DAC That Punches Above Its Price Point

I’ll make it short. I’ve spent some hours reading the DAC threads on this forum. I am aware quality of digital matters as superior DACs usually the costlier ones will sound better than cheap DACs, making music sound more analog, lifelike, real, believable with all the soundstage and detail etc. All the good things. There are some who thought it’s the music that matters, and although different DACs may sound different it’s the music that makes the most difference. In other words, the differences that exist between DACs are not that important as it's all about the music. I can see the point that people are trying to make.

Back to the topic. I’ve read great things on the Denafrips Ares II and Pontus II, and other costlier high-end DACs. I’ve read about the Chord DAVE. I personally own a Chord QBD76 and have no urge to replace it with anything else since it sounds splendid in my system, for the money. I may be setting up another system and was wondering if there is a DAC in the lower price bracket that punches way above its price point, sounding close to if not better than the costlier designs.

I presume the Audioquest Black, Red or Cobalt are not worthy of consideration and sound noticeably inferior to the costlier options? FWIW I tried the Musical Fidelity M1 DAC and this one really sounded poor to my ears. Very digital sound and I stopped listening to it after a while. The Chord sounds a lot more analog, lifelike and real to my ears.

I would appreciate any advice. Thanks.

If you want to see punching, go to a boxing match..if you want the best DAC, I highly recommend the MSB Discrete, Premier, Reference or Select.

People have different opinions that are meaningless in the context of your sound reproduction system and your auditory system.

Listen to a variety of different DACS in your own set-up before you decide - do not rely on the opinions of other folks who mostly just post to a thread but do not listen to music!!!
When it comes to bargain components, everyone's selection needs to punch above its weight. It's a necessary precondition of budget audio.  :) 

The Musical Fidelity V90 dac at only $299 is a terrific value. Honestly, dacs costing much more will sound "different", not necessarily better.