System upgrade, need advice, source or speakers?


I've had my system for a few years and have been thinking about tweaking it. Right now it consists of:

Speakers: Zu Definition MKII
Amp: Tom Evans Linear A
DAC/Pre: PS Audio Perfectwave DAC

All of my music is digital (flac) and the only input I use is USB hooked up to a mac mini.

For the longest time I've been thinking about swapping out my PS Audio DAC for something else. 1) I only need the USB input so I don't need the bridge etc that the Perfectwave offers. 2) I've always had the sneaking suspicion (for no particular reason) that the DAC was the limiting factor in my system.

I started looking into higher end DACs like the Lampizator Level 5 and the Calyx Femto.

But now I'm wondering, would I be better off keeping the Perfectwave (or swapping it for something like the NAD M51 or Berkeley Audio DAC) and upgrading my Def MKIIs to MKIIIs.). The price for either option is roughly the same.

Any advice would be appreciated.
You will always get the most bang for your buck by upgrading the speakers. I do not know very much about the particular speakers you have so I don't know if the upgrade is worthwhile. The differences in dac's, especially when you get into the pricier models is not as great as the reviewers would have you believe.

Case in point, I have a Wyred dac with my laptop running through it and the dac in my Esoteric cd player. The sound of the dac's are very close, even though the Wyred uses a ESS dac and the Esoteric uses a Burr Brown dac. I just don't see that replacing the dac will give you a big difference.
I agree with Stereo5, the bang for the buck lies with the speakers. The point of diminishing returns kicks in very quickly once you get above $1,000 or so with DACs...

I would think speakers would be an obvious choice you can go as far as your wallet will take you. Another alternative would be vinyl perhaps that the sound your searching for. Good Luck.
I too would say speakers. There are a number of impressions here about the MkII to the MkIII upgrade on those Zus. They might help that decision.

And I would also look at what other speakers are around at the price point you are thinking about. I'd audition things if you can to see what you can get for your speaker dollar. You may come back to the decision to upgrade the Zus, or you may find something you like better. Many excellent flavors of speakers out there.

If you only need USB for your DAC, you could also trade down to a USB only DAC or a cheaper DAC to free up more funds for speakers. DSPeaker Dual Core would be one cheaper option that also gets you DSP room correction abilities (some sellers have audition options so you could see for yourself).
You don't say what you feel the shortcomings of your system are. What would you like to improve with this upgrade?

The DSPeaker Dual Core looks really interesting. The Zu Def MKIIs have 4 subs on the back of them and on each speaker you can adjust Volume, Low-pass Filter, PEQ Gain, PEQ Frequency, Phase. I'm wondering if I can achieve the same effect with these controls without the DSPeaker.

Yes I am looking for USB only but I've found pretty big differences between different USB solutions even in the ~$2000 price range. Most recently I've compared the Calyx 24/192 to the PS Audio DAC. Both are great units but the sound from the PS Audio DAC was far more smooth, transparent and less digital sounding. The problem is there are so many different USB DACs these days with a wide price range, it's hard to narrow down what makes sense.

Ultimately I think I want to improve the transparency and digital sound of my system. It's not bad by any means but I know it can be better. When I listen to live recordings I want get as close to the cliche of making the speakers disappear.
Sorry the MKIIIs have all those controls not the IIs.
I would agree with speakers, I have an absolutly rotten system driving B&W 802D's.

I looked at it and thought whats the biggest upgrade i can make here with one component. Speakers was the obvious choice. Unfortunatly being constrained by cash wont allow me to go and blow 15k on amps right away.
If i had that much spare bread sitting arounf i would have bought another house.
I would suggest you add a turntable as a source.

Source is just toppings and speakers are whole other flavors.