Ok guys here is a list of brands that make reference level DACs and streamers :
Sound Galleries SGM 2015
Please feel free to share your experience with the higher end products of these brands and add some others that you know.
Some of these products are extremely expensive and not always worth it therefore let's discuss about them.
I've been using Totaldac D1-monoblocs with re-clocker and server (just under 30K) for over a year now and its exceptional. Very organic and detailed -- in a rich way, not an analytic way. I have trouble finding a pre-amp that works well enough to make a positive impact between it and my amp. Still searching.
joshfilm i concur the Totaldac d1-twelve (4 boxes) is what i've heard best so far, very organic and analog.
This one is in first place on my short list for the DAC-streaming part of my future system.
I yet have to audition the CH Precision and the MSB Diamond V.
Luckily the only CH dealer in my country is just an hour drive from my place therefore a home audition can be arranged.
I know the Bel Canto Black and auditioned it but for an audiophile anthusiast like me and most us on this forum the idea of having an all in one system like the Black or Devialet will never be something i will consider.
I not saying the Bel Canto Black is not good but it will suit more people who couldn't care less taking the time to build an all separates system.
I have the Totaldac Twelve, with the 4 boxes, so a server, reclocker, and Twelve DAC for each channel. Yes, it is allot of cables, but no other DAC I have tried comes close. You will get over the cable thing really quick with an audition. The Twelve is truly like a very high end vinyl rig. Artists in the room and holographic, real texture to instruments, image focus to die for, and it never sounds dry, like some other companies best efforts in digital. It is very neutral, wet, involving, deep, extremely transparent, yet never strident or edgy, and is always natural sounding. It is honest in the best way, so very resolute and made to be in the best systems.
The Twelve SE is the one to get if you do not wish to have a preamp in your system. I use the Twelve (not SE) with a very good preamp. Been this way for almost 3 years, and I am still always amazed with it. If in central US, I welcome listening!
Thieliste, we sell the Light Harmonic Davinci most analog sounding dac we have ever heard, havent' compared it to the Formula,
We do have the Aquahifi Lascala and it is excellent, if the Formula is a lot better than the Lascala then it is a truly formidable machine.
www.audiodoctor.com old website new site coming soon
877 428 2873
my above post is now a year old, so things have changed in my system. last June i moved on to the MSB Select II (33 Femto clock and 2 power supplies). but the MSB is not really a direct competitor for either of those dacs, although they are not as far away performance-wise as the price might indicate.
all that said, i continue to have great respect for both the Lampi GG and the Aqua Formula dac. my preference a year ago for the Formula over the GG had mostly to do with it's attributes being more synergistic with my system and personal preferences, than any lacking in the GG. my system exposes any sort of artifact as such, and rewards linearity, detail and refinement. the Formula also was a solid state dac with a full weighty mid range and plenty of tonal density. the GG was wonderful and beautiful to listen to and of course, you could roll the tubes to flavor the sound to your liking, but it would bring it's own sound signature to everything, whereas my preference is for the gear to not impose any sameness.
so this is a case, not of better or worse, but what fits a system.
i see you have vinyl, and tube amplifiers. i owned the Thoress Phono Enhancer briefly and love their stuff. it depends on what sort of sound you want from a dac. both would fit in your system, but differently.
also; the Aqua Formula is modular, and had an upgrade recently, although i've not heard that upgrade. and Lamplizator is famous for lots of upgradability. so either dac would be highly recommended by me.
and btw; if you get the GG i still have a bunch of great tubes from my Lampi days i would give someone a screaming deal on. and these are mostly barely used. tube rolling is part of the fun.
Ha, thanks Mike. I guess it's no longer 2017, huh? i think I need some new glasses as I've responded to a number of old threads this last year.
Appreciate your response! I suspected they might have their differences given the topologies. Going to start w/ a demo of the upgraded Formula and go from there...my pre and amps are tubed (Atma-Sphere MP1 and Audion Golden Dream monos) and I'm loving the SS Schiit Yggy in the front...wondered if the GG might be too much of a good thing with all those tubes, too (can you have too many?!?). I know they are both phenomenal DACs regardless, and thank you for your recommendations. Thanks again.
You need to decide if you want to go with XMOS USB technology or the newer Ethernet technology for input to the DAC.
If USB, then it makes sense to spend a lot on a server, like Antipodes or Aurender N10 etc.. These are optimized for good sound quality with USB.
If Ethernet, you can achieve even better audio quality using a MacBook pro or a Mini running Jriver. You can also run other servers on the Mac like Minimserver. You can alternately use a lower-cost server like Bluesound. Because you don’t need an expensive server, you can afford to get a better DAC, better cables and maybe even a Plasmatron AC voltage regulator.
I would highly recommend Ethernet input interface and Balanced analog outputs. If you get a DAC with a good volume technology, then go direct to amps and forget the preamp. Here is one with good volume technology:
If you want a REALLY low noise floor, make sure everything is galvanically isolated to break all of the ground-loops. Ethernet takes care of that. For USB, you need to make sure the interface is isolated. For analog outs use this:
Also, consider whether you are happy with R2R DAC and 24/96 PCM or do you need 24/192, MQA and DSD playback.