I am on the road to upgrade my DAC. Currently use a MHDT Pagoda Balanced. Want to stay in the R2R world.

Considering Audio Note 2.1, SW1X DAC II, Lampizator Amber 4, or Holo Audio May.

Will be used in a system with Auralic server, ARC REF 3 Preamp, Modwright KWA 150 Signature Amp, and Wilson Sabrina Speakers.

Thoughts and advice?



I’m in similar situation with a Dennafrips Ter 12th Ann.  I was at a shootout this weekend and the Holo (2 chassis) was the consensus winner.  Can't speak to the others on your list.  I agree with staying in the r2r realm.


The Amber 4 is not an R2R dac but rather delta sigma. Not sure of what price range you’re trying to stay within but I would recommend trying an Aqua La Scala Optologic MKII. I’ve recently seen sales on the used market around $4.5K. I’ve owned one for a few years now and it fits well with my ARC gear. 
I also own a Lampizator but had to go with a golden Atlantic 3 TRP to best the Aqua. The Aqua combined with NOS driver tubes will take you to another level.

I would definitely would recommend giving the Audio Note DAC2.1x Signature a try ,if you are able. 

I have the TotalDac D1 and love it. I also have the audio note 4.1x i prefer TotalDac. If you have looked at SW1X dac i think they share same design technology as Audio Note



I have the TotalDac D1 and love it. I also have the audio note 4.1x i prefer TotalDac. If you have looked at SW1X dac i think they share same design technology as Audio Note




Just out of curiosity is your 4.1 an original AN or a kit? What year and is it balanced or S/E?

In our audio club I have most everything outthere and all popular R2R dacs 

the T+A200 sounds very R2R with better everything at $7k, myself and many others find it meets or beats anything even at $15k.

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I have never heard the AudtioNote or Lampi, but I have heard the Holo Audio May DAC KTE ($5,600) model and the Denafrips Terminator Plus 12th ($7,500) are truly amazing DACs. I did prefer the Terminator Plus, but I'd be happy with either one for my end game DAC.

The AudioNote DAC I don't believe is R2R either. 18bit chip based. 

I just moved from an R2R DAC to a Chord DAC and have to say if you've not tried a Chord DAC you should put it on your list. Not technically a R2R I believe they use a propriety DAC chip and custom programing. you can see them used now at reasonable prices, I picked up a DAVE for $6500usd a few weeks ago. 

If you are handy with a soldering iron and not afraid to work on the chassis main board, get yourself a MHDT Orchid and modify it by replacing the standard 1541a chip with an S1 or S2, then change the two large output caps to a more expensive Mundorf or Jensen. My modded Orchid is very transparent, smooth with depth and dare I say 'analogish'. Granted this would cost you probably at least $500 or so but IMHO it's a lot better than spending thousands and thousands of dollars only to probably be disappointed. 

After 3 months of research, I bought the middle of the Denafrips line, The Venus II. I have been blown away with the detail I am now hearing. Incredible. I am able to use the I2s on the Venus with my OPPO BDP-95 players HDMI with a $45 adapter from Fleabay. I prefer DVD-A, Blu Ray's, SACD's, and regular old CD's. The OPPO is my most prized possession. 

The AN 2.1x signature is excellent , but stretch to the 3 series is you can. Or at least the 2.1x signature balanced. Also remember the 2.1x sig is only balanced and spdif. No toslink, usb,I2s.  

If you will consider a used unit then an old Wadia will provide redbook performance to beat just about anything. My 30 year old Wadia 15 plays redbook only, using the famous Burr Brown PCM63 chip, regarded by some as probably the best ever.

I have listened to modern DACs playing hires files and have heard nothing to convince me to change. Also look out for Wadia 6, or 9  and No, I'm not selling mine. 😁


@ken7, where did you get your Orchid modded?

It sounds like those mods are worthwhile. Finding and S1 or S2 is hardly a given, but upgrading the caps should be a slam-dunk.

to desktopguy: I performed the mods myself. Requires obtaining a chip puller and removing existing chip and carefully inserting new chip. No soldering needed for this step. Removing existing large caps is an exercise in careful removal of existing large caps and soldering new ones in their place. S1 and S2 chips are available on line from e-bay account 'polida2008'. They've been in business for quite a while and seem to be honest

Forgot to mention that these have gone up in price. Recent check of prices seem to hover around $500 for an S1 chip....hopefully you may find one less expensive but make sure that S1 or S2 stamp is on the chip

@mountz the winner is based on what sonic comparisons?  Bass, mids, treble, soundstage, separation. clarity, etc.  That would be helpful to others trying to make a decision on a DAC.

All of the DACs are good quality DACs that all have something to offer.  They also offer upgrade options to improve the sound.

We make both R2R and chip DACs.  each offers something depending on what you are looking for.

Happy Listening.


Maybe you can stretch to a Lampizator Baltic 4 which the designer believes is a sonic bargain. There’s a used Baltic 3/4 here which is a Baltic 3 upgraded to 4. The used price seems high so maybe a lower offer?

Hard to go wrong with the Holo May DAC, plenty of very positive reviews 

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I have been very careful not to bring up SW1X unless someone else does. The reason is fairly simple-I just don't feel qualified to make qualitative judgments as to competing DAC's at any price level. But I auditioned the SW1X 2 SE with the USB option and it blew me away. So much so that I utilized the free trial program of the distributor and bought a SW1X DAC 3 Balanced. I am very happy with it too but it is not $7,000 better than the SW1X DAC 2 SE. It is perhaps 90% DIFFERENT and 10% BETTER if that makes any sense. But here is my overriding message to you-since you brought up SW1X-try one and see for yourself-they are legitimately great, IMHO. 

Keep in mind fwiw that Michael Fremer auditioned the basic SW1X phono pre and raved about it. He then ten or so months later auditioned the equivalent phono pre as my DAC III Balanced and also found the difference to be minor. 

On the plus side, ALL SW1X products are hand-built with utmost care and built to last. I don't pretend to know if Slawa has truly innovated from the AudioNote products that he has clearly emulated. There are minor differences. The R2R chips used by AN at each price point differs from those of SW1X. Slawa wrote me several times as to his design philosophy-a great DAC should be built more akin to a power amp or stout pre-amp with a robust power supply and careful attention to the input and output stages. 

I like knowing that my DAC was purpose-built. It shares little or nothing with other products in SW1X's line-up. Parts are not just swapped from from one multi-purpose bin to another as is standard practice for so many brands of audio components. 

My final word on SW1X (in this thread)-the sound from my DAC 3 Balanced, assuming a good source is utterly relaxed, detailed, and organic. If I were forced to knock it down on one aspect it would be that it perhaps does not suit rock music as well as others I have heard. I am referring to something with bass slam and dynamics such as (dare I mention them) LCD Soundsystem stuff. I am happy with it even with rock but if someone were to say that it is weak in that area, I would understand that view. 



I love these guys who run around forums saying they have an AN dac...Meanwhile they have a kit copy of an Audionote DAC, they paid literallly 1/4 of the price for built by some unemployed dude who lives in his Moms basement and think they have the same sound. It's just comical..