First DAC: Metrum-MHDT-Rega-or?

I have read up on a lot of the posts here. Not sure if that led to more or fewer questions. I have a decent system, modded AR-XB table, Lehmann Phone pre, Exposure integrated and CDP, Harbeth speakers. I want to add my first DAC to the system. Initially it will take iTunes data from a MAC and run into the Exposure amp. I may also run digital out of the CDP into the DAC to see if that improves overall quality. I would like to stay at around $1000.THat is not a lot to some of you but that is kind of my limit at this point. From some of the reading I have done I am leaning toward a Metrum Amethyst, MHDT Orchid or Stockholm, or a Rega DAC-R. I am also open to used units as well. I do not want Pre-amp functionality, and a headphone amp is not critical but nice to have. I am interested in your commentary on the above units and brands. In addition the MAC is more than 15' away from the amp, so I am going to have to piece together USB, Interconnects and maybe SPDIF cables. Is there one cable I should avoid using in long lengths relative to the others?

I admit I am a total newbie in this. I will learn more about software...etc, but now just trying to make an educated decision as s first step.


No issue with USB length if connecting that way. SPDIF is max 10m. The $1,000 range is a bit sparse for even used units, so if buying new I'd go for Metrum.
I would think that your Exposure/Harbeth combo is somewhat musical, being somewhat warm vs. cooler or analytical. The choice of DAC should be made based on which way you want to take your system. The MHDT and Border Patrol DACs are also toward the warm side while DACs such as the Benchmark or Bryston tend the other way.  Perhaps a DAC that is known to be more neutral might be in order? 

There are many quality DACs, new or used, that would well serve your system priced within your budget. 

There are so many good, reasonably priced DACs around. If you want a natural, analogue sound, then Metrum is hard to beat. I recently replaced my Ayre QB9 DAC for a Metrum Octave at a fraction of the price and it is excellent.

 If you want a more dynamic, detailed sound, then Chord is where I would go, the 2Qute second hand or the new Qutest, are really excellent I was going for the Qutest till I listened to the Octave. They aren't really better or worse than each other, just very different.

in your price point I really like the latest Parasound ZDac as well as anything from Schiit

I would avoid anything more than 10 years old, as the playback got seriously better after.

DACs not yet mentioned from iFi Audio and Project , could be used.  One that I would avoid in that price range is Arcam
if you could stretch the budget to $2K, then a world of great DACs becomes available, ones that you may never feel the need to upgrade from.  So as this is your first DAC, I would spend as little as possible and see how you like world of Computer Audio.  If you then want to do a major upgrade in the future, I would suggest budgeting around 2K