Endgame Vocal+ DAC Help: Terminator Plus 12th vs. Chord DAVE vs. Holo May vs. Weiss502.

tl;dr:  Read title. I like vocals with spacing, depth and atmosphere.  VOCALS. I have a small, shitty space - one side of an closed porch; very near-feild computer-setup. Consider myself a whore for detail.  Was surprised to find detail-praised DACs to be harsh (e.g., RME ADI). Want thick, dark/rich, vocal forward, no loss in detail.  Hate thin, harsh, and smeared/muddy sound. Julien Baker. Hold my hand and mentor me.

The atmospheric, depth of field, concentration stuff like this: https://youtu.be/rNEZlRgebwQ is something I love, but, without lyrics, I lack emotional engagement.

Setup (shitty near-field, no choice):

Audio Streaming Services or Youtube to
BeQuiet! PC Build - USB out to
Topping D90 MQA (to be replaced) 
to Better Cables XLR 
to Benchmark HPA4 
to Classe' SIGMA AMP 2  
to Wilson Audio Duette 2's

Headphones: Hifiman Arya


Ok, I always feel guilty asking for help; still, finding any advice otherwise is difficult. 

I'm looking to get an endgame DAC; I have the budget for about $20k worth of gear, if it's blow-me-away sort of stuff.  I've read and watched virtually every review (about 20 or so reads; about 20 or so youtube reviews, each). I can find on these (and other) DACs; so, I feel somewhat equipped with the general perceptions of each.

Still, I'm not sure how these will best suit my wants for a DAC.

Best I can tell, each of these DACs have their own camps of support, and each comes with some distinct, common-to-review, characteristics:

Chord DAVE: Bright, Atmospheric, Big, Depth, Mega Detail, Harsh on Femal Vocals at times, but other than that, I've read nothing but cum-stained reviews for this ugly thing.
Denafrips T+12: Smooth, Medium Dark, Juicy, Rich, Big, Atmospheric, Not as Vocal Forward, Changes the sound but in a good way*, Some say it backs off the lead vocals when other vocals are present.
Holo May: Smooth, 'Correct', Neutral, Big, Vocal more forwardish
Weiss502: Rich, Juicy, Studio Master Tape, Less Color

*I do not care if the DAC changes the music - most the artists I love seem to be TERRIBLE in the mixing/mastering dept.  Like TERRIBLE.  Why every artist doesn't listen to their masters on every level of dac-to-speaker combo with particular emphasis on the sort of setups/playback their target demo has absolutely boggles the mind.

I almost exclusively listen to slower, guitar/piano-based, female-vocal heavy music (e.g., Julien Baker - a lot of Julien Baker).  So, I'm looking to get a DAC best suited for that sort of music.

Essentially, making this (I know, youtube, but I love this recording) sound as good as possible is what I'm after: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlVp9W6LvTQ

That skinny vocal mic in the Tiny Desk concerts has a level of detail I love.

I'd like to preserve that sort of detail, but the vocals could be a touch warmer/fuller/juicier.


Here's a bit of background experience and taste-to-product preferences with which I am aware:

I have auditioned the iFiDSD Pro, have owned the Matrix X-Sabre I, the RME ADI-II, and currently use the Topping D90 mQa.  Of the 3 (but only after I gave the strange idea of burn-in a try), the Matrix was my favorite - I think because of the spaciousness of the sound.

I do not have experience with FPGA or R2R dacs.

I consider(ed?) myself a detail whore ever since hearing the Elton John (self-titled) album in SACD - some 20ish years ago - the vocal isolated parts were really, really pleasingly detailed.  This was played over a Marantz sr7007, the same year's Marantz SACD multi player, and with a Rotal 1075 AMP feeding BW 600 series floorstanders with bi-wired silver audio cable.

However, when listening to the RME ADI on my youtube favs, I found the whole thing absurdly detailed - but, fatiguing and harsh at times.  I realize some of this is source - youtube.  I keep referencing the RME ADI because, compared to the others, it was a detail winner, but, to my ears, was harsh and a tiny bit thin.

So, perhaps I am not the detail fiend I thought I was - I'm actually not sure. 

I can say that I love the sound of the microphone used in the PASTE Mag concerts - that crispness that seems to pick up significant detail gives me the right emotional connection.  Again, making this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlVp9W6LvTQ - sound as good as I can is what I'm after.

End of the day, I think I am looking for the most engaging dac for vocals - I am definitely a vocals whore, and a sucker for good, sad lyrics. I HATE anything muddy, congested, or blurred, and, after a lot of paying attention, I seem to be sensitive to harshness and listening fatigue.  I realize detail and harshness/fatigue are often at odds.  I have extended my budget to the absurd to tackle this.

At any rate, after literal years of research, this is where I am.

Can you help?


Based on my experience with DACs I would recommend you pick up a used Terminator (original, or even one of the smaller models) and see how it sounds in your system.  This $3-4k expense, which you can resell, will tell you if you like the Denafrips flavor.  If so, then either keep it or upgrade, and add a Aurender N20 using the SPDIF output to upsample.  This will give you the best world of smoothness and detail and substance/meat on the bone.  I currently own and like Weiss, but for what you describe I think the Denafrips might be a good match.  I have never heard any of the Chords in my system.  If you haven’t read it, the computer audiophile review of the terminator vs the TII is a really good summary of how these DACs sound and expounds on the benefit of upsampling with them.

You don’t want detail, you want a real/natural sound that does not have the digital harshness and listening fatigue.

You have to treat the source first before you can experience these DACs to their full potential. And by source I mean the power. Power from the wall, to the power distributor, and the grounding. And the cables connecting the digital transport or pc you use to the DAC. And then the isolation footers under the dac and transport.

All these things have an effect on the digital signal before it even gets to the dac. And only then you can hear what those expensive dacs are truly capable of.

I like vocals with spacing, depth and atmosphere.

​​​​The Holo May will give you that in spades.

I also have the Benchmark HPA4 and it makes a great combo with the May - whether listening via my Focal Utopia HPs or active ATC setup. 

Expansive sound with fine imaging and staging. Natural and realistic tone/timbre but not lacking in clarity, detail or focus.

Based on your preferences I would say dCS Bartok or Mola Mola Tambaqui should fit the bill.

For a lot less money, consider a Border Patrol DAC.  Never harsh, very musical and has flesh on the bone sound.