New DAC! Meitner MA3, Denafrips Terminator Plus, Holo May KTE, Mola Mola Tambaqui

Currently have an original Schiit yggdrasil.  Thinking about taking another step up or maybe two steps!  Is the Holo May still good?  I know I hear a lot about Denafrips.  Then someone was mentioning Mola Mola. 

I like the idea of the i2s HDMI connection, I believe this is so I could have my DAC decode SACD versus a player. 

Also considering name brands dCS Lina, Meitner MA3, MSB?

Wilson Alexia V

Dan D'Agostino S250

Mac mini running Roon

Is anyone really winning in this space.  Tough for me to demo at home as I'm 2 hours from HiFi Shops and they are kind of limited in the direct to consumer DACs.

Thank you!


DCS Bartok is pretty amazing. I have one available, sick price. i’ve had most of the ones on your list and then some. If you want some ideas on what they sound like send me a message. Ray

The Yggdrasil is a budget DAC. Upgrading will make a huge improvement in sound. The real question is in which direction do you want to upgrade? Do you want incredible detail? Or detail and musicality. Look at Berkeley and dCS for detail. ARC is detailed and incredibly musical. There are a lot of great DACs on the market today. In general, the greater the investment the greater the performance (of main stream DACs). I would recommend US and European before less expensive DACs. Typically these are great sounding on several dimensions, but miss on a couple. 

Do not consider new interconnect types in your decision. The big deal is the component. AES is likely what you will use… but it is the component that is the determinant of the sound… the best connection is secondary or tertiary.

Thank you ghdprentice.  ARC as in audio research?  I see a lot of references to Chord DAVE as well.  

@chauncey I am considering the Yggdrasil myself and would be interested in your comparisons. I am also looking at the OKTO DAC8 (likely get this one). 

Another DAC that I owned and liked a lot for my 2-channel was the Musetec 005. However, I did not like it as much on my headphones. 

At this point getting a DAC is about synergy. I have an idea of getting a Playback Designs Edelwise or Dream DAC (damn expensive) though I think the 10x cheaper OKTO may be better for my headphones and tube headphone amp.

Synergy is my main criteria now and not really more expensive is better.

The i2s does not mean it can decode DSD (SACD). I do not think that is even allowed with the licensing terms of DSD from Sony. 

My prior Mustec 005 DAC had i2s and that had nothing to do with DSD. i2s is usually a little closer to the DAC convertor (maybe chip, FPGA, etc) over another input such as USB. It could be a shorter path to the DAC's internals.

Why not look at a top end SACD player that now have DAC inputs such as USB. The Esoteric XD lineup, Luxman, Playback Designs, Marantz, etc



SACD is a low priority.  Just seemed like more companies are starting to support i2s so I assumed if you get a DAC with this it's a little more future proofing. 

I highly you suggest checking out the exceptional T+A 200 dac Myself and many others in our north east club have tried all you mentioned and many others .

the T+A is around $7k  and I know 4 guys that bought it vs Anything under $15k 

I am buying one for my early 🎅 Xmas present it is that good very natural sound  and great detail but not in your face like the Dave dac Balance is the best word 

and has many of options even HQ player built in and meters are very good., checkout the reviews first then arrange a audition.


Add Bricasti to your list. With an optional network card it’s Roon ready. All you need is your mac mini as roon core and ethernet cable connecting the Bricasti to your network. Clean set up (no streamer needed) and great sound. Pick the model within your price range.

I bought the Yggdrasil Less Is More DAC today. I should have driven the 80 miles to the SchittR and had a listen before I bought but I was too lazy to drive. I will use a Sonore OpticalRendu for the streaming. This is better than any DAC's built-in Ethernet,

The best DAC I have had, by a small margin, was the Lumin X1 using fibre optical streaming. The goal is to get close to that sound with the Yggy and Rendu for much less cost. I think the Rendu streamer is in some ways better than the streamer in the X1.

The DAC that I want to compare the Yggy to is the Musetec 005 (used to own), which has been favorably compared to the Holo May KTE. I will be using the Holo Serene preamp with the Yggy.

First off Roon is not as good sonically as the Lumin or Aurender apps. If you don't mind ditching Roon get the new Lumin U2 with fiber optic input to start (I have the P1 with the same set of LAN and fiber optic inputs), however if you are married to Roon get an Innuos Zenith Mk.3 server, then ditch your MAC as it will be a bottleneck in your system when you upgrade your DAC. As for DAC recommendations my pick for under $10K is my current DAC the Lampizator Baltic V4. Plus $10K the Mola Mola is the best I have heard, but I have never owned one so hesitate to recommend it wholeheartedly. Another thing to keep in mind is you will want to upgrade your switch as well (get one with fiber optic and OXCO clock). Everything in a digital source chain counts IME, don't trust me however, do the research on the forums and see for yourself the growing consensus. If I could afford it I'd get a dCS or MSB or Esoteric stack, that way you don't have to take a risky mix and match approach - but that is $30K minimum entry territory.

One idea is to get a Gustard R26, which I have, or the A26, and add a master clock to it. Then add the new Etherregen v2, a SOTM sms 200 ultra neo special edition, a sotm tx-usb, connect them all to the same master clock, including the Etherregen, and I’m betting it will rival most 10k setups for $4500.

I have the Tambaqui and am amazed every time I listen to the size of the soundstage and the absolute blackness of the areas around the instruments. 

kairosman's avatar


198 posts


First off Roon is not as good sonically as the Lumin or Aurender apps. If you don't mind ditching Roon get the new Lumin U2 with fiber optic input to start (I have the P1 with the same set of LAN and fiber optic inputs), however if you are married to Roon get an Innuos Zenith Mk.3 server, then ditch your MAC as it will be a bottleneck in your system when you upgrade your DAC.

I disagree. The DAC you’re using and it’s implementation of a network renderer vs what kind of streamer? Now add USB cable or whatever type of connection you will be using…that cable matters too. 

My Roon ready Bricasti M3 with network renderer wired to an access point with a good ethernet cable beat the lumin U1 Mini streamer.
Mola Mola also has a built in renderer, is Roon ready and does not require a streamer. 

Mac Mini sucks as a streamer but as a Roon core only it won’t be a bottleneck.  

another one you should put on your list is the Wyred4sound 10th anniversary dac, the reviews have been stellar, one of the reviewers put it up against his VPI turntable with a $5,000 Japanese cartridge and he said it was every bit as analog sounding, I bought it from that review and I totally agree analog warm detailed doc that I've ever had in my system, not cheap though $4,500 US and they also give you a 30-day trial period if you don't like it you send it back and get all your money back. it has bested DACS from $9,000 to $15,000.

The I2s standard is pretty much theoretical. To me, the main advantage of I2s is being able transmit digital data with fewer conversions and clock. Unfortunately, many I2s devices don’t transmit clock signals, or the DAC isn’t setup to receive and use the clock.

My Aurender N20/May Holo DAC KTE aren’t quite up to my analog, but very very close. To be fair, my analog cost many times what I have spent on digital, so I consider the Holo to be a great performer. Where it sits today compared to other DACs in this price range, I do not know.

The PS Audio DAC 2 wasn’t out when I purchased the Holo, but it does come with a 30 day trial period, so that might be a good place to start. I would ignore the vitriol around the subject of hum in that a trial in your home would suffice and be more relevant. I don’t know where you can do the same type of trial with the T&A, but that just might be out there. I believe that they are priced the same.

I’ve had the Lumin D2, Lumin P1, MHDT Pagoda Balanced, Krell Illusions ii used internal DAC, Node 2i and a couple other DAC’s I’m forgetting about along the way.  I have a PS Audio MK2 currently.  I’ve used Lumin and Auralic dedicated streamers.  Synergy is key, power supplies and clean power make a big difference.  Your preference on sound characteristics is also a huge factor.  Some really high end DAC’s are very clean, detailed, dead quite and can lean toward analytical.  R2R especially a tube design tend to be warmer, more analogue but they don’t have the level of detail, nuances nor are they as quite.  Hearing the differences also largely depends on your supporting gear.  Some gear will really highlight the differences between DAC’s and some set ups won’t present noticeable differences.  The list you have compiled is a strong list, you’ve gotten some nice suggestions on what to add to the list.  I’d add Lumin to it, they are highly regarded in the Hifi space and their gear tends to punch above its weight class.  Not because I have it currently but the PS Audio DAC is getting rave reviews by many.  In my system it has a more laid back quality than some other DAC’s I’ve used.  If you do spend the coin on one of the DAC’s I’d echo comments, suggestions on replacing your Mac as a streamer, if you are spending that kind of money on a DAC having a high quality streamer is key to getting the most out of it.  I’ve done an A/B comparison and found a streamer to be a big improvement and the vast majority of forums I’ve read lean into the virtues of a streamer vs using a PC or Mac as a streamer. Good Luck! 

Every system is different.  The only way to know what you prefer is to hear the DAC in your system.  I've recently listened to the Tambaqui and Bartok in my system. I prefer the Chord Dave to both.

Not sure I could get use to the look of the Chord Dave....

I'm very open to just using the mac mini to run core and getting a dedicated streamer.

Leaning toward the MSB Discrete DAC.  I like the upgradability and the modular digital inputs.  Build quality looks pretty high so I assume it's reliable and they would service it.  

So for a dedicated streamer/player.  Probably don't have the funds for a Taiko yet but what would be on par with the MSB Discrete DAC?

"Not sure I could get use to the look of the Chord Dave.." The Dave isn't for you and that's what makes this hobby so personal. 

@ricred1 I actually think it looks pretty cool and stands out especially with that curved eye for a display.  I grew up watching flight of the navigator and I'm pretty sure it was in that movie!  But I want my turntable to stand out and my DAC to be more of just a box!

I think with the MSB Discrete DAC if you purchase the Network Renderer module the DAC becomes a Roon endpoint.  Does anyone have experience using any MSB DAC as a Roon endpoint versus using a player and outputting digital to the MSB.


If you are in the market for a better DAC, I recommend that you do just that. Introducing additional components like a tube buffer also introduces another component and set of interconnects, with their associated signal degradation. The best sounding solution, assuming equal quality components is the fewest. Also, I think the least expensive.  

I would recommend finding the best quality DAC with the characteristics you value. It is likely to perform better overall.

Yes tube buffer idea only as secondary output feeds, more of a joke or future science project!  Future design XLR from DAC into Dan D'Agostino Momentum HD preamplifier to my amp.  

@ghdprentice Sure, a $2,300 DAC isn't high end, but budget? It may be time for some real-world perspective. $230 is budget. $2300 for a DAC is beyond the means of many, many people. (And $2,300 is probably more than a non-audiophile would spend for an entire system.)

With this logic @ghdprentice then we should all dump our separates and get an All In One?

Also AR is not the end all be all, matter of fact there are many DACs that are much much better. Bit of an AR homer. 

If you are in the market for a better DAC, I recommend that you do just that. Introducing additional components like a tube buffer also introduces another component and set of interconnects, with their associated signal degradation. The best sounding solution, assuming equal quality components is the fewest. Also, I think the least expensive.  


Sorry, did not intend to be put any component down. How about this, Yggi is a good budget high end DAC. That is what my intent is. 

But in the gamut of audio DACs is something like $100 to +$50K. In the gamut of performance it is above consumer electronics but well below high end. While the idea budget / midrange/ and high end is certainly open for lots of debate. Performance separates different classes of components. There are lots that have respectable performance for their price… in the budget class. Good performance for cost, better than consumer, but not high end.


There is a point where there is a very significant improvement over the vast majority of inexpensive DACs. I would say that is in the $5K range, depends on the actual model. There are really big improvements in the $5K to $10-$15K… which are the mid-priced DAC range. Really high end DAC performance is in the $20K range.

I know it is somewhat arbitrary but there is a continuum of performance and the Schiit DACs are definitely extremely cost effective, but not in any way high end.

i have the Meitner MA3, owned the Holo May KTE, and borrowed the MMT from a friend for a week. i also have the Wavelight and Wavedream Signature.

If you're keen on i2s, then the MA3 is out. from the rest above, i'd go for the Rockna dacs over both Holo and MMT.


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Actually I'm not sure if i2s is a deal breaker or not.  I'm looking at the MSB Discrete which I don't think has the option for i2s but then again it has modular input cards. 

If I could afford it I would get the Emm Labs DA2 V2.  But my budget is about half that right now.  I'm just not sure if the MA3 will beat out an MSB Discrete, plus I can upgrade it so I think it would last longer?

@ghdprentice Sorry, didn't intend to lecture. Let me put it this way -- most people, even car enthusiasts, would consider a Toyota Camry a mid-priced car, not a budget car. And virtually anyone would call a top-of-the-line Lexus a luxury car. Both of those are true even though Bentleys exist.

@chauncey I would suggest that you get a streamer/server/dac with I2S and or USB, otherwise you'll have to convert DSD files to DOP.

Another item that is essential is a 10MHz master clock so look for equipment with a 10MHz clock input.

My setup includes an Aurender N20 with a Musetec 005 DAC and MHz master clock.

I store all my CDs, DVD-A and SACDs on the Aurender's SSD.


Can't tell if the MSB Discrete does DSD without the DOP? not sure of it's master clock speed.  

Also is it odd that MSB doesn't have an i2s HDMI input card?

The MSB gives you the choice of having everything in a single box. DAC, Pre-Amp, Streamer; storage is probably through a NAS.

Native DSD is an option if you use the USB input module, native DSD should be possible via NAS.

Everything is clocked internally. I believe by Word Clock 44.1/48KHz.

Earlier models had an I2s input module, I think.

You can also use an external streamer/server.

The Discrete is $12,500 for the basic model without add-ons, the top model is over $100k.

Lots of options.


The MA3 sounds best through its network connection and its inboard streamer. Don’t get hung up on I2s (since there is no real standard). When I owned the MSB Discrete with dual power supplies and pro-usb but I never “bonded” with it. It was fed via an Innuos Zenith Mk3 I had at the time. The MA3 is a real strong performer. Over time I transitioned to a loaded Totaldac D1-Tube-Mk3 dac with inboard streamer and DSD with live power supply. In my opinion and to my ears in my system, I found it more organic than the MSB and the MA3. BUT, the Meitner’s performance over ethernet exceeded that of the Totaldac fed via ethernet. Once I upgrade to the Grimm Audio MU1 server/streamer which feeds directly via AES/EBU, the Totaldac edged the MA3. I have since upgraded my dac to another brand not being discussed so I will avoid “shilling” for it here.


If I could insert anything into this discussion as a meaningful takeaway, it would be to demo and listen to your digital chain as a whole. Dac A being fed directly by server/streamer B requires you to properly match to their strengths. I2S, USB, etc means nothing unless they are optimized for one another. Properly implemented inboard ethernet feeds into the dac typically removes alot of the data variables. My new dac sounds exceptional when fed via ethernet…they did it right. I still happen to prefer the sound, however, via AES/EBU (which is limited to 24/192) from the Grimm feeding the dac directly but the differences are very small.


Try to avoid getting “sticky” with resolutions, PCM vs DSD, I2s, USB, etc because it all depends on the designer and the implementation. Also, the poster who talked about the MSB solution being all in one box obviously hasn’t owned one. While it performs at a very high level, the loaded out Discrete has a couple of external power supplies which requires two power cables, two umbilicals and the prousb module has the fiber umbilical to the external prousb box into which you plug the USB cable. Oh, if you use RCA interconnects then you have to use some XLR to RCA converters since the Discrete only comes stock with XLR. The rechargable remote was cool though.




Here you come with your nonsense again.

Try to avoid getting “sticky” with resolutions, PCM vs DSD, I2s, USB, etc because it all depends on the designer and the implementation. Also, the poster who talked about the MSB solution being all in one box obviously hasn’t owned one.

I haven't owned a MSB DAC but it consists of one main box plus power supplies as the basic version.

Resolutions matter, really matter.



I certainly didn’t mean to touch a nerve although I quite understand if Yorktown still has you in a mood. Over here, one box tends to mean….one box. That new math can be troublesome from time to time.


As far as resolutions matter…it of course depends on the recording. With that said, I can play for you the same recording in 16/44.1 or 24/192 or DSD and while you may prefer one over another it won’t be because you can tell the resolution, it will be because of what the digital stream is optimised for.


If it makes you feel any better, my DAC is British although it doesn’t whine.

So much depends on your system. I A/B’d a Schiit Bifrost 2/64 ($800) vs. a Holo Spring KTE ($3k) in my system. Same cables, everything.

And while the Holo was better -- soundstage and presence, especially -- it was maybe a 3% difference.

I make this point only because I would expect a much bigger difference -- and I’m willing to stipulate that there could be a difference. But my system won’t reveal it. So, for my pocketbook, it’s not worth the expenditure.

Oh you've got a secret DAC....let me guess????

It's a DCS because they're all show and no go! Just like????

You still don't get the relevance of "GOD SAVE THE QUEEN, MAN!"

I enjoyed Holo Dac at Pacific Audiofest last year.


It is a pretty good Dac with clarity.


But best value will be Starkrimson Pecanpi+ which cost 900$.


It sounds close to Dave (modified with three Farad Lps) and Mscaler which cost 20k$.


Thus you had better be in line for tour of Pecanpi+ for home audition.


It may sound better than Yggdrasil and it also streams.



Is the HiFi Rose RS150B more about a touch screen and software than sound quality?  How does it stack up against other $5k-$6k streamers? Aurender N200?


No problem. I understand what you are saying.

Maybe my way of looking at the industry is a bit different. But I think it comes from lots of discussions with folks that are into high end audio. 

In the world of audio, level one is consumer products… designed for non-discerning consumer, built with lots of features and functions to attract the attention of buyers. In general those are not discussed here because folks buying them are not interested enough in sound to be joining a forum on the subject.

The next level up are inexpensive (by high end audio standards) that are designed to sound good but cost as little as possible. These sound better than your average consumer product, but are designed around the best possible sound with inexpensive, parts, cases… etc. This would be what I would call budget high end gear. I guess I use the term to make sure it is obvious that there is big compromise in the construction and sound. I know a lot of audiophile and have for decades and  i think this is a commonly used term. Or maybe entry level high end.

Up a level from there is or modestly priced high end equipment… the fit, finish improves as does sound. I’d probably put PS Audio in this category. Then mainstream audiophile stuff… meaning, outstanding sonic performance, fit & finish. all aspects crafted to an objective. Constructed to a price point, but very uncompromising. This includes companies like Conrad Johnson, Mark Levinson, MacIntosh, Audio Research. Typically these components in todays market go for $12 - $25K each. Volumes are still there with these components.


Finally there is the assault on what is possible were cost is no object, only sound and form. A number of companies have flagship components in this category, Wilson, MBS, Constellation, typically $> $50K per component. 

Anyway. Maybe my language is a bit sloppy, but that is my take on the industry.