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?


@w123ale Some words of caution.

Ask yourself: do DAC designers build DACs with the express purpose to deliver small soundstages, poor dynamics, and high glare?

The divergent results you’ve shared suggest you pull up and reflect on your entire system and the elements that may be behind what you are reporting.

It’s understandable and reasonable to want a unit of one to solve our ’problems’ or deliver what we want. You’ll get much further by addressing the larger picture.

Wishing you success.


Any recommendations for a DAC with a big soundstage, good dynamics, but low on glare? I have a Mc DAC that has the first two of my requirements but can have an edge and glare. Just trying out a PS Audio Directstream, which I’m returning because it is too closed and lacks dynamics—no glare at all though.

@jon2020 ,

I did that review and it sounds like the Audio-GD is a great value. Wonder if anyone has heard that DAC. The reviewer was raving so much about it. But again - I do not know the relationship between the distributor and the rag. It might be a genuine opinion, but of late I have been looking at everything very cautiously.

I am using Holo May, when I want to use it simply, I use USB input, the sound is already quite good.
When I want to hear better sound than USB input, I use Hydra HUB as DDC and transmit I2S signal to May.
(It can be fully compatible with the I2S pin between May and Hydra HUB)
I think May is a very good DAC with enough potential to make it sound better.
I must say here that being able to use I2S is a huge benefit, actually tested it does bring better sound than other type of inputs.