DAC suggestion for PC

Need some help deciding on which DAC to use with a few changes I will be making for my PC audio setup. Currently I am using a iFi Audio Zen DAC v2 connected by USB (and a Fosi Audio Tube amp). Right now I am using some PSB Image bookshelves (but I'll be changing these as well) and a Velodyne Subwoofer. 

The change I will be making, is I'm looking at changing my amp to a used Cambridge Audio CXA61 which has its own DAC. The Cambridge has the ESS Sabre ES9010 DAC model. If this isn't a better DAC, then I'll look at the Cambridge Audio AXR85 instead which doesnt come with a DAC instead and keep the zen dac.

My questions are the following:

1. Is the CXA61 dac better than the Zen DAC v2? It would be nice to eliminate an extra piece of equipment.

2. Might be a bit out of my budget, but how much of an upgrade would the CXA81 with the ESS Sabre ES9016 DAC be? Is it worth paying the extra?

From what I understand, the model of the DAC alone doesnt tell the whole story, but how the unit is built and setup around it that also matters. Hence why I am looking for some feedback as Ive never compared or auditioned them with an A/B comparison. Thanks


before DAC, consider sounds from your PC

plenty ventilation so case fan does not run much

audio/video from motherboard (fanless)

av card with great specs, but a fan, and how often does it's fan run?

all SD drives with no moving parts?

then, it would seem to me that the DAC world is easily full of excellent performers by this state of evolution, differences, if they can be heard (by anyone? by you?):

not 'better', but 'preferred'.

read a review, more than likely reading what the reviewer prefers.


@jheppe815  what is the very high-quality USB cable, do you mind? Thx.

When I started this whole computer audio thing, I went from a $6 printer USB cable to a cheap name brand USB cable and finally to a very high-quality USB cable and it made a world of difference each time I upgraded. It was most noticeable in the low frequencies.

I ran a laptop to a Schiit Bifrost. I started with a printer cable. Then an Audioquest Cinnamon and then a Cardas Clear. The cable made a huge difference. I then switched to a Schiit Yiggy and the laptop. Finally added a Project streamer. Everything makes a difference, but the cable was a big difference especially at your price point. Also try to go with a separate dac. 

@lanx0003 - I should rephrase my statement by saying, "and finally went to a higher quality USB cable".  I am using an Audio Quest Carbon USB-A to USB-B cable.  There are certainly higher quality cables than what I'm using, so my apologies for the poor phrasing. 

Each step up in USB cables made a difference for me.