Suggestions for DAC auditions - upgrade from HRT III+?


I'm quite happy with my current setup with a Musical Paradise MP-301 MK 3, Triode Labs Vivace Mini (3" single driver), HSU sub, and i-Mac w/ HRT III+ DAC.  

However, time marches on with DAC improvements, and there are many newer models out.  I don't care about anything except playing my CD collection through the DAC.  Current high-res compatibility is fine, but I'm not really looking for that.  I need USB in and RCA out - no volume control needed.

My goal is realistic tone and more musical vs clinical detail.  

What have you heard or are you using that might tempt me to trade up from my trusty HRT?  Price - under $1,200...

Thanks in advance!
leahy
Buy  the Wadis 121 Decoding Computer ( really just  DAC). You have remote volume and balance - yahoo!  I bought 3 to replace my older PS Audio DAC III, and Wadia was my choice by a margin greater than 5 x 1. The others were the Wired 4 Sound and Rega. But my system is all custom made to my specifications., so it may note have the same "curve" for sound. I happen to think it is as good as any I have heard at Audiofest and Al Stiefel was a treasured and missed personal friend. If you buy it used on Audiogon, like I did, you can sell it after a full month audition or keep it and save a chunk off of retail.  

One footnote, the Wadia has a mute clamping diode issue that Wadia will fix if it occurs. Volume drops by 98% so you will know if it happens.

Vincent Raptor




Thanks Vincent - I'll take that under strong consideration!
Leahy,

If I were you, I'd hold off making a move to a new DAC for a few months.

The main reason is that it looks like MQA is getting some positive traction in the marketplace.  Tidal started streaming "Masters" from Warner Music about two months ago, they have about 1000 titles available on their app.

A few weeks ago Universal Music signed on to a multi-year agreement to provide MQA (Beatles, Stones, U2, Lady Gaga, etc etc).

Only a few DAC manufacturers have taken "the plunge" and incorporated "end-to-end" MQA decoding into their hardware.  I suspect that, with Universal Music joining the MQA world, more will need to take that "plunge" in the near future.

MQA is not very well understood.  It has two main benefits, #1) delivering high res files in a small package and #2) "de-blurring", reducing the "pre-ringing" ("digital sound").  Though #1 can be done in software, to me, the real sonic benefit of MQA is #2 and the only way to get that is to have a DAC that does "end-to-end" decoding.
The Wadia is an excellent choice. If you can save up a bit more, the Ayre Codex is another outstanding dac. Playing your current Redbook music through either the Wadia or Ayre will make it sound like hi res compared to what you have now.
Thanks EJR & sfall - My biggest issue is that I don't want to buy the same music another time (regarding the MQA).  I have a large CD/LP collection, but it might be the next big thing if they start phasing out CDs for current music.

That's two nods for the Wadia.  I'll check out the Ayre too.

Anyone into NOS DACs?  I'm intrigued by their music over detail description, but I've never heard one.  I have read good things about Schiit, but there are more than a few comments taking issue with their sound.  So many options - so few places to audition (near me).

" Thanks EJR & sfall - My biggest issue is that I don't want to buy the same music another time (regarding the MQA).  I have a large CD/LP collection, but it might be the next big thing if they start phasing out CDs for current music. "

CD's are already being phased out, and its highly unlikely MQA will succeed. Just look at what happened with SACD and DVD-A. One thing I can tell you, is that good Reedbook playback usually sounds better than entry to mid level high res. I think its worth it to get the best out of your current formats, and watch the new stuff to make sure its going to succeed before you invest in it.
I use my computers to exclusively playback Redbook CD quality files. I own several DACS, all purchased used at a fraction of their original price. Buying used at right prices allows one to explore and find a DAC that plays well in ones system. I own a couple USB/SPDIF converters that allow use of older DACs. The M2Tech Hiface plugs directly into the computer USB port therefore removing the need for a USB cable.  Not sure that is needed as there are now many DACS with quality USB implementation now on the used market.  With your budget I am confident that you can find a DAC that improve on the HRT and plays well with your system.
I currently have for sale on another site an Electrocompaniet ECD-1 dac. Great sounding dac for redbook cd's. Very analog sound. Upsamples all digital inputs to 24/192. Do a search for reviews.It took a Mcintosh MDA 1000 ( retailed for $8000.00) to replace it,and differences were there but not night & day.
Thank you mesch and denmen.  I'm on track to either buy something a few years old with a good discount or a really good but affordable current model in my price range.  Still determining the best value based on my research...I'll check out the ECD too.