The Ultimate DAC for Approx $10,000

Hi There,

Over here in Australia, it's almost impossible to go and evaluate high quality DACS.

Therefore, I'm seeking advice from fellow Audiogoners for help with a new potential purchase.

Currently, here is my short list:

Audio Aero La Fontaine DAC
Meitner MA-1
dCS Debussy
Playback Designs MPD-3
AMR DP-777

I currently have an old 10 year old Audio Aero Capitole MKII which has served me well, but is showing it's age in terms of absolute detail, Bass tightness. Midrange is still excellent, coupled to a Supratek Cabernet Dual Pre-Amp, set of 300B SET amplifiers and WHT PR4 loudspeakers.

Feedback much appreciated.
Add the Bricasti M1
How does a DAC show it's age? I don't think that the algorithm it uses changes over time so it's more likely that your getting bored and just want something new. If you can't evaluate it easily against other DACs how did you determine that it's no longer up to par?
Hi Clipsal,

I have auditioned three of the DACS you have on your list. I only listen to Redbook CD's and by far the best DAC I have ever heard on Redbook is the Concert Fidelity reference DAC-040. Take a look at my review here on AudioGon for details why it finally replaced the wonderful Accustic Arts Reference Tube Hybrid in my system.
I compared it to the AMR CD-77.1 and the AMR sounded absolutely fantastic on instrumentals and had tremendous detail and tight bass.

The AMR Basically relegated the old Audio Aero to the side lines.
How about the Lenehan Audio PDX DAC? It is close to home for you.
Thanks Mitch, but was hoping to stick to the ones noted above.
I'd add the EMM Labs Dac 2 SE, which has an 'x' level upgrade coming that will make it better than the XSD-1. The Meitner MA-1 is a likely cheaper version but with less power supply and after the x update way different outputs states.
In my system, I haven't heard the others on your list, but I can tell you that my Meitner MA-1 isn't leaving my rack anytime soon, that's for sure.
I have heard the Debussy A/B'd against the Acoustic Plan DAC with its optional external power supply upgrade. No contest - the Acoustic Plan combo was far superior.
Mceljo, a DAC "shows its age" by being handily surpassed in terms of performance in every aspect by a new generation of products. Ergo the older DAC is "aged" and unable to perform at the anticipated level of expectations. You are correct, however, that the only way to demonstrate that it is older technology/performance is by direct comparison. However, one can deduce from discussion that something of a sea change is occurring in a genre of product and be motivated to investigate.
my favorite dac is the original zanden, which, i assume you can buy used for less than $10000.

my favorite cd player is the original lector (20 bit) .
Hi Clipsal,

Teajay is right. I've spent a lot of time looking for the best DAC for my drive MT; I've auditioned top line of DCS, Lavry, M├ętronome, Emm L., MSB, Playback D., Danish Audio D., GTE, Zanden, AN, Kondo, Esoteric, Reimyo and more...; It will be a matter of personal taste but as soon as I've had the opportunity to hear the Concert Fidelity Tube DAC-040 I've taken it immediately!

Best wishes,
I agree about the Bricasti M1. Its extraordinary.
What about the boutique DACs like PDX, Lampizator level 4 or 5 and the KillerDac?

These can be had for about half your budget and have been having raving feedback from users and pros.
So nobody here favors the Playback Design? That's amazing considering the great reviews in the past
I also agree with choosing the Bricasti M1. It not only sounds wonderful but it is substantial and well designed too.
Save yourself a bundle of money and get the PS Audio PWD. It took hundreds and hundreds of hours to go to it's current sound, but I am floored by what I am hearing. The detail, clarity, 3-D soudnstage, etc. is amazing. PS Audio hit a homerun with this DAC. And the MKII upgrade is supposed to be even better. Hard to believe the upgrade will be better, but I have already ordered the MKII.
So many opinions so little time:-)
Thanks everyone.

I've decided to settle on the AMR CD77.1.

The digital (DAC) area is changing very fast, thus more opportunities for DSD playback will be available in the future. In which case, I'll just purchase a DAC down the track as the CD77.1 is probably right up there in terms of best Redbook sound quality. In other words, today for all my CD's, the AMR makes logical sense.
You will it enjoy it for a very long time :-)
Be advised soundsreally is a dealer for the product he's recommending.

An ethical and professional retailer would have made that disclosure.
Mcintosh MDA-1000, amazing DAC for less thsn 10,000. I didnt hear most of the ones mentioned above so i cant compare, but it is really incredible.
The PWD mark II upgrade is far better than the original
Just got the bricasti m1 after auditioning vs many otherfine dacs and it was the clear choice
I wouldn't get the Playback Designs unless you are into DSD. I have an MPD-3 and its exceptional on that material and easily up there with the best DAC's I have ever heard - but on PCM IMHO is not that good. My PDX simply annihilates it IMHO - and everyone who has heard it agrees.

The AMR is however another matter - it is up there with the PDX 100% for sure - some prefer it - some prefer the PDX.

If you are spending that type of money see if you can make it up to the Gold Coast way and you can get a demo of the AMR, PDX and Playback Designs at Lenehan Audio to make up your own mind - they have access to all those DAC's.