Best DACs under $7,000.00

I'm tentatively beginning the search for a DAC upgrade.  Currently, I have Innuos Zen MK3 as a streamer connected via USB to a Denafrips Iris DDC that is connected via I2S to a Denafrips Pontus II DAC.  The Pontus II is excellent but I feel it's the one point where I could gain incremental improvement toward that illusive natural, layered, analog end-of-the-rainbow.  I simply can't / won't spend above $5,000.00 - $7,000.00 on the DAC. The rest of my system:  top-of-line Prima Luna Evo 400 Integrated Amp and a set of Harbeth speakers.  Right now, I'm looking at Denafrips Terminator II or Holo Audio May DAC.  I've never seen an a/b comparison of these two, but both stand out and have a following.  Of course, the unsettling thing is DACs have evolved so much and are still in a blooming state technologically, making it a given that whatever we have today will probably be surpassed by better for less later, like electric vehicles. But that's the nature of the beast.  Does anyone have alternative suggestions in this current climate?


I've read many many threads on this question. You can obviously go find them, too.

Here's what I will say, very briefly:

First, the rate at which DAC's are evolving is not as fast as other components. This point was made over and over to me and it's sunk in. I think you're safe making an investment.

Second, the Holo May DAC is amazing sounding. I've heard it on a very resolving system and it was delightful. It's extraordinarily well built. 

Other DAC's on my radar in this price range include the Mojo Audio line. 

If you think the Pontus is 'excellent' then it seems a no brainer to stay in the family and move up to the Terminator. You might want to also consider moving up to Hermes or Gaia DDC. 

I use a Hermes DDC i2S into a Sonnet Morpheus and very pleased. If you're wanting to switch brands Sonnet makes a flagship DAC called Pasithea in your price range. 

I went from the Pontus II to an Aqua La Scala Optologic, and found it to be a significant upgrade. I have not compared it with either a Terminator or Holo May, but have absolutely no interest in changing at this point.

@gregjacob Have you considered upgrading your network player? You can improve upon your Innuos and have a few options in the 5-7K range, more if you consider used units.

I'm very pleased with my Bricasti M1 SE MDX with network card. Purchased used it's within your price range. Also serves as a network player, can't say how it compares to the Innuos. 

Another vote for Aqua La Scala Optologic, especially if you can score a pair of NOS Telefunken tubes. 

Check out the T+A DAC 200, which retails at $6900.

I am an authorized T+A dealer but have owned T+A for years prior to becoming a dealer. I personally own T+A’s $38.5K reference DAC but also have the DAC 200 on my floor. I prefer the DAC 200 to many higher priced DAC’s like the Mola Mola Tambaqui, which which I’ve done direct comparisons. The Mola Mola is more analytical and clinical in delivery, where the T+A DAC 200 has the same level of detail and separation but with more tonal richness and gravitas in delivery. The T+A  DAC 200 also has separate DACs, up to 32-bit 768Khz PCM and 1-bit DSD 1024.

Great review by The Computer Audiophile on Audiophile Style, just came out:


If you are in the Tri-state area contact us for a demonstration on DACs, etc.  I think you will find things are not equal in DAC land.

If you like the Pontus' performance, moving up to a Terminator Plus makes a lot of sense. I went from a Venus II to a Terminator Plus because I really liked the Venus, but wanted more of everything. The Terminator Plus delivered that.


For what it's worth.

Have had the Lampizator Baltic 3 in my system for the last year+ and love it. There is a lengthy B3 thread on WBF with reviews, commentary and some comparisons you might find helpful.

I'll 2nd the nod on Mojo Audio , had an EVO , but unless you can get one via used sale, or a trade-in or demo from Mojo it will be out of your price range.

A DAC that gets acclaim in your price range is the Merason DAC 1



contact us. presumably you are a dealer.

who, where?


thanks, Elliott, plainfield, nj

I’ve had Aqua Lascala, Holo May, Terminator2, Audiomirror T3, Weiss 502, Musetec 005, Topping D90, Rockna Wavelight, Lab12 Dac1 Reference and the T+A Dac200 surpasses all of them in my room. Here is a short clip I put on YT:


I started this thread then was out on business demands and now have just had a chance to read through.  Thank you to everyone for such great input.  This is why this is such a great community.  I will be re-reading and looking into the many brands and suggestions.  One thing that jumped out is the interesting response about how little the differences are between DACs. Some say there is very little and others that the differences can be night and day.  I'm sure it would depend on the level of the rest of your system. I only know what I have and my ear is still searching for the closest-to-analog sound I can get out of digits with my budget. Again, thank you to all.  This is how we discover new avenues! 

I agree…most dac’s sound very similar, until you find the one that really sucks or is really good. 

I’ve also been researching this price range. The Holo May sonics is likely above the Terminator, but the best price/performance is the Lampi Baltic3.

Thanks Kennyc.  Besides my Harbeth speakers, I also have a pair of Daedalus custom-made speakers. Lou Hinkley, the creator, is a fan of Lampizator.  I wonder how improved the Lamp Amber 4 is over the 3.  Their website says it's a complete rebuild from the ground up, based largely on their designs of the Baltic and higher models.  Would love to sample those but of course a pipe dream. If anyone has experience in those, I'd welcome some feedback.

Have any had any experience with the SPL Director?  I have the SPL Phonos and love it.

SPL Director Mk2 Preamplifier / DAC; D/A Converter; Black (Open Box)

@gregjacob Below are the link to the WhatBestForum Baltic 3 thread that was mentioned above


Kray, you mentioned the Sonnet Pasithea DAC.  I just checked it out but there is a complete absence of reviews on it (on HiFi Heaven's website).  Makes it hard to judge all these DACs when we don't have outside reviews... looks good, just no feedback.  Thanks for suggestions.

I'd like the Wyred4sound 10th anniversary DAC. the very analog sounding one of the reviewers put it up against its VPI turntable with the 5,000 Japanese cartridge and he said it sounded every bit as analog and I agree, because bested many more expensive dacs custody double and triple the 4, 500 US got the 10th anniversary that cost and the company even gives you a 30-day trial period if you don't like it you can send it back for a full refund.

There are 2 that stick out best under $10 k and I have heard at length over the last year from our tri state audio get together in New England .

#1That is as good in some ways better then the chord Dave which I feel has the most detail  at under $10 k but can be a little bit bright in some systems 

my favorite is the Denafrips Terminator + , this dac never is bright and truly extracts 

details lost in the vast majority of dacs ,

the Holo springs May KTA dac is just a bit behind in detail and is very involving .

@whipsaw ,

I looked briefly at the Aqua La Scala and wondered about the tubes. I currently have a Pontus ll as well and leave it on 24/7.  What do they say the tube life is and how warm does it get.


@gregjacob, I’m gonna be the guy who tells you that the Chord Hugo TT2 is an exceptional DAC that packs a considerable number of features in a desktop friendly  and an esthetically pleasing package. The sound I get is very detailed and non fatiguing for long listening sessions. I’ve paired it with a Chord Hugo M Scaler, and I use the exceptional WAVE Fidelity Storm BNC cables to connect the two units for a presentation that I consider very close to analog. It’s definitely not everybody’s cup of tea, but it works for me. 

  For some comparison I’ve tried the Chord DAVE which has phenomenal instrument separation and soundstage, but I thought it didn’t have the visceral punch and muscle that the TT2 does. I really liked the Weiss 502, the Mola Mola Tambaqui, dCS Rossini with its master clock, super expensive, the MSB, and also the Nagra DACs which are amazing. The Holo May DACs get a lot of praise, and I know several folks who’ve switched to them because they just hit the spot for them.


  Absolutely try before you buy! In the price range that you’re looking at there is a plethora of great equipment available. Everything is important though. The music source, the kind of music you listen too, speakers, headphones, interconnects, your listening environment, all play a big part in helping you achieve consistent music listening enjoyment. With my personal bias leaning heavily toward having as much clean power running through your system as possible. If you haven’t done as much as you can to limit RFI and EMI, then no matter how good your DAC is you’ll ultimately be frustrated and will constantly be wondering where that “wow factor” is that you spent your money on. 

I second the Doge 7 with NOS tubes.  I’m using vintage Brimar tubes and it sounds incredible.  Highly recommend. 

Hi adasdad,

Thank you for that good plug for the Chord Hugo TT.  You said, "If you haven’t done as much as you can to limit RFI and EMI, then no matter how good your DAC is you’ll ultimately be frustrated and will constantly be wondering where that “wow factor” is that you spent your money on."

What would be your way of focusing on that?  Thanks in advance.


You’re very welcome @gregjacob. Well, I’ll tell you a story. Over ten years ago I had an inexpensive Peachtree DAC-iTx DAC, a MacBook Pro. and a small Woo Audio WA6 tube hp amplifier, where I plugged everything into a cheap hardware store power strip that shared a wall socket with a 3-way living room lamp. I was pretty happy mostly until I sometimes got excited and wanted to crank the volume up. That’s when I heard the limitations of my humble setup in the form of a lot of grainy distortion. So a couple three years ago when the pandemic started, and there was absolutely nothing else to do but stay home, I started to put together my present hp system.

 I bought my first good DAC, a Chord Qutest. It was a revelation until I heard the TT2, which I quickly traded the Qutest for. Plus a good chunk of saved up money. I read that if one used an aftermarket LPSU on the TT2 then the SQ would improve significantly. And adding an Sbooster LPS did the trick. So down the clean power rabbit hole I fell. 
 As my system grew I added good power supplies and power cables to each piece of gear as I acquired them. What really opened my eyes was investing in an AudioQuest Niagara power conditioner and an AQ Storm series power cable. I also use two passive RFI/EMI filters in front of and behind my music server. One is an Audiowise SRC.DX USB to DX converter. And the other is a Network Acoustics ENO Ethernet filter. Plus I use two network switches in cascade between my router and the ENO. Both use iFi iPower X power supplies. 

 Most everyone’s needs are dependent upon their budgets and what kind of sound they’re looking for. Take your time. Read and watch as much as you can. Ask a lot of questions. You’ll be okay. 

Third vote for Aqua. I was impressed with the Aqua Voce S3 which really elevated my system. It’s less than the Aqua La Scala, around $4,700 new, or around $3,000 pre-owned if you can find one. 

PS Audio Direct Stream around that price.  Plus they have a trade in policy and try and buy.

Thanks adasdad.  Nice answer and good, broken down details.  I'lll be looking at every link to see what might be improved, piece by piece.  So good of you to take the time to detail it all. 👍


Ha, I have Harbeths (C7xd and P3xd) with the PrimaLuna EVO 400 as well. I have the PrimaLuna EVO 100 tube DAC and love it.


Aqua claims approximately 10,000 hours, equivalent to two hours listening a day for 13 years. The tubes are not expensive, either.

Ok I heard the Holo May it’s the most over rated Chinese box I ever encountered. It’s should be half the price for the way it rolls off treble and bass is not as strong as other higher level DAC’s I heard. Try a Lampizator Baltic 3 in this price range of 6500. It makes the May look like a tinker toy in comparison.

All aqua dacs sounded horrible horrible!

Mytek stuff is too bright and not a good time either.

To Undefined: Well, it looks like we share some of the same musical tastes! The PrimaLuna DAC received some great reviews in 2019-2020. It has solid availability and price (much less than the budget I set for this thread). I really hadn’t looked at it in this wish list... Will go back and check out. Thanks so much. If you enjoy your Harbeths but are looking for the next step, you might check out Daedalus speakers, hand-built for a lifetime. I think the transparency surpasses the Harbeths as well as fabulous tone. I have both and won’t part with either.


To pennfootball71:  Yes, the Lamp Baltic keeps getting passionate reviews.  At the top of the budget but has a large fan club.  So wish these units were available to listen to or had more comparative reviews.  But the market is crowded and I'm sure it's tough for reviewers to try and cover all this.  From this thread and all the reviews online, I would certainly put the Lampizator in a short list. Thanks.


The Lampizator may well be a fine DAC, but your ludicrous characterization of the Aqua DACs raises serious questions about the value of your related opinions.

I know someone who’s an official repairperson for Lamps. They come in for repair pretty regularly. What does he own? A Holo May and a Holo Spring. Super well made and I’ve heard them both. They sound incredible.

To  @pennfootball71:

I haven't written anything about the Aqua DACs at all.  Others in this thread have mentioned them but I've never seen one in person.  Your critique is aimed at others in this conversation.

I will stick with my Tambaqui.  It is very revealing but not at all harsh or tiresome with good electronics.  Compare prices after talking with the distributor, not the list price.. 

The Lampizator Baltic 3 synergizes well w/ my Innuos ZENith mk3. NO DDC, direct w/ a Callisto USB. I have tried 2 DDC's in line and it sounded better without. This is not true of other USB cables on this combo though. That may put you over your $7k budget. Also the Innuos Sense 2.0 software was more to my preference over ROON 1.8 build by just enough so that I switched over.

Good luck w/ whatever you choose. This combo works for me. 

The T+A DAC 200 has created a lot of buzz.  It appears to be one of the top contenders in this price bracket.    Yes, thanks @phastm3 for sharing.


"I’ve had Aqua Lascala, Holo May, Terminator2, Audiomirror T3, Weiss 502, Musetec 005, Topping D90, Rockna Wavelight, Lab12 Dac1 Reference and the T+A Dac200 surpasses all of them..."

I’d be tempted to check out the T+A DAC200, based on this comment. Until now, I’ve been considering the Terminator 2, Holo May... or... possibly the AudioMirror. But, now... I’m not so sure - might want to check out the DAC200 now...

I guess I’d be tempted to give a lot of credibility to someone who’s checked out all of these DAC’s and settled on the DAC200...

Would be interesting to hear from others that have tried the DAC200 and compared to others???

Though... I’m pretty sure... it will likely be an R2R DAC of some kind (though, I’m not sure the DAC200 is an R2R DAC).

My experience with the "lowly" Schitt Yggy has persuaded me of that... I think... maybe...

Well it is all subjective and This poll can only be used for making a list of potential candidates.

The OP will have to narrow the list down. Based on one commenter here I would toss his poll numbers into the percentage error bucket and move on. 



After extensive research and listening ........I went with Vlad and his American built AUDIO MIRROR TOUBADOR IV SE DAC that many reviewers have said punches in the 10 K level and costs $3500..all point to point...hand circuit boards...sold direct..( the best way to buy)..It even has 1 tube......Just ordered yesterday....can't wait. There are ALOT of options out there.