Recommend me a DAC under 3k

Hi All,

Long time reader, first time poster!

I’m expanding my all-analog system to add a proper digital front end and would like recommendations for a DAC to connect to my Wiim pro plus.

Listening Habits:

I primarily listen to LPs, but appreciate the convenience and discoverability that digital provides. I don’t have a digital music library and only stream via Tidal and Spotify. My 2-channel system does double duty as a sound system for our TV as well.


  • All-in <= $3k
  • Prioritizes sound quality above all else
  • Streaming supports Tidal Connect directly or via some other protocol
  • TosLink Input (for casual TV)

Personal Preferences:

  • When tuning components in my system, I’ve preferred ones that are more detailed/transparent rather than overly warm/harmonic. E.g. Telefunken over Amperex or Mullard. Duelund CAST over AN copper.
  • Realistic tone/timbre, soundstage, micro-detail, and impactful bass are important to me.

Currently under consideration:

  • Denafrips Pontus II 12th
  • Denafrips Venus II
  • Schiit Yggdrasil
  • ANK DAC 4.1x (with Duelund caps, etc)
  • Gustard R26

The rest of my system is as follows:

  • CSS 2TD-x tower speakers (neutral with some mid-bass warmth)
  • ANK EL34 35W Monoblocks
  • ANK L5 Mentor Preamp
  • ANK L3 Phono V2
  • Mofi Ultradeck with Master Tracker cartridge
  • Richard Gray 600RM Pro Power Conditioner

Even Jason suggests the Bifrost 2/64 is a match for the Iggy. 

Do not overlook less expensive units. Of everything I have had in my system, my cheap JDS Atom+ has been the best overall.  ( $99)  I too am looking at the Enyo (Aries with new price) Mojo II, Qutest, or maybe a newer top line Delta Sigma like the SMSL DO300, Topping, Gustard X18 etc. 

My focus is 90% on female vocal smoothness. Don't care about bass "
weight" or some magical details in imaging and air that were not on the recording to start with. I focus on what I do hear reliably. There are a lot of expansive DACs, but are they really better than what you get for $1600?  "$700? or even $99?  Do we want "clean" or the masking from an R2R? Masking from a tube?  ( Or do we want that masking to be in a preamp?   Lots of choices. 

Upgrade the power cord. Yea, a 49 cent ferrite on the cord and it is as good as physics allows it, if and only if you have an RF pickup problem in the first case which almost no one has anyway.  I suggest spending the money on the DAC, not on magic.

Take a look at the RME ADI-2 DAC FS. It excels at clarity & detail, yet isn’t overly bright or clinical. I have mine installed in my secondary system & I’m extremely happy with it. It has toslink input & is well priced at $1300. Best bag for the buck in DACS out there IMHO & I’ve never seen a negative review. There are many online stores that will let you return it without return shipping charges. It does a great job of doubling as a preamp, too if you don’t need a lot of inputs.

My main system has a PS Audio Directstream, which is stunning with a good preamp. They pop up used often for $2500, or so.

This topic is why I rarely visit here. The PS Audio is truly one of the worst DACs I’ve ever heard, and I just have to laugh whenever I see an r2r dac recommended - a technology dependent on multiple resistors being identical (not in this universe). That said, I have not heard many of those suggested here. I can say that the Weiss and Schiit were underwhelming, at best.

For natural sound, the Ayre Codex is still my favorite in this range.

Nothing comes remotely close to the current DCS, which I can’t afford. So I listen to lots of vinyl.

+1 enthusiastically on the Schiit Yggy. It compares well to anything I have heard, is painless to own and get serviced, and is far superior to any vinyl setup near its price range (far better than my Ariston RD11S/Grace 707/Benz Ace).

 I find it very natural with a tremendous sense of drive.



I might add to mtdining that to diss the precision of resistors in RTR DAC designs, you must acknowledge the ridiculous non-linearity and precision in RIAA-based vinyl playback systems. They are truly Rube Goldbergian!