Used DACs in the 10k range


I currently have a denafrips terminator and I definitely enjoy it in my system but I haven't compared many dacs (only other dac I heard in my system was the one in the HDV 820 when I was using my headphones). I was impressed with the rave reviews and bought it straight up but now I am wondering if its worth upgrading or not.
I am looking to spend around 10k ish for a used DAC that would be significantly  better than the Terminator.

Any suggestions?
Also any thoughts on the terminator itself. It has lots of positive reviews from outlets like audiobacon and darko, 6 mooons etc but it has very harsh criticism from places like SBAF. Would appreciate your thoughts.
My system: PC -> Roon -> Sotm sms 200 ultra (with sps500) -> audio sensibility signature usb cable -> sotm dx usb -> ss d110 aes cable -> terminator -> kimber cables xlr -> He9 -> yyw hifi xlr -> 4bsst dual bryston monoblocks -> qed xt 40 speaker cables -> paradigm signature s8 v2 + dual PSA V1800s [v1800s via svs soundpath rcas]
smodtactical
@smodtactical  I'm (somewhat) in the same position as you are. I have the Denafrips Terminator and have been extremely happy and impressed with it. However, as my system has evolved and improved I've also asked myself whether I should consider another DAC to "balance" / "match" overall performance.

My experience to date has been that the Denafrips Terminator has matched and kept pace with all changes and improvements I have made to my system. These changes have been extensive and have resulted in superb results. The Terminator continues in a starring role, as do all of the other current/primary components and peripherals.

This upward and continually rewarding 'positive scaling' gives me pause, whenever I consider other DACs.

For an additional 12K+ spend over the Terminator, one choice is the Aqua Formula xHD (I haven't seen pricing on a current xHD used unit; i.e. not upgraded). I would also like to get a Rockna SE in for comparison purposes. There are others, however all are well in the 20K+ range.

The fact that you and I are considering DACs that at USED prices are multiples of the Terminator brand spanking NEW, says a lot. : )
There is a Chord Electronics Ltd. The DAVE Reference DAC for sale on Audiogon for $8,499.  This DAC has received great reviews.  
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This guy did quite an extensive test and review of many high end DACs. it has been a while since I watched it but I believe he offers some very good information about the type of DAC you're searching for. This is only the last video of an entire series.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNyxzUkA9zU
@david_ten that's awesome that you have the Terminator too and are enjoying like I am.

What other dacs gave you compared the Terminator too ?

@hgeifman good option I think, definitely will consider it

Anyone have thoughts on a used bricasti m1 se?
@smodtactical  Most of my system development has been focused on getting the amplification right, followed by cables and speakers.

I've had a few folks in to listen and provide feedback as I've worked on moving my system forward. Not a single person has mentioned the DAC. There are other areas / components that have been pointed out.
Sim,

Based on your system first question which preamp are you using?

One before I would even entertain getting a dac I would borrow a Innous Zenith and see how much better the Denefrips would sound when being fed an optomized signal.

As other people I think Uberwaltz have commented the standard PC even with a whole bunch of regenerative doodads still doesn't sound anywhere nearly as good as the Zenith.

Second:  I would look at getting a great preamp, we are not Backert Labs dealers but have heard their preamps are excellent, and a tube preamp makes a Bryston sound way better.

Third: I would upgrade the Paradigm Sigs long before I upgraded my dac.  The Signatures are wonderful speakers but are definatly showing their age vs newer loudspeakers.

Fourth: Power cables and power conditioning are you using any?

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
+ 1 to Audiotroy

OP can try better music server or CD transport.

The law of diminishing return is stiff for Dac.

I have been using EMMLab Dac2(paid 9K$ for new one) for 9 years.

It is time to upgrade but no easy choice under 20K$..

Also it is possible that some innovative Dac can come out in a year or two at reasonable price which may crush all existing Dacs.
I want you to take the $80 challenge. If you buy it, you can always have it for a friend or a bathroom system. Topping D10. Impressive for small cheddar. 32k with opamps if you aren’t satisfied. The one included is well regarded. Zero snob appeal which makes it perfect lol.
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The MBS Discrete DAC is very nice and a new unit is $9,950.  This is a USA made DAC. 

http://www.msbtechnology.com

For improved sound quality, the Discrete DAC offers a 2nd power supply option so that one power supply handles the ladder DAC section and the other power supply handles the analog section.  
I would have to second the Chord Dave.

I had the good fortune to try one in my system ( before I went with my present super integrated)and it was sublime.

Cannot compare to the Terminator as have never heard one but it handily outperformed the Mytek Brooklyn in every area.

Could not bring myself to spend 10k on a DAC though.......
@hk_fan  is that a cd player?

@audiotroy  Thanks man. Zenith is fairly pricey and I already have a pretty well regarded network streamer SOTM 200 ultra which is powered by an SPS 500 to try and detach the audio from my pc (it plays through ethernet). Would you say this is still a far cry from a Zenith player instead?

My He9 seems like a pretty great preamp and a friend of mine who has heard much more expensive preamps says it hangs but I do in the future want to get something better.

In terms of my speakers that is the first upgrade I am looking to get. I actually got these Sig S8s only 1 year ago and paid only $2000 + rega rs7 speakers so pretty amazing deal. For the money I doubt I can get much better but for my next step I want something truly end game. So I am looking into the used market at around $50k. I have a thread on this actually ($50k used speakers that perform like $200k speakers lol).

I actually hear the persona 7F and was really impressive by their crystalline sound.

@cal18 Thanks heh, I'll think about that one, but doubt it would hold a candle to my current dac

@hgeifman  thats a great idea... how do you think it would compare to DAVE and Bricasti m1 se?
To add to other suggestions, most demos with expensive gear I’ve heard at shows has used dCS or totalDac. See if you can find any 2nd hand. MBL, Mark Levinson and Naim also has great dacs.
I would suggest that you evaluate one with a complete MQA decoder if you are a streaming person.  I am personally very  impressed with the SQ leaving all the other issues behind.  I am going to update my DAC and will not consider one without MQA.  Its the best sound I have heard.  Currently use a Naim and evaluated mqa with a Mytek Manhattan II and the latter is very good.  Looking to see if its worth going for the best at this point. Nothing wrong with the Mytek.
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@smodactical This DAC does not get much noise on Audiogon but this is the expensive DAC I am interested in, Mola Mola Tambaqui. I have other lower cost options that I am looking at too.

https://gttaudio.com/

Contact Bill Parish and see about a home demo.

If you want some more info send me a private message and I will forward you some info.
smodocatal, checked out your preamp. Looks impressive but we would still recommend adding a tube preamp to the Bryston.

The Byston amplifiers are clean but very dry sounding, hence a tube preamp really makes them come alive.

Here is the order of improvements:

1: Tube preamp
2: Real Music server Innous Zenith would be our recommendation
3: Upgrade speakers
4: Upgrade cables
5: Add power cables and power conditioning
6: Upgrade Dac.

Based on what you currently have upgrading the dac would be the last thing we would recomend. 

The tube preamp will add warmth, body and an increased soundstage.

The server will add greater warmth, musical flow and clarity as well as improving the soundstage.

The Paradigm Sig 8 are still excellent the Personas are in a different league, Focal Sopra also excellent, new Vimberg also great.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ


I have to agree with audiotroy. I don't think that the DAC should be first priority or that it will give the most improvement for the investment. I would surely check out a tube pre.
@audiotroy  thank you for the organised list, which tube pre would you go for? I'd like to keep it under $10k used
@audiotroy you like the 9H or sopra 3 more ?
CK out the PS Audio Direct Stream DAC.  It is really a pretty amazing kit. It has a field gate array that can be programmed with updates.  I think you can do a 30 day trial.
Stahl-tek Opus Prime - a $40K DAC made in the US that's way better than ANYTHING mentioned above . . . buy it in mint condition for less than $8k
Chord Dave along with the upscaler 
Aqvox USB 2 D/A MKII upgrade ( Germany). One of the best. About 1500€
Op we wouldn’t recommend any digital change at this juncture, if you are contemplating a speaker change, or other equipment is in flux.

We look at the digital front end as the final flavor in a system.

Our approach is to select speakers first, as they will determine the rest of the components required. Cetain speakers will need greater power, some less, some speakers sound better on tubes other solid state.

So figure out your destination spekers, then audition electronics designed to make the speakers come alive, and then finally find the digital stage that harmonizes with the rest of the system.

As per your question Focal vs Persona 9h. The Focals are the easier of the two to make sound good, the 9H are more transparent and image with greater specificity they do require components which can add a bit of warmth to the mix, when you get them right the 9H are just remarkable in so many ways.


Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ


@audiotroy  what about S5 MK II or M2/M3 vs 9H ? Have you heard the former?

Just heard the M2s today and was blown away.
I will be doing just that next weekend I hope, that is comparing a $10K DAC to one.  We will also be compare a CEC to the Jay's Audio Transport so we will have a better handle on how each one works with the different transports.  I will keep you posted.

Happy Listening
If your PC is a desktop with a PCIe slot, I would first recommend a JCAT Net Card Femto with an external 5V LPS.  That made a major improvement for me with the SOtM endpoint.  Also, I've heard the Terminator in the same system as the Aqua Formula.  Yes, the Aqua is better, but the margin of difference is small.