Too many choices for R2R DACS--opinions appreciated

So I've decided to treat myself to a new DAC to celebrate a rather significant birthday coming up, and I'm very intrigued by the new generation of DACs employing R2R technology. Reviews have been unrelentingly positive, but I have way too many choices now, so I'd appreciate some opinions from any of you who may have had a chance to compare some of them. Price range: about $3K (with some slight headroom if the right DAC warrants it). I've looked at reviews for Audio-GD, Denafrips, Sonnet, and the new one from Jay's Audio (which doesn't yet seem to have any reviews that I can find). 

I'll be replacing a DAC that I actually really like, an Abbingdon Music Research DP-777 (not SE) which I've had for a few years now, but from what I read about the R2Rs, they appear to produce a sound I might like even better. 

Listening preferences: mostly classical, some folk, some Broadway, and I never  totally outgrew my taste for the good ol' rock music I grew up with. 

Rest of the system: Modwright KWI-200 integrated, Cambridge Audio CXU disc spinner, Ryan R610 speakers, Rel S2 sub. Cables: Audience & Cardas. (This all might be a bit TMI, but let's cover all the bases).

Your opinions gratefully received. Thanks!



I'm not sure just how much it is, but you may want to look at the latest version of the Holo Audio Spring DAC.... 

I own a MHDT Orchid DAC using an adapter and the  NOS 6922 Dgetter tube and it's good.  I have not performed the capacitor upgrade yet but it's supposed to make it even better.

Still in your price range,  on Ebay there is an Orchid with the 6922 socket and it also includes the TDA 1541 S2 chip.  It's a pretty good deal as a real TDA 1541 S2 are quite expensive (if you can find them)


mhdt or soekris, both are excellent, high performance, high value entries

Used Mojo Mystique' 3 is probably 3-3.5K....... if found.  Quite musical and dynamic with a very complete soundstage.

For R2R DACs here is my opinion on some of the options:

1. Audio-Gd. Not impressed. Not impressed with their dealer either. 
2. Denafrips: All their DACs are highly reviewed. I own a Terminator Plus and a Gaia DDC. I love them and working with Alvin from Vinshine Audio is a dream! 
Pick the DAC in your price range. You can’t go wrong. 
3. Border Patrol: I went to the room with Border Patrol at AXPONA and I was impressed. Also not terribly expensive. Definitely worth considering. 
4. Also agree that Holo Audio’s DACs should be considered. 
You have some very good options at different price points. 

I'll be replacing a DAC that I actually really like, an Abbingdon Music Research DP-777

According to AMR's blurb that has a multibit 16bit DAC. Which nowadays is encompassed by the term 'R2R'.

I got a MSB DAC (Platinum Signature) from my wife for Christmas: never looked back! Smooth and yet well delineated sound, deep sound stage, great and focused bass, and zero sibilance. The music comes through, and I forget about any gear. Isn't that what we all are looking for?

R2R Is the most "musical....You have all good choices. Denafrips makes you forget about your gear and just enjoy the music. Beautiful....

I really love my R2R DAC Rockna Wavedream XLR Sig, but it is out of your budget. Try Rockna Wavelight, it is about 4000.

Look at the new Sonnet, called the Pasithea. It is amazing. Then go on the ASR website and tell them you bought an R2R Dac and listen to them howl.

So disappointed, I thought this thread was going to be about R2R (as in reel-to-reel tape deck of which R2R is the common abbreviation) and I was interested to see which decks everyone had (mine is a Teac X300)! Sigh. LOL

Denafrips Terminator…love it. It slightly exceeded my budget but I thought it stomped on every other Dac I had listened to in the $2K-$3500 range (used), of course ymmv. also keep in mind your choice of connection can have a significant impact on some Dacs and your wallet. I slipped into the U$B cable rabbit hole and luckily was able to escape haha, I stayed with digital coax.


Not only is R2R not R2R, neither is NOS!  (Non Over Sampling) 🌀

I saw a Terminator for 3K on US Audio Mart. Would try it. If you didn't like it you could sale and not take a huge hit. I have the Plus and Gaia but a lot more money. I know and have heard Audio GD's R8-HE and it sounds very strong. Kingbarbuda may just have a bad match-up with equipment. I have owned several Audio GD pieces and thought for the money they are very hard to beat. Not sure who he is talking about as his dealer because Audio-GD sales direct. If he means they person selling in the USA, I can only say I bought from China and had no problems. Good luck.

I have an MHDT Orchid, upgraded by Grannyring with good capacitors and resistors. It competed quite admirably with the Holo May DAC at 5x the price. 

The only two R2R DACs that I've owned are the MHDT Orchid (in stock form, no mods) and the Aqua La Voce S3.  The Orchid might be the most "analog" sounding DAC I've owned, very easy to listen to, perhaps just a little on the "warm" side. 

I give huge props to MHDT Labs and Jiun.  I bought mine second hand and the USB input wasn't working.  I contacted MHDT Labs about getting it fixed, being very up front about the fact that I wasn't the original owner and that it wasn't under warranty.  Jiun sent me a new board free of charge.

The La Voce S3 provides a lot more detail and dynamics, without sounding "digital".  It seems very true to the music, however you want to interpret that.  I have owned a number of other DACs and the La Voce S3 is the best I've had to this point.  It's out of your budget new, but TMR has an open box one for under $4K.  If you're patient, you might find a used one within your budget.

I second the Border Patrol DAC & really like it. Sounds very natural, not all fatiguing & very similar to my good turntable. Reasonably priced & made in Maryland. 


You got bamboozled because "ladder" was ignored.

BTW Otari BQII and Teac 1230 for me.


I have the Audio Mirror Tubadour III SE and as a tube based DAC, find incredibly musical. Just Google the reviews or look on this sight for DAC comparisons. They have had a strong following here.  Extremely musical, analog sounding without being too forward or overly digital sounding. Or if possible buy on used market SEII for around $2k. Enjoy the journey 

Consider those with a tube.  It's another level of adjustability and mine only needs one.  $30 to maybe $150 per tube.  Lots of choices in them.  Impart sound from lush and warm to crisp and dynamic.  Tubes in this device startled me as to how much they affect sound.  Non-tube units have one voicing.  My favorite tube was $30.  I'm using a Grannyring modded, MHDT Orchid.  With mods and a few extra NOS tubes all-in about $1700.  Amazing sound.  Seen reviews place the modded unit in the $3000 class.  Buy more music!  If you mod it you'll get it back, door to door in 7 to 10 days.  Also seen WTB modded units for close to 100% of cost so nearly no risk.  

Many thanks to everybody for the very helpful information, but now, of course, I'm faced with even more choices than I started with. I'll have to give some thought to the tubed DACs. My AMR DP-777 has tubes, but in general I haven't been (up to now anyway) a tube enthusiast. Some of the suggestions are significantly in excess of my budget, though. At this point, I'm leaning in the direction of Denafrips, and possibly Sonnet. I'm still open to further suggestions and opinions. 


Oh, and meant to mention: I don't really need the DAC to include a preamp, though many do. Just need it to do what it's designed to do, namely convert digital to analog. 

First exposure to r to r was la scala.  Way over my budget.  Went through reviews of the Chinese manufacturers and they all seemed good.

Liked the reviews from hans b on you tube for the audio gd r7 mark 2. Multiple matches of nos to uosampling.  The interface is behind the time.  Given lapses of audio memory, have no desire for my original choice.  You can order through underwood which has the benefit of a repair center in Georgia rather than sending it back to China 

Im in the same boat, but yesterday I watched a YT review from PassionforSound, an Auzzie who compared Spring 3 KTE (R2R) to the Shiit Yeggy, but preferred it, even though it isn't R2R. Keep in mind Mike Moffet has a long history in dac design


I am having great results with an Audio Note 0.1x coupled to my dCS Network Bridge - this DAC sounds superb - AN have been in the ladder DAC game from the beginning.

@wlutke oh boy I am way behind in my acronyms.  I didn't know that NOS was not really NOS anymore :-)

Has anybody heard the Jay's Audio DAC2-MK3 yet? There is scant information about it so far, and I'd be interested to hear some firsthand experiences. There's one for sale here on Audiogon at a rather tempting price. 

Plus 1 for the Denafrips DAC's I started out with an Aries II.. Absolutely wonderful DAC for the $$. I just upgraded to the Pontus II and cant wait to add it to my system. They seem to offer some of the best products IMO.  

+2 for Denafrips DAC’s. I can’t say enough good things about my Pontus II and the excellent customer service I received from Alvin and his team at Denafrips.

i would agree, having tried all denafrips dacs, that the pontus is the sweet spot in the line... 

ares 2 for me had sibilance issues

moving up the line, the higher tier ones are nice, but there are many many many alternatives in the 3 grand and up segment, most with more functionality and somewhat better sound

Thanks for the kind words and supports, gentlemen! 


Indeed, there are many choices of high performance R-2R DACs on the market right now. Let me start by saying this - we have great respect to other brands. We welcome and value healthy competitions. The positive drive of the healthy competition pushes us to a greater height. Ultimately, it is the consumers who will be benefited most - as the manufacturers forced to up their game to improve the products' performance. Agree? :)



Alvin Chee @

Get the Chord Electronics Qutest or if you have the budget, the Dave.  They use specialized FPGAs and are better than R2R DACs.

halo spring 3 is the newest r2r dac and it is amazing.

you should try to listen on youtube to see the video from differnet tester.


well done and well said @alvin1118

@chayro to your point about chords, there is a hugo tt2 in between the qutest and dave, it is an excellent alternative as well... those coupled with the m scaler yield some one of the finest digital front end sound available on the market, irrespective of cost... certainly not a value play though...

+1 Holo Audio Spring / May - I am tempted to buy one (£3-4k?), even though I have not heard one and my current pre/amp DAC retails at nealry £10k (Ayon). There is a huge amount of positive feedback on this product.    



Following this discussion with interest.  The DAC market has changed so much in the last 2 years that I keep stopping myself from taking the plunge.  The problem is simply not being able to audition any in my area.  

I love my Aqua La Scala MKII Optologic DAC. It replaced an Auralic and was an immediate improvement to my system.


Just like any component they are a personal choice especially dacs , I had the Terminator, tried the terminator plus , AudioByte Hydra Vox , Rockna WaveDream SE , Holo Audio May KTE and just recently replaced the May dac with Merason Dac 1 , so far I am most satisfied with the Merason for its musicality over the others .

Im watching an impressive in depth review, including what's under the hood: titled Holo Spring 3 R2R DAC  - Punching Up! on You Tube

Audio Note Kit Dac 4.1 or 5.1.....they are awesome.....I have been through quite a few r2r dacs including the Terminator, Orchid, and such, and find the 4.1 to be absolutely fantastic.  Just does its job, no fuss.  Good luck.

I have owned three of the above-mentioned DACs, a Pontus II, Merason DAC-1, and Aqua La Scala. I am now very happy with the latter, though it isn't really fair to compare it to the Pontus, as the Terminator (or Holo May, etc.) are closer to its price point.

I own this dac...Starting point system dac with internal battey for low noise and TDA 1543...I connected it to a linear supply...Minimal design ...

Quality/ price ratio over the roof...

With luck you will discover one at 100 bucks...

i am even afraid to upgrade it...

I cannot fault it in my room...

My imaging and any other acoustical characteristic are filling the room... Then....

But if you want a costly microscope dont look at it.... Here violin sound like violin in a room not violin under microscope.... 😁😊

I think i must buy a second one in case...

I own two Sansui amplifiers...

I am nut yes...

I owned two Tannoy speakers dual gold because i loved them so much...


I cannot buy a second pair of my actual Mission Cyrus 781...I pay mine 40  bucks...

Anyway i am too old to double my wife...


I've had a handful of DACs, Benchmark DAC3, Topping D90, Bryston BDA-3, Chord Qutest. I have now settled on a Denafrips Venus II, build quality is outstanding and sound quality is excellent, zero harshness, sounds very open, musical, tonality is very good, smooth and yet detailed at the same time. Alvin at Vinshine is also great to deal with, excellent customer service. The upgrade bug still persists a bit and the Holo Audio May KTE is tempting but I feel I may be nearing the point of diminishing marginal returns. Good luck.

Everyone has their preferences.  Mine is Audio GD r7he mkii.  It's sound is perfect and spot on musical. Excellent PRAT, never a hint of glare. Sound is very analog. Having the class A power supply really puts it a step above the others in its price range.  Skip Underwood and buy direct from Kingwa from Audio GD.  Then you will get a 10 year warranty and upgrades down the road.