Proper DAC Upgrade for my modest system.


Looking for some advice from people with lots more experience then me

My local dealer has recommended the RME ADI-2 DAC, or the New NAD 658. Buying a DAC is "hard". But was looking for some veterans thoughts. The NAD I could replace the Yamaha Streamer and get some money back.

Anyone have an opinion of the Wadia 122 DAC? I got one on clearance so decided to pull the trigger, its 100% better then the Parasound zDac Gen 1 I was running, but making sure for around the $1200 ( My budget ) price point I am making the right buy.

System is WXC Streamer --> Wadia 122 DAC -->AVR/Pre-Amp - B&K 125.7 Bi amped to KEF R11’s via Rocket 44’s.

I use Tidal for all content - I don’t do anything other then stream Tidal and some Apple Music if certain songs / albums are not on Tidal. Some day I might progress into "higher res" but the cost of files seems a low ROI vs Tidal at the moment.

Appreciate everyone’s insight on this topic.
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IMO a DAC upgrade isn't the best way to go with a modest system..Better to move up in speakers or amplification..What are you trying to accomplish with an upgrade?
Is your room acoustically treated?
Well I upgraded to the R11's, and now feel like the weak spot in the whole system is the DAC seeing its a 150~ dollar used Parasound dac. I don't have a dedicated listening room at the moment, maybe when I pull the trigger on a house in the next 12 months.

Not sure I would ever go over this price range of speakers, and I defiantly do not need more power. 
+1 on Freediver’s excellent post

why?

- There is a nominal to minimal differentiation in DACs at your pricepoint. You are going to have to go progressively north of $2500 before you start on a better path to an appreciable step up in audio performance IF AND ONLY IF the rest of your system is up to the task.

- What Freediver was emphasing in a possible equipment stepup was about better speakers intuitively, and a step up in electronics upstream that has nothing to do with “power”. As with an intuitive audio performance improvement with better speakers, an upgrade to better build and stepped-up audio resolution electronics follow in lockstep, ignoring their respective bespoke sonic signatures that directly influence synergy (or lack thereof ) with your speakers.

A tsunami population of available quality build and still affordable integrated amps options, or like quality build preamp/ amp options, will slay any AVR in audio performance, short of the flagship $8000 ARCAM flagship model. The differences are not subtle.

Takeaway

don’t bank on any of your suggested DAC swap ins alone getting you on further down the Yellow Brick Road to Audio OZ.

Appreciate the feedback, I guess in short I was asking for a recommendation based on current system. 

I have AQ rocket 44’s Bi amped 
KEF r11’s 
b&k amp - from everything I have read would have to spend north of 2k to even come close to an “upgrade”

and a 150 dollar parasound dac ... that i felt was the weakest link... but what I am hearing is that it’s okay for my system... even though it’s probably 8 years old? 
Ok I looked at your system & speakers..With your budget sell the AVR PreAmp & put it with your $1200.00 & get yourself a Quad PA-One...I promise you a COMPLETE & TOTAL massive upgrade to current setup!
Addendum:I guess you need to keep the AVR Pre for BiAmping though?

Addendum:I guess you need to keep the AVR Pre for BiAmping though?
 I use a Sony ES3100 for home theater purpose, simply use the aux passthrough to control volume through on source. New Sony ES series has a pretty clean passthrough from what I have read - I know its unbalanced which isn't optimal.

My goal when I get some more room is to get a Pre with balanced that can go to B&K but then I will pick up a better amp to potentially drive the towers... I am 80% Music 20% theater. 

That Quad seems interesting - never heard of them.  I can also say that the Wadia has a much better sound / sound stage then the parasound it replaced... I was just making sure I bought the right product. 
RME is very solid.

I would say room treatment would lead to a sonic upgrade that’s magnitudes better than any other thing you can do with your budget.

Quad PA-One
Their tag line:

the closest approach to the original sound

And it’s a tube DAC, so a completely BS statement, tubes by their very nature deviate from the original sound.

You made a good choice. It is a better DAC than the zDAC as you have already observed and it matches your system well. Your KEF R11 speakers are no slouch. Just enjoy your music.
You made a good choice. It is a better DAC than the zDAC as you have already observed and it matches your system well. Your KEF R1
haha Solid advice, I pulled the trigger on the Wadia because I got it at a steal.. I think? I was just making sure in the say 800-1500 price range I wasn't missing some amazing purchase. It's only got about 30-40 hours on it right now and ( same with the speakers ) so it could sonically change for the better .... So I hear. haha

Nice speakers. The Wadia is a solid upgrade over the zDac. 

You don’t need to go north of 2500 Get a used chord Hugo 2, that dac will provide a definite sonic upgrade, or a used mytek Brooklyn+ both can be had used for under 2k
You don’t need to go north of 2500 Get a used chord Hugo 2, that dac will provide a definite sonic upgrade, or a used mytek Brooklyn+ both can be had used for under 2k

Not sure I want to, or would see the benefit of going that high in price point. Might stick with the Wadia for now and maybe upgrade to a true Pre Amp w/ Balanced connections, or a better amp like a PS A51+ 

Was trying to stay under the 1500 range given my current system

I have the RME ADI-2 DAC and it really is a fantastic unit. I tested it against some DAC's at twice and 3X the price and the RME beat them all. Price and feature set is unbeatable. Plus there are features on this DAC you won't find in most DAC's. Don't know of any DAC's in the 1K category that have a 5 band Parametric EQ and a dual EQ function.
I have the RME ADI-2 DAC and it really is a fantastic unit. I tested it against some DAC's at twice and 3X the price and the RME beat them all. Price and feature set is unbeatable. Plus there are features on this DAC you won't find in most DAC's. Don't know of any DAC's in the 1K category that have a 5 band Parametric EQ and a dual EQ function
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I have heard good things, the AKM chips seem to be more "Relaxed" then some of the ESS Chips, I might go demo the one my local dealer has against the Wadia in the system now. 

What did you test it against? And what is your amp/speaker setup if you don't mind me asking.
The Chord Qutest and the $2500 Chord Hugo. Compared them in the store and took them home to demo on my system. Who's your dealer?
AKM chips seem to be more "Relaxed" then some of the ESS Chips


No, they are very similar in terms of native performance. However, maybe these reviews were in regards to specific products using such chips.

As for the Wadia, looks pretty good, the dynamic range spec is pretty poor for the price though ($100 DACs are >110dB), but I doubt it’s an audible difference, seeing as how even 96dB is better than most rooms allow.
I use Audio Therapy in NH, also stop by BB Magnolia once in awhile as they are a design center.
I thought so. That's where I go. Ask John if you can borrow the RME he usually has a demo unit available. . I have my RME w/a Bluesound node into a Luxman CL38U-SE tube preamp. Aerial 5T speakers and a Bryston 2.5 SST2 amp. I've dealt w/John for over 20 years.
I thought so. That's where I go. Ask John if you can borrow the RME he usually has a demo unit available. . I have my RME w/a Bluesound node into a Luxman CL38U-SE tube preamp. Aerial 5T speakers and a Bryston 2.5 SST2 amp. I've dealt w/John for over 20 years.
Sounds like a killer 2ch Setup! He thinks I should Demo the New NAD and the RME - I guess I need to let my ears do the listening - the Dirac Live on the NAD is interesting for sure. Trying to not go down the rabbit hole of updating.
John always has me demo equipment I'm interested in before purchasing. Makes a big difference in deciding what's right for your system. 
Be aware that the NAD 658 does not YET have Dirac.  That ability should come in late Jan according to NAD.  I would agree with some others here that all of the DACs being mentioned here are pretty damn good and the differences are likely to be pretty fine between them - but the difference Dirac Live can make is NOT subtle.  It clearly sets the 658 apart a bit.  Add the preamp, phono input, BluOS and Roon endpoint ability, and balanced inputs and it is worth a look. Mine sounds great - but checking daily for the Dirac update...
Chord dacs.....2qute or Qutest.  Compact units, great sound.
At $1200 I recommend you audition the Schiit Gungnir Multibit. They currently have several B stock units for $1169 + shipping.
wadia is all done, no more
stay away from it   
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Untill you get into Hi Rez music, the Wadia is all you will need, it is a great DAC. Start looking into surround sound separates, or a pre amp with Home Theater bypass, like a PS Audio, or similar. Your pre amp and amps should be your next step. 
Seems like a lot of people are suggesting I remove the Sony from the 2ch setup.

Schitt Saga - Seems like a pre amp that has 0 gain and I could use as a bypass for HT - But use to filter the Wadia into - then into my amp - It even has two RCA out's so I could still bi amp the speakers if needed. Is this the route the multiple people in the thread were suggesting? 
Have a left field suggestion - streamer DAC, DIRAC and pre-amp for USD1200 before shipping. The SHD from minidsp. Mulling one over myself presently having trialed the pc version of DIRAC. Love the DIRAC (sounds great to me inspite just being from jriver media player 3.5mm jack out on my laptop into coaxial and my preamp) and now close to ordering the SHD but with just a little more testing around the DIRAC to complete on my Linkwitz Orions. The SHD isn’t perfect as a DAC (some jitter, albeit inaudible, otherwise measures well and close to Benchmark 3), or streamer (volumio only at this stage) but for that price who can complain.
My set up now - Minix Android box - cheap mini sabre ESS DAC - Rotel RC1070 preamp - Orion active crossover - ATI6012 power amp - Orion speakers.
Dated system somewhat and now looking at cost effective front end upgrade............
@hlg3 Exactly the opposite. Most DACs sound exactly the same when fed 4x to 8x CD rate. It's the great DACs that make CDs sound good as in they have the processing to properly upsample: Schiit with SHARC DSP chips, Chord, DCS, etc.
I ended up going with the Schiit Saga to remove the Sony from the 2ch setup, still allowed me to bi amp the front speakers, and use it as a HT pass.

I am still running the Wadia 122 DAC at the moment, I am toying with the idea of upgrading the wall wart to a linear PSU and leaving the system alone to just enjoy some listening and stop going down the blackhole of 2ch haha