New to audio. Is there a good DAC that can produce layers of sound?

One of the Youtube audio reviews I watch as a beginner in audio system is Darko

He says during the Chord Qutest review that this DAC can produce layers of sound which is great

I kinda understand what he says because from my very first audio setup, which I returned due to awful sound of music this week, I could still feel some layers, maybe 2, from Post Malone’s song Deja Vu. Only, there were 2 clear layer, from 16bit 44.1 kHz signals from Sonos Amp, one very far back near the speaker and one right next to my ear. I thought it was amazing though. The speaker was SVS ultra bookshelf.

Now those are all returned to the seller, and I am looking for something more clear, musical, and awesome. So, the Qutest is one of the DACs I want to try.

But, if there is any DAC you, as a more experience audiophiles, would like to recommend to me for having great sound effect, could you please list some names? with brief description of the sound?

The price range I am looking for is about $1.5K or less. I prefer less. Used items included.

I am on a journey to setup an enjoyable sound system for myself and would like to see what others like.


Recordings are a big part of this.  Good full range neutral speakers are also a must.

I am getting either a 

1. Monitor Audio Gold 100 5G or
2. Dali Rubicon 2 or
3. Elac Vela

Now I don't have any. Returned my first speaker SVS Ultra last week.
It was great, but little harsh on my ears sometimes.
The best DAC in this case would be the proper setup of your speakers in the room.
Believe me. I was asking the same question years ago.
Hi @talkskiwon - first off, welcome to the wonderful world of hifi! It's a fun, if maddening/eccentric/crazy, hobby. :)

I think I understand what you mean by "layered" - it's one of the special qualities of high-end reproduction that makes it so alluring. Many audiophiles call this "dimensional." Once you hear it, everything else sounds flat, 2D and dry by comparison. So let's help you get a good dose of that on a budget.

My general advice here starting out is to pick out speaker/amp combo that you like. It does not have to be expensive, it just depends on what qualities matter to you most and what compromises you're happy living with. On speakers, my sense is a good 2-way monitor with a minimal crossover and high-quality traditional drivers (paper/silk/etc.) are a good place to start. It looks like you're on that track! Minimalist crossovers, when done well with good drivers, tend to image very well and give you more of the layering you're looking for.

A brand that fits that bill and I can strongly recommend is Silverline Audio - e.g. I have a review of their Minuet Grand here, and it is an amazing speaker if within your budget ($2k):

Another great speaker for the money is the Dynaudio Special Forty. It's got big bass, a little big/bloated for my tastes, but a very full and fun sound. It might just a little beyond your budget, but the less expensive Dynaudios like the Emit series might also be worth a listen if you can find a shop.

I have not heard the Elac, Monitor Audio or Dali you mention but have heard good things. I've found Monitor Audio to be a bit dry in the past, and might need careful amp pairing to avoid getting bright. I was quite impressed with the Elac Uni-Fi a friend got when paired with my Bryston B60 integrated, but I think there are more layered-sounding speakers out there and they need careful amp matching.

There are many great 2-way monitors in the $2k price range so definitely keep listening to as you can and get a feel for what you like. They will vary in tonal balance, bass extension, dynamics, etc. and no one formula is perfect for everyone. At a given price point a designer has certain ingredients available and the recipe they have chosen will cater to different tastes. If you can provide more of what you're looking for (musical tastes, room size, what you thought about a particular speaker) that will help people give more tips. It's clear you don't like bright sound, though I don't know if the SVS speaker was to fault - it could have been the Sonos amp. The amp choice is going to be super important.

Now, on your original question of DAC. You've gotten a bunch of advice here, and TBH, I don't think random recommendations of "get this" or "get that" are particularly helpful. Best we an do is tell you what we've heard and what we thought of them relative to other things, and you can take with a grain of salt. I will say this though. I have a PS Audio DirectStream DAC, it's fairly expensive and gives a very natural, dimensional sound. Before that I used a $1k Cambridge StreamMagic. No it was not as layered, but it sounded quite good! Dynamic, punchy, fun and with decent depth. When the PS Audio was out of commission, I used an Ayre Codex (~$1k used, I'm actually selling one) and a $179 Topping NX4 from Amazon. Honestly, they all sounded pretty good in my system, the Topping being the least "layered" as you'd expect, but still capable of a nice soundstage. I don't think there are very many bad-sounding DACs these days; when you start getting really picky, the expensive ones will do some really nice things the cheap ones can't, and there's no way any of them will replace my PS Audio. But I think if you're just getting started with your system, it wouldn't be the worst idea to start with something simple under $1k like something from Cambridge (or even Topping if you just want to get the system up and running), figure out the rest of the system and then see what you want from the DAC. In general DACs have less variable "flavor" to them - bright, dark, warm, dynamic, etc. - than amps and speakers, they are more about fine tuning and refinement. If you do want to spend a bit more, Chord DACs are always musical and nice, though perhaps not the best value - I don't find them to be quite as amazing as they're chalked up to being.

Another electronics brand to consider if you like a warm, dimensional sound is Rega. Not the best made stuff, not particularly transparent, but very listenable with a pleasing warmth. My first amp was the Brio integrated some 25 years ago (with Tannoy monitors and a Radio Shack CD3400) and it gave me a nice initial taste of hi-fi.

Anyway, hope this is somewhat helpful. Feel free to check out my blog ( and FB page ( and lean on the people there for ideas. Good luck!

The lks DAC 004 will produce whatever is on the recording but can be only be as good as the rest of your components if you have another weak link make sure to upgrade that also .The DAC cost around $1,400 and I had it modded buy EVS mods for another $500. Make sure to let us know how you ended up. Enjoy the holidays and happy listening.