DAC upgrade


I am currently using a Jolida Tube DAC. I'm quite happy with it but as we all know, unknown temptations are as luring as known ones.

So, the question is this: what DACs would you suggest as a noticeable/audible upgrade for no more than, say, USD3000?

The DAC is fed from a ProJect transport and a dedicated pc, holding a few thousand uncompressed CDs and SACDs; and it feeds into an Ayon Triton III amp, driving Focal Be speakers. The cables are at the level of the and the speakers. I'm only mentioning these components to give an idea of the possible constraints on "audible difference".

One more thing: while it is interesting but of little help to know that DAC x, y or z is very good - I know that there are many good components out there. What would be useful if people familiar with both the Jolida and the possible upgrade (used in the same system) could offer some advice, possibly explaining the actual difference they could hear.

Last: I'm not in a hurry and will be happy to listen to opinions advising against replacing the DAC as long as other components remain the same.

With thanks,


The fact that you are using a tube will play a role if any upgrades would sound better or not.

The Benchmark DAC3 is ~$2K and is basically transparent, imparts almost no sound onto the music (whereas a tube DAC will). I never recommend tube gear, the same can be achieved with solid state and tone controls/EQ/DSP, and that will be a much more predictable experience (tube’s alter the frequency response based on the high impedance in the bass region of ported speakers, so those you should audition with your own speakers).
The Benchmark is a good recommendation but be forewarned will probably sound very different than the Jolida.  Mytek Brooklyn will also be in your price range and be very different from the Jolida.
  I have a Bryston DAC3 which currently goes for around 4 K but you may get a Demo in your budget.  Some people describe it as Tube like but I wouldn’t.  It’s detailed and musical without being overly clinical.  I am currently using it with tubed Cary preamp and there is great synergy here but it also sounded great with my Parasound JC2 preamp.  The Bryston also has HDMI inputs and I use an Oppo 105 and a Sony 5400ES to directly input the DSD from SACDs, so if you still have your SACDs and a player to output them you can take advantage of that feature as well.
would suggest you take a look at Denafrips PONTUS dac.

1800 bucks and can even do a trial period. if you are not happy you can send back.
Thank you all. I will certainly try to audition the Benchmark and the Denafrips dacs.

I have no statement on whether the Deanfrips will sound better or not (spec wise the Benchmark wins), but Denafrips has some business practices that I don’t like, such as not stating what DAC chips they use and even going as far as to scratch off the labels (photo is of the internals of their Terminator, which I am pretty sure uses the AKM 4493), whereas a lot of the Chi-Fi brands (and some American/European) even go as far to show the measurements they achieve with AP gear, just showing how confident they are in the products, that they not only hide nothing, but also let’s you see the performance. Even Schiit shows measurements of their new Modi 3.
Ayre Codex. Can be purchased "pre-owned" for around 1K. Transparent sound, great resolution without sounding etched. 
I wonder if you even need to spend your full budget to achieve hapiness.

I was searching for a tubed DAC to add to my solid state system over the last few months and considered the Jolida for its attractive price. While reading some of the other forums, I came across many positive reviews for the Musical Paradise MP-D2.
They were just getting ready to release the MK3 version and had a really great Black Friday deal on the MK2 model, so I jumped on it. 

The beauty of the design (if you have the rack space for it) is that it's offered with a choice of 3 dac chips, is tube rectified, and has 4 tubes in the analog output stage. Output caps are also hand swappable since they're connected with binding posts.

All of this variability will allow for a lot of tuning (if you're into tweaking). If you're a set and forget type, this might not be the DAC for you. But, the ability to tune with tube and cap upgrades could be less expensive then riding on the DAC merry go round.

I landed at the AKM4497 chip, NOS BEL E88CC tubes, and Psvane 5U4G rectifier for an all in price around $1100.  The stock tubes are pretty terrible...I would consider aftermarket tubes a neccesity.

If you're dead set on spending the full budget a used Lampizator would be worth looking into.
Tube DACs aside, IMO the best values in quality DACs are those available by direct import from Asia.  If you're interested you need to take time to do a lot of research on many forums as well as this one.  The information is out there.
@mzkmxcv What in the world are you talking about? Denafrips Terminator is a custom board R2R DAC and doesn't use a chip for D to A conversion. It uses a FPGA chip for up sampling.
Benchmark very cool sound8ng,non forgiving the new Denafrips 
pontus much more natural sounding with exceptional musical balance ., the new one with the new processor board is better still 
as of March 2020 I also head the Brooklyn + , sold both the latest Schiit yggs ,as well as Lampi 3 dac 
I’m going to suggest a different route.  While I’m not familiar w/ the Jolida DAC, I suspect that the project transport might be a weaker link overall and I’d suggest demoing upgrades to that piece of the chain to see what your DAC might actually be capable of. 

Do you still spin discs, play files, or stream?  There are lots of good options.  While not all agree, I experienced a greater increase in performance from changing the source going into the DAC than from the DAC itself.  Of course, YMMV.

This you could put in Quotes if you have $2800
the Deafrips Venus dac is a R2R multi ladder dac just look it up 
Vinshine Audio. Just look at the great build quality the whole bottom is a huge linear power supply . I have the Pontus 
the Venus is very detailed and natural sounding just look 
up Vinshine Audio , 3 yr warrant and they ship 3-4 day DHL 
Denafrips need no introduction many great reviews over 200 filter caps, and these ladder resistors in the dac are .005 or better each 
a no brainer !!
another option

your jolida can be upgraded by underwood wally/sound connection for ~$500 - substantial SQ gains

also the jolida is ripe for 12ax7 tube upgrade, also a significant advance in SQ over the chinese tubes that come stock