Simple question, best sounding inexpensive DAC.


I have a second system with a CD changer and would like to pick up an inexpensive DAC that would sound better than the DAC in this Denon changer.

If it helps, I listen to Jazz and female vocals. Using a Magnum Dynalab receiver with Quad bookshelf speakers..all Wireworld cables.

Happy Thanksgiving...j
whatjd
Cheap ("inexpensive?) involves Just about anything over $200 that even at that point will easily best the Denon changer. There are a buzzillion options in a "just pick one of 'Em" price-point arena.

Now, at the $750 - $1500 price-point strata, the choices now actually provide some quality built and matched quality performance options . Again there are many many options even at that price point.

The REGA Rdac and ARCAM irDac (a What HiFi 5-star rated kit) are just two of the top contenders that are also crowded by the numerous pretenders.

Define "inexpensive" first and then please list what the rest of your gear setup is (system synergy matters big-time) and you may get a rifle approach recommendation instead of a shotgun approach .
The dcs Elgar is the very definition of a bargain.
I like my old Onkyo changer with a Parasound Zdac...
Not sure what your idea of inexpensive is, but a truly inexpensive option would be a Music Fidelity V-DAC (original Black case version). The USB input is not asynchronous, however the coax input would serve you provided your Denon has coax output. Can be had for under $100 used.
WhatJD,
Stating your price range may help zero in recommendations unless of course you want to go for the dcs Elgar. ;^)
HRT MusicStreamer 2+ and Micromega MyDac are 2 good choices.
Micromega MyDac is cheap and very good.
Define "inexpensive." One man's ceiling is another man's floor. In any case, a used Benchmark DAC1 is a bargain at around $500.
Like your reasoning, love the Magnum Dynalab receiver and think your amp/speaker combo will benefit from a dac upgrade. So, I am a big fan of the Eastern Electric sabre chip dacs with lots of inputs, ss or tube (12AU7) output, phase button too, best buy/used for $500. For a bit more, $600, the Metrum Octave is hard to beat IMO. Next stop would be around $1000 for only slightly more, "full sounding", with an Audio Note 2.1. as my choice there but requiring a SPDIF. YMMV.

Whatjd hi.
Seeing your using a Denon changer, you'll just be playing Redbook CD's.
The Schitt Bifrost Multibit would be a great choice as this uses a proper Multibit dac chip, it is the "Bit Perfect" way of conversion of Redbook cd (PCM)

Schitt is owned by Mike Moffet who was head owner/designer for Theta digital, and we all know what he did there.
Now he owns this small budget company Schitt, and making big waves buy bringing Hiend technology in not so glitzy cases to the masses.

PS:Always choose the Multibit option for Redbook CD if you consider any of the other dacs of his.

Cheers George
There are many very good inexpensive DAC's, in part you need to decide the importance of the transport. Based on my experience I would not spend too much on a DAC for a changer...
The Micromega Mydac has been reduced from 399 to 249 at Audio Advisor. Makes sense since I paid full price not too long ago...
You should buy any DAC with a Wolfson or Sabre DAC chip.

I know you don't use computer audio but I do and I even lean toward USB powered DACs because I bypass the power, and those are generally inexpensive, and since they don't plug into the wall you don't have to deal with noisy power there.

Noisy power is one of the chief causes of digital woes, and that means your DAC is affected so long as its plugged into a computer, and even into your wall outlet. It's hard to believe at first but it makes sense when you understand the properties of electromagnetic radiation and interference. Something I'm not ready to describe here!

But most importantly You should properly implement USB audio by outputting WASAPI with Windows - it's a setting in your music software. I use JRiver 19.

Since you're using a CD player you should get a good quality Toslink cable and a DAC that has a Toslink input. For newbies that's fiber optic cable. You send the digital signal from your CD player to the DAC via the Toslink cable. And in doing so you completely bypass the dirty power from the wall that is clouding up the analog outputs of the CD player. Power doesn't travel down the optical cable, it's light! So it's the cleanest thing imaginable, to me anyway. It's just flickering light, how genius, just one's and zero's, light is on or off, so simple.

Now, you need to get this pristine signal to your DAC chip and then to the analog outs of the DAC and to your Pre, and so on. If you have your DAC plugged into a standard shared outlet you have noise leaking in. That is why well engineered power cords make a sonic difference. They reduce the noise by what I think is inducing an electromagnetic pattern. The wires are typically configured in helical winds, perhaps that shapes an electromagnetic field that is somehow more stable than a straight wire in terms of noise. In a way it's more organized, more measured, so perhaps the noise is reorganized into the dominant signal or maybe diluted is the proper way to consider it.

Bottom line, they make a difference so you should spend at least $150 on a power cord, maybe $200 on the DAC, and with that you might have a really great sounding setup, sounding as good as other DACs at many times the price. I'm serious, the sound you'll get at 16/44 for you paying $350, maybe $400 with the Toslink cable and a Sabre or Wolfson DAC, I would bet might equal or even best a $1200 DAC out of the box.

Make similar power cord upgrades and add a USB Disruptor to the $1200 DAC, serve it 96/24 music, and it would would really take an expert listener to tell the difference between that setup and really any other DAC, at any price. And at that point, the testing isn't exactly objective. In the Digital game implementation is HUGE! Get it wrong and your expensive gear doesn't perform its best.

Get it right though and you get sound as good as anything at any price. You can always spend more on bigger amps and speakers but that's just going to be louder. Things can sound pretty darn awesome at 75 decibels. Orchestral crescendo's measure about 90 decibels. Sustained listening at 95 decibels causes irreversible hearing damage, just as an FYI. Live rock music 120 decibels. You can get these levels from most 50 watt per channel amplifiers with two to three driver speakers.

Hope this helps.
No wonder so many people get frustrated with audio and give up on it. That's some of the worst advice I've ever read.
+1 George. If not in need of a USB DAC and my budget went beyond that of a used MF V-DAC, I would consider the non-USB Bitfrost. Or a older used DAC as there are many very good one that can now be had at inexpensive cost.
Slap, Bam, Biff!! Ouch, ZD. So, it's the Elgar/end of discussion? That's pretty harsh from someone with generally good, helpful, informed advice. Frankly, I'd say your's is some of the worst advice, ridiculously inappropriately overpriced overkill. -Not to say the Elgar wouldn't be the best choice for a more expensive system. And, you may still feel it's a bargain....but:
Getting back to being helpful, digital is the area of fastest changes and the price for good sound is dropping "daily". I'll second the Schitt as being a great choice and add the Ifi gear for his strong consideration for this system at a very affordable price. (Further; power distortion corruption considerations do prominently figure in the ifi design.)
So, the dcs Elgar is the very definition of an "inexpensive" DAC...really?
"So, the dcs Elgar is the very definition of an "inexpensive" DAC...really?"

This is why we REALLY need a sarcasm font. And some people still don't know what ;^) means. Sheesh.
"11-25-15: Truman
Slap, Bam, Biff!! Ouch, ZD. So, it's the Elgar/end of discussion? That's pretty harsh from someone with generally good, helpful, informed advice. Frankly, I'd say your's is some of the worst advice, ridiculously inappropriately overpriced overkill. -Not to say the Elgar wouldn't be the best choice for a more expensive system. And, you may still feel it's a bargain"

Yes, I made a joke. But if the OP gave us just a little more than nothing to go on, we could actually make a recommendation. My recommendation is a good one, however. Who wouldn't be happy with an Elgar? And you can get good deal on a used one for a lot less than some other very high price offerings.

No on to more important issues. I'll highlight at few choice quotes.

"Since you're using a CD player you should get a good quality Toslink cable and a DAC that has a Toslink input. For newbies that's fiber optic cable."

"Power doesn't travel down the optical cable, it's light! So it's the cleanest thing imaginable, to me anyway."

"Bottom line, they make a difference so you should spend at least $150 on a power cord, maybe $200 on the DAC, and with that you might have a really great sounding setup, sounding as good as other DACs at many times the price."

"Make similar power cord upgrades and add a USB Disruptor to the $1200 DAC, serve it 96/24 music, and it would would really take an expert listener to tell the difference between that setup and really any other DAC, at any price."

"Get it right though and you get sound as good as anything at any price."

"You can always spend more on bigger amps and speakers but that's just going to be louder."

"Live rock music 120 decibels. You can get these levels from most 50 watt per channel amplifiers with two to three driver speakers."

I hate breaking it up like this because the post is a work of art that can only be appreciated by reading it in its entirety.

To sum up: Toslink is the best. Buy a $150 power cord to put on a $200 dac. Buy a usb disruptor for a $1200 dac and it will be the best obtainable, regardless of price. The only thing bigger amps and speakers will do for you, is make the system louder.

If you guys want to criticize me for recommending the Elgar and stand up for the load of crap listed from the above post, go right ahead. I won't lose a minutes sleep over it.
Sorry, I did not mention price.  Under 500 would be good, but would consider up to about 700.

Thanks to all. 

Whatjd - if you just want to get your feet wet - take a look at ...

Inputs
  • 1x RCA coaxial connector SPDIF 32-192 kbps (16-24 bit stereo PCM)
  • 2x TOSLINK optical connector 32-96 kbps (16-24 bit stereo PCM)
  • 1x USB type ‘B’ connector - Asynchronous data stream at up to 24-bit/96kHz (Determined by source file/computer settings)
Supplied Accessories
  • 1x 12v 500mA DC power supply

This will get you very good quality sound that you can tweak to make even better

You won't require it's USB interface if using it with your CD player, but you can use it to get "acquainted" with all the issues and grow

The thing I like about this unit is - the power is 12volt DC - so if you want to tweak the power supply to the max - you can simply use a 12 v battery

It also has one of the best USB interfaces in a budget DAC and the rest of the circuitry is pretty darn good also.

$299 gets you off to the races really quickly

I'll add another vote for the Bifrost - but then you are getting up there in price.

However, you can tweak it to provide excellent performance - even the 4490 version sounds extremely good.

Your Choice - good luck :-)


$100.00 delivered for the worlds greatest DAC.SABRE DAC2 from HiFiMeDIY!Galvanic isolation using world class Adum 4160 chip with SABRE SA9023 USB chip.Asynchronous ES9023 DAC chip.Transformer coupled grounding circuit.No offset DC means NO caps in output stage!!!
Schiit bifrost multibit.  I have the Schiit bifrost uber, and will be upgrading to the multibit board soon.  
Look around for a used Chord Hugo. It sure won't take up too much room, and I have heard that there are some good buys on used ones as people trade up. I speak from lots of listening experience with one.
And you won't need to invest in a power cord because it just uses its own wall wart.
I liked the Arcam rDac alot when I owned it, and the new one is supposed to be even better.  Sounded very different than what most consider digital...relaxed and easy on the ears.  I've seen alot of rDac's on ebay and craigslist lately for $250ish, and they sound a whole lot better than that price.

Try Musical Paradise MP-D1: http://www.musicalparadise.ca/store/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=56; you'll be surprised.

rocshang do you own this dac? I am going to buy one in the very near future please tell me you impressions. Feel free to pm me thanks.

emotiva, I'm using it with active monitors 20X it's price.
@robpriore’s "advise"---

Are you kidding me?

"It’s hard to believe at first but it makes sense when you understand the properties of electromagnetic radiation and interference. Something I’m not ready to describe here!"

Why not. Give us the details.


"And in doing so you completely bypass the dirty power from the wall that is clouding up the analog outputs of the CD player."

Please explain. Data would be helpful.


" That is why well engineered power cords make a sonic difference. They reduce the noise by what I think is inducing an electromagnetic pattern. The wires are typically configured in helical winds, perhaps that shapes an electromagnetic field that is somehow more stable than a straight wire in terms of noise. In a way it’s more organized, more measured, so perhaps the noise is reorganized into the dominant signal or maybe diluted is the proper way to consider it."

"...perhaps..." "...somehow..." then another "...perhaps..." "...maybe..."

So you’re really not sure.


Good to know the noise is "more organized, more measured...reorganized into the dominant signal or maybe diluted..."

Explain in engineering terms. We can take it. Come on.


Onkyo 7030 cdp. Reliability and performance of a single player, with current DAC technology.
I have a Music Hall 25.3 DAC/headphone amp. It has a tube and can also be run in balanced mode.  I was using it in a system that costs well over 40k and it didn't embarrass itself.  I have upgraded, but it's so musical and revealing that it kept sounding better and better with each upgrade I made in my system. I liked it better than any of the 1k DAC's I listened to a couple of years ago.  It also has inputs for nearly anything you have.  I ran it in balanced mode with an Ayre integrated and loved it. Selling it now as I have upgraded to an Empirical OSDE/SE which is in a totally different league, but the MH never sounded badly that's for sure.
Ive got the Bifrost Uber. Very musical. I use the optical in from a quality CD spinner. I also use an optical switch and with that I can also toggle over to a Pure I20 dock and use my Iphone to play Tidal or Spotify through the Bifrost. Sounds very close to redbook CD.

Since some are still posting here, I have to share something that blew me away.  I am still selling the Music Hall DAC and I also have my older Krell DAC that I'm selling.  I was in shock at how good the Krell still sounds.  The bass was always a strong suite of the older Krell gear and this thing is no exception.  I installed both the Music Hall and the Krell into my main system (Vandersteen Treo's, Empirical Audio OSDE/SE with Synchro Mesh for connecting all digital gear that aren't USB, Ayre AX5/20 with top of the  line Audioquest cable with Synergistic Research Powercell 10/SE with upgrade power cord.  I also used the Empirical Audio rebuilt Mac mini with Paul Haynes designed power supply for the server (it's as good as nearly any server I've heard at any price).  It's highly revealing as you can imagine.  

The inexpensive DAC's aren't in the Empirical league by any means.  For those who feel that their DAC's under 2500k sound as good as the 'expensive' DAC's, I invite you over to listen to my system.  I've yet to hear a DAC under 5k that comes close to what I have and the Aesthetix Romulus is also a KILLER DAC.  Their new Eclipse I've been told, is one of the best sounding DAC's out there right now for 12,500 I believe.  No need to spend all of this though.  You need to figure out your budget for how good your system WILL be.  I haven't seen the OP's original budget, but it's an older thread and maybe I missed it.  

We all have opinions and that's what a board is about, but in dealing with digital, there is so much misinformation out there.  Even EE's have posted stuff about DAC construction on digital threads I've read on the net and they aren't always correct either.  To make blanket statements about a specific company's DAC being better or worse is just not fair.  Implementation is the MOST important thing.  Filtering is HUGE.  You need to eliminate pre and post ringing.  Even those of us who heard sound differently don't want ringing in their music.  There is no reason to even concern yourself with a usb DAC vs a plug in or a Wolfson vs a Saber or anything like that.  Try and get out to listen a bit. If you read enough DAC reviews, then check out the other reviews by the reviewer and see if what type of sound they like best.  Most of the time they will share that with you.  Also, consider your own system and how well components will work together.  What type of output does your transport have?  Personally, I've asked many a designer of digital gear and if usb is done properly, then it's a fine hook up.  Coax is also good and balanced is even better.  Most folks I know use toslink for their last resort.  I have listened too all my digital gear from blue ray player to cable box to TV to mac mini server and I use USB from the server as it's the best connection for MY DAC. I have the Synchro Mesh box to be able to hook up my blue ray coax, TV/toslink, Cable Box, coax.  That's just me and what I found has worked best in my system.  


Has the OP found their DAC? If so, what did you get and how do you hook it up?  Do you like it?