DACed and Confused here...

So many brands/models/shapes/sizes. Everyone has an opinion.

I have decided to start my streaming with a DAC. I will probably just use a tablet initially with Quobuz or Tidal, before ultimately getting a proper streamer.

Looking for <=$1500. I thought I was set with the RME ADI-2 until I read here that it would require a new power supply and basically an engineering degree to make it sound good (not flat, not analytical). Is that price point too low?

System is ARC REF 5se --> Art Audio PX-25 --> Blumenhofer FS-2, with the DAC coming in as the source.

Can anyone give me some guidance?


Like the thread title.

I love the Cambridge Audio CXN 60.  It is in your price range and has  a good app.

It also does Chromecast and AirPlay and is great with Internet Radio.  I use an external DAC but the included DAC is pretty decent and if you like it can accept other digital inputs.  It’s as close to plug and play as any streamer I’ve come across 

You have some beautiful stuff and it will only show the deficiency in a cheap dac, IMO. If you’re just starting out, I would get a Denafrips Aries, which is universally praised, get used to streaming and then look for something else. The Aries has a very pleasant sound. You might even end up keeping the Aries. 

You might go up the line by going used with a Denafrips or a Chord, or others.

In other words, get twice the DAC your budget indicates by buying from a reliable seller, used.

My Schiit Bifrost 2/64 was purchased new and it's pretty amazing for less than $1k.


So many brands/models/shapes/sizes. Everyone has an opinion.


The fact is, you will never know what best suits your ears in your system until you actually hear some. The Music Room offers a return policy on used gear including DACs. Might be a good way to explore with minimal financial exposure. I agree that doubling your budget and buying used would be advisable. 

For $1500 you may get a streamer ,for around $2k a pretty respectable dac the the Pangea 2 12 th anniversary

no combos they are crap, and please keep in mind At least decent Ethernet cables minimum $200 + each as well as a good good usb cable.Ethernet hub the SW8 it has oven clock ,regulated power supplies and a built in LPS  around $600 a Quality LPS is a must for the router ,the horrible wall warts are just inducing more noise 

most modem- router combos are 12v 4 amp , linear tube audio make a exceptional 

one  on Audiogon $50 off for $700 easy to hear the difference ,with digital as I. Analog  leave no weak link in the chain.

First, I think you’re underspending on the DAC given the rest of your system, but at your price level and given the rest of your system I’d recommend this used Denafrips Pontus II (and not the RME DAC)…


Second, I also started streaming through my iPad, but there are huge performance gains to be had by adding even a budget streamer so I wouldn’t put that purchase off too long. And if you’re thinking of using the Apple Camera Adapter to feed USB to the DAC don’t. It sucks. Spend a few more bucks on this and you’ll be much better off sound wise…


Last, do a free trial of both Qobuz and Tidal and just pick the one that has more of the music you wanna listen to, but Qobuz has many more hi-res recordings if that’s a concern. Congrats on entering the wonderful world of streaming! Your only regret will be that you didn’t do this years ago.  Hope this helps a little, and best of luck.

I have a BlueSound Node. Its internal DAC wasn’t up to my standard. So, not too long after I purchased it I bought an MHDT Orchid DAC for ~$1,200 (has an output stage tube) connected to the Node via a digital coax interconnect (Silnote Audio). I have been very happy with this setup, but then improved it further recently with an external Teddy Pardo linear power supply ($425) for the Node streamer (not recommended for the Node if you don’t have an external DAC). It exceeded my expectations. The soundstage got even wider and deeper, more air between instruments and even better bass. Now my setup will compete with all-in-one streamer/DAC that are at least 2x what I spent overall. It’s also a good piecemeal way to progress and appreciate the incremental upgrades. Also, I stream via Tidal (Hi-Fi level) and am very happy, particularly since they recently added FLAC files. The Node interface is pretty solid as well (BluOS), but hasn’t yet added support for FLAC files (downgraded to CD or MQA regardless of offered in FLAC/“High”).

If you are willing to buy used I cannot recommend highly enough the Yamamoto YDA-1 the Dac I'm listening to right now. Here is one on Audiomart below your price range and I do believe the seller may be our own @charles1dad judging by the Dueland cap upgrade. A real steal for $1100.




Yes, that’s mine. I thought I had deleted that ad, I sold that beautiful DAC a month ago. The recipient of that Yamamoto absolutely loves it! I am not the least bit surprise by his reaction. It served me splendidly for 14 years. One of my most treasured audio components ever!!!


@soix I've used the Apple Camera connector for an old iPhone while listening to background internet radio, sounded ok for it's purpose but it recently died. I looked up the Lavri cable you recommend but it doesn't say anywhere if you can power a device through it like the Apple. Can you please clarify? 



+1 @soix -- Agree on not underspending. If you buy used you can re-sell for around the same price. A bit of hassle for a lot of learning. I'd get the Denafrips Pontus and live with it for a while. Just my two cents. (I don't own Denafrips, by the way, but have heard them; they're quite nice.) There's a Venus, too.

In case you are interested in spending a bit more, these seem like real standouts:

Weiss DAC 204 -- I'd offer $2500 and see what happens. These are very very well built and reviewed. There's one lower down the line, too. Perhaps something to bargain for.

Some really praise the Sonnet Morpheus, too. Here.


A used Schiit Yggdrasil could be a good option if you don’t need DSD. I’ve occasionally seen them on The Music Room in that price range. Smooth as butta’ in my system.

The new gustard a26 dac would be everything you need for your budget. $1,499. That will be hard to beat.

Schiit Yggdrasil GS2 for $1699 seems like the deal here. 

I have the GS and I have never felt the urge to upgrade from this 

I recently purchased a used Pontus to go with my Node 2i and was a significant upgrade in sound enjoyment. Considering the LPS for the node now. 
enjoy the ride and the music!

Digital streaming can be done in various ways and requires more that just a DAC

A DAC is just the conversion of a digital signal to an analog signal

A streamer includes a DAC but also includes a network capability and generally a preamp capability

There a many streamers available from under a $1,000 to many Thousands.

I had a MiniDSP SHD which is a streamer but also includes licenses for REW and DIarc software. The software can really make a difference as they help with dealing with unique room situations. I also use Audirvana Studio on a PC for streaming features

My MiniDSP SHD did a great job but FOMO  ( fear of missing out ) took over and I UPGRADED to a Pontus 2 12th-1.

Was there a difference Yes, was it substantial not really.  The MiniDSP SHD with room correction was very good and the Pontus is also very good. Both provided great sound stage and music definition.

Just know that what ever you choose in 90 days something better will be described just sit back and enjoy the music.

Hope this helps







@charles1dad I knew the user name SETBliss had to be you and I am sure the new owner will enjoy your Yamamoto for many years to come.

With your set up and quality of your gear, I’d spend on a good steamer with an app you like, then I’d pair it with a DAC.  As others have recommended, buying used is the way to go.  In the digital chain everything will matter, especially with your gear.  Upgrading which you will likely want to do is a lot easier if you go with a stand alone streamer and DAC.  

I’ve had all in one streamer / DAC’s and separates.  If you go the all in one route, Lumin D2 with upgraded power supply is really tough to beat.  If you go the separate route, Aurilac and Lumin both make great streamers with apps that are well supported.  Don’t sleep on how important that app, interface is with a streamer.  Node, Cambridge have probably the best in BluOS.  MHDT DAC’s are amazing, had the Pagoda balanced but also depends on what sounds good to you.  MHDT is very musical, can make even bad recording sound good but they aren’t detailed or as analytical as say a Weis DAC.  Research different DAC’s, different designs and implementations, why people either like or dislike the sound signature, roll with what fits best for what you like and the synergy with your existing gear.  Then pick a streamer paying close attention to what outputs on the streamer maximize performance and what inputs on the DAC maximize the performance of the DAC.  Synergy is key and both streamer and DAC’s will have options, streamers outputs and DAC’s input’s but you’ll find most of the gear will be designed with one of those maximizing sound quality, performance.  Buy used, then if you get the itch to go a different direction, you won’t lose too much $$ and the DAC is what you’d swap out.  I’ve 2-4 DAC’s that I have been able to a/b compare on my system for a decent stretch, in my system, you can definitely hear the difference from DAC to DAC.

Good luck and welcome to the streaming journey. 

The Orchid is a real musical piece. The base unit is good but with the grannyring mods it in another league altogether. Well worth the extra price and used modified ones do show up online. A few months ago I tried to unseat it. Tried the Pontus II, Musician Darco and the Qutest. I tried and tried to warmup the the Qutest but it never sounded quite right. More detail than the Orchid hands down but also kind of uninvolving I could not connect to it. It was a sigh of relief when I put the Orchid back in my system. After auditioning the above DAC’s I realize I prefer R2R implementation. 

Hello saulh!  There are an enormous number of DACs out there. Most of the sub $1k units sound similar. I have eight of them so far. The used Yaggi sounds like a good move. I'm writing because you may not be aware of how important the cable is if you are planning to use a USB link to the DAC you choose. The USB cable that many use for their printer is not going to do the job for audio. Wireworld Silver Starlight 7 cables are available used at very reasonable prices. Furuteck makes good cables too. The best I've found is from Canada and begins (I think) with "Z." I can't be more specific because I do not have access to my gear right now. My home got flooded and we are living in a hotel for a while, waiting for the home to be repaired. You won't be able to hear the difference between units without a good cable if you are using USB.  Enjoy the music!

I have the rme dac. You don’t need an upgraded external power supply. I connected a good one and there was no difference. The rme engineers talk about not needing one. I tried anyway. There are lots of options on the rme. You don’t need to play with any. After a year I started to adjust the parameters and grew to appreciate them. I enjoy the dac quite a bit but can’t give you a/b tests with the other dacs mentioned above.

+++1 for Denafrips Pontus II 12th Anniversary, price is a touch over your price range at $1,820. Beautiful DAC with a slightly analog sound signature. Makes me want to listen to it all day. Eventually you'll probably add a dedicated streamer (plugged directly into the ethernet output), but the Pontus will NOT be a weak point for you.

If you are a "detail" animal the Chord works.....too bright for me, couldn't listen for more than an hour or so; but for some might be perfect

Wireworld Silver Starlight 7 cables are available used at very reasonable prices. Furuteck makes good cables too. The best I've found is from Canada and begins (I think) with "Z." 


Enthusiastic vote for the Gustard R26 here, which thanks to frequent sales is often sub-$1500.

The built in LAN streamer is very good, to the point I'm not considering an external one anymore. Aside from some minor complaints related to aesthetics, UX, and firmware updating, it sounds great out of the box, incredible after 300 hours, and is ready for you to experiment with upgrades at various price-points when you feel the itch again (fuses, DDC, external clock).

I'd describe the sound as fun, detailed, and dynamic, with an overall neutral signature, but with some extra harmonic richness. I wouldn't call it warm. The low output impedance plays very well with any downstream component.

You also might want to consider using two fiber media converter boxes connected with a short run of fiber optic cable to clean up your ethernet signal just before the DAC. I can't say I observed night/day differences but others swear by it and the total cost is $80 or less.

Happy Holidays to all.

As always, thanks very much for the helpful comments. I'll report back with what I end up doing!


I've used the Apple Camera connector for an old iPhone while listening to background internet radio, sounded ok for it's purpose but it recently died. I looked up the Lavri cable you recommend but it doesn't say anywhere if you can power a device through it like the Apple. Can you please clarify? 

@treynolds155 You cannot power the device through the cable, but the sound improvement was well worth that relatively minor sacrifice.

I just got a Gustard A26 dual AKM R2R DAC and am amazed at the performance for about $1450 delivered.  Remote for on-the-fly changing of inputs, clock input, nice LED screen, etc. I’ll be listing my Denafrips Terrminator 12th Ann early next year.

For anyone interested.

The winner is... the Denafrips Pontus II. I'll let you guys know how it goes in a few weeks.

I'm unclear on whether I can use a "desktop" DAC in a full two channel system. I'm currently stream using BS node and the internal DAC for MQA processing. While I like the node, it seems the SQ can be improved by using an external DAC.

I've read about several Chinese-made DACs (eg. SMSL, Topping) that measure exceptionally well but are affordable. Is the nomenclature of these desktop/headphone DACs just that or do they have sufficient specs to be used in a two-channel system? 😶