DACs that do well without a preamp

I am looking for a DAC to feed my DNA-1 gold power amp directly, streaming Qobuz or Tidal from a Bluesound Vault. Budget is $1-2K; would consider used, if worthwhile. Current contenders are Benchmark 3 HGC, Brooklyn DAC+, Gustard x26 pro, Holo Spring 3, Musetec 004 and Pontus ii. Looking for clean, detailed, uncolored sound that "lifts the veil". What are the qualities I should look for to drive an amp well, without a pre?

This Bel Canto e.One DAC/Pre is definitely worth a look. Bel Canto makes excellent-sounding DACs — I had their DAC3 VB in my system and its sound was near flawless to my ears. But what was even more surprising was how well it performed as a preamp. When comparing it directly with my $2400 Bryston BP-6 stereo preamp I literally couldn’t tell the difference between the two. Not sure how many other DACs could pull that off, but I’d bet not many especially in your price range. BTW, I was using a McCormack DNA 0.5 RevA (getting it back Saturday with full SMcAudio upgrades) and it was an excellent combination.  Hope this helps, and best of luck.


Great replies - thank you all for your input.
@laaudionut Thank you for your tip on the Hegel HD30; it was not on my radar.  From the reviews I just read, it sounds like a very good unit, especially with your experience that it runs well direct to amp. I will certainly add it to my short list.
I am baffled as to why so many otherwise high-end DACs sound so poor when connected directly to a good power amp. It can't be the quality of the volume control ALONE, or the better companies would have fixed this flaw. Is the issue in the interface to the power amp (eg. an impedance mismatch), or is it a failure of the analog stage to accurately amplify the signal to line level?

@laaudionut ​​@cheeg   I'm a little surprised with your experience with the Hegel Hd30 without a Pre.  I have an HD30 in my system and I feel it's fantastic DAC but a while back I was chasing some noise in my system so I removed my Pre-amp and went DAC direct for a few days.  It was almost unlistenable with out my Pre amp.  I feel the HD30 with a tube Pre sounds best, I ran a CARY slp05 and just recently changed to an Audio Research REF6.  

I am baffled as to why so many otherwise high-end DACs sound so poor when connected directly to a good power amp.

Frequently it’s just that the passive preamp sections usually included in the DACs don’t have sufficient output to fully drive the amp it’s hooked up to. As always, it comes down to proper system matching. Personally, I’ll always use a separate stereo pre as I find it to be a critical component to get the best sound out of my system. But that’s me.

A great preamp with a fixed level DAC has always performed best for me.  There is no substitute for a great preamp, it is more than just a volume control and switcher 

A really good one can transform a system into next level sound quality .   There are so many great speakers and amps not being utilized to their full performance potential because they don't have a great sounding preamp in front of them.