Recommend A New DAC Between $1000 and $2000

I am currently using an older Assemblage DAC 2.0 ( BB1702 R2R dac chip, CS8412 receiver, PMD100 filter) with many upgrade mods.  It sounds surprisingly good, but I am looking for something current and better sounding, with the following characteristics:

- Smooth, spacious, slightly warmish sound

- Smooth, non glaring, non etched higher registers (maybe sounding just a bit    rolled off, as in lacking strident edges)

- Great sound stage and depth

- Excellent resolution

- Generally natural sounding

... and at a price under $ 2000 if possible

Any ideas and / or personal experiences?

Thanks in advance!





Hi question. Are you not hearing those things in your current dac and want them or do you want more of those features?


Gustard X26 Pro or the newer R2R DAC which I have not heard but people seem to like a lot. Both are in your price range.

The Musetec 005 is a very good DAC, but a bit over your limit ($2-$3K)

I sold both of them. The Gustard to buy the Musetec 005. The Musetec to buy the Lumin X1. However, I may be buying the Musetec again later in the year, when I need another DAC. 


I own the Sony Signature TA-ZH1ES and it has a feature that can remaster what you feed it into DSD, it has a great headphone amp and is also a preamp. It comes in around $2K and would recommend it.

High-quality audio is a fickle thing. There are so many factors that play a role in how we hear our music, but like clockwork, the Cambridge Audio Dac Magic 200M gets it right every single time. Subway Live IQ App

Possibilites to research:

Over on TMR for < $2K:

Benchmark DAC 3

Chord Qutest

Over on USAudiomart <$2k:

Chord Hugo 2

PS Audio Direct Stream Jr

Moon 280D

Wyred4sound DAC2






The Gustard R26 is better than the Gustard X26 and for my tastes both are better than the Pontus II.  

One DAC in your price range you won’t hear much about but I found very good for the money and similar to some of my pricier DACs was the line magnetic DAC (they make only one model).  It has one 12ax7 tube in it which I found responsive and with positive results to tube rolling. If you have a local dealer they may allow you to take it home to try it out.  I did, and was very impressed.

My path so far has been from the built-in DAC in the Bluesound Node 2i, to the Schiit Modi Multibit, and now to the Denafrips Pontus II, which is in the price range you specified. I am sure I will get the itch to upgrade at some point, but right now I am quite satisfied with the Pontus II. Because it sounds slightly different depending on which input you use, I opted for sending the USB output from my streamer to a Denafrips Gaia DDC to be able to drive the Pontus via its I2S.


I'm considering getting a streamer that natively supports I2S, like Magna's Manus mkIII or the new Mercury V2, eliminating the USB to I2S conversion. If anyone has experience with these or similar, I'd welcome feedback. 

I still use a Theta DS Pro Gen V and recently added a Topping D90-SE for my streamer.  Not surprisingly the Topping sounds better (to me anyway) than my now very old Theta. $899

+1 for the Denafrips Pontus II. I’m very happy with mine and at about $1800 USD it’s within your budget.

I tweak  everything I own for Decades to get the most out of it 

the New Gustard R2R26  is a excellent dac , theway the circuitry is situated 

a very good fuse makes a very big difference in this dac I own both the pontus 2 

and theGustard , the pontus no fuse option , I put the Synergistic research purple 

in there , and in all dacs a good powercord is a must ,the Pangea awg14 sig mk2

with Cardas wire is very respectable for $200. The pontus is a bit smoother on top - laid back , thegustard with the purple fuse is better in the bass more depth and detail ,it’s a bit better rounded dac ,if you are willing to spend the extra ,have a decent powercord for any good dac , and either the synergistic purple fuse 

or even better the QSA purple fuse but that is $330 vs $200 and give these fuses 200+ hours.  Our Audio get together had them both for the  day  70% took the Gustard setup as I described.

Haven’t heard the Gustard R2R but reviews are off the charts. That’s where I would go. I have a Musician Aquarius and if it’s anywhere near that and by all accounts it is (possibly better) could be a steal. It’s a business obviously so prices will go up IMO in the near future if that’s the case. 

+1 on the Black Ice / Jolida tube dac. Great dac, very musical and can even be had used for well under $500. Wish I still had it to compare. 

Oh, I was not paying attention.

A Schiit Yggdrasil DAC. Outstanding sound for the money, even if a tad over your price point. It competes favorably with DACs of twice the cost. I did a deep dive into budget DACs for a friend of mine, in the process bought a Schiit Gungnir for my office system and my got my friend to buy the Yggdrasil… great sounding DAC for the money.

The black ice I owned the tube gives it a warm signature but very rolled off 

the Denafrips basic Aries is much better ,the pontus2+ a excellent dac 

and the new Gustard r2r26 is excellent ,add the synergistic purple fuses it is better then my pontus2 dac   
I am saving for a true reference the T&A  200 dac ,which is exceptional .


I’m using an smsl su-9pro it’s natural sounding since you can turn off all filtering and can reach 135db which is also very nice and the price is 500 usd. 

+++ Denafrips Pontus II. I have had mine for nearly a year, and still love it. Certainly the best DAC under $2,500 IMO…..and I’ve heard a few. It has the traits you are looking for, with just a hint of warmth.

The newest Pontus II 12th Anniversary edition has even more improvements over the standard DAC…..and for $1,850

Bryston BDA-3 fits your requirements. Used should be around or slightly more than $2000’.
Chord Qutest is fantastic as well especially with the warm filter engaged. 

Gustard x26 pro with its two toroidal transformers , balanced stereo xlr outputs…

Gustard R26 search over!

this dac checks all your boxes and then some.

I have had mine for four months and when I tell people how it is in simple form I say it’s musical with huge sound stage. I can listen for hours with zero fatigue and after break in it is like my Vandersteen’s are four time bigger. 
Then throw in a built in streamer, and you can connect up an external clock. In your price range this dac has been compared with $5000 dac’s by reviewers and went toe to toe with them. 

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For your budget and checklist: Denafrips Pontus II near the top of the range and Ares II just over the bottom of the range. Warm rich and will show you why R2R DACS rule.


I'd recommend a RME ADI-2 FS as a balanced DAC with a great remote.  This DAC preamp is unique in its features and ability to move the sound shape and to do parametric EQ digitally upstream of the analog signal.  You can convert your headphones or speakers to basically anything you would like it to be.  The remote has very fine incremental L/R Balance, Bass and Treble control.  You also can control the parametric EQ individually on the Left or Right Channel - great for hearing loss in one ear or EQing individual speakers in a room to compensate for room placement.  Or just use it like a great DAC on pure line output or a high power single-ended or very low noise IEM DAC/AMP combo.  Providing a DAC with variable volume control (with any EQ)  to a pair of powered speakers, it is impossible to beat in my opinion.

i had an rme adi2 about two years ago, the fs2 unit with akm chip

i felt it was a feature rich, well built, very clear and precise sounding dac, best run without internal volume attenuation (as this was done in the digital domain and could reduce resolution if high attenuation levels are used) - a great value in terms of sound and control over the sound, for the money...

at the time i also had the ayre codex, mhdt stockholm and chord qutest in house for comparison, and i felt the rme was excellent in its quite precise, very clear presentation of the music with extended frequency response -- but its weaknesses were a more mechanical, less organic presentation than either the ayre or mhdt (a nos tube buffered dac), and had a notable stronger central image without the appreciable soundstaging width or depth of the other dacs (the chord was the best in this regard, had tremendous spatial imagery, followed closely by the mhdt then the ayre) -- as such i concluded the rme is best suited for headphone listeners where imaging ability is less valued than the other positive attributes the rme brings its user

+1 for the Schiit Yggdrasil DAC, and more specifically the Less is More version.

I've not heard the other variants of the Yggy but purchased a LIM after reading many of its reviews.   My current DAC is the Meitner MA3 and my previous was a Mojo Audio NOS R2R and I find the LIM has very similar sound characteristics to both of those DACs.   Put another way, if one likes the sound of those other DACs I think there is a good chance they will like the sound of the LIM.  It is made and serviced in the USA, plus the Yggy+ chassis supports easy upgrades in the future. 

Schiit had a few LIMs in the non Yggy+ chassis for $1800 but they may be gone by now.

I was hoping I could sell my MA3 for the LIM to save some $$$, but no, it made me realize how good the MA3 is; but for now at least I've put the LIM in my second system and hope to keep it.    I've owned the RME with the AKM AK4493 chip, and really liked it for the $$ and feature set, but much prefer the LIM sound quality.  YMMV...


For my experience the iFi Neo iDSD dac + iFi iPurifier3 (reclocker) + the flagship psu 5V iPower Elite these 3 stuffs combination gives a superb wide soundstage & best imaging. and it's under $2k for all 3 gears.