Advice on a budget R2R DAC

Last year I had to change my computer and since my new Imac did not have a firewire output, I had to change my DAC as well. After reading quite a bit on the topic, I decided on a Benchmark DAC 1, thinking that it made sense to replace a studio converter with another device designed for this same application. The Benchmark plays better than my old one (Motus 828), but when I listen to my turntable (which is rare), I immediately see the difference, even with an inexpensive cartridge (Ortofon OM20). My Altec 620A are quite revealing in the midrange and, contrary to what I’ve read on several occasions, the Benchmark is NOT transparent, at least not in my system. It’s also NOT musical. It sounds like a laboratory instrument. The sound is so amorphous that it doesn’t elicit any emotion. It is reminiscent of the sound of some Japanese amps from the 1970s which made excessive use of feedback to lower distorsion level. The sound isn’t bad, it’s just boring. So I decided to change my converter once again. After reading a lot on Audiogon and updating myself on what’s new, I’m keen to give R2R a try.

Here are my criteria:

- 1,5k (used)
- No tube (my equipment is always on)
- R2R
- no need for DSD (I listen to wav, aiff, mp3, etc.)
- no need for balanced inputs
- no need for volume (or headphone amp)

Converters that I consider :

- Holo Audio Cyan
- Metrum Amethyst
- Mojo Audio Mystique V2

Equipment used:

Speakers: Altec 620A
Amp: Sugden A25B
Cables: Audioquest
Computer: Imac 2017
Media player: JRiver 22
Have you considered one of the Schiit Multibit (R2R) DACs? Two of their three models are within your price range brand new -- the Bifrost and Gungnir -- and have good reputations. The Schiit DACs are designed by Mike Moffat, one of the legends in the digital world (first stand-alone DAC back in the 1980s.)

RME ADI-2DAC-FS I had an older version of this that I sold. This is there newest version. Just amazing for 1K.
Denafrips. I just bought an Ares II and like it a lot. In your price range, you could get their next model up, the Pontus. I considered that model, and may still move up to it, as I like the Ares II so much.
metrum octave
mhdt any current model
schiit gumby
van alstine fet hybrid

not nos r2r but sounds like it -
ayre codex
alaindexe Advice on a budget R2R DAC

For great sounding budget priced "discrete" R2R dacs, go with Soekris range of R2R dacs. (Get one with volume control and go direct to poweramp.)

US distributer
many models sold out

My pick for value is  DAC 1421

Cheers George
thx all for your suggestions... they are greatly appreciated...
georgehifi : these are quite rare in Canada but I will add it on my list...
jjss49 : is the Octave better than the Amethyst ?
audiosaurusrex : RME is manufacturer of sound studio equipment (like Benchmark) and I want to get away from the «studio sound».

mlsstl : thx... i'm gonne do some research about this Sh**t ;)

octave a touch richer thicker in the mids/midbass than amethyst, so amethyst sounds slightly more detailed - very very slight difference, only noticeable on direct a/b comparison
While Schiit Mutibit DACs are good for the money they are not R2R design. Seokris is a good recommendation. I've heard the 1541 model and I thought it sounded very neutral an engaging.
@kalali  -- where did you get your Mulitbit information? They are R2R designs. From the Schiit web site: "Today, virtually every DAC uses a reduced-bit technology known as "delta sigma." Multibit DACs have largely gone by the wayside, thanks to less-expensive delta-sigma technology. The few multibit DACs that exist either use NOS (new old stock) D/A chips, one of two or three still-extant multibit chips, or build their own R2R ladders at high cost. We've always believed that multibit DACs provide the best sonic performance, especially when coupled with Schiit's unique, DSP-based closed-form digital filter. This is why we've brought them together in our unique True Multibit topology, using current-production, medical/military grade D/A converters."  (Schiit also offers less expensive delta-sigma DAC options.) 

I would like to think that Mike Moffat has sufficient credentials to make such a statement. (I just recently finished the book "Schiit Happens -- The Story of the World's Most Improbable Start-up" which has provides a more detailed look at the company, their products and the people behind it all.) 
The RME DOES NOT have studio sound.
If you read ra few reviews you would get it. The DAC 1 also is widely characterized.
Good luck gaining any useful info here.
Schiit's are organic and musical to my ears.
I fairly recently bought the Benchmark DAC 1 Pre, and love it. Different stroke, I guess.
misstl, my understanding is Schiit uses the Analog Devices AD5781D/A chip in their Multibit models. I could be wrong, but when I looked at the datasheet for this chip it didn’t seem to be an R2R chip. I have no reason to disagree with Schiit if they specifically claim their Multibit DACs are R2R. They make good products and I do own one of their lower priced Mutibit DACs and am very happy with its performance given its price. Having said that, I personally would/did not buy a DAC just based on the D/A chip.
Schiit Modi "Multibit" select version (drop down list option) for $249 is claimed by Schiit to also be a R-2R Ladder design DAC. I emailed them and asked, is it truly a R-2R Ladder DAC?, and they confirmed, "yes", fwiw.

Multiple type chips used for different parts of the circuit reviewing a video of the top and bottom of the board. Only in Silver color for now, lower SNR than upper end models. "Budget" you say, hard to beat and made in the USA.

A friend just ordered one this week for his first tube system, and they are backordered a bit til Feb 4th. Hope to test out after its well burned in.

Without knowing your budget ,under $1k the Denafrips arias-2 dac
under $2500, actual $1800 the Denafrips Pontus both have won numerous awards .
If you want a essential part , theFinal touch audio USB cable 
absolutely the most musical -Analog digital cable I have heard,and own,Retail $860 call Rob at Lampizator 
system dependent not much so ,but if your-system is really warm 
then for much ruler flat neutral, the new Wireworld platinum 8 USB,even better lower price around $600. I heard the proto type a month should be out now.
It looks like you have a lot of suggestions.  I'll add in Audio-GD stuff.  Their R-28 model is well within your budget.
auxinput : you're right... quite a lot... but some people,didn't take the time to read my criteria and their proposition is irrelevant (I ask for r2r), other propose tube dac although I specified I didn't want tubes... I also realise that I've hurt feelings criticizing some dac... but hey I just try to express what I'm looking for (and NOT looking for) ... as for the Audio GD, the R2R7 was on my list, but too expensive... I'll check the R-28 for sure... thx...

BTW, my budget is 1,5k Canadian $ (about 1,2k US$)

nos r2r, no tubes, meets your spec

... have this and 3-4 years of paid-for streaming within your stated budget !!  😇

With your restated budget of $1.2k, you have a good chance of securing a nice unit.  If you'd consider something like @jjss49 suggested, Metrum Acc, or others used (second hand) for less than half the cost, you could wind up with a really nice DAC that way too.  If you buy it right 2nd hand and don't like it, the really good units can be easier to resale later if you want to upgrade again for some reason.      

Not required, but one reason some are also suggesting a "tube" DAC is you can further fine tune the sound if you want to make it ever smoother or more laid back -or- more detailed, transparent, or more forward sounding - with the change of a low cost tube. There are several other "DAC" threads on Agon to study as well.  As you are, It's worth hunting the right DAC for yourself and your particular system.  A good DAC can help you to further appreciate your Sugden amp and Altec speakers even more.  Good Luck.   
Here’s my final contenders list, in no particular order :

- Metrum : Menuet or Onyx, although the later will probably break my budget;
- Holo Audio Spring;
- Mojo Audio Mystique V2 (those are very rare in Canada, so I probably won’t be able to get one);
- Soekris dac 1421 (same comment as for the Mojo Audio);
- Denafrips Ares II (these sell like hot cakes... one was put on sale last night and was sold this morning!)

@decooney : yes, I hope I’ll end up with something that suit my taste... as for the tube, I never shut my system so that would be a waste...
@jjss49 : I have a hard time believing that the Octave can compete the others here, but I could be wrong... since I don’t use a streaming service, I rather put that money where it counts... ;)

@jjss49 : I have a hard time believing that the Octave can compete the others here, but I could be wrong... since I don’t use a streaming service, I rather put that money where it counts... ;)


it does and then some... i sold the dena ares 2, kept the octave, the metrum produces highs more naturally to my ears and has a more textured midrange (into hegel h390 driving proac response d30r) - that lil octave put cees j and metrum on the map... the transient modules are no joke.

but of course, ymmv... hope you find something you like...