DAC suggestions for a reasonably modest system

I have two systems currently fed by a SMSL SU-9n via Y splitter.  It's time to add a new/used DAC and get rid of the Y splitter.  New DAC will feed a VTL TL-2.5 + VTL Stereo 90 or a couple of different vintage SS amps (Sony TAN-8250 or Luxman 5M21), and just for fun, maybe a couple of Dyna Mk VI, running Magnepan 3.6R.  The SMSL does a great job overall, but seems to be a better fit with the ARC SP3a1 + SET or SEP amp into Altecs.  For those of you that have had the SMSL or similar level DACs in a similar system to mine and have moved up the chain, what gave you a nice step change?  The Maggies, however imperfect, are delightfully revealing and prior DAC changes were definitely more apparent with them.  Budget is $1000-1500, and I have no issue with buying used good quality stuff.  None of my system is less than 20 years old except the DACs.  


To wrap up, a few names I wasn't as familiar with, so that's very helpful as I narrow the choices.  Seems like the Pontus is the budget stretch choice, the Yggy right behind it, and a host of good choices from there right down to pocket change levels.  I have a Modi 3E and an older Modi 2 Multibit that were both bested by the SMSL.  Before I bought the SMSL a friend loaned me his recently purchased Ares II to "burn in" while he was on a long trip.  Even with a few hundred hours on the clock I really couldn't hear much of a difference vs the Schitts, if at all.  That led me to thinking a chip DAC was likely a better choice for at least the Altec system to add a bit of top end where needed.   Thanks again all, you've been most helpful.


New Gustard R26... Great R2R DAC and preamp

Used Musetec MH-DA005 could maybe be found for under 2k.

Used RME DAC, I know people love them.

Otherwise Denafrips makes good stuff in your price range (new/used)

A Audio Alchemy DDP-1 (dac/pre)+ PS 5 outboard power supply is available on US Audiomart. I have owned this combo for several years. Terrific bargain. Great review in March 2016- I think. It allows you to eliminate a preamp

A couple of thoughts:

  • Y cable is BAD. Before you even consider a new DAC, see if there's a way to connect to multiple systems without doing that. Looks like the SMSL has balanced and single ended outputs.  On SOME DACs, using both doesn't degrade sound (on some it does).  
  • There does look to be significant improvement possibility based on your upgrade budget.  But you need to decide what kind of sound do you like - the R2R sound or the SABRE DAC like sound -- and then there are options.

On the R2R side, the Schiit Gumby is a good option and I enjoy that DAC very much. The Mytek Liberty has an ultra detailed SABRE chip in it. Totally different approaches.