Back to the DAC

Just a bit of an update. When I inquired about a DAC upgrade in a recent post, it was suggested that I look at upgrading my cables first. Since then, I have done so (see my virtual system for that). Not over the top stuff, but a definite improvement over the mostly stock, generic cables I originally had.

System is sounding pretty darn good, but like most of us, you always wonder what a more expensive DAC will offer in the way of sound quality improvements.

Many of the recommended, higher priced DACs seem to include streamers and/or offer pre-amp capabilities. I have a good streamer and pre-amp and really don’t want all those components in one box.

Have any of you experienced a DAC which offers the sound qualities of highly praised units like the Mola Mola Tambaqui, DCS Lina, T&A 200, Weiss DAC501, etc. which their only function is a DAC?

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I definitely agree that combined DAC and streamer is not a good idea. Typically you will get one strong component and one weak one. Exam-Les of this is the Lina (good DAC poor streamer) and the Aurender lines (great streamers, ok DACs). 

For DACs Mola Mola is excellent. I would be cautious on the Weiss… very analytical. I would look at a used Audio Research DAC. 

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Sorry, I haven't heard any of them. I have also been shopping for a DAC in that range, and my research has led me to those. The ones that are just a DAC. It's hard to audition DACs. My local store has only 1 DAC, and it's $15K. A bit out of my budget.

@ghdprentice the Mola Mola has streaming capabilities as well, so is in that all-in-one category. 

@tvad point well taking, but tough to demo if you're buying used, which maybe be my case, depending on the price!

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What’s your budget, and what specific improvements and sound characteristics are you looking for?

Bricasti is excellent. I grew out of love with the network card in the M3 using Roon with it. It was emotionless and bland. the Aurender n200 blew it away and I refrain from using such claims but in this case it was exactly that. As a DAC though I highly recommend Bricasti. 

@soix Better presentation of musical overtones, amplitude, pitch, timbre, texture with a wider/deeper soundstage (if this is possible) than I have with my existing DAC. Under $10K, used is OK.

Martin Logan speakers used to be a lot brighter in the past but their newer models seem to be tamed down a touch. I'm thinking the R2R configuration of my existing DAC maybe holding thing back a bit?

The Eversolo DMP-A8 has an excellent streamer and DAC and preamp all in one. All sections are stellar. No longer do we need to have all these functions in separate chassis in order to get reference sound quality. There’s good reason many rooms at Axpona this year were using the Eversolo as a source.

In all my years in this hobby, only three times have I encountered a product that I consider an incredible value, the DMP-A8 is one of them. 

@helomech Thanks, I have heard great thing about the DMP-A8, but I'd like to stick with separates for now. Although one day, I could see myself going with an active pair of speakers...only! lol 

@audphile1 The Bricasti is highly recommended. I recall you had one but moved on to PS Audio. Which model Bricasti did you have?

Better presentation of musical overtones, amplitude, pitch, timbre, texture with a wider/deeper soundstage (if this is possible) than I have with my existing DAC. Under $10K, used is OK.

If you’re not opposed to a tube DAC I’d give Lampizator a hard look given what you’re looking for.  For solid state the Denafrips Terminator ll with either the Gaia or Hermes DDC (gets you i2S, clock, etc.) is another strong option. Just a couple to consider and either should be a considerable step up from the Gustard on every level.  Best of luck.

@navyachts I had the M3. Using the PS Audio for time being but might be upgrading soon. The PS Audio DSD MkI is a really nice DAC as well.

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@navyachts That Laiv DAC supplanted Srajan Ebans Terminator+, Sonnet Pasithea, Cen.Grand, and COS for a fraction of their costs. The leader behind Laiv hails from Denafrips, who went on his way.

Not only do they have a return policy and warranty program, they're also working on a distributor in the US. Here's the review of it at 6moons, and here's another video/podcast of it. Just advance the timeline of it to get to the Laiv discussion. It starts at 15:19,


All the best,

I have also been considering upgrading my DAC and compared the following, listed in order of my preference.  

-Bricasti M1 Series 2:   Detail, imaging, soundstage second to the Mola Mola Tambaqui but not by much.  Both are resolving, with excellent retrieval of ambient detail, secondary harmonics and decay.  Both create dense images.  The edge the Mola Mola has is separation of images and dimensionality of images. I rate the  Bricasti as my favorite because timbre is more to my preference with a richer tone than the Mola Mola. 
-Mola Mola (see discussion above). The detail, staging and imaging champ IMHO.                
-DSC Bartok 2.0 (preowned). Detail, staging and imaging equivalent to the above.  Stage further back. My preference is the more up front presentation.  Others disagree with me.  Images less dense.  Again not my preference.  Lighter is a word that comes to mind IMHO.  

You cannot go wrong with any of the three.  You need to audition in as much as a controlled comparison against your current DAC and chose the best for you.  

For now I am staying with my Wyred4Sound 10th Anniversary DAC together with an Aurender N200.   All of the above have better detail retrieval and staging.  But I prefer a rich, natural timbre with solid, dense images. I favor sharp leading edges with excellent micro and macro dynamics and the retrieval of secondary harmonics and decay.  I find my current DAC competitive in these areas that are important to me.  So for now I am trying saving my change until I have the bank for the spend on one of my top two.  

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Thanks @tvad. I never heard the M21.  Pro reviews indicate the M1 S2 comes close.  Do you have an opinion?   Also, what converter do you use most often on the M21-chip or ladder? … and what are your impressions on both.  I have been considering an M21 but would need to go preowned.  

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I have yet to hear a Bricasti i couldn’t live with, but i can say same about Lampizator and Aesthetix. I lean to a very well engineered tube output that behaves well feeding a tube preamp. Ive heard a Rockna in a well sorted system that was also very very musical. I agree on the Mola Mola comments, i’ve got significant a/b seat time vs my Aesthetix and it is polar opposite…and like @tvad i understand why people like it. 


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I understand…especially the stranger variety seems to attract tube de jour..or hour… i’ve rolled a few in the Pandora but fewer than 4 variants x 2 positions….

best wishes for 6SN7 happiness 

+1 for TVAD (both comments)

My experience: I have listened to a Lampizator Atlantic (my own) and Pacific side by side with a Mola-Mola Tambaqui and clearly preferred any of the Lampizator.

In facto and generally speaking I have not heard other DAC that pleases me more than Lampizator although not side by side (dCS Vivladi and Bartok, Audio Research, Simaudio Moon)

The only one that I enjoyed more was an APL when not using its USB input where the difference is not so clear.

Of all the DACs above I would audition the MSB DACs.  IMO, they sounded the best of all of the SS designs.  The Lampizator can be upgraded (by me) to sound excellent.  You can find a post somewhere on Agon where we did one for a customer.  That option saves you a ton of money versus the higher end cost DACs.  We also build tubed DACs on occasion for our customers.  R2R, separate power supplies, 101D DHT or 6SN7 versions.  Was not a fan of the Mola product although I do hear what people hear, but overall just not natural sounding which is what we prefer.  The other DACs to our ears are good to just OK sounding.

Happy Listening.



Denafrips makes awesome quality equipment at lower prices that “well known” brands. You can get their Terminator DAC for less tan $5K - R2R with 0.005% resistors, over-controlled clock, excellent measurements. They also offer DDC units that reclock USB signal before it reaches DAC and then sends to DAC over proprietary I2S connection. DDC can synchronize to DAC clock. Anyway, a lot of very high quality tech at very reasonable prices.

Ever looked into AQUA acoustic quality? I own the latest version of the La Scala and I'm very happy with its sound quality.

I have the MSB Premier. Very relaxed and analog sounding DAC without any strain. Highly recommend.

Check out Merason. I have heard them at a friend’s house and at my favorite room at AXPONA. Very natural. I think it will be my next DAC. 

I have a Reimyo 999ex dac. It is very high end japanese made dac that sounds as good as much more expensive dacs.  It only does 44.1 redbook CD quality which is fine with me. Also from the reviews streamers make a significant diff so there is synergy when the streamer and dac are made/designed to work with each other. Twittering Machines did a review on the Grimm MU2. Worth reading


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@soix the Lampizator is a great suggestion, buy like ​​​​​@tvad I also suffer from tubeous nervosa, lol!

@bigkidz see above & below

@riie at $27,500 you better be happy!

@vinylshadow It’s a bargain at $3,500 less than the MSB DAC! Playback Designs MPD-8 Dream DAC (

@corente APL, right up there with the MSB and the MPD-8, outta my league, but thanks for the info.

@audphile1 M3 is the entry level Bricasti, so I was snooping around and see a few used M1s around for a decent price, maybe worth looking into? What are thinking of upgrading to?

@nepfotos no, but I will look into AQUA. Thanks!

@mikhailark ok, thank you.

@tomic601 appreciate your comments.


I owned the Tambaqui late last year and sold it after a month or so.  It sounded arguably “perfect”, but was not engaging enough to me.  I have heard of others selling the Weiss for similar reasons and Benchmark (which I still own), same thing. However, each of those pieces have many satisfied users.

The point is, the selection of a DAC isn’t so much about brand names, reviews, or recommendations but rather the type of sound you are trying to achieve and the trade-offs you are willing to make to achieve it.  The reviews/recommendations can help shrink the pool but only you will be able to decide on what equipment will stay in your system and the best way to do that is to hear it in your system, to the extent feasible.

Recently I picked a slightly used t+a DAC 200 and I am really, really  pleased with the sound. My progression: border patrol SEi; Ayre codex; Ayre QB9 Twenty; Hegel 590 (built-in DAC); t+a 200. It is a good match for rest of my “colorless” ss system that reveals pretty accurately what’s in the engineering of the material. Poor quality won’t move me but, the better recordings are amazing. Bass, mids, highs, sound stage are all there. Speakers (Magico A3) disappear. For me, audio bliss for around 5k. Some of the others aforementioned may be great too but, the t+a deserves a listen if you get a chance.

+1 for the Playback Design DAC's. If the MPD-8 is too pricey, consider the Edelwiess MPD-6 or a used PBD Merlot. All extremely musical, great imaging and soundstage, with no "digital" edginess. FYI, I provided some additional information  with a comment on your system page. Good luck with the search!

The Laiv Harmony discussed earlier looks interesting but I would personally hold off until the brand is more established. If they really go the way of Denafrips then it will be a safe bet down the road. 

Look back at the Fore Audio Daisy which 6moons raved about. Seemed like a killer device made by an ambitious team with lots of experience and big ideas for the future. Where are they now? Gone. Same with the Calyx Femto DAC which was big a while ago... Calyx still churns out an occasional budget device but has no website and is basically ghost at this point. I am similarly suspicious about DiDiT High-End which received good reviews at 6moons and elsewhere for their DAC212 models, but appear to be going the way of Exogal where they never get past the initial product and eventual close up shop.

My point here is that all of these were "good" DACs but if the company folds in a couple years, there is no support and very little resale value. I find that unacceptable when there are so so many great DACs from other brands out there which won't have the same problem.

If you can stretch your budget a little you can get a new MSB Discrete w/ 1 PS for around $12K. You can add a second new PS later on for $1,495, or, pick up a used PS for about $500 (hard to find though). Pure DAC, no renderer & passive volume control only.

Rarely shows up on used market.


As been said, imo, once you get up,in the high-end dac, preference is at play. I settled on the Holo May KTE. I like a warm rich sound. The may with my pass intergated and Aurender n20 gives me just that. I’ve purchased all the Eversolo models including A8, and ro my ears in my system they are glorified junk.

The Ferrum Wandla DAC here seems to be a sonic bargain. The Lampi Baltic4 and T+A 200 also sonically punches above their price points.

Best DAC I’ve heard is the Denafrips Terminator Plus 12th, and I am a Denafrips Pontus II owner. My short list when I do upgrade: T+A 200, Denafrips Terminator Plus, and whatever Lampizator I can afford

@navyachts not sure yet what the next dac will be. Still thinking about it. Not in a hurry at the moment. 

I must second the MSB recommendation. I have the Analog Dac with the upgraded power supply (Analog Power Base). Extremely smooth, great detail, separation, wide and deep soundstage, luxurious sound. You said you are OK with buying used and this dac can be found used for 6-7k USD, so well within your budget. Also, @tvad 's suggestion to buy used and try several dacs in your own system is spot on in my opinion.

@jjss49 has generously shared his very extensive experience with dacs in a recent thread, worth reading if you haven't already done so. MSB Analog Dac is among his top 3 preferred dacs iirc.

@audphile1 Maybe include Métronome in your list ? I have a streamer from them and a friend a dac. Great stuff!