help me with a DAC decision please

i'm looking to upgrade my wadia DAC. My first choice would be to have it also act as my pre. My mind could be changed on that however. I am looking seriously at the April Music Eximus. Does any of the Metrum offerings fit in here? I  need some help finding comparative models from other makers. There is no place for me to see any close by. I have to wing it off of the web and your recommendations. I do not object to buying used.My budget would probably be under 3 grand new or used.
thanks for all the help
I ended up going with Schiit Dac's. Their Multibit dac's perform admirably and hold their own with much higher priced competitors.
They also have a 15 day trial period.
I like Schiit a lot but I am very happy with Mytek Brooklyn, built in phono pre as well. :)

There's some one on AG who gives you a 30 day in home trial.

I'm not sure if Schiit supports DSD, but Mytek sure does.


The Schiit gear gets uniformly great reviews, but I must ask why you sense a need to get a new DAC?  Wadia gear is tip-top.  I sure hope you have a chance to audition before you buy because is is very possible that any replacement for your Wadia will be a pricey side-ways move.  

whitestix you may be right. that's why i am asking for help. i definitely want to move up not sideways. as far as the need to change. . .  it's the addiction I guess. and i am also adding a network player. i want to make sure i have the best for the better files. thanks
The mytek is wonderful with ALL formats. Redbook sounds really really good.

It also does DSD and MQA, but the latter, from my ears, is snake oil.


I owned a Metrum Hex for a few years.  Wonderful dac, but does not have a pre-amp feature.  I wanted a dac/pre so went with the McIntosh D150.  No regrets at all.  An excellent piece.

As described above, the Schiit and the Mytek Brooklyn DAC are possible options for you to consider.  In addition, the two DAC's below are within your price range and include a volume control as you requested.  I own the Prism Sound CALLIA and like it very much.   The Resonessence Labs Veritas DAC recently announced DAC includes the ESS Technology the ES9028PRO.

I am using the Callia DAC in my two channel home theater system running an optical cable from my LG OLED 4k HDR TV to the Callia balanced to my Ayre AX-7e integrated amplifier to my Quad 2L speakers.   My audio only system uses a different DAC (Bricasti M1 SE DAC Dual Mono).   Please review: 

1) Prism Sound CALLIA USB Audiophile DAC and Pre-amplifier ($2,595)

"Designed and manufactured exclusively in the United Kingdom, the Prism Sound CALLIA USB Digital to Analogue Converter (DAC) and digital audio preamplifier is tailored for listening to music.

CALLIA is simply the best way to experience digital music. Coupled with high quality analogue power amplification and loudspeakers, CALLIA will deliver your music exactly as the recording producer intended. Whether it is early music, symphonic, choral, easy listening, elevator music, jazz, pop, hip-hop, EDM, garage, hard rock or something else, the clarity and neutrality of CALLIA will amaze you with its flexibility in the face of such different genres.

Using the acclaimed Prism Sound signal path, clock circuitry, ARM Cortex processor & USB platform of the Prism Sound professional range, CALLIA supports USB and S/P-DIF players".

2) Resonessence Labs Veritas DAC ($2,850)

"Resonessence Labs announces that their latest Audio DAC product, VERITAS is now shipping. Featuring the very latest in Sabre chip technology from ESS Technology the ES9028PRO.  In celebration of the fact that we are the first company to introduce a product that has the PRO series Sabre chip at its core. Each unit is machined out of a solid block of Aluminum and measure just 7.3” x 5.9” x 1.96”.  We are offering a choice of three colors, Black, Silver and Gold".

If possible, I suggest you audition these DAC's in your home to help you make a decision.  The problem is this may be impossible so I suggest you take your time and review these posts for more information.    

thanks hgeifman
that's a lot of helpful information. i will do the research. listening is a different story. i will check out all your info. thanks for taking your time.
Resonessence Labs Veritas DAC , is my primary DAC, it is a fine DAC which I use only for CD playback via my Aurender. This DAC does not have a PA or HPA which, for me, is a plus...since I was looking for a straight forward DAC, it also has seven filter modes that can be changed on the fly. I haven’t really sorted thru the different filter modes yet, since it sounds so good as is.I believe I have the first production model, received DAC this past May, I had to sent back to RL for a firmware update this past Aug. The support from RL is first rate M. Mallinson was a pleasure to deal with.

There's a Bel Canto DAC 3.5VB for sale here now with the VBS power supply in your price range.  I had the DAC 3VB in my system and it was outstanding (the VBS power supply makes a huge improvement over non-VB version -- I compared both in my system), and I found the preamp to be absolutely transparent and on par with my Bryston preamp, although it doesn't offer a balance control if that matters).  Read the reviews.  My only concerns would be that I don't think it does DSD and only has SPDIF input that may require their converter depending on your setup. 

If any of these concerns are deal breakers I'd take Erik's advice and try the Mytek.  Gets very nice reviews, and the ability to demo it in your system is a big plus.  Best of luck. 

I also suggest you look at the Ayre Codex DAC priced at $1,795.  "The Codex has many design features not commonly found in a DAC that retails for $1795. One is a pure analog, linear power supply instead of the more commonly found switching power supply. Another is a custom Ayre developed Minimum Phase Filter that was developed from 4 months of listening tests with a Burr-Brown DAC chip. A fully balanced signal path throughout the analog circuitry with zero feedback is also found in the Codex".

I have not heard this DAC but the company is great and all the reviews I have seen suggest you should look at it.  

ok a used april music DAC came up for sale and i bought it. i checked in to each and every suggestion. i want to thank all of you. hopefully when i need help in the future i can come away with the same amount of help. thanks
You owe it to your self to hear the Audio Alchemy DDP-1 DAC/PRE for $1895.  It does DSD and has a built-in Tidal app.  Great sounding DAC and very good preamp.

whitestix70 posts10-10-2016 8:35am I must ask why you sense a need to get a new DAC? Wadia gear is tip-top. I sure hope you have a chance to audition before you buy because is is very possible that any replacement for your Wadia will be a pricey side-ways move.

I’m 100% with whitestix there

Your going to find it hard (impossible) to beat your wadia 121 (delta sigma) based DAC with it’s own output level control, that can be set to match your system gain, don’t even bother, with another (delta Sigma) based dac.

BTW: your Wadia has the ESS ES9018S Saber (Delta Sigma) D/A converter so it may do DSD if you like it.

Unless your not liking the sound of Delta Sigma conversion with Red book which is in the Wadia, then this is another story, a "good" Multibit dac will sound better doing PCM Redbook.

From MoJo Sound
" When a PCM file is played on a Delta Sigma, DSD or Bit Stream converter, the DAC chip has to convert the PCM to DSD in real time. This is one of the major reasons people claim DSD sounds better than PCM, when in fact, it is just that the chip in most modern single-bit/Delta Sigma DACs do a poor job of decoding PCM."

Question is all you want is just a better sound from Redbook (PCM) and forget about DSD?

Cheers George
You can read Schiit  Yggy impression thread over in other forums.  I bought one after many months of searching and listening.  I am very happy with it!
I replaced the Wadia 521 with MSB Analog DAC.  The MSB is closest to the Wadia sound character but betters it on every front.  Furthermore the MSB plays high res. I did not like the new Wadia DAC i.e.  The 321. It does play Hi res bit does not sound like the Wadia you and I are familiar with . It is not a solid weighty sound. If you fall into the Wadia camp i.e. Before Fine Sounds took over you would be happy with MSB .  Hopefully you will find a used MSB Analog DAC to fit your budget.   Also look at the following Audiogon Thread.   From Wadia to ?   Sorry I do not know how to paste the link
Every digital volume control will truncate bit-length (and musical data) if it is used at its very lowest settings. To reduce this effect the Wadia’s maximum output level can be adjusted from 4.0V down to 2.0V or even 1.0V, so that at normal listening levels the volume control can be set near its maximum level. 
Very important you done this, have you set this max level  dpm2340 on your Wadia 121 yet, so you use it's digital domain volume control near full level for lound listening and go direct into your power amp.
As if you don't you could be "bit stripping" or as Absolute Sounds calls it (truncate bit-length)

Cheers George
Mostly true, but to nit-pick an answer, I've seen at least one maker use a 32 bit DAC's to 24 bit music, and use the remaining most significant 8 bits to do digital volume control, as well as DAC's that adjust the maximum output voltage digitally, while leaving the music data the same.

So I'd no longer say that all digital volume controls cause data truncation. Caveat Emptor however. 



Well I'd counter that, by saying if Wadia went to the trouble of doing extra circuitry for an absolute max configurable output setting when it uses the ESS ES9018S then they have measured "bit stripping" if the volume is below around 75% of full output. And they have stated it as so.

Also Thorsten Losche from AMR has also has stated this even more so.
Quote: " Turn down the volume even the tiniest bit using the digital volume control and the sound quality to a massive hit."  
Cheers George