new and it achieves said break-in within a week, (d) 15 day trial is plenty and it probably wouldn’t take you that long to realize how incredible it is and (e) the 15 day trial is "generous" only in-so-far as the clock starts from when you sign that its been received from fedex, not when it ships.

EDIT:

Don't just take my word for it, if you're seriously interested in the Yggy, it behooves you to do two other things. (1) Email Nick at their support email address and ask questions and (2) read and or post here: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/schiit-yggdrasil-impressions-thread.766347/ . The grand high exalted mystic ruler himself posts on occasion.  
rhljazz: I'm concerned about longevity, so anything described as "old" concerns me.  

stereo5: Yes; which is why I said "North America", not USA! 

auxinput: I've heard of LKS. Will look into it. This may be a stupid question, but where do I get info re: whether a given transport has "good digital clocks and linear power supply"? Reviews? 

whart: The Sim you mention is a top contender for me as a transport, too.
Never heard of Border Patrol. Will look into it. 

shadorne: I recognize, rationally, the sense of what you're saying about playback. However, the thought of scanning all my CDs sounds very unappealing. While I may have no choice in the end, I'm keeping my head in the sand for awhile longer.  

gdhal: Thanks for taking the time to provide the detailed response re: Yggy warmup, etc. I can't tell you how many times I've come across forums where Yggy owners insist the unit must be kept on all the time. 

auxinput: I meant to say I'd never heard of LKS.  
Sony x77es manufactued around 1992 still going strong.  It is used daily as a transport.  The Sony was built at a time when quality really mattered.  
So for something newer as a transport, the Cambridge CXC has received positive recognition in the U.K. Press.  The Chord Hugo and now the Hugo 2 is the go to Dac in most equipment evaluation.  The Cyrus transport is also a favorite.

On the LKS:

https://www.shenzhenaudio.com/l-k-s-audio-mh-da004-dual-es9038pro-flagship-dac-dsd-input-coaxial-bnc-aes-ebu-for-dop-usb-i2s-optical-audio-decoder.html

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/l-k-s-audio-mh-da004-dual-es9038pro-dac-van-dammes-double-impact.840938/

On the digital clock of the transport. I have tested the Jolida as a transport and it sounded very good. I would assume it has a good crystal clock for the 44.1khz sampling rate because it will only play CDs. The Cambridge CXC also has a good clock for CD, because it is designed from the ground up as a transport for ONLY CDs.

For other transports, it depends. Sometimes you can gather/assume information. For example, looking at a picture of the PS Audio Perfectwave Transport board:

http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/psaudio7/board1_small.jpg

In the middle you can see what looks like two TCXO clocks (TXCO is temperature controlled). These are the yellow rectangles. Having two of them is an excellent design to support the two different sampling rate multipels. First multiple being 44.1 / 88.2 / 176.4 for CD and PCM/SACD rates. The second multiple being 48 / 96 / 192 for other PCM hi-res.

The Bryston BDP-3 is a computer motherboard that runs Linux operating system. I’m cannot be sure what clocks it runs, but I would assume it is just running the main computer CPU clock, so any SPDIF digital output has to be based on integer math compared against the computer CPU. But at least it has a full linear power supply (instead of switching power supply).

In my opinion, the Oppo players do not make a good transport for PCM audio. It uses two low grade clocks (25mhz and 27mhz I think). One is for CPU and the other is for HDMI interface. They are not good crystal clocks and are not even close to the native audio sampling rates. The CPU has to do integer math based on 27mhz to generate the 44.1khz or 48khz or whatever sampling rate output. This is okay, but not as good as a dedicated audio clock. Also, the digital board uses switching power supply so it’s double detrimental. This is okay for movie formats (dolby digital / dts) because the data is decoded and then clocked in the processor, but the Oppo just cannot play PCM as well as a really good transport. If you want to use Oppo, at least upgrade the power supply to a LPS from OPPOMOD.

If you look at internal pictures, you can generally tell if something does not have a linear power supply because you will not see a really large transformer and the power supply board will have really small capacitors.  Look at the Bryston BDP-3:

http://www.audiocircle.com/image.php?id=158255

You can see the larger round toroidal transformer on the left and 2 large capacitors on the power supply board with voltage regulators bolted to the bottom of the case.

In comparison, look at the oppo 203:

https://www.oppodigital.com/blu-ray-udp-203/images/UDP-203-internal-hr.jpg

Tiny yellow transformer in the middle is a sure indicator of switching power supply.

Oppo with linear power supply upgrade:

http://cfile5.uf.tistory.com/image/21207B4E586D8EFE34FFE5

You can see the huge size of the transformer in comparison.

From my experience CDP /
blu ray player can not be good as transport its build-in inner DAC is not allowing a puer data transmission to external DAC it’s better to use digital player or a dedicated cd transport with no inner DAC , I bought the Cambridge Audio CXC transport and it’s really amazing transport for its price in the future I am considering the CEC TL5 Belt Drive CD Transport it’s a state of the art pure cd transport I don’t think you’ll find better one at this price level it’s made in Japan and not in N America but it worth a serious consideration.
Instead  of getting the Bryston BDP 3 as a transport, consider getting the BDA-3 DAC.  It’s superb and has a gazillion inputs, including 4 HDMI.  It goes for about $3500:  I would then pair it with
the Bluesound Node 2 for streaming and usb and for polycarbonate discs NAD makes some inexpensive CD players.  Then add a Sony Blu Ray if you need SACD and Blu Ray.  The Sony isn’t made in North America but can be had for under $100 and sounds great via the HDMI of the Bryston, and you would still be spending 95% on North American products. If you don’t need SACD and Blu Ray, skip the Sony
  Actually the Sony makes Redbook sound pretty good on the Bryston and you can skip the NAD CDP and have about $1000 left in your budget
Why not for go the transport all together and put your digital media on to a NAS or  Streamer system something like the Blue Sound Vault 2 or many or the similar devises out there. you can break from the disc spinner all together and spend the bulk of your budget on the DAC.  Also you would have ability to access all your music from your listening chair via a tablet/phone App. Also you could easily add streaming services like Tidal all from one convenient spot. No down Side to sound quality.
In my opinion, the Oppo players do not make a good transport for PCM audio. It uses two low grade clocks (25mhz and 27mhz I think). One is for CPU and the other is for HDMI interface. They are not good crystal clocks and are not even close to the native audio sampling rates. The CPU has to do integer math based on 27mhz to generate the 44.1khz or 48khz or whatever sampling rate output. This is okay, but not as good as a dedicated audio clock.

@auxinput 

Appreciate your opinion. But why would/should that matter if the external DAC is doing the re-clocking? In the case of Yggy

"Yggdrasil accepts up to 5 digital inputs and carefully manages them with our Adapticlock™ clock regeneration system. Adapticlock is the most sophisticated clock management system in the world. It assesses the quality of all inputs, measures their incoming center frequency and jitter, and automatically routes the input to the best clock regeneration system. And, our Gen 5 USB features full galvanic isolation via transformers, self-power for low-noise and latching sections, and high-quality local clocking for both 44.1 and 48k multiples. "
@auxinput

The LKS 004 uses a Crystek CCHD-575 femtoclock on its main board and two Crystek CCHD-957 femtoclocks on the upgraded Amanero USB to I2S board. The results using ripped SACDs sent to the USB from a hard drive through a lap-top are superb, beyond any digital I have ever heard. (I’ve been principally into analog.)

I have been using an Oppo 105 to play CDs through the LKS using spdif. The results have been very good, very clearly better than the 105 by itself. But on the basis of what you write, I’ll try ripping some CDs, send them in through the USB and do some comparisons. Is there a reasonably priced CD player you recommend?

Owning the LKS is a bit of an adventure. But support from users and from the factory has been very good, and the value is impressive.
@gdhal - I have listened to sample rate converters and reclockers. While reclockers will definitely help a bad source, in the end you still end up losing resolution and detail. It’s much better to have the original waveform data clocked properly at the source rather than reclocking a bad jitter source. Take for example an oppo Blu-ray. Listening to PCM audio through HDMI means the data is clocked badly at the source since the audio needs to be spread across multiple HDMI data packets and shared with video data. The HT processor has to try to reclock this properly. In real life, the sound may be okay, but it just doesn’t have the resolution / detail / air / texture. Listening to the same PCM from Oppo using digital coax is just highly superior, and even then this is not clocked as good as a dedicated PCM transport.

@melm - Cambridge CXC for cd transport. There’s one used on audiogon from Canada for $295. Hi-Fi Heaven is selling display models for $399. Crutchfield has them new for $449. Then get a nice DH Labs D-750 coax with BNC on one end (use the BNC input on the LKS). The CXC only has RCA digital coax output.
USB is likely to sound worse than coax spdif, but that’s a guess.
Just a correction the CXC has also optical output but the coax output in general is the best option between the two. Bellow 5k I can recommend the Mcintosh d150 a remarkable DAC ( with the CXC as a transport) it has the latest features, extremely low noise,very good dynamics and transparency .absolutely neutral and natural sound.
I was just saying that the CXC doesn’t have BNC output.

Just use your existing transport if it still works and add a reclocker like the Synchro-Mesh. This will put you in the $10K transport performance range for only $599-$1400.

Then, read all of the audiostream.com Recommended - "Greatest Bits" on DACs for each year. These guys pick the best DACs. They have good systems. You can rely on their opinions. I am not affiliated.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

The CXC is very good I use it with the Yggdarsil. It is Coax and Optical
I also have a very good Lifeatec Optical cable the Wywires Litespeed Dig cable is the Coax connection. You can connect both Opt and Coax from the DXD to the Yiggy and switch to each for comparison of the connection and the cables being used. It beat my SA15s2 as a transport.
I agree the CXC is a great transport I used it with my McIntosh DAC ,once I bought it it’s the first time that my CD collection come as close as possible to pure analog sound as my vinyl collection,of course there are better transports but you will have to spend many times more than this excellent transport.this one of the best selling product for Cambridge Audio.
@auxinput

I'm experimenting ripping some CDs and sending them through the Amanero USB to I2S board to the LKS.  The results are very promising.  But I want to do more before I conclude it's not wishful thinking.  But after all, the board is there precisely to re-clock the incoming data (twice?) and seems to work wonderfully for the DSD out of my laptop.  And as I eventually want to rip all my CDs to the hard disk, this seems to be the way to go--rather that with a transport.

Now I'm discovering that people are converting the CDs to DSD, as high as DSD512 (using a lot of storage) and sending the files through the board to the LKS with great success.  More experiments to do.
@melm - interesting.  It’s too bad you don’t have a desktop.  Next year I plan to buy the DAC first, but I will probably get the following as well.  I’m currently running digital coax out of a Xonar Essence PCI card.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Pink-Faun-I2S-bridge-LKS-audio-Model-IV-Pink-Faun-IL3-I2S-HDMI-to-RJ45-cable/281933158086?hash=item41a48696c6:g:wu0AAOSwUuFWvK9v

it says it comes with an RJ45 cable wired specifically for the LKS i2s input.  The Pink Faun does not support DSD, only PCM up to 192 which is fine for me.  But I will likely experiment with DOP, as the LKS will accept DOP on its i2s input.  

I also read read that another DAC did DSD better than this LKS, but the LKS won for PCM format.  
@auxinput

Interesting.  I had a look at the Pink Faun and at the TNT review.  You have to wonder why, though, it hasn't found much favor though it's been around for several years.  I think that perhaps it may have been the recent and rapid improvement of USB to I2S converters like the Singxer SU-1 and the LKS USB-100 (the latter being the same circuit as in the upgraded LKS 004).  Both of these accommodate DSD and PCM and have received wide acceptance, and can be used with lap-tops.  Also, do you know why PF charges a premium for the LKS version?  Isn't it just a matter of making up the cable (HDMI to HDMI, or HDMI to RJ45) to accommodate?

Looking at the Pink Faun lit. they make a great deal of the file to USB within the computer as though it's some sort of massive "conversion" which I think is really overstated.

In any event you might want to consider whether doing without DSD (in native form) when running the LKS is a good idea.  I have had a lot of success with SACD rips (especially "pure DSD" from analog originals) and at least one correspondent at the Asylum writes, " With DSD512 [using HQPlayer to upsample from red book] the LKS sounds like an analog rig".  Though upsampling rb all the way to DSD512 seems like a mighty stretch.

Of course, as usual, YMMV.
For a CD transport, I would highly recommend the belt drive CEC TL-5 that I have (around $2000). The Audio Note CDT Zero is another option to consider. A good transport, with a high grade mechanism, will definitely be an improvement over using a CD player for transport duty.

As far as a digital cable, the Cerious Technologies Graphene Extreme ($200) is hard to beat.

For the DAC, I’d definitely go NOS, like the AN DAC o.1x or 1.1x.
@melm - the pink faun i2s models that include a hdmi-to-rj45 “single-ended” cable for a specific dac are $515.  The models without a cable are $330.  I think the pink faun cables are supposed to be really nice, so $185 for a custom i2s digital cable is not out of the realm of possibilities.  The custom hdmi-to-hdmi cable (with balanced digital) would be a tough one to make with all the wires needed.  And every DAC almost has their own hdmi i2s pin configuration.  Ugh!  Anyways, im sure it will be better than coax spdif, which is a single wire.

i don’t think many know about this card because they don’t really focus on a computer for a music server.  Many just use USB because it’s already there.  And the usb interface is industry standard, not like the vendor custom i2s interfaces, lol.  How many people do you know that actually use a SOTM USB card?  Probably more than pink faun, but it’s still a minority.

Direct i2s is still the way to go and better than spdif or usb because the systems do not have to wrap/unwrap the i2s data like they do with usb/spdif.  I’ll just have to do some experimenting.  I don’t do DSD right now, so anything will be an improvement.  Like I said, it’s possible that JRiver will send DOP (DSD-over-PCM) through this i2s card.  If it does, it’s a bonus for me.  I can always just use the usb if I decided to run any DSD files.

for my current system, the coax spdif sounds better than usb.  Spdif has more resolution, detail, bite to the music.

i have heard upsampling and it tends to smooth out the tones, gives a little less actual resolution/texture in my opinion, so I always prefer to run the DAC at the original source file sample rate.
Other matters have unavoidably  pulled me away from this thread but I do appreciate all the input-- collectively, you've provided a lot of info to chew over! 


Not many choices for gear I can try out at home and return, if necessary. A Cambridge CXC and Schiit Gumby looks like a good pair to try. I've read that the DAC section in the Simaudio Neo 260D is comparable to the stand alone Neo 280D-- not sure how accurate this claim is, but the Neo 260 looks very attractive. I've e-mailed Simaudio, asking about this.  Unfortunately, I can't bring one home. While I could lug my Wells amp, Silverline monitors, and CDP to the dealer in S.F., given the insane Bay Area traffic, and my inability to factor in the influence of the dealer's room, that option is not exactly a siren song. Has anybody here used the CXC + Gumby combination???