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?


@gregjacob You’re welcome. I would say the DAC 200 has soul, and many other characteristics. It’s a DAC I could likely live with if I didn’t already have the SDV 3100 HV. That one definitely has much greater tonal density, richness, and decay, but it’s scary how well the DAC 200 performs at a fraction of the SDV’s price.

If the Lampi Atlantic TRP has the better Mundorf caps in them, they might be worth considering, but you’ll also have to land the right tubes which will give you the balance of soul and resolution, and that can be either very rewarding or very frustrating. I know in all my time, I’ve always wanted my solid state to have more tube characteristics, and my tube gear to have more definition and improved performance at the frequency extremes like SS. It wasn’t until I went T+A that I got the best of both worlds and likely will never look back. Prior to that my primary system had anywhere from 10-30 tubes in it. Now… zero.

I also subscribe to Stereophile and have not seen a review on the Audio GD R-7HE. Also, an R2R DAC cannot do DSD by itself. My Audio Holo May R2R DAC has a Separate built in DAC just for DSD processing.

Beware of Audio GD. I had two of them. The last one would not play DSD as announced. After 40 messages with the omner, he said he would refund me. So I sent the DAC to China.  But the Chinese customs held it up and wanted to charge import duties. Kingwa refused to clear the issue, saying that I should have made a fraudulent low evaluation to clear customs. Eventually, the unit was forcibly destroyed by Chinese customs. I lost all my money and shipping, because he refused to behave responsibly.

There are lots of DACs out there. Stay clear of Audio GD, unless you don't care about quality, service or both.

I now have a Pontus . I don't like any upsampling DACs. They all sound brittle to me. I hear good things about the Sonnet Passithea. I will try it soon.