If you can afford $1700, talk with Rick Cullen of cullencircuits.com. His Stage 4 DL III is rather unbelievable. I've owned many DACs, but I feel there is no comparison to this one unless you get into high four figures and even then I'm not so sure. Cullen is not a typical mod guy -- he's part of the brains behind PS Audio.
I've bought a lot of equipment over the years and, truthfully, I've had to question much of it as to value and effectiveness. Not this piece. It is one of a handful of standouts I've had in the last forty years of enjoying this hobby.
I have to agree with Brianme1. The PS Audio DLIII is quite astonishing, and mine is not even modified yet by Rick Cullen, whom, btw, I've spoken with on several occasions regarding mods. Rick is very helpful and informative.
My audio buddy has the Arcam and is also quite pleased with its performance but I have a modified Denon DVD-5910 flagship. We were floored by the performance increase when I received it back after mods by HRAM. However, when I later installed the PS Audio DLIII in my system, the performance increase not only floored us further; it was jaw dropping! The dynamics and soundstage depth as well as width increased substantially.
Paul McGowan is quite modest in his description of the DLIII on the PS website. Just about everything claimed is true, and then some. I use mine exclusively now, except when listening to SACD; have to use Denon analog outputs for that. I even feed the optical input with AirTunes via an Apple Base Station and ITunes on my Mac with most excellent results. With such a setup, I've listened for literally hours on end without any listener fatigue.
I moved from a DV78 to a DV29 a year ago and am very pleased with the improvement in both audio and video. You can probably find a DV137 or DV29 (or maybe even a DV139) for great prices.
The stock DL III is very good by itself. If budget is a concern, just getting a stock unit is more than enough.
The DL III is a truly wonderful unit, especially for the money. I have considered having Cullen do mods to my stock unit, but it is already so great that I am holding off for awhile. Sometimes I just can't believe how good Redbook CDs can sound, given the right recording. Also, there is a 30 day money back guarantee from PS Audio and sometimes they have demos or 30 day return units for less, still with full warranty. Sorry I can't tell you if it will sound better than the Arcam, only you will know.
Can't read the above without weighing in as well. My system is Proac 2.5's, Conrad Johnson Premiere 14 pre, and McCormack DNA1 Deluxe modded, with Kimber Select wire, throughout.
I use a Denon 2930CI via a Monarchy DIP to my DL III. First, the Monarchy makes a very big difference. In my system, since installing the DL III, for the first time since I have been an audiophile, I hear distinctly different music from every CD I have,instead of year after year of digital sound that overlaid every CD with a common shade of "tint" or artifactual coloration.
I enjoy my stock unit so much, I am afraid of hearing one of Rick Cullen's modded units. (-:.....again, IN MY SYSTEM.
Good luck with your decision, John
I owned the ARCAM FMJ CD23T for several years; really good player. I bought a Benchmark DAC1 and sourced it with the CD23T. I believe there was an audible difference -- the DAC1 being more detailed, but no less musically enjoyable. I then sourced the DAC1 with a Denon DVD player -- same result. There was no longer a reason to own the CD23T so I sold it.
I've can't comment on the PS Audio DAC, but I do think a Benchmark DAC1 will outperform the DV78 (should be obvious, but not HUGE) and there's no reason to have such an expensive transport.
I'll add yet another recommendation for s Cullen modded PS Audio DL III (stage 3 in my case). I have never heard a stock DL III, and bought mine directly from Rick after listening to a stage 3 modded DL III @ a get together (where it was compared against a modded DAC1 & a Bel Canto DAC3). The general consensus was favorable to the Cullen DL III. I have been floored by what I have been hearing since I got it--and it's not even close to being burned-in yet (maybe only 40 hrs on it). This is one purchase I do not regret...
I just ordered my Cullen Stage IV DL3 on Friday and I will have it breaking in next week. I really couldn't hear much improvement with the stock DL3 over my Rotel RDV-1093, but the Rotel is a different animal than any of the other Rotel CD players. Their flagship DVD/CD player, it is rated at less than 0.002 WOW/Flutter. I was disappointed because I had expected more from the stock DL3. The fact that I did hear minor improvements (it did seem to open up the soundstage a bit and perhaps slightly improve overall clarity) led me to order a new modded unit directly from Cullen.
The reviews and feedback claim that the Stage IV upgrade is not a subtle improvement in almost the entire frequency range. I will be disappointed if I only hear minor differences, like I do with cable upgrades. I hate ordering one without hearing it first, but I have been sucked-in with all the feedback.
If youre still looking next month, I will have been able to scrutinize the unit after it breaks in. If you email me, Ill give you a no-frills objective review. Unless you can pick up a stock unit for $700 or less, your best bet is to purchase a new unit with upgrades directly from Cullen and receive $290.00 off list.
I am also trying to buy the DAC III Stage IV from Cullen directly.
I am interested in your previous post about a no-frills objective review.
thanks in advance
As Paul McGowan was the "P" and Stan Warren was the "S" in PS Audio,that says alot about his talents I'm sure.Thanks for the tip.I always wanted to try that Dac myself....