I should add the main system is modest As said Bluesound Node 2i streaming to the Bryston DAC wvia a Cardas Lightning coax cable then Kimber Kable Hero RCA interconnects to an NADC165BEE preamp with Wireworld Oasis 5 RCAs feeding a vintage Adcom GFA 5500 amplifier ending with DH Labs Q10 Silver Sonic bi-wire speaker cables to a pair of Totem Forest speakers. Thanks for your comments.
Been using Bryston BDA-1 with Bluesound kit since 2014. I think it is still a very capable DAC. Its USB input is somewhat limited, but with Bluesound kit that is a non-issue. I'm currently using mine in a second system with a Bluesound Node. But BDA-1 came out something like 2009. And when it came out it was absolutely killer. There has been a lot of development since then. DAC years are like dog years in my view. In my main rig upgraded to a Chord Qutest in 2019. For me the upgrade was worth it. Sonically it was a definite improvement. To my ears less analytical than the Bryston. And for me the USB capability was a must, first for use with a Melco N1A, and since last year streaming directly from a Roon Nucleus. I am now also taking advantage of the Chord's DSD capability. But certainly not looking to knock the BDA-1, it remains a very good sounding piece.
Why not put the Topping D90 into the main rig and compare? I personally have a tough time spending more than $3K for a new DAC, I would look at $1500 DACs first because a lot of new DACs priced in this range are excellent.
I would think I would prefer the Topping D90 over the older Bryston. I use my Matrix Mini-i-3 Pro are a comparable to the Topping D90.
How good is the Bryston handling jitter?
What kind of 'noticeable' difference are you looking for? A component that sounds different when may not be a true improvement. If wanting to add a little more air or bloom try a DAC with tube output stage. MHDT (several models, $600 - $2000) ) or Audio Mirror (basic-$1500) are two you might look into. What is your budget?
The BDA-1 is a good DAC, having a solid power supply and quality analog output stage. I owned one, sold it for the Audio Mirror Tubadour III with mods. Looking to add tube sound into my system.
Thanks for the responses. All seem to agree the Bryston was advanced for its day and remains a solid performer, at least insofar as the basic internals are involved. Mesch asks "what kind of 'noticeable' difference are you looking for" and that is the fundamental issue that prompted my question. Honestly I can't answer that because I don't know what is out there given the tremendous advancement in delta sigma and R-2R DACS. My assumption is that the Bryston, while indeed capable (and currently providing what I judge to be a better option that the DAC in the Bluesound Node 2i) given its age must have been surpassed sonically by currently available DACs even in a lesser price range. To my ear the Topping D90 added much to the performance of my other system (principally used for home theater) where when listening to music feeds a Denon receiver to a pair of B&W 805s speakers. While not all vintage equipment has been surpassed in performance by later technology, I guess I just believe I must be missing something with the Bryston. Unable to audition among highly regarded DACs such as the Cord Qutest, RME ADI 2, Denafrips Pontus II (ore even Ares II) and others I looked to the forum for suggestions and guidance.
dsands, for what it is worth, if I was out shopping today, the 3 DACs you have mentioned would all be at the top of my list in their price range.
All 3 have been very well reviewed. John Darko, when reviewing the RME, directly compared it to the Qutest. More than price, just a matter of what features fit your needs, and more importantly, what sonic profile best suits your personal preference.
I had the BDA-1 and then BDA-2 about 6 years ago; I ended up selling the BDA-2 for the Alpha DAC Series 2 then SimAudio 380DSD which I kept for 5 years or so. I really liked the BDA-2 though for the money and thought it was a nice step up from the BDA-1.
If your happy with the Bryston you could snag a used BDA-2 (AKM DACs I believe). The 380DSD (which can also be found pretty cheap used sometimes) is a DAC I really liked and thought was a good step up for me at least over the BDA-2.
Recently I've tried the RME ADI2FS (also AKM) and Topping D90 and liked the RME the best. It is too long ago for me to compare the RME vs the BDA-2 but I could have lived with the RME after selling the 380DSD, although what I liked better about the 380DSD over the BDA-2 (a fuller more musical presentation) was also true in this case for my tastes as well which is why I ultimately sold the RME. I personally found the D90 to be too forward and analytical for my tastes; if your happy or looking for that type of sound though I found the D90 offers a lot of detail for little money...
If your looking for a different presentation from the D90, an R2R NOS with or without tubes would be worth a try. I ended up with an R2R NOS DAC and I find it so much more engaging and enjoyable than my previous DACs.
Interesting comment about the R-2R style docs. For the cost I am interested in the Ares II which seems to be well reviewed. Regarding the comments regarding tube or tube-like sonic quality, when reviewed against other similarly priced DACs the Ares seems to be the most 'full blossomed", i.e. less analytical.
I think you may easily find a DAC that provides a significant improvement to the sound quality, depending on what it is you listen to and prioritize when listening to music. The BDA-3 would be a big improvement over the BDA-1, in my personal opinion. But there are lots of other DACs out there that you may prefer.
The One to Beat: Gustard X26 PRO DAC Review (soundnews.net)
$1300 (on sale now)
I will get this delivered tomorrow. I will compare this to my 2 existing DACs, Benchmark DAC3B and Audio Mirror Tubadour III SE (mentioned above). The review above says it is a step up from the DAC3B which I am sure is better than the Bryston BDA-1.
Would love to have the BDA-3 but $3,800 is well out of my budget.@dsands In that case I second the RME ADI-2 DAC FS recommendation above, as a much less expensive option that also uses the AKM chipset. The UI can be a bit daunting and lead to accidental misconfiguration, but once set up properly you can choose to never touch the UI again.
If you are looking for something that (I feel) utilizes the CS4398 exceptionally well, then I can suggest the Prism Sound Callia. While there have certainly been major improvements in DAC architecture over the years, there have also been improvements in people optimizing and maximizing the use of older DAC chipsets.
While we are on the subject (and thanks for all of the input) what about the new Liberty II DAC that retails for just under $1K? I realize no one has had any chance to use or review this yet but if you have had experience with the original Liberty it would be valuable to see how it stacked up against those we already have been discussing.
I realize this is a long shot after so many years but if you're still around i would be interested to know how the Ares ll compared to the Bryston and if you kept it.
I'm in a similar situation in that i have a Bryston BDA-2 and wondering which DAC would be an improvement in terms of transparency. Also wondering if you ever got around to try the Chord Qutest at some point in your journey - it's a DAC i'm considering at the moment.