Which DAC would you get and why?

Out of Curiosity, I am interested in which dac ‘you’ would get and why?

For people considering new dacs I’ll list some below. Important note: synergy is very important in gear selection, as this is meant to be a base range of information.

Dacs:

  1. SMSL SU-8

  2. Airist R2R

  3. Schiit Bifrost 2

  4. Denafrips Ares II

  5. Schiit Gungir Multibit

  6. Chord Qutest

  7. RME ADI 2 Dac

  8. Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro (MQA)

  9. HoloAudio Spring 2 level 2

  10. HoloAudio Spring 2 (KTE)

Curious to see what ‘you’ would pick and why, also if your dac is not on the list, let me know which dac you are considering.

I know there have been several threads on which dac to get and why, but I think having a thread like this. might be a good central hub of information on DACs for all of the members to get information from.

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So, Tier 1: Matrix Audio X-Sa…, because it’s as accurate as an ESS dac can be, it’s full-featured (minus headphone amp, but I prefer to incorporate my own), and it’s an MQA dac (I know it’s kind of divisive, but I really enjoy it).

Tier 2: This is tough because two of these are dacs that I’m considering for future purchase ( the Matrix mentioned above is my top choice). I’m slightly leaning towards the Chord for the FPGA implementation and its ‘smooth’ (jitter-free) sound. Similar to how I really like MQA and how clean and natural it sounds.

The RME is such an outstanding value and I’ve hardly heard a negative word towards it. I do like the ability to use my own amp/amps, and all three I’ve mentioned allow for that (actually required for two). I just don’t know that I’d use many of its features and as silly as it sounds, I think it would be a waste. But it’s the least expensive of the three and realistically the one I’ll end up with!

Tier 3: This is a toss up. I’ve haven’t heard either and they both review rather favorably. Probably the Schiit because it’s made domestically.

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So, I have mixed feelings about this thread. I’m a big believer in synergistic pairings make a great system, not a “it’s expensive and has MQA, so it must be good” tier system.

For example, the Matrix X-Sabre Pro is one of the best sabre dacs I’ve ever heard, having demoed it in my own system for quite a while. However, put it in the wrong system - say for example, a GSX mini feeding a DT1990 or HD800S - and you’re in for listening fatigue in short order.

So I really don’t think price tiers are a good way to judge equipment at all.

FWIW, my system is Bifrost 2 (soon to be Yggy A2 w/ Unison) > EC ZDS or ECP DSHA-3f > ZMF Auteur. Warm DAC feeding exceptionally clean amps into a somewhat colored headphone. They synergize like nothing else I’ve heard… for the Auteur. Put the matrix DAC in there, and it kinda falls apart. Trust me, it did.

So what is your audio chain?

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Also, I had the DF Aries in house, and it was the second worse DAC that I’ve ever heard, or that possibly has ever existed, ever. So… Just my 2¢ on that.

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I’m in agreement with @ProfFalkin on this. Mixed feelings. I’m not certain I want to tier by Dollar Value.

And if so, there are plenty of fine Tier 0 alternatives. TEAC in the $400 range, likewise Cambridge Audio DACmagic Plus, Musical Fidelity, iFi, and more.

That said, I have TEAC and iFi DACs, Dragonflies, and a Schiit BiFrost 2 is on my list for 2020 because it fits so well in the chain I have in my home office, from Mac Mini to STAX balanced amp, and/or something else like Lyr3 for non-electrostats.

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I had the TEAC Ud-503 for quite a while, and it was really pretty good. Teac doesn’t seem to get much love in the consumer space, but cross into the prosumer space and it’s decently reviewed. The 503 was capable, sounded really even and neutral. It wasn’t a stellar performer in any given area, but could be anyone’s Jack of all Trades all-in-one desktop setup very easily.

I’d also say it is one of the better desktop DAC+preamp boxes for controlling nearfield monitors I’ve ever had.

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First off Thank You! @ProfFalkin

I understand what your talking about, as synergy with other gear is very important. how would you and @pennstac
Recommend I change the tier levels, my reasoning for the financial tier levels is for the purpose of helping other viewers with options within their respective financial plans. (Not a this is more expensive so it must be better approach)

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My current Dacs are:
SMSL SU8 v2
Airist R2R dac
Also just got a Chord Mojo, currently waiting for the cables I need to try it in my system

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I have a TEAC UD-301 in my primary system. I don’t really need more there. It takes the digital stream from a Sonos connect, from a Comcast box, and from the occasional mobile source and routes it to my Wyred4Sound integrated amp via XLR. Bulletproof, nice Burr-Brown implementation, no fuss.

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If you had to create pricing tiers, then I would say do it as complete systems.

For example, the Vali 2 + Modi + Hd6xx can be had for under $500, and I’d argue it’s one of the least expensive systems with great synergy one could buy.

I don’t think you can simply tier DACs by themselves. Or even Amps by themselves. They are all 1/5th of a total system, and the sound that gets created is dependent on at least 4 other items being a factor in the equation.

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@ProfFalkin and @pennstac

I have made some changes to my initial post, please check and see if this sounds better.

Thank you

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@ProfFalkin and @pennstac

Just made a few more small changes.

Again thank you

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I didn’t recommend anything. Just said I don’t see the tiers the way you do. Cost is a huge factor, but I’m a cynic and don’t always think that you get what you pay for. Not that your tiers aren’t valid. I do think you were dismissing some good lower priced equipment.

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Right.

Look, I’m not trying to foofoo your attempt here, but as another audiophile cynic I don’t evaluate gear in tiers like this. So my point of view is kind of incompatible with what I think you are trying to do. As I don’t want to discourage your efforts, I’m just gonna excuse myself from further comments.

Please continue, I’m sorry for derailing your efforts.

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No apology needed, as you were simply giving me your opinion.

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I am the same way as I prefer to connect my own amp, or atleast have the option of incorporating my own amp.

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I review quite a lot and for a while now. Nothing over $500 yet but I personally own an RME ADI 2, I think product offering it self just got even better this year too actually.

If cost isn’t an object I would advise any one starting out to start with it.

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Got to agree with you on this one. Finding good Synergy in with a system is something that’s not often mentioned much but to me is what you want to be on the look out for when you’re trying to put together a new chain. Like others have mentioned more expensive is not always best. I am no expert in marrying together such gear but I think it an important part of the overall end result. Just my humble thoughts.

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I only have experience with the lower priced dacs on this list and I like some dont look at the price per say, but it is important to me being “retired” and on a budget!! lol

I have several low end dacs all DS but when the MB craze came out via the low cost Schitt products I sprung for a Bifrost 1 back in 2017. Went thru comparisons and the various USB implementations and compared its digtal outputs etc…

It is IMO is one of the best dacs overall especially at this price range…and the Bifrost 2 ups the ante just abit…in its newer higher resolving chips, better power regulation, Unison 5 interface, and field upgradability for any firmware changes.

We all have opinions but this dac for me is a really great choice. For 2+ years I was content, now I am really thinking of getting the newer Bifrost.

This is a great “hobby”!!

:>)
Alex

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Topping D70 (or D90) / great value & performance for the money.

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