Need a DAC recommendation


It has been my experience that there isn't a great deal of information out there regarding the performance of all the new DACs coming out--especially for more affordable ones.

I need a new DAC and I'd like to spend less than 600 used or new, the cheaper the better. USB would be nice, but I'm probably going to use digital coax mostly from my computer. I only listen to FLAC and I always try to obtain the highest bitrates possible, so the DAC has to be able to accept at least 24/96 (192 or higher would be even nicer, as would upsampling, but I'll take what I can get for the price). On my other system, I have a V-DAC with the V-Link usb/spdif converter and its not bad. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. BTW--Anyone try the VDAC II?
rossbernstein
I understand the need for good analog components, and I love the warm sound of analog+tubes...if I could have the best of both worlds that'd be great. I guess i'm kind of a bitrate junkie--my entire music collection is in FLAC, and I strive so hard to find the highest quality files, so I really want a DAC that can stand up to them on the digital end. A lot of the DACs with good analog components mentioned above are a bit hard to find. A few questions come to mind--does a tube DAC really add a lot of warmth to the sound? I don't have any tubes in my setup yet for budget reasons, and being able to add some tube-sound with a DAC would be nice. Also, how do the HRT streamers stand up to the music fidelity DACs and the PS Audio DL III? My only qualm with HRT is that they are USB-only, and I like to use digital coax. Is the asynchronous USB as good as digital coax? I've never used asynchronous USB. Does the HRT II+ add a lot of quality over the HRT II? I think the M1 DAC may be at the top of my list right now, but at that price range are there any others worth considering?
Check out the Emotiva XDA-1 DAC. It has 2 coax inputs, an AES input 2 optical inputs and 1 usb input. The analog output stage uses all discrete audiophile parts (no opamps) and it sounds really great using an hp laptop running J Rivers Media Center 16 in WASPI output. All files are ripped to FLAC.

The unit is a steal at a reduced price of 299.00! The only drawback is it doesn't do 24/96 on usb. I am waiting for a Musical Fidelity v-link to convert the usb to coax so I can try out some High res downloads.

Bob
I would not pick a DAC based on tubes or SS, but just on sound. Can a tubed DAC add warmth? Sure. Do they all? No. Take a look at the Audio Aero equipment (I had the Capitole a while back), it has subminiature tubes and imparts a high degree of warmth and bloom while many others do not, the MF Trivista, which also used subminiature tubes (I currently own this DAC, but its just sitting unused) is not what I would call warm or bloomy.

I understand the wanting for the high bit rate chipsets. But let's all be honest with each other, the costs of the chipsets is astronomically cheap (you see 24/192 bit rates in sub $100 equipment). Which goes to show what you are really paying for with a DAC. If the chipsets were the leading component that determined performance, 90% of the HT receivers would be outperforming the best DACs of just a few years ago. But we all know this isn't the case.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that the newer chipsets can't improve the performance of a component. But what I am saying is that a DAC with a "great" new chipset, but with a mediocre analog circuitry and power supply will not outperform a DAC with an older, lower sampling rate DAC with a very good analog set-up and power supply.

Take a great older model DAC (great analog and PS) and update the chipset and yes, I think it can improve based on the chip (new technology, capabilities, etc. . . ) but it can only increase up to the capabilities of its weekest links. Just like in a system. You can have a great turntable but a lousy amp and speakers and your system will no show what the table is capable of - same with a DAC with great/new chipset and lousy PS and Analog section.
http://www.dbaudiolabs.com/tranquilityDAC.html Wait until you hear this one....
If you will only be doing computer audio, then I urge you to research USB DACs. There has been a lot of development recently, and USB now handles high resolution files. There are two approaches, asynchronous (e.g.,Ayre, Wavelength, HRT, Wyred 4 sound) and high resolution synchronous (CEntrance, Benchmark). Within your budget, I recommend you'd look at HRT Music Streamer II+ (the II+ will have much better analog output stage and components than the II) or the II Pro if you have XLR inputs on your preamp. The CEentrance products should also warrant your consideration.
Is the high resolution USB as good as the digital coax? Depends on a lot of variables. How are you getting coax out of your computer? Musical Fidelity V-link or M2Tech hiFace Asynchronous USB To S/PDIF Converters? Or just a basic computer soundcard?
I am assuming the latter. Why don't you borrow the Musical Fidelity combo from your other system, and hook the V-DAC up both via coax and through the V-Link, and listen which connection sounds better. That should give you an idea what direction you should go, coax or USB