Rega DAC? Oppo 95 and wait?

Well....Here I am firmly on the fence trying to decide on a DAC for my system. DAC's I'm interested in are the Rega DAC, Eastern Electric Dac, PS Audio iii. All of these DACs have lots of good buzz. The rega is a serious contender but it worries me that so many are for sale used already. Some folks not really digging it in their systems?
Another idea is to just order a new Oppo 95 and wait a while longer to see what other Dacs hit the market in the near future. It's certainly a booming area of audio.

System: Merlin TSM-MXr, Manley Stingray II. Cardas SE9 cables and a MJ Acoustics 150 MKII sub. Some CD players that have been tried (all enjoyed but looking for more) Rega apollo, Oppo 981, Audio Aero Prima, Jolida JD100.


Hi Rob

I don't think you can make a mistake purchasing an Oppo 95 and waiting. It has to be among the very best values in digital components in the here and now for all that it offers at its pricepoint and level of performance, one hell of a lot of bang for the buck. While certainly not as refined as the Eastern Electric DAC Plus which I recently purchased nor my friends W4S DAC 2 and I'm sure some of the other DACs in this price range it still offers excellent playback performance for CD/SACD, and has plenty of flexibility. The Oppo is still very relaxed and musical and should keep you satisfied for awhile. Of course in this hobby "awhile" varies for each of us. It also uses the ESS Saber 9018 chip like the other two mentioned. I purchased one with the same though as you and discovered that the Oppo is definitely a keeper for all that it offers at the price. If it proves unsatisfactory in your case, there is a 30 day trial period. If you already have a good transport, which you will need for any of the 9018 based DACs, and the other features of the 95 are of little interest, you might want to look at other DAC options. We each have different needs but based on your query, I say go with the Oppo.
Don't worry about some of the Rega already being for sale; this happens all the time; buyers don't even wait until a unit is broken in to dump it. I got one a couple of weeks ago and am very happy with it; the different filters allow you to match the sound to your system/taste. HIFICRITIC thought that nothing they had heard for less than 4x its cost sounded as good. I find the sound both more transparent and not as bright as my previous DACs; possibly due to this being a NOS DAC. I don't care for the C5 ac plug but bought a Pangea adapter so I could use one of my Oyaide PCs.
You're looking for more, but without spending more. Good luck. Trading sideways in the 1K range may get you something different, but that's about it. If you like screwing around with different equipment, that's fine, but if you're really looking for something "better", you might have to dig a little deeper. Personally, I would recommend the demo Ear Acute that up for sale by a dealer, or the Doge6 with upgraded tubes (about 2K) from Pacific Valve. They are both VERY good, IMO.

I say "Better" should be clearly defined by a concensus of listeners before laying out double the dough or more. At the very least you should listen first. I am NOT convinced that 2-3K spent on a DAC is necessarily going to reap the benefits to one on a budget looking for value over very subtle differences UNLESS you are willing to pay but AGAIN this may be a line when you might want to audition first.
The OP has owned some good CD players. I've heard both the Apollo and the Jolida and, IMO, they would satisfy many listeners. Obviously, the OP is not satisfied with these very decent players and I think it's a waste to move from one 1K player to another. I remember when I thought $1500 bought you the best CD player there was, until I heard a $3K player side by side in a dealer demo. Absolutely no question in my mind that the more expensive player gave a much more satifying portrayal of the musical event. I also realized that I wasn't going to get what I was looking for for my budget of 1.5K. Well, that's life. Choices have to be made as to what's important to you. It just that I hate to see yet another person chasing the holy grail of 1K DACs. It's pointless - unless, as I said before, your goal is to just screw around with new equipment. It's totally valid. If that's the way you want to spend your money, that's up to you. But it's not going to get you the sound you want - IMO.
Tubegroover....right on. The Manley Amp and Merlin Speakers are the first components I've bought that were bought without too much consideration for price. I swallowed hard to pay out so much cash for 18 watts of tube power. At the same time there are people who spend more on cables. Insanity is relative and factored by the mood of one's wife.
Last night I listened to Eva Cassidy-Live at Blues Alley and thoroughly enjoyed the system. And that's with an old lightly modified Oppo DVD player! The system sounds beautiful and I've heard a LOT of high end systems over the last 30 years. I'm not seeking the holy grail of audio because it doesn't exist. I AM seeking to round out my system with a more state-of-the-art source, but I don't want to experiment in the art of diminishing returns beyond reason.

Chayro I do understand your point and it may certainly have had more validity in the past than now. It seems to me the real excitement in digital is happening at the budget end of the market. In reading professional reviews I am seeing many of these low priced DAC's being compared favorably with much more expensive units. I can certainly attest to the quality of the units I have on hand. This is not to say that you might find something with more refinement or more to your liking at a higher pricepoint which is often the case and the general rule in most things audio. The question of course is whether or not it is worth paying the difference, ESPECIALLY a moving target like digital. All the units I have mentioned are superb performers. The Eastern Electric has just been released and the folks at Stereophile though the OPPO 95 was good enough to put it into their A+ category of digital sources, maybe a bit over the top but it does say that they think very highly of it as do I. I also own an $850.00 MHDT Havana a NOS unit that has been compared favorability (better than) the reviewer's 3.5K NOS unit.

My only point is that before laying down more money for something "better" it would be wise to listen first to be sure. Buying at the budget end of the market is less risky in that if you don't like, its easier and less costly to turn over.
I haven't heard the Oppo, so no opinion on it.

I owned the Rega Apollo and searched for a while to find a $1k and under upgrade to it. I bought a Rega DAC and have no regrets whatsoever. Even though they're the same price, the DAC is in no way a lateral move. Everything the Apollo did, the DAC does quite a bit better. The DAC is on the level of the Saturn, not the Apollo. Many have said the DAC is different that the Saturn, but not better or worse. I haven't heard them side by side, but I've heard the Saturn more than enough to know the DAC is on equal footing with it.

If you liked what the Apollo did in your system, the DAC may very well be the answer. It was to me. Nothing beats a demo, especially in your home. If you have a local Rega dealer, you should make it a point to hear one. If not, I'm pretty sure Audio Advisor and Music Direct have a 30 day money back policy.
I'm slowly...ever so slowly...leaning towards the Rega DAC.

Thanks for the comments.