This is my first post on the Harbeth forum - greetings from the Lower Blue Mountains outside of Sydney
I have heard and liked both the Audio Gd Ref 7.1 and the Lite Dac 83 - both are moderately priced. Both are large and heavy.
The Weiss Dac's attract favourable comment. And have the advantage of asynchronous firewire.
I am also a great fan of the Audio Note Dac's especially the 4.1 Signature, which second hand should come in budget.
A solution I am contemplating is a Lux D 05 or 06 which has a coax input allowing it's dac and analogue sections to be used, while still giving you SACD capacity.
I encourage you to try a JKeny modded hiface to convert USB to bnc/spdif or 12s. It is a stunning piece of kit and very moderately priced. I use an Auraliti PK100 music server and am very satisfied by it's capability: the JKeny matched it in my system. If I was Mac based for music I would use one.
If you haven't already, and you have $5000 to spend, I would chose the Berkley Designs Alpha DAC. It supports all commonly used bit depths and sample rates up to 192kHz. It will also read and identify HDCD albums. There are a lot of positive reviews on the Alpha and it is felt to be the ideal counterpart to the HRx recordings (Reference Recordings 24 bit 176kHz studio master dubs). Personally, I own a Bel Canto DAC3 and like it very much. With the available upgrade and switch mode PS, the Bel Canto is comparable to the Berkley. I've heard a good many DAC's including Weiss, Ayre, Bryston, MSB, Benchmark, and dCS. All of them are great products, but I feel the Berkley Alpha is the most musical DAC available. http://www.cryo-parts.com/index.php/...y-audio-design
Yamamoto DAC - valve or solid state
Another suggestion that I've found out about recently is the Yamamoto DAC. They make a solid state output version and latterly made a valve output version too. Read the review on a well known internet-based review site. I've just bought their headphone amplifier and am really pleased with it.
thank you for all of your suggestions. After listening to a few suggestions I'm now the very pleased owner of a wavelength cosecant v3 DAC. A few weeks into listening and I really like it! I can't quite say what's right about it, just that nothings wrong if you know what I mean. Got it second hand so got a descent price+it's also upgradable with sabre32-chips which I think is really nice. :-)
It should be said that I don't have loads of experience with comparing DACs. But that said - I would recommend the cosecant to others looking for a USB-DAC and have a good size budget.
But as been pointed out so many times before - the only way is really to listen to the component in your own system and with music you know well.
Wow, the Wyred4Sound DAC2 sounds great at any price. My subjective impression is that it is very close to DAC in my McIntosh C50. I would say the DAC2 has a little more detail in the top end, a little more bass, with a slightly more recessed midrange.
Please take my subjective impression with a big grain of salt. It's difficult to do A/B testing because of all the variables. We are comparing an external device connected by patch cables to line level inputs to a DAC that is internal to my preamp. The digital input is not the same (i.e., S/PDIF optical into one DAC and S/PDIF coax into another). I am able to do level matching, but that's about it. They are so close that I doubt I could tell the difference under controlled conditions.
A friend of mine with better ears than mine (he is a classical pianist) has replaced his Bel Canto DAC3 with the Wyred4Sound. He says he prefers the sound, but I think the bigger factor for him is the DAC2's home theater passthru feature. He does not use a preamp, so this feature allows him to use just the DAC2 in front of his amplifier in the home theater system.
Suffice it to say that the Wyred4Sound DAC2 holds its own with state of the art DACs like the Bel Canto and the McIntosh, but is offered at an extremely attractive price. It appears to be a well thought-out, high quality unit, made here in the USA.
Originally Posted by megamonkey
I have had Benchmark DAC's in my system for over 8 years, never had a desire to bother with anything else.