Upgrade DAC recommendation


My systems consist of:
McIntosh 601 Monoblocks 
McIntosh C47 Pre Amp
Martin Logan Renaissance 15A Speakers
 Node2 DAC

I’m  bypassing the DAC in my Node2 and using the DAC in my McIntosh C47 My sound is good but I think I’m missing something  and believe the sound can be tremendously better if I upgrade my Node 2 for a better DAC. I’m willing to spend up to $5k on a new DAC
 Based on my system components, can you suggest a Better DAC that will take my sound Up to new levels

 need lots of help

fhanks

 
preslisa64
I think it will be helpful if you can tell us what is it that you feel is missing, and what type of experience are you searching for?
Hard to say, but my vocals and guitars are superb and my base is outstanding. I’m looking for the mid range music part of music, like maybe the reverberations in a cello or the in depth sound or residue left over from the various types of drum cymbals 
   Looking for more realism in each of the other types of instruments
You don’t mention cables, but if you basically like the sound you have now, you might consider upgrading the IC between your amp and preamp and/or the digital cable unless they’re already top notch. Good cables can really open up the sound, giving you a better presentation of what you already have. Sometimes the lack of overtones could be due to a high noise floor, which better cables may help. Or not. When you buy without audition it’s always hit and miss. Good luck.
I’m using tributaries 8 reference grade cables. Everywhere Do you think moving from Node 2 to a Lumin or Auralic will make that much of a

Which is a difference of $4k more cost of the Node 2
Given your price range and system, you could look at a Chord Hugo TT2.  Nice DAC that has filters which give you a little flex in terms of sound profile.  

Alternatively, the PS Audio DSD is a nice unit that could be down in your price range with a trade to PS Audio.  They are super flexible in what they are willing to accept. 

Rockna Wavelight would be another good alternative and is on budget without any issue.  Rockna makes some brilliant products.  

Any of these three should be better than the DAC in your pre.  

That being said, a lot of folks would say upgrading your streamer will do more than upgrading your DAC.  It sounds odd but makes more of a difference than you would think.  Check out Lumin as they make some great streamers.   

Full disclosure, I am a Chord Dealer and have access to a few other brands.
I saw a huge upgrade when I switched from the C47 to an ARC Ref 6. I’d recommend looking there as well as the DAC. There a lot of great preamps ans DACs out there. 
I have a mac c2600, been using the internal dac streaming from a bluesound node 2i. Also occassionally listen to the node 2i dac analogue outputs. I thought it couldn't get much better. Then I got the bug and started auditioning some dacs. Chord hugo tt2, base model dcs, and bricasti m3. Settled on the bricasti, much improvement over the mac dac and node 2i. Everything you're looking for. I'll probably sell the nose 2i soon if anybody is interested. Chord and dcs sounded very good but I thought the m3 to my ears was better. The review from 'teajay' from I think 'stereo times' was accurate.
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Happy user of RME ADI-2 DAC. I see no reason to pay more than this DAC. Please refer to a recent discussion on streaming on this forum; this is a recurrent topic...
Check out reviews of holo audio may dac. I'm very happy with mine, but I'm not the only one. 
In April I went from a node 2 to a Mytek Manhattan II DAC w/ network card. This produced an orders of magnitude increase is SQ. I was right where you are now feeling that the SQ from the node 2 was very satisfying but it seemed to me that I wasn’t getting upper midrange clarity during intense passages. But when I got the new DAC the improvement was across the board - yes the upper midrange became much more defined and detailed but so did the top and especially the bottom. It was really very intense. I learned lyrics I’d been listening to for 40 years (think REM), I started counting the number of backing vocalists and identifying their sex. Didn’t realize digital could be this good. 
I also have had a very good experience with Mytek (I bought direct, not through a dealer). At the time they had a special going on - $300 off the DAC plus a free network card. I had been planning to use node 2 as a streamer and did for about a week but found I liked the network card in the Manhattan better - but not by a lot as the main improvement was clearly from DAC. 
I have posted several times about this DAC upgrade and have been waiting to be accused of working for Mytek.  I have no financial relationship with them other than the $5700 I sent them for the DAC. But my main point is that at your price point, regardless of what DAC you pick, you can expect an amazing leap in digital SQ over your current rig. 
I’ll be interested to hear what you decide to do and what your results are. 
Before you buy a new DAC, turn off the Audio clock trim in the node 2 audio options.  This improved the sound quality for my external Denafrips Ares II DAC.
The best one’s in your system is Metronome technologie C6 or C8 or Ear (Tim de Paravicini). But first of all, you have to listen to this. These 2 dac’s gonna give you more “life”, 3D in your music. McIntosh is (for me) to cool and to flat. You need “the feelings” in your music.
I would like to recommend Denafrips Terminator R2R DAC. The price is within your budget. I have ordered one and will be receiving it next week. You may read the reviews online and watch the videos by credible reviewers on YouTube for this DAC. 
My 2 cents, check out the Sonnet Morpheus DAC.
Excellent DAC and well under your price cap.
concur that sonnet/metrum and denafrips (among others) are excellent
Based on the components in your system the Node is the weak link imo.
+1 on the Sonnet Morpheus.
I have done A/B comparisons with my Metrum Acoustics Pavane and they are close but the Morpheus has a more focused sound stage especially the center imaging and it has a little more weight to the sound.
Cees uses 16 DACs on 4 boards with FPGA on each as opposed to 8 DACs on 8 transient modules. The Morpheus is a continuation of his R2R design but it's in a less expensive case to bring the cost way down compared to the Pavane and the Adagio
The best DAC near that price is the Ayre QX-8. It is closer to 6 with the Network card, but it will sound far better than others less than $9k! I’ve heard many of the other touted DACs.
I would highly recommend the Aqua La Scala.
It is R2R, upgradable, with good set of connections and beautifully sound. Although the rest of my rig is way above its price point, it  does not feel at all as a weak point and it is performing fabulous.
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I use a Lumin U1 mini with a Denafrips Terminator dac, very happy with the results.  
McIntosh D1100 would be an awesome addition
I have a similar system, Mac c46 and 501 amps with Dynaudio C4s and jlaudio e112 subs. I use a Bryston BDA3 DAC to good effect. Natural sounding with a good detailed presentation and wide sound stage. I use all MIT Magnum cabling and power cords. I am currently demoing Audioquest HC storm series power cords for my amps with impressive results. More open presentation with much finer detail from my better recordings. Steve
The DAC in your preamp is significantly better than the Node 2.

There are loads of DACs that will sound different, but better? Only you will be able to decide that.

When I embarked on my quest for a DAC, I too had a budget of $4 - $5K. I went from a Schiit Bifrost Multibit to a Teac UD-501 to a Gustard x20Pro DAC mated to a Singxer SU-1 DDC (connected via IIS). I stopped there. I listen to FLAC (ripped CDs) and DSD files through this setup. I did audition others but this was the sweet spot for my system (and ears).

FWIW I have Martin Logan Spires being fed by Soundcraftsmen PM860 monoblocks (600 W), connected to a Don Sachs Model 1 linestage.

You will receive tons of recommendations but I'd advise auditioning any DAC in your system first. Lots of companies offer a no questions asked money back guarantee.

All you'd be out is shipping which a small price to pay (IMHO).

Happy hunting!


I use a McIntosh MDA 1000 dac in my Mac system. It's an older model, but the best dac McIntosh ever made. Far superior to the dacs found in their current preamps ( I own a C48). Very analog sounding. They can be had for $3000-$3500,but they sell quickly and are highly desired. Do a search and read the steller reviews on this unit. Had a Electrocompaniet ECD-1 prior to Mac. Similar close sonics. One for sale on USA Audiomart at a great price. My dac search is now over.
                    Den
@aeschwartz

Thanks for the tip to turn off the audio clock trim; had no idea of this setting. Pretty noticeable difference and I agree it sounds better off at least with my DAC. I thought it sounded great before, but astonished it sounds better. I’m using a Vault 2 through RME ADI 2 fs/Teddy Pardo. Thanks!
@aeschwartz would you turn off the clock in the Node even without an external dac?
Look for a PS Audio DirectStream DAC used (the latest firmware really opened it up in a way that fits your search). Definitely change to better used cables!! You should be able to do both with your budget. Look for older generations of Audioquest, Synergistic Research, etc. This alone will move you toward your goal noticeably!!
If you are looking into strict D/A conversion performance, it seems like there are quite a bit of new high performance and reasonably priced DACs, such as the brand new SMSL SU-9 Balanced USB DAC (US $439.99), which perform better than most R2R DACs and many of the DACs listed above. The SMSL SU-9 has a SINAD of 120 dB while, for example, the Auralic Vega G2 has a SINAD of 116 dB. You can later decide to color your output signal using whatever, DSP, preamp or amp you like.


https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/smsl-su-9-balanced-dac-review.16150/
if you don't know already, there is a 'it measures good so it is good' school of thought in equipment/dac evaluation, and then there is a 'listening/ itsounds good so it is good' school

you will need to decide which is more important... people here have strongly held convictions on a vs b...  
@aeschwartz -- thanks for the tip on Node 2i. I'm using it in my headphone setup with an external DAC. I had never paid attention to that particular setting but boy what a difference it made once I did. The sound is a little smoother and more liquid now.
I like Gustard A22 DAC’s sound, and how it looks. A22 uses two AK4499EQ latest ’n’ greatest chips from Akamai, buffered with balanced class A "discrete components circuit” outputs. Class A output on my opinion is much better than most design based with Op-Amp chips, and it does sound very close to tubes. Gustard A22 has “professional" look, very heavy for its size, enclosure is CNCed out of thick aluminum and deep anodized ( I have black version) , and internally uses high quality components. Power supplies for digital and analog parts are separated, and use different toroidal, shielded in cans transformers. The only negative note I have is a Display, which looks too simple, and also "Volume dB" setting could be larger. I would recommend anyone to check it out. 
Wow, thanks for all the input.

 Since I will not be able to audition any of
the awesome products people have listed here, and boy do they sound awesome,  I have decided to stick with a DAC that i considerably quite a bit at the beginning of this DAC purchase process.

 I’ve chosen the Lumin T2. Mainly because of it close proximity to the X1, the rave  people praise it, it’s cost, and it’s branding. The X1 is a little out of my price range. 

Since I have these cables now,
I will stay with Tributaries 8 Reference Cables. 
At some point, maybe my next upgrade
will be cables.
Thanks for all the helpful input