Appreciate Some Dac Advice

Looking at improving on my main DAC which is currently at Krell Digital Vanguard.

My systems...

Windows 10 system running Logitech Media Server 8.2 connected to Synology DS920+ NAS where flac and dsf files are stores. Significant portion is either 96 mHz flac files from blu ray audio, 96mHz and 48 mHz files from DVDs or dsf files from SACDs. Other than that, have Tidal and use the LMS Tidal plugin.

Main system: picorePlayer 8 on Raspberry Pi 4 with Hifiberry Digi2 Pro > Coax > Krell Digital Vanguard > Dynaudio Focus 360

Outside System: picorePlayer 8 on Raspberry Pi 4 > USB > Cambridge Audio Dacmagic 200m > NAD C325BEE > Definitive Technology AW6500

Home Theater: picorePlayer 8 on Raspberry Pi 4 with Hifiberry Digi2 Pro > Coax > Denon AVP A1HDCI > Dynaudio Focus 220 MK II

Everything is played using Squeeze Ctrl on my phone.

Mainly listen to main system and outdoor system.

Looking to improve on the sound in main system. Think I will not see significant improvement with the outdoor one unless I want to upgrade speakers and Amp. But, don't think you can do much better than AW6500's for outdoors (open to hearing other options).

So, been looking at the Chord Qutest and RME ADI-2 DAC FS as possible options to improve on the sound over the Krell. Also had looked at Ifi Pro iDSD. Haven't auditioned any. Just a lot of research. Prefer a ceiling at $2K. While, I don't mind tinkering, prefer set it an forget it. Which had me thinking about Chord Qutest. I would like DSD as I have a significant SACD collection. However, not hung up on native DSD and DOP and PCM are okay.

Thank you for yous thoughts and help.


Given your system I would recommend a Schiit Yggdrasil as a minimum. This is an excellent DAC for the money… while I have not heard the Chord, I have read quite a bit about it, I think for a substantial upgrade the Yggdrasil Is the very minimum, and I would consider a used high end DAC if you want a significant upgrade in sound quality. A really high quality DAC is critical for a great sounding system.

Love me some piCore Player Try Orange Squeeze.

You are looking in the right direction. The only way to know what is best for you is to have a shootout. Just stay away from Schiit, no native DSD.

Anyone who recommends it don’ know or care.

I lean more towards FPGA.  I'm not you.


Of the 3 you mention I would try the RME it has some EQ ability. As far as sound better I don't know as I have no idea what the Krell has.

@fuzztone , pretty happy with Squeeze Ctrl. I've been through all of them. Really liked Squeeze Commander, but stopped being supported and dropped off Play Store. Of the controllers out there though, Orange Squeeze and Squeeze Ctrl seem to be the best supported.

Krell Digital Vanguard has 32 bit ESS Sabre DACs. The Digital Vanguard’s coaxial and HDMI inputs support PCM audio up to 24bit/192kHz. The optical digital input supports up to 24-bit/96kHz audio. DSD is only supported through HDMI. I believe the chip is an ESS Sabre 9018.

I've found with DACs you need to get into some esoteric designs to hear differences. I doubt I would hear any between the RME and Krell unless Krell really screwed up their implementation. The RME does have some EQ but there are other less expensive products that would do a lot more in that regard. 


Yes! I've had my Pontus II for a couple of

weeks. Wonderful sounding DAC right out

of the box, still breaking in. Great build

quality and the price is very reasonable.

Several online reviews you can check out.

I'll chime in also. I've had the Pontus II 

for about 2 weeks and it is superb. It

sounded great right out of the box. 

Great sound, built like a tank and 

reasonable price. Very happy with

this DAC. I spent about four hours 

today listening to all genres of


If you have $2800 the Denafrips Venus is much better then the Schitt tags I owned their latest hardly analog sound

I swap in some fairly exotic DAC's, but always amazed when I put the ol Benchmark DAC2 back in.  Very transparent and fluid with firm, deep bass.

@btscott - Three weeks now with my new Pontus II. Though I have yet to compare with other DACs, I did notice an overall improvement when bypassing the built in DAC in my Hegel H190.

If it is true that there is a break in period, then I look forward to hearing even better details, resolution, etc.

Definitely worth an audition.

Build quality is great too. Very satisfied with this DAC. And I just made it before the price increase!

Safe listening and good luck in your search.

Another thumbs up for the Pontus II. I am also running this with a Hegel H190 and am very pleased with the results.

Thank you for all the overwhelming support of a possible Pontus decision.Any thoughts on Pontus II vs Gustard X26? Also, how is Pontus at dealing with dsf files?

@btscott, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed owning a Chord Qutest DAC. I believe it to be the best DAC made today at its price point! It’s presentation is neutral and accurate and very easy to listen to. It takes up very little space and it’s build quality is exceptional. 

I would suggest trying ifi zen streamer to your Krell dac first. That strikes me as your weak link. Comes with silent PS and can stream Tidal connect, which pulls direct from the cloud and uses the phone as a remote. I would think your Krell would provide guidance as to the preferred method of how to connect to a digital device (USB or SPDIF).

I have been doing A/B comparisons of the X26 and Pontus II for the past week.  They are very close.  In my system they are effectively identical with a USB connection to my Raspberry Pi endpoint running Roon/Qobuz.  The Pontus II is better when you use the Denafrips Iris DDC in between the Raspberry Pi and the DAC.  That may just be that the Pontus can connect to the Iris over I2S while the X26 pinouts are incompatible with the Iris I2s so you have to use AES, Coax or Toslink.  But even when the Pontus II is better it is a fairly small difference that you mostly hear on the decay of something like a gong or acoustic guitar.  


top candidates in my view (used, 2k or near abouts, or under)

dena pontus (as mentioned) - well balanced presentation, nice resolution, big soundstage, warm mids and bass, slight ss grain

soekris 1541/2541 - very similar to pontus, a bit more forward treble, slightly smoother mids, useful variable output

doge 7 - great smoothness and effortlessness, nice warmth, slightly tubey character, slightly softer bass, useful variable output

audio mirror tubadour - touch warmer than doge, further touch slower, more romantic, bloomy bass, slight treble grain

mhdt orchid/stockholm/istanbul - rich flowing smooth sound natural detail (sound varies with tube used in buffer stage), modded versions add outstanding bass impact

chord qutest - other side of spectrum - clean crystal clear sound, terrific soundstage, fast and lean, but minimal ss grain

schiit yggy - similar to pontus/doge but more forward treble, touch of grain/sibilance

hope that helps


Thanks for the input. Might get a Pontus to A/B. Will be using USB connection from picorePlayer to Krell via balanced.

Bought a Gustard X26 too, and kept it.

Had others that were more expensive (more than double the price actually), and quite honestly the x26 is better than some of my other DACs that I got a hold of for way, way less than 1/2 the price. The European/American/Canadian DACs just couldn’t compete anywhere near the price point. (Never tried other Chinese DACs.)

The Gustard X26 was an eye opener.

This is all gleaned hearsay, so ultimately I don’t know. Pontus II is supposedly #3, between 1 & 2 supposedly would be the Holo Audio Spring 3, and the Yggdrasil around that price point. I have had the Yggdrasil 2.0 since it first came out, they were not even telling people that it had an upgraded analog version when I purchased mine. The Yggdrasil has many detractors, but remember different people like different things. The Holo Audio Spring 3 supposedly spanks the Denafrips hands down. The new Yggdrasil Less is More supposedly spanks the Yggdrasil OG, and ONE reviewer using headphones said that the Yggdrasil OG sounded better than the Spring 3, some disagree. I have the Unison upgrade on order. Mike Moffat used to say that the S/PDIF was better than the Yggdrasil USB 5, but I noted that when they invited reviewers in to check out the 3 Yggdrasils that Schiit was using the Unison USB inputs, so one would presume that their USB inputs are now king. Years ago Krell had a reputation as being dark. If still true, the Denafrips Pontus II might be for you as I would think from the reviews that it is more Vandersteen like than B&W like, Vandersteens, to me, sound like slow B&Ws with a terrycloth towel over the B&W tweeters. Now to me if you have ANY bright gear in your system, B&Ws can be ear bleeders, and I believe the same about the Yggdrasil OG. I also ordered the Less is More board for my OG Yggdrasil, along with a Holo Audio Spring 3 KTE version. I ought to know for sure who is the best of those 2 in a few months, the Spring 3 is about 5 weeks out, and the Less is More board is app. 9 weeks out. YMMV, and much of this is based upon 3rd party reviews of the equipment as my only personal experience has been with the Yggdrasil OG with the Gen 5 USB, though I have been using the S/PDIF input. Being a detal hound I have dismissed the Denafrips, though the top end Denafrips and the Holo Audio May KTE might be quite a different story than the foregoing according to one reviewer, but I don’t know if he’s a Vandersteen or a B&W type, and that’s irrelevant to me as I am not going to spend 6K on my final choice.

Even the Ares II is better sounding than the Qutest, so the Pontus is a good option.

For 2K the trade in W4S DAC2v2DSDSE is a killer deal.  I much preferred it to my Yggdrasil.  Smoother and more detailed and solid rich low end.  Remote and attenuator

I sold my W4S for a Denafrips Terminator.  I agree with using a DDC with Denafrips DACs.


Even the Ares II is better sounding than the Qutest

not true as a blanket statement, too simplistic

depends on the system, the feed, the synergy needed from the dac in terms of its sound signature

Can't beat the Border Patrol dac @ $1075. No filters and a tube In the power section. Tube can be turned off, but why would you.....any how it sounds natural, may I say more Analog and less Digital.....

I received my Gustard X26 Pro today and immediately connected it.

Logitech Media Player 8.2 > picorePlayer > USB > Gustard X26 Pro > XLR > Krell Digital Vanguard > Dynaudio Focus 360.

All I can say is WOW! Even without burn in and straight out of the box with default setting, this sounds so much better than the DAC in the Krell or the Oppo 105 DAC I have also tried using. I also use a Cambridge Audio 200m for my outside system and have tried that in my main system and also no comparison.

I hope to do some comparisons, but this is going to be tough to beat.

I super impressed by the soundstage.

Also, super fast turnaround. Ordered from Amazon on the 18th and received it today.

Matrix Audio.

Chi-Fi but the whole enchilada.  

Case: check - CNC machining.

Chip: Check - ESS 9038 best off the shelf chip out there.

Connections: Check - all options (I use I2S)

Sound: Check - better than my W4S and better than my Oppo 205 (used as a DAC).  Neutral sounding.

DSD: Check

Remote: Check

Looks: I am happy with it.