Dac that has tone and timing?

I’m hoping to see if anyone has experience and has found a dac that nails both a "meat on the bones" presentation that also preserves the leading edges of notes and maintains pace, rhythm, and timing. In general, it seems that tonally dense dacs tend to have rounded-off leading edges of notes, and dacs with great PRAT have a leaner tonality. I’d love it under $5k but willing to spend more if necessary.


I've had a Yggdrasil, it was bettered by a W4S DAC 2.2 SE which was bettered by a Terminator with Iris DDC which was bettered by a Terminator Plus.  Very recently I bought a used balanced LampizatOr Golden Gate.  It lacks some of the inner-detail and air of the Terminator Plus but it oozes PRAT, cohesion and meat on the bones.  They are very different DACs.  I was going to sell one but am having a hard time letting either go, but right now I would choose to keep the Lampi if I had to make the choice.  There is a firmware update for the Terminator Plus coming out this week, I want to hear it before making a final decision.   Also with the Lampi I could send it back for massive upgrades if I got the bug and $, but it sounds so good now I worry it would change what I like about the sound.

The Denafrips Iris DDC brought the Terminator and Terminator Plus to a new level.  The I2S input is much better than USB.  A DDC is strongly recommended with a Denafrips.

FWIW, the Golden Gate did not play well thru my Allnic pre-amp, it sounded lethargic.  The GG has a volume control and remote.  It is directly connected to my amps.

Aqua La Voce or La Scala, agreed with others on terminator and Lampizator and worth investigating.

I wouldn’t consider T+A or RME or Chord if your after the best in texture and tone.

Holo audio DACs do not have the PRaT, of the Aqua.

Schiit audio is also good and may satisfy your needs at a lower price point.

The old Naim DAC as well is PRaT personified.

Loving this discussion as I'm searching for a new DAC after 5-years... happy years with the Chord Qutest (with Sbooster PS).

And that's one thing that surprised me about this discussion. No one has really mentioned the Qutest which seems an obvious choice for the OP.

I'm very happy with the Qutest's sound quality and the biggest problem is finding a suitable, aka better, DAC to try next. With 5-years in my system it's kind of the one constant that hasn't seen replacement over this period.

Add to this being retired and having limited funds available to move up - we've got plenty of funds, but for upgrading a DAC not so much.

I've had Benchmark and Project DACs and in general don't like Sabre ES DACs all that much.  So, Holo Spring 3 "seems" like a reasonable road ahead. I do tend to buy used to get more bang for the buck.


If tube MHDT DACS are on on your radar, you might also look into a classically trained musician-made DAC that is fast, alive and richly musical: Abbas DAC 2.4SE, or his other variants using different chips. After Meridian, Chord Quest, and other units, this one is leaps ahead in terms of soundstage, air and space, dynamics and tone. Made in the western suburbs of Kyiv. My 2.4SE+ was ordered and delivered during the war with no issues. If there are any, they are taken care of. Enjoy your search.