Best EXTERNAL DAC suggestions

Yes, I have the latest addition to the Bluesound node, I guess third generation, prior to the most recent anniversary X addition. I know they have improved the inner DACS with each version but now I’m asking what would be some thing better in your opinion and one that is in the ballpark.

I have Cornwall Heritage IV speakers, and I am currently running a NAD C 316BEE amp( which pairs well with Klipsch 102 db) at 40 WPC. In the winter my Mancave is heated by a tube Cary SLI-80, UL /Triode 4/8 OHMS. 
either way, I love the ability of the Bluesound node to be my preamp and facilitating my Apple Airplay 2 and the eArc into the TV/CD. Mancave is treated, speakers and me complete a 6’ triangle.

128x128Ag insider logo xs@2xmoose89

I’ll tell you, I have several systems with one as my reference. In my reference I jumped from a node to an Esoteric network player and it was a quantum leap in DACs, sound wise, performance and the ability to play DSD. However, I’ve played with using external DACs on my other vintage systems with the node as a streamer and the Nodes DACs are hard to beat. Even from their earlier version nodes. The only thing that came close at that particular price point were a Schitt Mani and an Jolida Glass tx tube dac however none or poor DSD support. So, I guess what I’m getting too is if you’re considering an upgrade go big or stay with what you have and enjoy! Otherwise the cost vs benefit isn’t there and you’re just wasting you money. Hope this helps and enjoy!

I think many Burr Brown based designs will deliver the warmth that you’re looking for. Bluesound Node uses Burr Brown (except for the latest X which uses Sabre).


check out the Parasound Classic 200 (preamp or integrated) which implements the PCM1798 quite well and can be found used for about $1000.


Or, if you use Roon then the best that I’ve heard in that price range is one of the old Parasound D/AC 1000/1500/2000 which used the PCM63. I mention Roon because that chip can only accept 16/48 so you’d need to set the Node output in Roon not to send a signal higher than that sample rate. As an aside, Mike Moffat is on record saying that the PCM63 is the best DAC chip ever made. The fellas from Pass Labs are also on record saying the same.

Might want to check this....but if you're using the Node as a Pre then the output is an analogue signal.  Not sure how you work an external DAC into this configuration.

"@moose89 La-Z-Boy recliner sets directly across from my television and entertainment center and a 7 foot or 6 foot triangle.


Got it. So the room itself if larger than I was wondering about.   Firstly, hundreds of posts over the years of people pairing external dacs with Nodes.  The BB and ESS chips version dacs sound different too, heard them natively on a few buddies systems, and after adding external dacs. Lots of members here who've done it and live well with external dacs today.   Each benefited from external dacs, however they were looking for something different, such as more clarity, less grain, smoother sound, etc.  Two more questions fwiw.

1) What are you looking for "more" or "less" of from your system now, as it stands in your existing room configuration and system setup?  i.e I recall you said warmer and soundstage. How about at the loss of some detail to be warmer, and may lose some soundstage - etc, is that okay, etc.  i.e List what's most important to you 1,2,3. Folks here can get you closer - those who've tried 4+ dacs with Nodes. 

2) Have you experimented a lot with Toe-in vs Toe straitght (zero toe) and Toe out with the Cornwalls on rollers (nice)?  I learned about this later in my audio ventures, free and easy to do, and can be quite interesting with horn speakers too. i.e. I cannot toe my speakers in too much, or it yields a beaming sound I don't like. 

Warmth and soundstage

Your goals are crying out for a tubed DAC.  At just above your price target there’s the excellent MHDT Orchid others have recommended here.  At a bit below your price target there’s the Black Ice Glass DAC.  In both cases you have the benefit of being able to tube roll to further customize the sound to your liking if you so desire, and if nothing else it’s nice to have the option.  If you’re tube averse a good R2R DAC like the Denafrips Ares II, as others have mentioned, is worth a look.  Hope this helps, and best of luck.