what is the best, least costly DAC...?

What is the best, least costly DAC which handles 96kz, 24 bit, with apodizing filter and asyncronous timing to improve upon RAM modified, REGA Saturn CDP analouge out playing complex,at times loud, prog-rock? Also, if it doesen't have USB input, please reccommend the best, least costly USB/SFDIF converter as I intend to play hi-rez files from pc.
Look at the Musical Fidelity V-DAC. Very good in stock form and better with the "Little Pinky" power supply. I think it does what you want but as I don't do computer music I can't be sure.
I second MF V-DAC. Astonishing value @ $299. Even better with the outboard power supply (Little Pinky, MF own V-PSU etc).

V-DAC does 24/96 but is limited to 16/48 on the USB input so you would have to invest into M2Tech hiFace Asynchronous USB To S/PDIF Converter ($150) to be able to play hi-res files.

I bought one for my sat box, but put it one day in my hi-man rig against dCS Puccini, and to say that I was amazed by this little DAC would be an understatement - I was amazed.

Cannot recommend it highly enough. The outboard power supply of some kind is mandatory IMO.
IMHO, I doubt a V-DAC will improve upon a Rega Saturn...my thoughts would turn toward a Wavelength DAC as a minimum to get near the USB performance you're looking for.

Good listening!
I agree with Soulbrass. If you want something better than the Saturn, you'll need to get a much better DAC.

As for a USB/SPDIF converter, the HiFace and HagUSB have worked great for me.
low cost is subjective... i replaced a weiss minerva with a wyred 4 sound dac which i much prefer. not sure if they are in your budget, but if so, you should certainly look into the Wyred DACs.
I haven't heard the V-DAC with a PSU, only without one. If you like what the Saturn does, I highly doubt you'll be a V-DAC fan. The V-DAC sounds very dull and lifeless to my ears. It does the hifi stuff, but I view it as Musical Fatality, along with the rest of their gear.

I know it has it's fans. People rave about it and say it betters stuff that's 10x more money. I have no idea what they're listening to that the V-DAC is trouncing it. It's good for $299. It is in no way shape or form better than a Saturn. Not even close.

My Theta Cobalt 307 from around '96 beat up on a V-DAC in my system.

Everyone's ears and systems are different. Everyone likes what they like. I'm sure some people will strongly object to what I've said. Just my experience with it. Take it as you will.
To add...

Rega is releasing a DAC soon that is rumored to be better than the Saturn. Preliminary price is $995. Google Audio T Rega DAC for specs, pics, etc.
Please tell me about your Wyred DAC.
I am just about to spring for a Minerva and I am really very curious.
What did your ears find out ?
If your V-DAC sounds dull and lifeless then I would suspect the digital cable or transport. I admit that it makes little sense to use a $1700 digital cable[Transparent Reference] with a $300 DAC but it works for me. I have found that the cable makes a very considerable difference. HIFICRITIC has tested both the Saturn and the V-DAC, they gave the Rega a score of 29 and the V-DAC 42. For comparison the Benchmark DAC scored 22, the V-DAC got just about the same score as a very expensive DAC from MSB which is close to $10000. They think it is one of the best buys in audio.
So you've had the RAM mods (including the Audio Consulting output Transformers ?)
All you now need is the Vacuum State Terra Firma Lite co-designed by Custom Analogue Audio.... this along with some other enhancements installed by CAA transformed my Saturn by an order of magnitude.
Forget the V-Dac and most others of even 8 times the price, the dual Wolfson 8740 dacs in the Saturn are damn excellent, they just need a PROPER PS and clock PS to really let you hear what they are capable of !



The V-DAC was demoed in several systems that are anything but dull and involving. I know the room very well too, and that wasn't the issue...

Mac seperates and transport with Sonos Faber Cremonas, and BAT and B&W 800 something or other towers. I didn't check the cables, but I'm sure that wasn't it either. When the CDPs' analog outs were used, the life came back.

Everyone likes what they like. What one finds dull and lifeless, another revels in its glory. There's no right or wrong. The V-DAC does a lot of things right. It's very good for it's price. If it had a boogie factor to it, I'd be all over it. It's no Rega in that regard. Rega's typical customer is looking for more than just soundstage, imaging, etc. Is there a way to quantify groove?

And yes, I'm a Rega owner and fan. I haven't heard a budget, so-called giant killer DAC that I would contemplate selling my Rega Apollo for. Not even close IMO.
I don't think the dacs being talked about have apodizing or MP filters. I think the PS Audio PerfectWave DAC is the lowest price dac with these filters (but it is not a low price dac).

The Perfectwave is a good dac. There are many comments from owners on this forum and some reviews on the web. Definitely check it out.
To chime in on some earlier comments on Wyred (DAC2) vs. Weiss (DAC2 or Minerva): I just compared the two in my system for a full evening and have to say that both DACs are excellent at their respective price. The Wyred is very detailed, dyncamic, extended and punchy with great stable images. The Weiss is not quite as punchy (although I still find it more dynamic with better bass than many other DACs), but still is a little more finely detailed, rich, incisive and refined compared to the Wyred.

I do prefer the Weiss for it's slightly more even handed presentation and analog like quality. Nevertheless, at half the price the Wyred is excellent value for the money.

Note: The above comments refer to a comparison of the DACs used via Firewire or USB interface with a Mac Mini.
I suspect that the problem was the Mac components; my friend used a Mac 402 with matching Mac pre driving his Wilson Sasha speakers until I took my Musical Fidelity NuVista M3 over, they were gone within a week. Since I do use Musical Fidelity components in my own system [ Kw line stage, Kw phono stage, M3 amp, V-DAC] I think I have a better idea of what they can do. I regularly compare them with other components I have like an Audio Synthesis DAX decoder, or Conrad Johnson Primer 350 amp and they come off very well. The M3 is not quite the equal of the 350 but it was half the price, includes a pre section and will drive loads the CJ won't.
@ Restock... "I do prefer the Weiss for it's slightly more even handed presentation and analog like quality."

i found the exact opposite to be true, that is, i found the Wyred to sound more analogue and 'dimensional' than the Weiss. we've all got different rooms, different systems, and different ears - horses for courses as they say!!
The advice to bring a $300 DAC to life with a $1700 digital cable is astonishing in its stupidity.

Breathtakingly stupid advice.
Check out the $300 HRT Musicstreamer II+. It does asynchronous USB, handles 24/96, and sounds incredible! Highly recommended. Not quite as good as my Bryston BCD-1 Cd player but close enough for my music server. Money well spent.
Kbarkamian - V-DAC is ANYTHING but dull and lifeless sounding. It is very transparent, with excellent resolution and soundstaging.

If you found it dull sounding, than it may be one of two things:
- your DAC was faulty
- your system was voiced around old Theta gear, which is known to be very bright and brittle sounding. I know Thetas very well, since I owned a dosen of their dacs: Cobalt, Prime II/IIa, Basic II/III/IIIa and Gen V/Va/Va balanced.

Here is an excelent review from hifi critic:


and German AUDIO:

used Vinyl
For the most part the chips used in all DACs are insanely cheap, a company like MF that has a skilled engineering team and low manufacturing costs can leverage those to make an excellent dac that retails for very little money.
I heard the V-DAC in a shop with the Mac and BAT systems I talked about earlier. Those systems are sonically different than what I own, but I've heard them a million times. Maybe when I can afford one of them, I'll buy one. I've never heard either sound dull and lifeless, until then. We tried all inputs including USB fed FLAC files.

My home system was built around a Rega Apollo. The Cobalt was bought used from a dealer as a stop-gap. My system is a Bryston B60 and Audio Physic Yara Evolution bookshelves. They're a very revealing combo. I feed the Theta Cobalt with an Apple TV using Apple Lossless files.

The V-DAC sounded the same at home. It sounded a bit smoother and fuller than the Cobalt, but that's about it. It sounded a little better using the coax out from the Apollo with a Tara Prizm cable (discontinued), but so does the Cobalt. USB didn't fare any better.

I really wanted to like the V-DAC. Who wouldn't want a $300 DAC to get them off the merry go round? If I didn't want it to work out for me, I wouldn't have taken it home. Every system I tried it in had the same end result - uninvolving sound that had no emotion or soul to my ears. It may have done the technical stuff well, but that doesn't mean much to me if it doesn't carry a tune.

To bring it back full circle, if the OP has a nodded Rega Saturn, I think he's looking for some groove in his gear. Basically the flat-earth philosophy as the Naim, Linn, and Rega guys have. If it doesn't swing, nothing else it does really matters.

Everyone has different priorities. Everyone listens for what they like in their system. If it doesn't boogie to my ears, I don't care what else it does.

Just my experience with it. That was my only intent.
I had the V-dac and the Tri-Vista SACD player in the past. Like some other MF gear I came across they don't seem to do the PRAT right and didn't get me fully involved. I guess some people are more sensitive to this aspect of musical enjoyment than others.

That said the V-dac is good value in what they done right, I actually thought the tonality of this little conception better some other more expensive MF gear.

I have not heard the RAM mod Rega Saturn, but I own the RAM fully modified Oppo player with cyrogenic treatment. Suffice to say the V-dac holds no comparison.
I received my V-DAC about three days ago, and am honestly blown away with it everytime I listen to the lossless files streaming to it from my Squeezebox. This is noticeably better - as far as my aural memory can discern - than the Cyrus CD-8x I had not too long ago; better than the Rega Apollo I auditioned in my system... The soundstage is wider and deeper, the bass is deeper, and that sense of air is just bizarre.

I'm using plain old Blue Jeans Cable coax (1' of Belden 1694A) from the 'Box out to an Audio Innovations Series 500 integrated (Sovtek input/Gold Lion KT77 output) over DH Labs BL-1 Series II out to a pair of Swan Diva 2.1se monitors over BJC Ten (Belden 5T00UP) speaker cabling.

I don't have the budget for much at all - heck, you'll hear about the AI500 on posts from years ago from me - but when one of these came up for $240 I jumped on it. I read so many reviews of the V-DAC, and like almost *every* review of *every* product I've read, some love it and others mock it; some think it's a giant killer and others think it's just a budget product that'll suffice in a pinch.

I know I'm stating the obvious, but there are so many variables in all our systems - not the least of which has nothing to do with the equipment itself: the room the system is setup in - that my love of this tiny box that is making some of the best digital music I've probably ever heard, at least in my system, may be "dull and lifeless" in any number of other systems...

Although I doubt it.
Wait till you hear it with an upgraded PS ! It makes a big difference.

That beeing said, I have just found another DAC, which has all the rights to became a classic - it is Arcam rDAC. It is 50% more than the V-DAC (without the upgraded PSU) but sounds much better than the mighty V-DAC. It actually sounds even better than the V-DAC with the outboard PSU, which pricewise puts this DACs in the direct competition.

The rDAC sounds very fluent, analogue like with a nice texture, and offers a trully AMAZING resolution. HF decays, spatial clues, HF smoothness - the dac sounds so real that it is scary. And that comes from a dCS Puccini CDP owner no less !

The icing on the cake is asynchronous USB 24/96 input with dCS licensed technology !
The rDAC sounds very promising. I'm waiting for my Rega and Arcam dealer to get the Rega DAC that is reportedly coming within the next few weeks to do a side by side comparison of the two. Should be very interesting. Arcam and Rega both make great sounding sources IMO. The Rega will Be $995 vs about $500 for the rDAC, so maybe not the most fair comparison in that regard. The feature set is a little different and the Rega is made in the UK vs China for the rDAC, so it would be stupid to expect the Rega DAC to literaly sound twice as good. Not that that's really quantifiable anyway.

Ballywho -

Why do you doubt it could be dull and lifeless in someone else's system or to someone else's ears? Have you heard my system in my room? Do you have my ears?

I have no prospects of financial nor personal gain here. It amazes me how people can't accept it when something they love isn't everyone else's cup of tea.

It's pretty obvious that it's a great DAC to your ears and many others' ears. I'm not doubting you or anyone else find it anything but dull and lifeless. It's also pretty obvious that not everyone shares your opinion. I know several people who feel the same way about it as I do. I'm not the first one to call Musical Fidelity "Musical Fatality" by any means.
I also considered the RDAC, ultimately I decided to go with the Audio GD NFB11. It utilizes the same ESS Sabre Reference 9018 chip used in many a high end DAC. Intro price on the Audio GD website is rediculous, also includes active pre-amp stage(defeatable)and headphone amp. If if turns out I don't like it there is a big demand for Audio GD products on headfi, their headphone amps are very well regarded. I also have the VDAC so I will be able to do a direct A/B comparison.
I tried the v-dac with better power supply and a matrix mini-i. I was surprised that in my system the matrix was a definite step up, ymmv
Once again...this is a highly subjective hobbie...and I have always found Rega CDPs to be kind of "grey" and void of colour...the polar opposite of their turntables in terms of PRAT, etc...in a nutshell...dull and boring!...cant comment on the v-dac but worth a shot for the price...

Very interesting hobby indeed. I've not found that with Rega CDPs, but have found what you describe with Rega amplification, mainly the Mira and Brio (all generations). Have you heard their CDPs without their integrateds?
Have heard Rega amps on numerous times...and yes...they are a bit bland as well...
Didn't mean to rub anyone the wrong way. I just think the product sounds good. Sorry for the enthusiasm.
Trebejo, I wish I was as smart as you and could know how something I hadn't heard sounded. After 50 years in Audio I have learned that the SOUND and not the COST is the important thing. Is what I am using logical? No. Does it sound good? Yes. Do I recommend it for everyone? Of course not! I was describing the sound I get in my own system. I paid $700 for the Transparent, a totally ridiculous sum for a piece of wire; but the system sounds better using it. Should I only use it with my other DAC, a much more expensive model? My point was that the V-DAC is not embarrassed in fairly high end company; my system is posted if anyone is curious.The V-DAC received the same rating from HIFICRITIC as a $10,000 Dac from a high end company that is highly regarded. Perhaps with more experience in audio you will learn that insults are no substitute for knowledge.
Stanwal has a point.

I'm using my V-DAC right now in my hi-man system - Wilson Sasha -> darTZeel amp -> Kondo M1000mk2 preamp - and it sounds great. You need to invest in a better PSU though.