Poor man's reference DAC

I am looking for a DAC in the $3000 range to match with my system. I am hoping for a reference DAC that I can later add a transport to once the funds are available. I know this price point is a little light for a reference DAC but it is what I can afford. I was going to buy the Birdland Odeon Ag with reclocker but once you open the door you start to find other items. I am interested in other views so I can start researching these DACs. The newest item I have read about is the Harmonix DAP-777. Very favorable reviews. Anything else out there that I should think about?

I have the following set-up:

Rowland Synergi IIi preamp
Rowland M201 mono amps
Meridian 588 CD player
CAL CL-10 multi disc player
B & W Nautalus 802 speakers
Audio Note Cerulean cables
Audio Magic power conditioners

I listen to vocalists mostly and accustic music. All reply are appreciated.
Muse Model 192, IMO is a reference level DAC. However, it may be difficult to find one.
Just read about the Stello DAC from Korea. Check out the review on www.soundstage.com.
I really like my Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista 21 DAC. It's notches above my old Conrad-Johnson D/A-3, which was notches above my Theta Gen. III.
sell your preamp and buy Wadia 27ix and use its volume control
Audio Logic beats them all.

Happy Listening.
Have you heard the Meridian G08 CD player? You might like it better than a DAC. I haven't heard the 588 but others have said the G08 is quite a step up from the 588. I am using the G08 with a Rowland Synergy IIi and Model 10 and the combination is wonderful. The tonality is near perfect, with a great 3D soundstage, and it has high resolution without sacrificing dynamics (rare). It is a really well balanced player that is easy to live with.
For 3k, you should be able to find a used Audiomeca Enkianthus X DAC. I own one, and I find it to be a fantastic performer.
I would consider jsut getting the new Sony SACD reference CD player and abandoning separates or the new Arcam FMJ CD 33 which reviewers seem to rave about. Jallen
I second Bigkidz with a recommendation for an Audio Logic. For 3k, you should be able to buy a used one or perhaps a demo, some great tubes, and a good power cord.

I would also consider an Audio Note 3.1x Balanced DAC.

You might even consider speaking with one of the guys who does mods to see what older DACs can be modded into great performers. Steve Nugent, aka Audioeng, has a good reputation and is easily reached through his website empiricalaudio.com.

Let us know what you decide on.
Gotta go with the Audio Logic 24MXL, with some good tubes, digital cable, it can do a fullness without sounding congested, giving a kind of whole, solid feeling to instruments I have not heard in digital.

Also very good for a player (in the $3k range) is the Exemplar modded Denon 2900, which has amazing speed, transients and initial stike through the entire freq spectrum, along with a great amount of detail.
Yep, I fourth the Audio Logic !
Let's see, 1/3 of the responces say Audio Logic. That is very encouraging. Has anyone ever used or heard a Harmonix DAP-777? I will look into the Audio Logic first and each of the other suggestion as well. What would you say the strengths of the Audio Logic are?
Where is there a review of the Audio Logic DAC and what is their homepage?

I know a lot of people that wish they were "poor enough" to be able to afford a $3K DAC. Where's the welfare line and how do we sign up??? Life must be tough just getting by with those "bare necessities" : ) Sean
You got to check out the perpetual technology dac. It is wide range of upgrades available to it. It is a very nice sounding dac. A great toe tapping dac.
The Benchmark I a great initial review in Stereophile and when JA did a follow-up he said it was almost as good as his reference Levinson. Seriously consider the recommendation about going with an all in one player. There are some great ones out there and it's something to seriously consider. I have the new Sony XA9000ES and it spanks my Perpetual P1/P3 stack.
Bryanhod: As a long-time owner of the Audio Logic, I'll fifth it. The strengths of the Audio Logic are a very natural presentation of the performance and dynamics, reproduction of timbre, non-fatiguing sound, excellent three-dimensional soundstaging and that elusive "musicality". You can also do a bit of tube-rolling in them, particularly with the 12AU7s in the pre-24mxl models, to add more or less lushness to the sound for your taste. The weaknesses depend on the iteration you get--older Model 34s were a little weaker in the bass, the later 34s with the 20-bit chipset and the 2400 are substantially better in that respect and excellent overall in that area, though probably still not state of the art (Jerry O will update all units as far as you want to go with them). And with all versions you probably lose that last bit of resolution you might get from a Levinson or Wadia, for example, though in my experience the Audio Logic is far more "alive" sounding than those units, which sound artificial and sterile to me in comparison. It may or may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it definitely is an overachiever and bargain for its price, especially used. Panny, AL has no website; there is a nice review on the site that Audiogon's Manufacturer Lookup link provides, and I wrote a thoroughly unprofessional review of it (discussing the latest transformer upgrade to it) on this site.
Go to: www.highendaudio.com/audiologic
Perp Tech DAC requires the full ModWright treatment, otherwise, it's dry and a bit "white-ish" sounding.
Sean, no doubt I am a lucky guy. More than anything I was trying to create a catch phrase to get peoples attention.
Tomryan is correct. The P3 gains significantly from the ModWright Level 2 upgrade. But, IMHO, the XA9000ES still beats the P1/P3 even with the MR Level 2 treatment. Take a serious look at all in one players. They can outperform a transport/DAC system.
Bryan, i'm just giving you a hard time. I realize that if you're going to get responses, you have to develop enough attention to the thread to attract flies. Hopefully, your tactic got the results that you were looking for : ) Sean
Rx8man--Thx!What are the prices?nt
You'd have to contact Jerry, he'd be better qualified to giving you a quote on your model.
I'm amazed that nobody has yet mentioned the Museatex DACs (Bidat, idat44, Bitstream). They rarely show up for sale, and when they do, they go very quickly. Bidat's used to appear for < $1K, but recently one sold for $3K in just one day. Then again, audiogon is not exactly a "rational" market :)

Nevertheless, if you ever see a Museatex DAC for sale, especially a Bidat, snap it up and get it updated by John Wright if it hasn't been upgraded already. It may well be the last DAC you'll ever own.
Funny you mentioned, I looked for a Bidat and agree wholeheartedly.
They were more readily available during the on-slaught of hurrying digital technology.
The unfortunate part is NOW a lot of folks realize just how great AND far ahead of their time Bidats really are, they became an extremely rare and desireable product (esp. with the mods)
Judging from you and other reliable sources, I have little doubt on any negatives of this sleeper.
I'd love to compare it to an Audio Logic, do you have any experience with this or other Dacs of comparable merit ?
I just purchased a used Reimyo Harmonix DAP-777 from overseas based upon the review in 6moons. 6moons which reviews the creme de la creme equipment rated it pretty much the equivalent of the Zanden. I have only had it a week. I also just purchased the Marantz SA-14 v2 and I have listening to both units during the past week.

I have used the digital output from the Marantz and then the output from a CAL 2500 using a HT digital cable. Will be buying a balanced digital cable probably a Silversmith which is why I purchased the CAL 2500.

Sounds better than Muse 9 Signature, no slouch for sound quality, the Birdland DAC Lite and the Redbook output from the Marantz. Build quality is tremendous. I believe there is a used one for sale on Audiogon for $2,400. I would buy it before its gone.
I read that review in 6moons, found it very interesting.
They claimed the player sounds better than the stand-alone Dac with a transport.
I was going to post a thread on this player asking if anyone has heard it, don't have to now !
Let us know how it sounds as break-in progresses.
RX8man: Yes, I also read that review. Unfortunately I don't have $14,000 to spend on a CD player! I paid $2,250 for the DAC and $850 for the CAL 2500 which was brand new. I figured the DAC is the more important half of the equation. They may come out with a stand alone transport at some time but I imagine it will be very expensive.
I just spent the last month listening to every DAC I could get my hands on. I finally went for the Audiomeca Enkianthus. It sounded so nice that the guy who was going to sell me his Accustic Arts transport rescinded after hearing the two together. I thought that the Audio Logic was excellent too, but maybe it was just a tad too laid back, or maybe soft is more definitive. The Reimyo Harmonix DAP-777 was sort of a surprise, which I may have jumped on if I could find a used one.

Like you I listen to acoustical music and voice; mostly acoustical guitar and piano and for those mid to high frequencies I liked the Enkianthus.

You might also check out the Lector DIGICODE as well. I wasn't able to find one in my area. I'm looking for the DIGIDRIVE transport now.
I am really interested in the Reimyo Harmonix DAP-777. It is rare to find one and I am going to look into buying one. I think I can always get a different unit to compare it to from a local dealer but not this one.
Good luck Bryanhod,
You might need it, the only way you'll get lucky is if a dealer has a demo or one from a show.
A used one from a consumer might be a while, they're still pretty new and unheard of (I could be wrong though)
I'm gonna be patient and look for a used Bidat to get a handle on it's sonic character and see how it stacks up against my Audio Logic with a nice tube compliment.

I have been asked a few questions now about the April Music Stello DA220 DAC......here is the link for stores that sell it in the US. AIsip posted a response to the review of this product, and I can honestly say that the review is dead on....I have first hand experience with the product, and its only a matter of time before the days pass and I get one for my B-day. any way, this dac is well worth listening to.......

I have recieved a demo Reimyo DAP-777 and it is fantastic. My highest recommendation and worth a try to anyone researching this product. The documentation often states Anarog instead of Analog, very funny to us English speaking Audiophiles but the product is top nothc. It is always satisfying when you take a risk and it is better than you could hope for. This unit removes all remnants of any digital sound I used to hear. My system is now remarkably detailed but with warmth I thought could only come from tubes.
Buy a RME ADI-2 and use battery power. I blows away everything, believe me!!!! It's a DAC for studio use, looks ugly /like a toy --- but it's fantastic. In the states it costs about 640 bucks, so nobody would ever take a look at it. In combination with my Teac P2-s it sounds pure analog and best detailed I've ever heared. A friend having a LFD DAC by Dr. Richard Brews and Tannoy Westminster first tested the ADI - only accidentally. He looked anaemic after listening....
Disadvantage: Only XLR analog outputs. Greetinx from Germany, Hendrik
adding to what Perose and Tomryan have said...the MW level 2 P-3/A is a good DAC but leaves much to be desired...to take it to a much higher level, the Empirical Audio P-3/A DAC modded by Steve Nugent is needed. the EA modded DAC greatly improves upon everything across the board.