Great USB DAC for computer use

I am searching for a great USB DAC for use with my desktop setup. The computer is based around an Asus Rog Strix Z390E motherboard with 32Gb and a 1TB M.2, and an I9-9900F. My source files are about a terabit of FLAC ripped from redbook CDs in a wide range of genres stored on a WD Black 2Tb HHD
My amp is a Laracoo Dual Mono solid state.(I think it is the first production one).
My cans… Audio Technia ATH-A990Z and W3000. Grado GS-2000E. Sennheiser HD-800. And many more. On special occasions I will get out my Sony MDR-R10 (Tool Fear Immoculum release!).
Price range? Less than a grand? Maybe I can be tempted by more…
The Asus sound section is no slouch. SABRE9018Q2C. Nicheon caps. Careful shielding. A dedicated crystal timebase
So what say you all?

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Try a Schiit Bifrost 2 for $699. You already take care with your computer build and the Bifrost 2 has the new Unison USB receiver. You have 15 days to send it back if you don’t like it.

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Consider the Topping DX7 or D70… Tends to be a neutral amp with some filters for less than $500.

If you want features galore, the Pro-iDSD… but that’s way over your price range but hey, ya only live once :slight_smile:

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If you read through many of the threads you will see that there seems to be a lot of love on this forum for the RME ADI 2 DAC, which I have not heard but appears to measure very well using the USB input (ASR being one forum that has posted measurements). It sells for around $1100.

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Just found a nice sale for you. I own its big brother dac1541, which has a built-in headphone amp, display, and cross-feed, but the core R2R tech is basically the same. Among all the R(2R) DACs I’ve owned in the last few years (in order of increasing cost: original Schiit Bifrost multibit, dac1541, Metrum Onyx, Schiit Yggdrasil A2, Holo Spring) the only one that clearly beats the dac1541 is the 2x more expensive Yggdrasil. If the dac1341 is anywhere close to the dac1541, it’s a total steal, especially at that sale price. The Soekris DAC sound is not bold, dense (unlike NOS DACs like the Spring and the Onyx) but rather clean, liquid, full of subtle detail. The Yggdrasil beats it on fast edges, bass materiality, dynamics for speaker systems or high-end tube headphone amps (like the EC Aficionado I own) but for long sessions on headphones with good solid-state amps, I’m very happy with Soekris.

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Also, if you don’t mind the premium price; the Chord Qutest is nice. I really like the sound of that DAC for other reasons though.

Thank you so much! I think I am going to settle on the Topping D70 for its technical superiority and bang for the buck. I am very impressed with AKM chips

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A bit more, but a Benchmark DAC3 is a wonderful DAC, and comes in several variants.

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The Topping D70 is a great choice. The SMSL SU-8 would also be a good contender.

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The Bifrost 2 would be my response as well. Doesn’t offer DSD support, but do you really need it? If you do, than perhaps a Denafrips Aries II? In either case, R2R ladder DACs > Sigma-Delta IMO. Here’s one article on the subject: http://www.mother-of-tone.com/conversion.htm

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I agree with Cariad,
in a hifi perspective (i.e. no audiophile coloration, fuller than reality, and other euphonic additions), I think the RME ADI 2 DAC is the clearly best you can get for the price mentioned, a top professional audio quality plus (and this is where unfortunately Benchmark is out performed), countless numbers of settings through its display (many screens and menus…), you can do about anything you like with it.

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I agree that the DAC3 produces a top sound (as also proved by measurements) probably better than RME, but then it is indeed more expensive, but unfortunately what to do of the user interface… compared to that of RME?

While the idea of R2R seems quite nice, in practice all measurements consistently give the same verdict: all perform much worse than Delta-Sigma, leaving them completely in the dust. You can check here a lot of recent extensive measurements of numerous DACs:

All the best,
bidn

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I hear nothing but good things about the latest Bifrost DAC from Schiit…it is on my short list along with the Freya +

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Wanted to thank you bidn for taking the time to share your opinion on this and for the Audio Science link. I had listened to an original Bifrost a few years ago and thought it sounded good. The reality was all the other components in that system were foreign to me as well, so how much of what I was hearing was influenced by the Bifrost itself? Guess I’ll never really know.

As subjective as high end audio is, coupled with not being able to properly audition, makes purchasing audio equipment online quite the challenge. All we can generally do is research and ask questions in the hopes of arming ourselves with the right information before making a purchase, a purchase that hopefully avoids the all to common ‘audio equipment buyer’s remorse’ factor.

Anyways, your post put me on the right track. After further researching Schiit… yikes! I think I’ll steer clear. I almost fell prey to their clever marketing and was about to pull the trigger on a Bifrost 2. Thankfully I didn’t. I’m now eyeing the Topping D70 and SMSL-SU-8. I also see there’s a “D90” is around the corner.

I still want to further research the whole R2R thing before making a decision though. In posts I had seen elsewhere, the general consensus had been how R2R Multi DACs ‘sound better’ than Delta-Sigma, despite having worst measurements. So is R2R kinda like tubes in this regard? Tube gear generally does measure poorly compared to their transistor counterparts, but to many people’s ears sounds better (including mine). Here’s a great article on this subject: https://kenrockwell.com/audio/why-tubes-sound-better.htm

So is there validity to R2R sounding better that Delta-Sigma? That’s my new question moving forward.

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By definition, that’s always going to be a personal call.

If you take a strict objectivist stance, then they frequently measure differently, sometimes at levels and in ways that fall within the audible realm (i.e. not buried 30 dB below anything you’re going to be able to hear in a normal environment, or masked by other effects).

In those cases they should sound perceptibly different too.

I(f they don’t, then either the measurements, or the science being used to interpret them, must be wrong).

Once there are audibly perceptible differences there are just two ways to get to “better” for any individual:

  • One is subjective, and that’s always personal … for the same kinds of reasons that some people like more bass than others.

  • The other is objective, specifically which has higher fidelity, which should correlate directly to better measurement numbers.


What’s more common is that both approaches measure notably differently, but the differences are below theoretically audible thresholds. In which case a truly science-based observer would have to agree that they won’t sound different (or they’re effectively saying either the science or the measurements are wrong), even if one is demonstrably higher fidelity on the test bed.


The real issue is that there’s an unstated assumption that “sounds better” equates to “higher fidelity”. Preferences don’t work that way. And a better way to phrase the question is “Will I enjoy X more than Y?” or “Will I prefer X over Y?” If you do, then that’s “better for you” - which is a perfectly acceptable situation even when your preference is demonstrably lower in fidelity.

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Well I got a huge deal on a brand new D70. Subjectivity it is truly awesome sounding. At the price it is more than perfect.

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I appreciate that explanation Torq, that all makes perfect sense. Theoretically I guess it stands to reason that if there aren’t (really) any audible differences at average/normal listening levels, it makes more sense to go with the “objective” option. I’d rather have science and good measurements than not. On the other hand, if one can discern an audible difference resulting in a personal preference, then the “subjective” option comes into play and may even prove to be more a priority. Tube gear to my ears is a prime example of the latter.

Just wish I had a means of testing different DACs for myself, just to ‘see’ what difference(s) I might hear, if any. As I mentioned, I feel that purchasing online without auditioning first is like going into the decision blind. Or should I say “deaf”.

edit: not related: I’m a “Founding Member”, just noticed it’s not showing up next to my user name, wonder why? Oh well…

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It’s a “safe bet”.

The other rational alternative being “whichever is cheaper”.

Fixed.

Thanks for all your input and help Torq!

Cheers=)

I asked the question on what DAC I should buy for my computer desk. I built a new high performance computer centered on audio and visual impact.
Due to suggestions I received and my own research, I ended up with the Topping D70. I received it 3 days ago. I