Quest for an external Dac has resulted in me way down the rabbit hole

Hi audio wizards!  I’ve read several articles and reviews about the benefits of a good quality external DAC, and the potential for “real” improvements in musical quality in a current system. I do believe my system might be in line .  I currently have a Rotel 955 CD player I like, a nodeii and a Creek evo 100 integrated amp.  The Ohm 1000 speakers sound a little lean in the top end although I do like them overall.  At this point I’ve been looking for a Dac that would bring a little more “spring and liven up my system”.  However, the more I research, the more confused I get.  I’ve been to a couple higher end stereo stores and I seem to just get the “party line”.  I live in Denver Colorado, and although I like the PS Audio line I can’t afford them.  If any one has any advice for me on a good quality external     
Dac model for under $1000 (new or used) I could sure use the help! Thank you



sound a little lean in the top end

You may need  a different pair of speakers.

Denafrips Aries II.

And yes, I may be biased, but think it’s pretty darn good for the money. Many others agree, so I’m in good company. Or, the iFi Zen DAC, or one of Schitt’s offerings. 

The Mytek Liberty was the recommendation here at this price point pre pandemic, but the company has been having some issues lately and can’t be recommended. I suggest looking at the line ups of Pro-Jett and iFi for new, and used the world is your oyster.



I’ve been to a couple higher end stereo stores and I seem to just get the “party line”.

I'm not sure what that means. Did you hear any DAC at the various dealers that you like?


I agree about the Denafrips by review onlly, I haven’t found one to listen to.  I heard that there is someone that services them on the east coast.  I have not been able to listen to any at stores, let alone compare them.  It’s basically this is what we carry take it or leave it.  I do like the ohms, I can move around or have people sitting in different parts of the room and sound is the same.  I also have a pair of Thiel 1.2,s that I also like but the sweet spot is small, thus the choice of the ohms.


thank you for your time and thoughts, the denafrps sounds like the plain!



One good thing about the Denafrips, if you try something else down the road, you will probably be able to sell it for what you paid. They are highly sought after on the used market. At least they are now. The others? You would probably take a typical ‘hit’ reselling (30-50%).

Very easy just look at all the rave reviews the Denafrips Aries-2 under $1k

be sure to buy a decent Ethernet cable and USB the Wireworld Starlight 8 is a great Ethernet and usb cable .

What do you think you will gain from spending $1000 over the Rotel CDP?  You would be better off sending me the Rotel for an upgrade.  $1000 can sure buy much better parts like Audio Note capacitors and resistors, a good choke, etc., that you won't get from a $1000 DAC.  Just more of the same.


Happy Listening. 

If you like PSAudio, then I would warmly recommend being on the look for a used older PSAudio DAC, like the DL/III or UltraLink II. When they show up, you can expect around 500$.

Do not be put off that they are older models. They play music, and provide substance - which is something that DACs in general very rarely do, regardless the price. Also, when you step up the amplification and the rest of the system to very high level later on, these older PSAudio DACs will be able to keep up. All you need to do is upgrade a few parts, if you dare to go to the DIY road... and you have a DAC for life. 







PSAudio DAC, like the DL/III

I have one. It’s in my bedroom system now, replaced by the Denafrips Aries II in the main rig. Great DAC still, but to my ears, the Aries II is a better overall performer.

I recommend the MHDT Orchid DAC. It uses an output tube and sound great in my system coupled with the BlueSound Node2 and an Audiolab 6000CDT cd transport. It will provide a touch of the warmth you are looking for and costs around $1,200 new. You’ll never find one used. Talk to the folks at Linear Tube Audio. They are their U.S dealer and they also carry another great tube DAC I bet you would like as well by Border Patrol. You won’t find a bad review of either companies DACs - certainly not by anyone that actually owns them.

I own the Bifrost II from Schiit and the Denafrips Ares 2....The Denafrips in a fuller sound,,,,more meaty and well rounded. You can listen for hours and never get fatigued....The Bifrost is more detailed....deep soundstage....more exciting ...more crystal clear but not bright. They are different but both Awsome and highly rec'd. I've tried Topping and SMSL....not even close...They are both R2R Dacs...much better than chip dacs......good luck to you.


The Ohm 1000 speakers sound a little lean in the top end although I do like them overall.  At this point I’ve been looking for a Dac that would bring a little more “spring and liven up my system”.

i think you will be very happy with this one - no affiliation so do your due diligence... among $1000 dacs i think this is one of the best with a 'lively' yet rich sound

Denafrips Aries, based on reviews, is a warm sounding DAC. If you’re looking to liven up the top end, not sure that’s the right DAC.

I would look for a used Benchmark DAC3 B. 

I heard that in one review, I  wish there were ways to load them up, take a few home and compare them.  Unfortunately can’t do that here.


Maybe 4 yrs ago I’ve heard all the denafrips Model at Axpona , I heard the terminator down to Ares l , For my taste in that system I’ve heard them , I prefer the sound of Ares , upfront I told them I will buy the Ares after the show, I still have the Ares.Agon member Trelja likes the Ares dac as well.He  heard them all also in New Jersey . I think Vince is the guy who demoed them, very nice and knowledgeable.

To the OP, your other components should be your starting point. DACs can make a HUGE difference in a resolving system, but would hardly make a sonic difference if the rest of the components are of lessor quality (which is why you like your current CD player/DAC). Speakers will make the biggest difference in sound followed by your Amp/PreAmp. Change those first and then the you will be able to hear the difference a good DAC can make. 

What do you mean when you go to dealers they just give you the “party line”? You mean recommend something they sell? What are they supposed to do? Do yourself a favor- if you want to climb out of this audio hole you and so many others are in, take your Rotel into a local dealer and ask them to show you something that sounds better to your ears. Don’t worry about the price. Just see if you can hear a positive difference. That’s the first step. Anything else except a home trial is spinning your wheels. But do call the dealer first and ask them if they can do this demo for you. If they say no, walk away. I’m just trying to help.

Perhaps he would like to use this new DAC for all his digital needs; the CD player, Node. etc.

Personally, I like the idea of a separate DAC for this purpose, as it can change along with the CD transport, streamer, etc.

The balance on Ares DAC is even better, I am using  Audioquest water xlr using Schiit Freya plus preamp.


Which stores in Colorado did you visit ? I’m in Colorado too. Jess over at Soundings is great. Andy over at Listen Up is also really good to work with. Did you visit them by chance? 


I haven't been to Soundings yet, I liked them but wasn't sure if they were focused on home installs now (that's what I heard

Soundings is a little pricier. They have Boulder , Chord and HiFi Rose Dacs that I know of. I’m using the DAC in my 866 right now. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Listen up so you will probably know what they carry better than me. I know Aurrender is one of their brands. Andy works in the Boulder store and he did tell me he was changing positions to focus on home installations but I can’t imagine they would treat someone like you or I with any less importance. I was calling him to get prices on REL subs. Good luck! 


You may want to go to Crescendo Fine Audio.  Among others, they have the Chord Qutest.  I really liked it when they let me audition it at home.  I have a PS Audio Direct Stream and the Chord was almost there.  My son has the iFi and it sounds really good.  I have heard the Schitt Modi in my son's system, it is OK.  Good value.  I have been burned by several manufacturers - they all have two things in common:  No returns.or Warranty not transferrable.

+1 chayro

OP, for a Fresh perspective, look at the alternatives to a Delta/Sigma DAC... Schiit, Denefrips, Soekris, Musician Audio, MHDT and many others offer something other than Tiss, Ssss and Hiss...

You may want to try to find a used Ayre Codex. They can often be found under $1000 and should give you the sound you are looking for. Good Luck!

Some good choices for consideration but the issue is that you may get one of these good ones and then decide it's not altogether impressive with your current system.

IMHO, that's the risk you take with your existing setup. I would suggest a RME ADI-DAC 2 which is available reconditioned or nearly new at your price point.

It is so flexible and brings so much more to the table than the others. You may land up making changes in other components but you will keep the RME.

Currently, I run it in a full-range system with rebuilt monoblock tube amps. It's a great match and no need for a preamp; the RME is a great product and great value.

Best of luck in your selection and happy listening. 

+1 for Denafrips, Alvin at Vinshine Audio is a pleasure to deal with, excellent customer service. As with any system, it's a balancing act to find components that complement each other so Benchmark may be good in one system whereas a Denafrips may be better in another.

I have a Denafrips Terminator Plus and it is amazing.  Before that I had a Wyred 4 Sound DAC2 DSD SE and an upgraded Schitt Yggdrasil.  The W4S was much better with more meat that the Yggrrasil.  You can pick one up for less than 1000.


Truthfully, you will only know when you listen for yourself in your own home with your own system.

Once you realize the importance of the external DAC you will likely be switching them out like speakers for the first year of two. And they are much easier to switch out than speakers.

Start cheap, Like in the less than $200 range to see what everyone is talking about.

Having said that. The real center of the universe of quality without diminishing returns of money vs quality of sound hovers around the $1000 mark. I have owned and can highly recommend the RME ADI2, the Denfrips AriesII. My own favorite in that money range group is the Schiit Gungnir, frigging love that DAC.  All three are different from each other and wonderful with no negatives.

Now I am running the Schiit Yggdrasil OG. Purchased for $2100 used. For me my endgame DAC.

Final note. They all do sound different. And super great measurements don’t count for much in the equation. I purchased a super perfect measuring DAC reviewed by Amir (who I trust), that measured great, sounded like mud.

You have to hear these yourself.

I live in Colorado and think the best dealer is crescendo up in wheatridge- matt there is awesome.  Before finding crescendo I bought a lot of gear (speakers, amp, preamp, turntable,cables) from soundings - wouldn’t buy from them again.