DAC upgrade

Let me start by saying I am a vinyl guy, but digital streaming, particularly if I can achieve the right sound has many advantages. My 2 channel equipment is as follows: 

Rogue RP-1 w/ NOS Brimar CV4003, LSA Warp 1, KEF R11’s, Rhythmic F12SE, Pro-ject 1Xpression w/Hana ML, Rega Aria, Bluesound Node, Marantz CD6007, Schiit Modi Multibit 2. Good to very good power, speaker, interconnect cables.  
My weakest link (I believe) is my DAC.

My desire is the best sounding DAC below $2,500, but certainly don’t mind spending less. i want the DAC to be as good as my best current component. I don’t need a DAC with preampliflication, don’t need balanced, don’t need headphones, however I would not eliminate a DAC with superior sound with those features. I do prefer a small form factor.  
My current top contenders are:

Chord Qutest, Schiit Yggy, RME ADI-2, Topping D90 III.

The Chord checks all my boxes… reviews, sound, form factor, no unneeded features, etc and don’t mind its quirky lights… but, looking your thoughts/ recommendations.  Thanks!




clhs04 +1

Bluesound originated in 2013, so they have been in the streaming business for over a decade now. They spent a lot of time improving the OS and have a stellar customer service network. They are in it for the long haul and I have had many questions answered by their IT guys and many user errors resolved. The newest Node X is a stellar product at the $800 mark. Some have knocked MQA but some of the best recordings I have have heard on my stereo have been FLAC or MQA. I think we all know the companies that are producing better sounding products. Most are selling at double, triple and up to $12k. But will they keep doing so in a decade and servicing those products? To what extent have they built up customer service? How good is the OS or GUI?

For what Bluesound has achieved, they are a stellar choice IMHO.

The Border Patrol dac might worth consideration. Music is something special through this little gem. Form factor is high.  

You should consider the PS Audio Directstream DAC Mk1. It definitely doesn't have the form factor you want, which may well disqualify it, but it's an amazing DAC an now with the Mk2 out they are selling for around $2k, I've seen one for $1900.

Your Schiit DAC is not the weakest link in your chain.

As is the case with most systems, it appears to me the weak link is either the speakers or amplification.

Audiophiles like to focus on upgrading components such as DACs because they’re light and easy to swap. The reality though, is that they make far less a contribution to total performance.

That aside, if you search the second-hand sites and fleabay, you’ll notice there are always plenty of Qutests listed. There is good reason for that, there is nothing exceptional about its sound. In fact, its most noteworthy trait is how lean it sounds in the bass, even compared to inexpensive “Chi-Fi” DACs like the D90.

The RME would’ve been the best option on your list, largely because of its adjustability and parametric EQ. You can adjust the RME to make it sound similar to a great many other DACs. It can also compensate for weaknesses elsewhere in the chain.

Not to rain on your parade, I simply believe in being candid, it doesn’t help to tiptoe around the truth. But since you already ordered one, you’ll get to hear the difference (or lack thereof) for yourself. That is, if you level match the outputs and attempt to remain objective when A/Bing the Qutest against your current DAC. But if you don’t conduct the comparison, then yeah, chances are that well-machined brick of metal with the cool little sight glass is going to sound better. 


Oh, and replacing your Node would be a mistake as well, since you already own an outboard DAC. Contrary to the crackpot consensus around this forum, the primary factor in choosing a stand-alone streamer should be its operating software, and rather unfortunately, Bluesound’s is already the best. The main problem is that most around here are like kids on Christmas morning when they receive a shiny new toy in the mail. Of course those same 1s and 0s are going to sound better when you approach “upgrades” in that frame of mind. Meanwhile, many of them own speakers that are distortion machines, or are not remotely capable of a linear response. That or their speakers are 12 inches from room boundaries. Silly.