I'm Sailing Away

David Gray - Sail Away -

@Torq thank you again for the suggestion to think differently and look at the Chord Qutest - it is magical. Also, all those beautiful photos and prose on the ZMF Vérité and the Rosson Audio RAD-0.

Thank you for all your patience with the community as you mentored all of us in this fantastic hobby. You truly put a strong footprint on building this community and so many great resources that you’re leaving behind.

You remind us it is time to listen, relax, sometimes even with your favorite beverage, not just argue over the measurement.

You held the community to a higher standard remind us we need to be welcoming, positive. So I want to thank you again for your leadership and stewardship.

To you and wife, all the best and godspeed as go on your worldwide adventure.


Nope, @generic beat you too that one …


Haha! Didn’t even see it. :laughing:

Sail, because why not:

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Congratulations Ian, I am sure that you will have a great trip. Thank you for helping me decide what headphone and amp to purchase. I enjoy the heck out of music now. Your patients with a person that started from close to zero knowledge was truly appreciated.

And such a nice community that you have helped build. You will are missed and hope you “pop in” every now and then …


10 Favorite DACs:

With nothing on the horizon, at least that I’m aware of, that I’m looking forward to/expecting to improve the state of digital replay, I figured this was as good a time as any to list my current favorite items in a number of product categories – starting with DACs.

This isn’t an invitation to debate my choices. Yours will likely be very different – which is great. These are mine . I’m not getting into why I prefer unit A over unit B, nor why unit Y or Z didn’t make my list. It’s simply a statement about what my favorite units are, for the purposes of enjoying recorded music, at the current point in time.

Some of these units may include headphone outputs/pre-amp functionality but are evaluated here purely as DACs (some of which include additional components/modules to get where they are, e.g. the M-Scalers with the Chord DACs – and may rank differently if not used).

  1. Chord DAVE (via Blu Mk2 or Hugo M-Scaler)
  2. MSB Select DAC (with Femto 33 clock and 2x Mono Powerbases)
  3. dCS Vivaldi (w/ Upsampler and Master Clock)
  4. Linn Klimax DSM/3 (Katalyst)
  5. Hugo TT 2 (via Hugo M-Scaler)
  6. dCS Bartok
  7. Schiit Yggdrasil A2 (w/ Unison USB)
  8. Mola Mola Tambaqui
  9. Matrix X-Sabre Pro MQA
  10. Schiit Bifrost 2

There is no consideration of value in this listing. If there was, it’d likely be somewhat different, though not necessarily dramatically so. Nor am I taking into account measured performance. The only consideration is how much I enjoy listening to music via the pieces in question.

Some other thoughts:

Notably, there are no NOS (non-oversampling) DACs on this list. If we went back in time a couple of years, there probably would be – despite their latent issues. But even when owning them, I gradually, and organically, found myself spending ever greater portions of my listening time with oversampling DACs – until I wasn’t using the NOS stuff at all.

DSD has proven to be a bust in my listening – whether end-to-end native, or converted on the fly. Sure, a few DACs do sound better when they are fed DSD content than they do processing PCM, even if it is converted on the fly from PCM sources. However, I think that says more about the implementation of those DAC than it does about any supposed benefit to DSD itself. It’s just not worth dealing with OTF conversions or the extremely limited native catalog for something that isn’t specifically better than simple PCM.

MQA has turned out to be little more than an uninteresting distraction for me. Other than the occasional “better” master being used for MQA releases (which, when it happens, also sounds better on non-MQA hardware and would also likely sound better just as raw PCM), I’ve found it to be detrimental or more than beneficial.

Finally, for Hi-Res playback, other than sometimes yielding a reduction in listening fatigue in long listening sessions, the only real benefits here, with competent DACs at least, are more about such releases occasionally being from different, “better”, masters than any of the other claims made for it.


Hello Ian,

could you spontaneously tell us, which one of the DACs is with you over the longest period of time?
Not, forced which you do listen the most.


In various forms I owned the Yggdrasil the longest, but it started life as an original unit, then got a USB Gen 5 upgrade, then got the Analog 2 boards, and finally I had a Unison-equipped model around for a couple of weeks.

I don’t own one anymore, however.

The next two would be the Linn Klimax unit and the Chord DAVE.

I don’t own all of the above, nor have I owned all of them - some were on extended demo either from dealers or friends. If I was building a non Linn/Exakt speaker rig, I imagine I’d go for the MSB DAC (along with at least a set of Wilson Chronosonic XVX speakers).


Thanks for posting this list.

It’s nice to see that an affordable unit (Schiit Bifrost 2) made your top 10.


It’s a great little DAC.

I could probably do a top 20 list for DACs - though I’m not going to.

Where for some classes of products I can barely manage a top 5 (at least with the caveat that everything on said list would be something I’d be willing to buy - or buy again for items I once had but have since sold).


Yeah, 10 is definitely a limit for “Best of” lists.

Anything greater and I feel like we’ll be handing out participation trophies… smh. :roll_eyes:


This is awesome thank you for taking the time to do this @Torq !!


Torq, thanks for your impressions, I would like to ask if you´ve had the opportunity to listen to Lampizator DAC´s and if so what is your opinion? Would they be in your top 20? TIA.




“Meh …”


It's been a bit ... the last one I heard was the "Level 7" or "Big 7 DAC" or whatever it was called in English.

10 Favorite All-In-Ones (DAC/Amp Combo):

These are units that incorporate both a DAC and a headphone amplifier, treated as standalone boxes (no pre-processors, scalers, clocks allowed etc.).

  1. Chord DAVE
  2. dCS Bartok (w/ Headphone Amplifier Option)
  3. Chord Hugo TT2
  4. Fidelice Precision Digital-to-Analog Converter
  5. Focal Arche
  6. Matrix Element:X
  7. Chord Hugo 2
  8. RME ADI-2 Pro FS R Black Edition/DAC FS (4493)
  9. Holo Audio CYAN (PCM Module)
  10. Soekris dac1541

My mood might flip the positions of the Focal Arche and Matrix Element:X. Where/how I’m listening might flip the Hugo 2 and RME units.

Assume the same caveats here as for this post on DACs.


I really enjoy these lists that you’ve been posting.

Perhaps you could create a closed thread with these lists before you depart.


Thank you Ian @Torq

For sharing with us the gear that you enjoy!

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10 Favorite Open-Back Headphones

A bit more considered than one of my earlier lists. And not solely based on what gets the most listening time - but definitely based on what I use, enjoy, own and/or would buy/re-buy if doing it all again.

  1. RAAL-requisite SR1a
  2. ZMF Vérité (Open)
  3. LB-Acoustics MySphere
  4. Focal Utopia
  5. Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC
  6. Audeze LCD-4
  7. Rosson Audio RAD-0
  8. HEDD Audio HEDDphone
  9. ZMF Aeolus
  10. Sennhesier HD650

Assume similar caveats here as for this post on DACs.


These @torq’s favorite got me…