I have only heard a couple like MSB,Bel Canto,but have heard of many more at that price point.It will be system dependant as usual.Nice to get that 30 day trial.....what have you heard so far?Good luck,Bob
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Under $1000, both the Benchmark DAC1 (which I own) and the Lavry DA10 (which I auditioned in home) are exceptional values. I bought the DAC1 because it uses an async sample rate converter. If I had to spend $2000, I'd consider the Bel Canto DAC3, because it measured slightly better than the Benchmark. But I'd save the $1000 and spend the money on the room -- acoustic treatments or digital room correction.
Monarchy NM24 (or the tube only predecessor M24). The NM24 has tube and solid state output stages so you can switch between the two. A great DAC (and can also serve as a tube linestage) for well under $2000. Very smooth sound with no graininess or digital glare. Seek out the review by Lynn Olson on the Monarchy website.
I have a Monarchy NM24 and it sounds great after i retubed it. Not bad stock.....but the circut is clean and with the option of both SS and tube dac and a LS for about $1100 discounted it's hard to say no. BTW I'm going to try some Mundorf supremes to replace the stock Wima coupling caps...it is supposed to be a stunner.
The Benchmark DAC is one of the best examples of equipment that "measures good" and sound amusical around.
The MHDT DACs, all of them, are stellar bargains (and all best the Benchmark), and the Wavelength Brick is superb as well.
I have owned the Benchmark, two MHDT DACs, and all three Wavelength DACs.
I have two Ultra Fi iRoc USB DACs for two separate systems fed by MacMinis wirelessly connected to the web and iTunes music sharing between them.
With a well-made USB cable, such as the Synergistic Research or the Ridge Street Audio, and you'll be very happy. I know I am.
Whether listening to a web-radio station, Pandora, Rhapsody, or lossless ripped CDs from my iTunes library, it's all really great. In fact, I often cannot believe what I am hearing.
Larry Moore (of Ultra Fi) is in the final stages of developing a high-end USB DAC... can't wait to hear it, because the iRoc is quite amazing at its pricepoint.
All the best & happy listening,
Just for grins.... try a Valab non over sampling dac you can buy right now on EBAY for $200.
I love it and I do not work for Valab or Kevin... I am just a very happy customer.
I am still looking for a dac that sounds better in my system. So far the Valab has sent home a Musical Fidelity TriVista 21, a Weiss Dac2, and is getting ready to beat out a Bryston BD1.
The rest of my system is fairly expensive components compared to the $200 Valab, so it's not like I could not tell the difference in sound quality due to the rest of my system sounding poor... and I also have some good audiophile buddies that will attest to what I say.
I'll admit that its appearance it not the greatest, but it sounds exquisite, so I will remain on my quest to find something that sounds better... maybe an Audio Note Dac 3.1 Kit might be a fun project. I'd like to really dig into this dac safari a lot deeper.
I guess I am just starting to learn that I dont know a whole helluva lot compared to a lot of the folks on Agon. I think I just got very lucky with my first tube system, having met some great guys that steered me in a good direction with their knowledge and unselfish opinions.
Benchmark seems to go well with ATC's. For whatever reason some people find it too clinical - so it is not univerally appreciated. A system integration thing perhaps. FWIW - the Benchmark DAC also sounds great with high end headphones but I suspect you need to like an accurate dynamic sound rather then a more organic presentation in order to like thiis DAC.