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Thread: Best DAC

  1. #1

    Best DAC

    The market is flowing over with dacs; some more or less expensive, others not. The reviews are often very promising, i wonder how to spot the very best out there; the one that sound the most natural sounding, yet dynamic, open, liquid...
    Whats the best dac regardless of price? Anyone?

    I dont care about facilities; only the best sound...

  2. #2

    No comments

    No comments guys?

    Wadiaowners, Soulution, Spectral, Neodio.....................

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    Aug 2011

    Not sure if there can be a "best".

    Horses for courses. The uber expensive ones are good, the boutique DACs are good (PDX/Lampi, etc), the Mytek is good, the NAD M51 seems excellents and we hear good things about the BiFrost, Metrum Octave, wavelength,EE and even a modded Grant Fidelity Dac 11.

  4. #4

    "best" is of course relative...

    "Best" is difficult, one could argue over transparency, details, air, timber, bottom octave, naturalness......
    I have heard a lot; some of the most expensive ones argued to be the best i have found very impressive at first with the best recordings, but hard and tiresome on lesser recordings; even without the natural dynamic from low to crescendo. Also often to dry, without glow.
    I preffer naturalness, with lots of air and dynamics; the music must flow and glow! So far i have only heard one dac to do this according to my preferences....and its not the most expensive; i was wondering others thoughts.......

  5. #5
    Señor Member Jud's Avatar
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    Seeing the Bifrost mentioned, while I'm a very happy Bifrost owner, I can tell you there are certainly better DACs out there. A good friend has the Ayre QB-9. We listened to the QB-9 and the Bifrost in his system, and the QB-9 is better. The Bifrost made no egregious errors, and sounded quite good considering its $450 (with USB, $350 without) price. But the Ayre at $2K+ was better.
    The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein
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    MacBook Pro, A+ -> 2 Mapleshade Clearlink USB Plus flanking Regen (powered by LPS-1) -> iFi micro-iDSD -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
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    Aug 2011

    Yasman, what DAC

    was that you described?

  7. #7
    Senior Member mav52's Avatar
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    Jan 2012
    Orlando, Fla

    Difficult to answer not

    Difficult to answer not knowing a price point and what requirements a user wants.
    "Maybe you need to stop looking for what other people claim is best, and start assembling a system that's in sync with your own musical taste"

  8. #8

    I own the Neodio stand-alone

    I own the Neodio stand-alone DAC. Given that you are posting on this board, it may not be the best option for you .... it is a decent sounding DAC, but its 192 kHz rating is very misleading: it only accepts 16 bits/44 Khz signals.


  9. #9

    "best" regardless of price


    I am maybe in the wrong forum, but hopefully not.....
    I am after the best dac regardless of price; the one with the best flow and sense of naturalness yet detailed and dynamic.
    Today i only have the M2tech mod from John Kenny as a pc option, but dont often use it as i find a transport with aes/ebu superior. This might change in the future...

  10. #10
    Senior Member
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    Aug 2011

    You do know that a dCS stack costs

    over 80 grand, right?

    There will be people saying Playback Designs, Meitner, EMM Labs, AudioNote, the KILLER DAC (more a project than a product), Berkeley Alpha 2, Weiss, Lampizator (my favourite), Wavelength, Antelope, Theta Digital, Chord, Zanden, PDX, AMR, even the new NAD M51!

  11. #11
    Senior Member mav52's Avatar
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    Jan 2012
    Orlando, Fla


    Read here

    these regardless of price post.
    "Maybe you need to stop looking for what other people claim is best, and start assembling a system that's in sync with your own musical taste"

  12. #12

    Sytem Synergies and Personal Preferences Plays A Big Part

    The two best DACS I have ever heard are a Level 2 PDX and Playback Dedsigns (I also heard a Killer DAC that is up there but it was so long ago now and things have moved on so much I will discount it here).

    Read about the shootout here:

    I know the people on that panel - they have heard all sorts of stuff - DCS, MSB etc etc.

    Bottom line - once you reach a certain threshold there is no best - simply personal preferences and system synergies.

    BTW I own a PDX and when I heard the Playback Designs got that as well. Have heard good things about the M51 and will be getting one of those to check out as well.

    Want to find the best DAC for you? Read reviews and ones that appeal get a hold of and listen, listen and do some more listening - especially with some friends. Don't be worried about buying some DAC then reselling - we are in a different environment these days with direct selling so you don't pay dealers overheads etc etc. Check out the following rant from the guy that makes my speakers and the PDX:


  13. #13

    Playback vs M51

    @yasman: The M51 is the best DAC I have heard

    @Bill: I will be interested to hear your opinion on the M51 vs the Playback Designs
    MBP/Amarra/Wireworld USB/Empirical OR4/Black Cat Silverstar/NAD m51/Custom hand built cryo'd ALO Audio XLR/Luxman M-600A/Custom hand built cryo'd ALO Audio speaker cables/Usher 6311/JL Audio f112

  14. #14

    Playback Designs Vs M51

    Hi Woodcans

    Will be doing that eventually - I have the M51 on order - but where I am here in Australia they can't be had for love or money right now so it will take a while. Rest assured I will be comparing it to all my DAC's including the Playback Designs.


  15. #15

    Ayre DX-5

    A clear cut above the QB-9, which I owned previously. For less than the cost of a dCS Debussy you can also have a state-of-the-art multidisc A/V player. It's a truly awesome unit that has been so far underappreciated in these and other audiophile quarters-perhaps due to some people looking down their noses at anything multi-channel. Check it out-you might be surprised.

  16. #16

    Ayre DX-5

    Another vote for the DX-5. Completely agree with post above.
    Barry K

  17. #17

    How Sytem Synergies Plays A Big Role

    A friend of mine has just been at an interesting comparison where the PDX and M51 were present. Check it out:

    System synergies - system synergies - always interesting - always interesting. When I played the PDX through some SGR's at an aquantaces place we certainly noticed the bass thing but not the treble and on that system the Metrum via the Off-Ramp was preferred. And at a recent comparison with the Playback Designs it was felt by the people there the PDX was more listenable than the Playback Designs. While I was not there I have heard both and do not agree - I think the Playback Designs was extremely listenable - but then again I was playing it via my Off-Ramp which IMHO made a big difference to the Playback Designs and it was via that method I thought it may have had the PDX by the short and curlies - and why I ordered one.

    Through my reverence speakers, ML3 Reference, the PDX is far from un-listenable for long periods.


  18. #18

    I have had both dx5 and qb9

    I have had both dx5 and qb9 and both are were very good.
    Dx5 is marginally better than qb9,2 channel analog audio is exceptional,the picture quality average and remote is mediocre.
    Both pieces do not come close to DCS Debussy or Berkeley Alpha.
    In summary not worth 10+ K.
    This is my opinion only.

  19. #19
    Sophomore Member
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    Sep 2008
    St. Louis

    I don't know about being the

    I don't know about being the "absolute best", but the MSB Signature DAC IV is the best I've heard in my system. . .
    BPT 3.5 Ultra/Daedalus Ulysses/Atma-Sphere MA-1 Mk 3.2 Silver Edition/Atma-Sphere MP-1 Mk 3.2//VALabs NOS DAC/Custom Sonore Classic with Upsampling/Artisan Fidelity Technics SP10 MK II/Kuzma 4Point/VDH Frog Gold/BMC MCCI

  20. #20

    It's interesting that you had that experience. I A/B'd the DX5

    and the Debussy for a few hours and was expecting to hear a significant difference, but I didn't. In fact I was hard pressed to hear any improvement offered by the Debussy. It may of course be due to the limits of my ears and the processor in between them. I haven't heard the Berkeley.

  21. #21

    Best DAC

    Chris keeps us on the edge with a promise of revealing the Best Dac in His system in few weeks.
    Even without this extra drama,this computer audiophile website is great and informative;
    Many thanks to Chris and His stuff.
    I have had an opportunity to listen to Ayre Dx5,Qb9,AudionResearch Dac8,DCS Debussy and Scarlatti DAC at dealers place.
    The system included Audio Research Anniversary preamp,Audio Research Reference 210 amplifiers and Vandersteen 5 A speakers.
    Cables were all Audioquest sky's and above and diamond USB cable.Apple mac was the source.

    Our impression was that DCS Scarlatti dac was way above the rest and to my ears was producing better sound that 30k basis turntable(Krall SACD and vinyl).
    The dealer liked turntable sound more.
    Then DCS Debussy,followed by dac8,dx5,qb9.
    13000 $ Burmester was also included but was the weakest of all.
    DCS Debussy after few hours of listening made us tired.
    Few people PREFFERED dac8 over Debussy
    In summary all listed DACs are very good! except Burmester and a buyer should be happy with either one.
    Weiss DACs were not very impressive during last year Newport Beach Audio Show(poor setup?)

  22. #22

    how about Meridian 808.3?

    Just curious as stereophile commented on this as better then the scarlatti and equal+ to Boulder

  23. #23

    Phasure NOS1

    check out that DAC... 8 chip (multi-bit) DAC
    Steve Kuh[br]Mac Mini > Glyph HD > Weiss AFI1 (slave) > modded Esoteric D70 (master) > BAT VK51SE > Classe CA400 > Harbeth Super HL5[br]\"Come on the amazing journey and learn all you should know...\"

  24. #24
    Hello Tim
    I too have the Neodio NR DAC , yes the usb is 16 bit only as I have found out , I purchased a usb to spdif converter for 24/192
    however i can only get 24/96 where I understand it can do full 24/192 as per manual. Maybe its my macbook , I would be gratefull for your input ? Thanks. BTW superb sounding dac lovely tonal colours etc very un digital .

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by catastrofe View Post
    I don't know about being the "absolute best", but the MSB Signature DAC IV is the best I've heard in my system. . .
    I envy you.
    I had the opportunity to audition a MSB signature DAC1V recently and I was very impressed. It's the first time in my audiophile life that I've heard a digital system that's completely devoid of all digital artifacts. For the first time I heard transient attack and decay that sounded like a live recording. Even the mighty Berkeley Alpha does not reach into this territory. The hype is very much deserved.