DAC Question: Delta-Sigma vs R2R

I have a general question, I am looking to buy my first standalone DAC, right now I have an Azur 851N, which is a streamer/DAC. As I look I continue to see discussions on Delta-Sigma vs R2R DACs.

I am in no way an audio expert nor do I have a good understanding of electronics.

In Laymen terms, Could anybody explain what is the difference between the 2 technologies?



Hi All,

First off thanks to everybody who took the time to provide me feedback/advice, this was invaluable and I have researched everything sent my way. Especially thanks to fellow tinnitus folks. Getting quality advice about my specific situation was important and I don't know of anywhere else I could have receive that input.

Based on these discussions and what I learned from researching I think my path is:

1) I really needed to do more critical listening to my system to understand strengths and weaknesses, I am not a critical listener, I just melt into the music. I am not sure I am in a good position to do this right now as I've been listening to the same system for a long time. I think getting a different DAC in will lead me to learn much more about my system.

2) I need to have a better understanding of what is important to me. Been doing this since the thought first started rolling in and I have learned I am not a detail hound. I have learned that what really excites me is having natural tones and depth of tone to my music which puts me in a realistic setting. That combined with a broad and well defined sound stage to paint the picture. Those are 1 and 2, all else is great icing on the cake.

3) I have created a short list of components to try based on what I heard here and learned from my research. I am looking to try the following as they seem to fit my budget, system cost and unanimous praise:

  • MHDT Labs Orchid
  • Merason Frerot
  • Border Patrol
  • Denafrips Ares II
  • Shiit Gungnir

The challenge is finding ones to listen to. I basically live 100+ miles away from quality audio stores and the cost to drive there and back, the lost day, and then not hearing it in my system, not in my room, and all that is probably not optimal. If I can get a fair deal, I listen to one for 2-3 months if I like it and then resell it and probably will cost me less than a tank of gas and provide me a relevant experience. It also allows other to move up the food chain while I nibble at the bottom.

What I think makes sense is to just pick up the next good deal used and see what it does, and then for some of the items such as the Schiit or Denafrips, if I really dig it it could lead me upstream. So take the path of opportunity.

So honestly, this may all sound like an obvious path, but this discussion has given me the confidence to take it.

Thanks and Ill probably chime back in soon for more advice once I learn more.

Much appreciated


Good thread...  You write... " I need to have a better understanding of what is important to me."   This is not a trivial process!.     What 10  or so pieces of music do you listen to to make that determination. What does each piece require the equipment to do?    Next step is to get your characterization down in words and know that when you listen to the same equipment and music a week later you draw the same experience and words with recordings you know.     This is the process of Distinguishing  "what is important to me"    Then you can plug in a new piece of equipment and hopefully distinguish the characteristics that you hear using the words that you know what they mean.  ...     You write you value " having natural tones and depth of tone to my music"    Only you can know what that means... but the reality check for communicating is Live Music and this  grounds sound reproduction in the world we share.    Checking in on a skilled singer without amplification is a must.   (God I miss live music in covid)    This  allows some communication with others about you what  hear and what you like and gets you feedback that is relevant. ...    I would try to resist the A B testing phase until you are comfortable with your characterizations.    When you do get around to  making a selection of A or B ....   consider you are choosing  A or B  and selecting one and not deciding on A or B to select one...      If you are deciding.... the root of the word is cide... ie matricide... homocide..   try not to kill off one...   and avoid the  better or worse framework.... try I prefer A over B because I value the  xxx on these pieces of music and that is what I choose.   This advice came from my visits and purchases at  Lyric Hi Fi in NYC.   I came to love the Burrmeister Sampler 2 disk that was the Lyrics go to  music selection because the range of music covered all of the bases to challenge equipment.   

So... that is a lot easier said then done! .... Now, the other half of  the value of a shop like the Lyric is that the more you know about what you want, the better the guys could point you in the right directions.    I have this vivid memory of my first visit and  walking in and wanting to A B Dacs on a Saturday afternoon.... and the older owner, one of the most well known guys in high end audio walking by overhears my conversation and asked... How would I know?  Ha 10 minutes wasn't gonna do it...waste of my time.       so... "and then not hearing it in my system, not in my room, and all that is probably not optimal"  was exactly the point he made to me..  In those days,,   all we had were ladder dacs and the key was how to filter the output.....  A few more 200 mile trips to NYC and my ability to select ANY DAC was just a total stop.... Bottom line...  Lenny said...look... this DAC just came in trade yesterday.... buy it.... its brilliant and a steal...   Trust me! ... And so I did....   He was right... and I have spent the rest of my time in the hobby doing the fun hard work of critical listening using my Burmeister Sampler disk!... AND trusting some people who's judgement I trust. Both of these gears work for me..  The brilliance of choosing a purchase versus killing off 3 pieces I considered and keeping the 4th for me is the freedom from second guessing  and my enjoyment is much much better.   Have fun!

Friends don’t let friends buy archaic digital gear.  Everything in our signal chains endures, but not DACs

As @tcadden brings up… learning about sound and what you want is critical. I highly recommend this book:

The Complete Guide to High-End Audio

Book by Robert Harley


 Knowing the terminology and match your observations to each of them makes learning much quicker. This allows you to identify and articulate what you want and to read professional reviews.

@ noske :

The folk at Holo are disciples of certain funky marketing gimmicks which do not impress me.

Could you please specify in detail just what those ’marketing gimmicks’ Holo Audio employs are? Thank you!

I bought my Holo Audio ’MAY KTE’ DAC from Kitsune HiFi, Holo Audio’s U.S. dealer, which is based in Oregon. I had no issues whatsoever with either the dealer, Kitsune, or the delivery of my purchase.