Is there a DAC ranking list?

This is a follow up from my previous thread seeking more definition and presence in my music.  Among other ideas, I was advised to get a new DAC and several brands were tossed out from $100 to $1700+. The world of DAC’s is large, and I’m wondering if there’s a ranking list for them, similar to Crinicles list for earphones.  I especially like the value ratings on that list, such as “Redefines the price bracket.”

Here’s a recap of my scenario:

I listen to jazz at lower volumes on via my Apple iPad pro

My room is big, 20ft by 40ft, no carpeting or drapes, with a corner LP triangle

Apple AirPort Express Wireless Router a1392 300Mbps

B & O BeoLab 8000 powered speakers, 10ft from the LP 

Hsu ULS15 Mk II 15in sealed sub imid-room

Paradigm Monitor Series 7 12in sealed sub mid-room via wireless transmitter

Monoprice cables 10ft and 25ft, 22awg, 3.5mm plugs to RCA connections 

I am sure there are many good and great DAC’s out there.  But are there some that punch above their price category?  I also don’t want to pay a premium for one that exceeds the quality capabilities of the rest of my system.

My music sounds “A++” with my Moondrop Blessing headphones, so listening to on my iPad is giving me the quality of sound that I am seeking for my speakers.

Also, I don’t know if I need a DAC with a preamp or a streamer.  Thx for any ideas you might have that could help me.


There cannot be a ranking list for all DACs because DACs are like other gear in that you can categorize them by their design and the likely sound signature based on that design.

You need to figure out what sonic signature you like. If you like warmth, then maybe a tube DAC would be on your top tier while another person may find that type of sound at the bottom tier.

Or one can argue that the DAC or TT should be neutral, and amplifiers and speaker should be neutral.

And then people spice to flavour with a tube preamp or a DSP?


But @yyzsantabarbara I agree that a Tube DAC on an existing SS setup might be a winning proposition.

The other obvious (?) difference is in features, EQ, user interface, streaming options… etc.
It almost doesn’t matter if it is the best, and is only $50, if it is painful to use.

YouTube is your friend! Listen to some of the best and make your decision based on what sounds best to you.  I have the Schitt Yggdrasil, which is superb... but... I'll prolly end up with the Holo Audio or Denafrips.  

Though... there are only very subtle differences between the most expensive and the reasonable priced DACs - it's hard to tell the difference - as acknowledged by the reviewers.  So... it doesn't make a lot of sense to struggle with a decision.

"Don't get lost in the details" - it can be overwhelming.  Listen to 2 or 3 of what are widely acknowledged to be the best DACs available:






I was in the group that most DACs sounded the same until I bought a bunch of DACs and listened at home. The real differentiator of the sound was evident in my RAAL SR1a headphones. I never heard anything as revealing as the SR1a and with a bright DAC you get fatigue. With a to warm DAC you can immediately notice the loss of detail.

The very best DAC on the SR1a was the Musetec. No fatigue, no brightness, and tons of detail. On my 2-channel speakers, Thiel CS3.7 it is more forgiving with all of the DACs I listed, but still is the best sound with the 005.

I should clarify that all of the prior amps I have used with the SR1a have been solid state.  Maybe 10 amps, 2 channel and dedicated headphone. A tube peramp or amp would alter my perception. As now with me using my brighter DAC3B with the new RAAL VM-1a tube headphone amp.

From the description of your room/system, you have bigger fish to fry than a DAC.

Just sayin......

From the description of your room/system, you have bigger fish to fry than a DAC.

Just sayin......

OK, ozzy62, I’d like you to expand on that if you would.  I’ve started room treatment by adding 7 utility mats on the floor.  As I mentioned, I’m very happy with the sound of my Moondrop Blessing earphones.  My guess is that the weak links are the AirPort Express and/or streaming on the iPad Pro.  What would you address to take a step forward?