dacs that I have had in my system - a listing

i comment quite a bit on threads about digital/analog converters, as i have tried many since the covid period in early 2020, when i recommitted to my hifi and getting streaming and a truly modern digital front end implemented in my main home system

i have had questions on what dacs i have actually tried -- so last week when i was sleepless on a long transcontinental flight home from a holiday, i made a listing, which i post below

almost all dacs below have been owned, and spent extensive time (at least 2-3 months) in my system, obviously there have been changes in my system over this time, and not all dacs were owned at the same time

i post this here so others can refer to this here - i looked, but i could not find a way to post this on my 'system' page

the asterisk-ed entries are still in hand, currently:



topping d90 mqa

ayre codex

mhdt stockholm 

mhdt orchid

mhdt istanbul

denafrips pontus original

musical paradise mpd1

ps audio d link iii modded cullen

bs node 2i



denafrips ares 2 

denafrips pontus 2

denafrips terminator 

auris d1d vu

audio mirror tubador 3 se

van alstine fet topp*

van alstine fet hybrid

rme adi 2 (akm)

schiit modius 

schiit gumby

schiit yggy*

sonnet morpheus

border patrol se i

metrum jade

metrum octave

metrum hex

metrum adagio

musical fidelity trivista 21 (modded)*

weiss 501* (now 4ch)



chord 2qute 

chord qutest

chord m scaler* hugo tt2*

mhdt orchid modded*

audio note kits dac4 pro

msb analog w powerbase*

denafrips venus 2*

denafrips pontus 12

audio gd master 7

musetec 005

bs node n130

bricasti m1se mdx

doge 7

hegel h90 190 390 590* (internal)



gustard r26*

eversolo dmp a6 master*

mhdt toucan

orchard pecan pi*

cambridge audio cxn2 modwright modded tubed*

128x128Ag insider logo xs@2xjjss49

After extensive and exhaustive auditioning of multiple DACs over the years, I ultimately selected the Ayre Acoustics QX-5 Twenty Streaming DAC.  The QX-5 Twenty DAC is an absolutely phenomenal DAC, and an excellent streamer, has become my end-game DAC.  There's a sea of great DACs out there on the market these days.          

Impressive list for sure. Not only that but you sound very knowledgeable of each one you describe in the post. Where does the Gustard R26 falls in the below $2,000 range? What would be your top choice in that segment? Thank you.    

for fixed output dacs, i would put a few i have had in the same sonic league (or very close) as my favorite three already covered, i could easily live with any of these sonically - i will make a few comments on the sonics of each

-- audio note kits dac 4.1 -- for a tube dac, very saturated and surprisingly spotlit sound, rather forward treble and excellent drive, to go along with terrific imaging... did note just a touch of sibilance and splashiness, but this likely cured with carefully tube rolling

@jjss49 thank you so much for this extensive comparison! I am seriously considering building an ANK DAC 4.1 to go with my all ANK system. I know their house sound well, but am wondering if I would be missing out on a more modern DAC.  I would love your comparison between it and the better Denafrips units you’ve tried. How does the resolution, micro-detail, and bass compare? Do you feel like there is anything that your other favorite DACs did better that this fell short on?

Where does the Gustard R26 falls in the below $2,000 range? What would be your top choice in that segment?

r26 is excellent, a top candidate in its price range, especially in light of its all-in-one feature set ... streamer (i use roon) is excellent though i felt using it as a preamp with its internally adjustable volume slightly diminished the quality of the sound - definitely a top choice for excellent all around sound with a clear open top end without bringing the treble too prominently forward

a softer sweeter rounder sound would be gotten from a modded mhdt tube buffered dac, and an even more incisive, more holographic sound can be had with a chord qutest, although that also brings a slightly leaner midband - all this depends on system synergy for what would be ’best’ for an particular user

I would love your comparison between it and the better Denafrips units you’ve tried. How does the resolution, micro-detail, and bass compare?

i used the ank 4.1 le with stock tube set, i was surprised by its quite energetic presentation, with an open somewhat forward treble... resolution was very good, on par with a denafrips pontus but not quite as a clean as a venus 2, to my ear, and the ank had a bit higher noise floor (rca outs vs xlr from denafrips) .. mids and midbass on all were magical though deep bass tunefulness is superior on the denafrips

my issues with the ank was (mainly) its huge form factor (it is a really big box, i just did not want that long term) and the fact that its input card is limited and cannot handle higher res content (it sounded very nice on all music it played, this was a futureproofing thing for me, as i thought about it at the time)

if one commits to this unit, i suspect one can roll tubes to further improve its sound signature, if not its slightly higher noise floor, but i never got that far, as much as i thoroughly enjoyed how it presented the music

This is a great thread and good recommendations included, thank you @jjss49 - you have a great system and so much experience.

I like the high ranking for the Qutest and R26.

How did you like the Eversolo master edition?

Have you ever tried a Benchmark 3?