Solid state DAC under 12K retail preferably with ethernet


Looking to upgrade from AMR DP-777 and go solid state.
These are the ones I know or read about: Bricasti, Berkeley, Aeris, DirectStream, ODSE, Meitner, Luxman DA-06

Am I missing any other important DACs I should be looking at or reading about?
Currently leaning towards Bricasti M1 SE.

Rest of my system: Coincident Frankenstein Mk 2 300b amps, Devore O96
essrand
I think you should also look at, 

Rockna Waveform DAC
Metrum Pavane
COS D1
Mytek Manhattan II

And Denafrips Terminator, I believe this DAC is most likely the best value among all the SS DAC's currently available. There is a 6-8 weeks wait.


I would recommend anything SS from the Stereophile Class A+ list.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/recommended-components-2017-edition-digital-processors

Benchmark DAC 3 should replace DAC 2 on the A+ list - it was only reviewed recently.

It’s the ODSX that has Ethernet. The SX versions with Ethernet are $10K (V-Caps) and $12,995 (Duelund caps). Look for review in the next 2 months on Audiostream and then hopefully, Stereophile.

The only DAC’s I believe in the Stereophile A+ list that have Ethernet are T+A DAC and maybe Ayre.

Are you looking for just good audio quality or must it be "Roon-ready"?


Steve N.

Empirical Audio


Do you want DSD with that?
if you want Ethernet, I’d also look at the Merging+NADAC or Merging+Player.
@audioengr 

Oh yes, ODSX not ODSE.
And to answer your question: I only care about audio quality.

@c1ferrari 
I don't care about DSD. Most of my music is CD quality.

Perhaps I shouldn't care about ethernet for now, since most DACs don't have it yet and I can pick up a network player for 2K.
@avlee Thanks, I will take a look.
Bricasti M1SE
The Hegel HD30 and the new Bel Canto Black EX DAC that will be out shortly could be great options for you with Ethernet. As mentioned earlier as well, the T+A R series player/DACs also have Ethernet.
Best Dac I have ever heard- Bricasti

Perhaps I shouldn't care about ethernet for now, since most DACs don't have it yet and I can pick up a network player for 2K.


You should care.  Jitter is the #1 issue with digital playback and Ethernet enables the lowest jitter I have experienced in 15 years of doing this.  This is why I abandoned my XMOS USB interface in favor of Ethernet.  It will not matter how good your DAC is if the streaming interface produces too much jitter to achieve pinpoint imaging.

As with USB, the design and implementation of the Ethernet interface also matters.  They are not all the same.  In the best case, it can produce very low jitter.  In the worst case, it could be worse than XMOS USB.  And a Network player will not solve that for you unless it has a really good clock and interface design/implementation.  Most of them have proven to have sub-par jitter performance using their S/PDIF outputs. They are better using an external USB interface.  If that's any indication, you will NOT be better off with a network player.  It's that last Ethernet interface before the D/A that uses the master clock that matters.

This is the whole advantage of Ethernet.  You don't need to buy any fancy server or a computer with LPS powering it etc...  Any computer on the network will do.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Bricasti, Berkley, Aeris....all good choices plus they have the benefit of really superior volume control if you need it.  The Mytek Manhattan II which was mentioned is also a good option...I have the Manhattan I and it is great.

Among all, Bricasti would be my choice.  The M1 SE can be fitted with an ethernet module as well which is Roon ready.  One thing you are getting with Bricasti is absolutely top notch customer service.

I don't believe the Ethernet interface on Bricasti M1 SE is Roon ready.  According to their website, it's DLNA, so it's compatible with Audirvana plus and Jriver, as is the Empirical Audio Overdrive SX. 

Empirical Audio also offers a WIFI solution that sounds identical to the wired Ethernet.

Since these are similar, a shootout would be interesting, like this one:

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/absolute-top-tier-dac-for-standard-res-redbook-cd?lastpage=true&page=74#1477560

Steve N.

Empirical Audio


@audioengr 

That has not been my experience with some ethernet-based DACs like the Ayre QX-5 Twenty.  It still sounded better with a SOtM tX-USB Ultra behind it clocked by a master reference clock and through a modified switch.  I'm pretty sure the upstream server would make a difference as well.
“It's that last Ethernet interface before the D/A that uses the master clock that matters”

@audioengr,

Great point. It’s imperative to pick a player that has decent Ethernet interface to tackle jitter. My N10 does a fabulous job of minimizing jitter with onboard OCXO clocks. Also, it’s worth pointing out the use of a quality Ethernet cable to reduce noise and data transmission errors.

On my last visit to RMAF, I have seen few Ethernet switches that were focusing on jitter control with their onboard OCXO circuit and separate linear power supply. 

That has not been my experience with some ethernet-based DACs like the Ayre QX-5 Twenty. It still sounded better with a SOtM tX-USB Ultra behind it clocked by a master reference clock and through a modified switch.

If there is USB involved, then it's not Ethernet to the D/A converter.  You are maybe using a uRendu?

This is not the same as using Ethernet to I2S to the D/A chip.


Steve N.

Empirical Audio

On my last visit to RMAF, I have seen few Ethernet switches that were focusing on jitter control with their onboard OCXO circuit and separate linear power supply.

I don't understand how a reclocking of the switch will help.  The stream is packetized and the master clock is in the final interface, not in the switch.

The LPS will definitely help though, and it must have DC common tied to earth ground.  This reduces leakage.  This makes the biggest difference.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

@audioengr 

Sorry, I meant the sMS-200 Ultra with a clocked switch before the Ayre QX-5 Twenty.
I think there is enough consensus coming around the fact that ethernet is better than USB, that I am starting to believe, although never having tested it myself.

@limniscate  if you look at the latest review of Ayre DAC, the review does mention that the ethernet sounds better than the USB, if I remember correctly.

I think I have changed my mind. Yes I would definitely prefer a ethernet interface. Not having to buy a fancy music server would be icing on the cake. Just a NAS and a laptop on the ethernet would work?

I believe the Bricasti is certified roon-ready, I recently checked the Bricasti and Roon website to confirm it.

Yes, a shootout would be great, I have been following mattnshilp's thread for years now.


Just a NAS and a laptop on the ethernet would work?

Yes, anything that will run Audirvana II or Jriver.

The Bricasti webpage shows DLNA and specifically calls out Jriver and Audirvana II.  This is not Roon ready.  Maybe they have another Ethernet interface that is not DLNA?

Like USB, all Ethernet interfaces are not equal by a long shot, and the best performance will be the Ethernet interface inside the DAC with I2S bus directly to the D/A chip or logic.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Bel Canto Black EX DAC. It should be available later this month. 
Also, listen to the PS Audio Direct Stream DAC. 
Esoteric has the D-01 streaming DAC that is out with ethernet and everything. Wonder how it's going to turn out. This DAC with ethernet space is heating up.
Essrand,

I would agree with principle but disagree with practice.

In our shop we have quite a number of different pieces of state of the art digital from Lumin, Naim, Emm Labs, T+A, Light Harmonic and Aqua Hifi and many servers Baetis, Innious, Aurender.

It really comes down to the dac.

Right now we are listening to the Aqua Hifi Forumula which is a bit outside of your $12k list it is $14.7k however it sounds freaking amazing!

It has a way with textural cues that is so remakable you are just drawn in.

The Light Harmonic Davinci reference dac beats everything we have compared it to, check out the Davinci in Mattslip’s thread, it even beat the Overdrive as well as a very large number of other state of the art dacs.

Never being exposed to the Overdrive before going over to Matts house, it was fantastic sounding with that being said, there are some very talented people building some amazing digital front ends.

Yes the savings are nice with an ethernet streamer, howerver, you should keep this with an open mind and demo dacs accordingly.

Right now the best digital I have heard to date is from two dacs that accept usb vs ethernet and it is not an issue at all.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ

The Light Harmonic Davinci reference dac beats everything we have compared it to, check out the Davinci in Mattslip’s thread, it even beat the Overdrive as well as a very large number of other state of the art dacs.

Matt’s ODSX still has the older USB interface in it rather than the new Ethernet interface. Ethernet makes all the difference. I could not convince him to do Ethernet or Duelund caps in the DAC. I was refining both of these at the time, but they are solid now.  The jitter is much lower due to the Ethernet interface, and the Duelunds deliver a more coherent sound IMO. I would be interested in a shootout of this version ODSX with the Davinci. This version ODSX will be reviewed soon in audiostream.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

I rarely post comments in user forums but regarding the Bricasti M1 I feel compelled to comment. For the past few months I have owned the M1 limited gold with built in ethernet interface and must say that it is simply the most elegant piece of electronics I have ever had. I have listened to the Berkeley reference dac and have owned the Empirical Audio Overdrive SX but the M1 with ethernet takes sound reproduction to an etherial level. Listening to recordings through the M1 is like hearing them for the first time. Whether red book or high resolution, classical or popular, the imaging and dynamics (macro and micro) is jaw dropping. For the first time ever I find myself experiencing the emotion that the composer intended the listener to experience. It makes listening to recorded music not only pleasurable but exciting. The detail and texture conveyed is simply amazing. Prior to purchasing the M1 I auditioned the Aurender N 10 with my mac mini/Berkeley alpha usb converter and thought the sound was excellent but the M1/ethernet is far superior....and saves you $8000! Before purchasing a high end DAC I urge you to audition this unit. The standard version of the M1 is excellent but the limited gold version is unparalled.
Another vote for the Bricasti M1SE. Most musical dac I've heard.
@drstarbug32,

What DAC you were using with N10 audition? Just curious why would you use Mac mini / Berkeley alpha usb converter with N10?
I believe the Bricasti is certified roon-ready, I recently checked the Bricasti and Roon website to confirm it.

Actually, you must add the Bricasti M5 to get Roon-Ready:

http://www.bricasti.com/en/consumer/m5.php

You could add the M5 to the Overdrive SX as well.


Steve N

Empirical Audio

I rarely post comments in user forums but regarding the Bricasti M1 I feel compelled to comment. For the past few months I have owned the M1 limited gold with built in ethernet interface and must say that it is simply the most elegant piece of electronics I have ever had. I have listened to the Berkeley reference dac and have owned the Empirical Audio Overdrive SX but the M1 with ethernet takes sound reproduction to an etherial level.

I would be up for a shootout between M1 with DLNA Ethernet and Overdrive SX with DNLA Ethernet.  The Overdrive SX is a different animal now.  Many upgrades to it.  20psec of jitter, Duelund caps etc..

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Sorry for the misunderstanding.   For comparison I used the N 10 fed into the Empirical Audio Overdrive SX (using a Stealth Varig 16 coaxial cable).  At that time my regular set up was the mac mini/berkeley alpha fed into the overdrive sx.  For several reasons I abandoned the overdrive sx and replaced it with the M1 gold edition.  The M1/ethernet is far superior to either set up in terms of convenience and more importantly sound quality.  
@drstarbug32,

That makes sense. Glad to hear you’re enjoying the M1/Ethernet. One certainly can’t overlook the convenience of one box solution. Looks like that’s the latest industry trend as we see more and more DAC’s are now adding network interface and media renderer option. 

I am very content with my N10 and ARC DAC9 combo 😉


Sorry for the misunderstanding. For comparison I used the N 10 fed into the Empirical Audio Overdrive SX (using a Stealth Varig 16 coaxial cable). At that time my regular set up was the mac mini/berkeley alpha fed into the overdrive sx. For several reasons I abandoned the overdrive sx and replaced it with the M1 gold edition. The M1/ethernet is far superior to either set up in terms of convenience and more importantly sound quality.

I would hazard that the shift from USB convertor / fixer to Ethernet is part of the upgrade you are experiencing. I heard the same going from the OffRamp 5 and USB to Rednet Ethernet.

Going back to the Davinci comments, I would also hazard that is the natural sonics from a good NOS design with no filtering and chip logic, i.e. straight through, no messing.

Half of these subjects become over compacted by peoples obsession with data conversion to DSD or upsamplng. If you stay as resident sample rate on a true NOS DAC, it sounds more natural anyway to me. Ditch the messing around with the file, just feed the DAC as it was intended, i.e. same resolution.

The possible 'improvements' in sound by messing with the data rate may help with some DS designs, but ones I have tried just make it worse IMO.


From Briscati:
"Roon Ready is in the final stages of the process for the M12 and we anticipate its completion soon. I’ve been testing the Roon code myself and it works great. I look forward to hearing from. "
@drstarbug32 
Do you know if the gold version is better than the SE version sonically?

It looks fabulous for sure, but wondering if the added $$$ also translates to better sound.
PS Audio DirectStream with Bridge II. I know it's quite a bit less than your max budget, but honestly, it's that good.
I auditioned the SE version and thought it was outstanding.  Fortunately a friend of mine let me audition his gold version and although I had only a few listening hours it definitely had a more refined and natural sound.  Four months down the line I have no regrets in purchasing it.  Yes, it is expensive, but I have come to realize that in a very real sense it is also a bargain.  With the built in ethernet capability you do not need to purchase a separate network player as well as expensive cables.  The sound achieved with the network player is far superior to using a computer source and from my experience much better than using the Aurender N10.  That alone saves you $8000.  If you are considering the Limited  (gold) version i urge you to go for it...you won't regret it.   Aside from the unit itself the customer support is excellent.  Also upgrades in software and hardware are significant and cost wise very reasonable.  
MSB Analog with the upgraded PSU
or Aesthetix Pandora Eclipse, tubes but sublime
Do not forget the real-time optimized DACs like Focusrite Rednet series (Dante protocol) or Merging Hapi or Merging NADAC (Ravenna protocol). 

Overdrive SX with Ethernet interface, as well as other interfaces, is going to Audiostream for review.  Review should be about 2 months out.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio