Presently my system is: Qobuz > Lumin U1 Mini Streamer > Electrocompaniet ECD-1 Dac > Herron VTSP-3A (R03) Pre > Odyssey Khartago Extreme Amp > KEF r11 Speakers.

The ECD-1 dac is 20 years old. I've had issues with this dac at times not playing 24/192 music at all even though its rated to handle it. Recently I've had to adjust settings in the Lumin to play 24/192 music at 24/96 in order for it to play. So, I want to replace it with something using a bit more current technology. My budget is 1800.00 for something used.

To my ears, the KEF r11 is a very detailed and revealing speaker. Well recorded music sounds great. Poorly recorded music sounds very poor and again to me, that means edgy and fatiguing highs. I'm looking for a warm and musical presentation. Things I've done to lean in that direction are getting the Herron pre and adjusting the bias of the Khartago towards a warmer sound also.

Dacs I've been studying have been R2R NOS dacs like Border Patrol, Denefrips Pontus II, and others. I also have looked at the Schiit Yggy LIM.  So I'd love to hear from anyone who perhaps has had a similar quest and what was found to fit the warm and musical goal. Thanks for any comments!



I would recommend the Yggdrasil. It has a very well balanced sound quality for its price.


For fun I asked Bard. This sounds like a pretty good comparison to me.


Comparing and Contrasting the Sound of Border Patrol, Denefrips Pontus II, and Schiit Yggdrasil DACs:

Choosing the "best" DAC is subjective and depends heavily on your individual preferences and listening setup. However, I can compare and contrast the sound qualities of the Border Patrol, Denefrips Pontus II, and Schiit Yggdrasil DACs to help you make an informed decision:

Border Patrol:

  • Sound Signature: Warm, smooth, and analog-like with a focus on musicality over technical precision.
  • Strengths: Excellent bass response, rich midrange, and forgiving with imperfect recordings.
  • Weaknesses: Can lack detail and transparency compared to some competitors, soundstage might be perceived as narrower.

Denefrips Pontus II:

  • Sound Signature: Neutral, detailed, and highly resolving with a focus on accuracy and transparency.
  • Strengths: Exceptional clarity and detail retrieval, precise imaging and soundstage, dynamic and engaging sound.
  • Weaknesses: Can be unforgiving with bright or harsh recordings, might sound analytical or sterile to some listeners.

Schiit Yggdrasil:

  • Sound Signature: Balanced, natural, and spacious with a focus on overall coherence and musicality.
  • Strengths: Excellent tonal balance, wide and deep soundstage, smooth and refined presentation.
  • Weaknesses: Not as detailed or resolving as the Pontus II, bass might not be as impactful as the Border Patrol.

Here's a table summarizing the key differences:

Feature Border Patrol Denefrips Pontus II Schiit Yggdrasil
Sound Signature Warm, smooth, musical Neutral, detailed, transparent Balanced, natural, spacious
Strengths Bass response, rich midrange, forgiving Clarity, detail, soundstage, dynamics Tonal balance, soundstage, smoothness
Weaknesses Lack of detail, narrow soundstage Unforgiving, analytical Less detail, bass impact

Export to Sheets

Additional factors to consider:

  • Price: The Pontus II is the most expensive of the three, followed by the Yggdrasil and then the Border Patrol.
  • Features: The Pontus II offers the most features, including multiple digital filters and upsampling options. The Yggdrasil and Border Patrol are more minimalist in their approach.
  • System synergy: The sound of a DAC can be affected by the rest of your audio system. Make sure to choose a DAC that will complement your existing equipment.

Ultimately, the best way to choose a DAC is to listen to them yourself and see which one you prefer. If possible, try to audition them in your own home with your own equipment.




As I start to hang around this forum more, just wanted to call out the nice service provided by @ghdprentice and so many others of you (and this mysterious Bard!).  The above is very helpful (though I'm not shopping for a DAC).

I have the Pontus II and do not find the weaknesses as described by Bard.  The Pontus II being fed by my MacBook Pro sounds better than the HiFi Rose 250a I had.  I've since added a Hermes DDC and it sounds even better now.  It sounds detailed but musical to my ears.  Excellent soundstage and imaging, etc.  Sterile or analytical are not words I would ever use to describe it.  I'm running it into a McIntosh MA8900 and it's a good match for me.



Thank you for your kind words. BTW, Bard is Googles AI. I have been really surprised how good it is at these kind of esoteric questions.


Each system is different, and how it will sound within that context. In your system the MAC is very warm, with strong mid-range and bass bloom… so the detailed DAC works well. The summary is not derogative.


@ghdprentice i agree absolutely.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s very warm but it is warm and honestly I’m  probably splitting hairs with you over it.  I didn’t read the summary as derogatory, I’ve just never heard that about the Pontus and it’s certainly not my experience.  I’m a bit surprised by it I suppose.  Either way I enjoy it and it works well in my setup.  Your point about each system and its context is spot on.

Thank you for the replies. I wondered if Bard was an AI tool. I confirmed with a search. Very cool. @ghdprentice  Thanks for posting your findings. I'll have to play with that AI tool a bit. If Bard was the final word, I'd lean towards the Yggdrasil since it's strengths align the best with what I'm looking for. It's weaknesses are something I can accept. I also forgot to add in my OP the fact I have two SVS subs so I can get the bass where I like it. The research I need to do if I go with the Schiit is to fully understand the different models/versions of the Yggy. It's my understanding the LIM is what I should be looking for.

Thanks again for the replies.


The Music Room is selling factory refurbished PS Audio DirectStream Mk 1's with latest software update for $2000. Factory warranty for 1 year. That's a $6k unit. I got one and it is like brand new. Oh, and there's TMR's normal return policy so you can try it without risk. I don't know what would be a better opportunity at that price.


The Music Room is selling factory refurbished PS Audio DirectStream Mk 1's with latest software update for $2000. Factory warranty for 1 year. That's a $6k unit. I got one and it is like brand new. Oh, and there's TMR's normal return policy so you can try it without risk. I don't know what would be a better opportunity at that price.


Post removed 

just wait for @soix 

He’s going to ask you Again, this totally depends on what sound characteristics you’re looking for

he’s the expert but we don’t know his background  😂😂😂😂

@ghdprentice Oh, THAT Bard.  Yes, now I get it.  I have been surprised at the quality of GenAI responses, though I use ChatGPT.  Need to strike up a relationship with Bard!

I have the Audio-GD R-8.  It blows me away all the time.  I haven't read comparisons to anything recent, but it's into revision 3, and has some nice improvements since I got it.



Most people swear by the improvements of the HE version.  It's got built-in power conditioning, for only $440 more, at $2290.


If I were buying again, I'd get the HE version.

Post removed 

I strongly second the PS Audio DirectStream Mk 1.

I went from a Yiggy to the Directstream and its not even close.

This was a legit 6K DAC,,,,,and your stealing it a 2K refurbished.

This is a complete no brainer at this price point.

BTW- comes with a fantastic remote so you can change inputs on a fly.

And the build quality is superb. You can also go direct into your amp using the remote for volume.

OP is asking about a very intelligent and important upgrade.  I believe in music streaming the DAC is essentially the phono cartridge.  I would take a good look at the Holo Audio Spring 3.  This R2R DAC should give you a lot of what you're looking for and second hand should be right on your price.  The interconnects from your DAC to your Pre will likely be the most important in the chain so take care which ones you choose.  Good luck and cheers.  

I believe a DAC is the next most important piece in your systems with speakers being #1. I like to get a betterDAC I buy used to let the markup and depreciate from normal retail. I can punch above my weight class buying used. Need to do your research no short cut. Need to match components in system to get best results.   Need to find a person, most not in retail, to help put together your pieces. 

I can wholeheartedly recommend the Audio Mirror Toubadour IV SE.....It's the most Musical DAC I've experienced under 10 K.......The Weiss DAC 204 and the T+A are both more than $3500 but are also excellent. I'd buy one of those 3 DACs. you can't go wrong !

For around $1900. You can get the best in class Denafrips Pontus-2 12th anniversary dac it is a excellent R2R dac and a true bargain and beats many dacs that are much more expensive just do a review search ,the 12th is their latest version-and even better and that is the delivered price ,and they are Very dependable I owned 4 of them and still have a Terminator2 

they have a service center in TX if the need ever came up.

You’ve got the speakers to do what you want. I’d say never mind the DAC - low 3 figure$ USD will get you where you want to be, so long as your music source files are what you need them to be.

In doubt? Ask those informants who “researched” what their measures of experimental replication were. I’m hazarding the guess a sample size of 1.

It’s your money. So it’s your call :)

The Denafrips Pontus-2 has been upgraded and much better in the 12th anniversary addition and still under $2k.

I really like the Synthesis, Roma 69 & Line Magnetic tube DACs. I use an older LM 502ca and rolled in some high-end 12au7s & rectifier tubes - its ridiculously great and better sounding than anything I’ve experienced for upwards of $5-$6K. I use an Audience, AU24se digital cable too which is a great connector. So many terrific moderately priced DACs... these are a couple I enjoy


being  a reviewer for 50 years or whatever doesn’t make you resident expertise on every speakers , dacs streamers amplifiers and so on 

all what I’m saying is when someone post for specific amps streamers etc etc and looking for actual owners expressions and never own it stay away 

@jfmerk - do you have a local area group of audio folks (AES?) near you, maybe someone [nice] in the group will let you demo their R2R dac?.

Having tried a few different lower to mid-priced r2r dacs with different technologies, and a well praised non-r2r dac, uh... what I started with and ended up with was quite different from what I originally thought I might do. There seems to be a lot of hype with dacs, imo. Unless someone with some experience and decent ears hears your system [in your room, speakers, cables, setup] and has a good idea of which direction you want to go, [after you demo multiple dacs] you might land a little closer to where you want to be. Its a big guess otherwise. I think most of what we do here is trial and error, and learning best we can from others as we go. Reading posts and doing real demos is a completely different thing to consider. This can be expensive and might take a while to hit the target IF you just buy/resale later, and don’t demo stuff. Try to get a few loaners or a dealer loan/buy/returns if you want to save some time and $. A great dealer or retailer with a solid return policy can help a lot. Best of luck.

Gustard r26 can be had new within your budget. Adding the r26 did great things to my system with KEF R5 speakers. It might not have much brand cache or visual appeal, but the sound is so pleasing to my ears - just a great balance of warmth and detail that makes all my music sound great. I haven't experienced any harshness (zero fatigue issues) across my library of primarily of CD quality files.

The Audio Mirror DAC is Tubed and R2R.....Hand made by Vladimir and a musical instrument $3500

@mbmi The Audio Mirror DAC is Tubed and R2R.....Hand made by Vladimir and a musical instrument $3500

I just read they finally ditched the ESS chip in the new Tubaour IV SE and went back to the the trusted Analog Devices processor for R2R.  Would like to hear it. 



I would look at the Wyred4sound 10th anniversary DAC It's $4,500 US one of the reviewers put it up against his VPI turntable with a $5,000 Japanese cartridge and he said that the 10th anniversary DAC was every bit as an analog sounding on that review I bought it and I totally agree it is the most analog sounding DAC have had in my system and they also give you a 30-day trial period.

If you are interested in a tube DAC, Lampizator is worth consideration. The basic unit, new Amber 4 is built like a tank. I’ve enjoyed my Amber 3 for a few years. I have it paired with a Lumin U2 mini and Conrad Johnson preamp and amp. 

I purchased an Audio Mirror Toubadour V DAC built for me by Vladimir in Minnesota. I had the opportunity to put it up against a friend’s Chord Dave and also a Denafrips Pontus II and we both agreed the Toubadour had that tube sound that the Dave and Pontus couldn’t match. We both preferred the Toubadour sound, although I would have been happy with either the Dave or Pontus as well. 
My friend did not have an M-scaler to go with the Dave. 

in my own system, I added a Gaia DDC which immediately improved the soundstage of the Toubadour V. I also recently acquired an Okta DAC8 that I intend to put up against the Toubadour V but I haven't done that yet. I bought the Okta DAC8 solely on the excellent reviews on ASR, and also because it is quite affordable that I can experiment with it.

I believe the Toubadour V may be in your price range. Also do consider one of the denafrips DDCs regardless of what DAC you get.


The Pontus is anything but analytical. No way I would live with it if this were so.



3500.00? I thought the Toubadour V was 6k?

being  a reviewer for 50 years or whatever doesn’t make you resident expertise on every speakers , dacs streamers amplifiers and so on 

@lordrootman No, but it makes me more than you.  What are you credentials?  Who are you?

@soix I’m nobody just a music lover 

I’m not going to pretend that I know about every speakers, dacs , streamers and so on 

pls sometimes allow actual owners to share their experiences 

you don’t even have your system photos posted who is going to believe you?

I know you’re trying to help but don’t sound like ultimate expertise.

Thanks for the all comments, suggestions and sound advise!

@dickieboy   I'll look into the DS dac.  Thanks

@rick_n   Thx, I'll into the Holo Audio Spring 3

@mbmi   I'll look into the Troubadour dac. Audio Mirror is 30 minutes from where I live. Perhaps I can demo one in my home.

@decooney Thx for the sound advise. I do have a few friends with very nice rigs that I get together with. Pretty sure someone would let me demo one of their dacs; Audio Note 4.1 (kit), Lampizator and Aqua La Scala

@dhungana  Thx and as mentioned I'll check out Audio Mirror

@lordrootman, you hit the nail on the head. Don’t hurt his feelings or he will report you to admin and have the post censored/deleted. 

Just to be clear, I realize my friends stuff is way outside my budget of course.  But, if I listen to dacs such as those I listed, I may learn just how a really good dac can sound. I also may learn that my ears just can't hear the difference or that there  isn't enough improvement for me to make any changes at all. But it shouldn't be hard to improve on a 20 year old dac.

Thanks again!

I've owned a Denafrips Pontus II DAC for a couple of years now, and absolutely love it and the "house sound" from Denafrips R2R DACs. Bard apparently has never owned a Pontus II, otherwise he would know that it is the opposite of "harsh".....it actually has some "tube like" warmth, which makes crappy recordings bearable.

I'm driving mine through a Denafrips Iris DDC via I2S, which brings things up even further. The Pontus II 12th at $1,800 is a steal.....and if you so choose, you can add the Iris DDC $560.....for a great $2,300 combo using I2S

@lordrootman You’re a pretender.  I professionally reviewed high-end audio for 17 years and u got nuthin’.  Bring it if u got it.

My digital journey (which started with CDs ~1984) was troubled. The sound was convenient as hell, but sounded terrible when played above moderate volume on  good audio gear. Digital sound refused to "scale" -- it refused to get better with better downstream gear.

That all changed with my first non-delta/sigma DAC ~6 years ago. It was the non-oversampling Audio GD NOS-19. That led me to Audio GD’s big seller, the R2R, oversampling DAC-19. These 2 were my "gateway DACs" to digital sound that no longer annoyed me, fatigued my ears, and made music sound amusical.

I’ve moved on to better DACs since then. Currently I have 3 good NOS DACs: the MHDT Labs Orchid; the Metrum Onyx; and the Audio GD R2R-11 MK2. Each has its pluses and minuses; they do not sound especially alike. But all three share a freedom from digititis.

So my 2 cents is simple: get yourself a well-reviewed R2R or NOS DAC and see what you think.

@jfmerk Almost any new DAC is going to do a decent job. It will come down to your personal preference in the sound you like best. Another huge factor is the sound of your system minus the DAC. Is it warm, bright, neutral, etc. When you see comments like DAC xyz blew away DAC abc my takeaway is better system matching.

I have 2 2-channel systems, one is a bit warm, and the other is a bit brighter. Every DAC I have tried on each system has worked but some are bit better due to better sonic matching.

The 2 DACs at the $2k-ish price point I like and own are the Benchmark DAC3b (a bit bright) and the Yggi+ Less Is More. I think the Yggi+ is a neutral to slightly mellow DAC.

BTW - I just noticed that you also were looking for something with a warm tone. The Gustard X26 Pro would be a good choice for that. I owned it for a while, and it worked great with a bright set of phones. It is around $1200-$1500 and goes on sale every few months.

To second @dickieboy and ​​​​@krelldog PS Audio's DirectStream is a great value currently. I have a DirectStream Jr. for sale on USAM and no one is biting so I keep lowering the price. It retailed for $4K and currently have it at $1400. In combo with the built-in streamer this DAC sounds smoother than anything I've owned. I always seek warmth and realism in vocals and acoustic instruments. I'm currently running a Chord Qutest and Denafrips Ares II off of Bluesound Nodes in two separate systems, and neither are quite as good to my ear. I'm prioritizing convenience of the Bluesound interface thus the reason I've decided to sell. My speaker setups are Harbeth M30.2 XD and Graham Chartwell LS6.