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

I have a modified ANK L5 Mentor that I built driving an active pair of ATC SCM50ASLT speakers. I use and very much like a modified ANK 4.1x DAC that I also built, so that would be my recommendation. I run fiber from a highly optimized network to a Sonore opticalRendu (high quality LPS) into a Mutec MC3+ Smart Clock USB into the 4.1x S/PDIF input. I borrowed a well broken in R26 and preferred the 4.1x in that system which should come as no surprise.

I have no experience with the other DACs mentioned.

Perhaps audition the new Weiss DAC204 when they become available as the DAC501 is my favorite, the only DAC I prefer to the 4.1x in that system.

Down the line you should audition a Puritan Audio PSM156 power conditioner which will be a nice improvement over the Richard Grey.

Weiss DAC204 Review

I swapped out a modified (Grannyring) MHDT Orchid for a Bifrost 2/64 after extensive listening because there were just instruments and melodies, etc., I could not hear behind the nice "rounded" tonality of the Orchid (under multiple tubes).

@hilde45 very interesting as I’ve been planning to pick up a MHDT dac soon. The Bifrost 2/64 kind of seems like a sleeper hit. People seem to really love it.

I’ve been wanting to move on from my Border Patrol dac as of late and just for fun, I put in my old California Audio Labs Sigma II dac built in 1993 in the system last week. Guess what? It sounds really good! Not the most detailed thing ever but I’m ok with that. It’s got a Genalex Gold Lion 12ax7 in the output stage. I’m limiting Qobuz to playing 16/44.1 only and it sounds awesome. Very textured, musical and amazing bass.

Currently hooked up to Alstine tubed pre and Alstine SET120 amp into Fritz Carbon 7’s.

I bought the Gustard R26.

I agree that it sounds analog. Very good layering and instrument separation. Bass is articulate as well.

I also use the Wiim Pro. I am using coax out from the Wiim to the Gustard.

I have an Audible Illusions Modulus 3A tube Preamp with a new LSA Warp 1 Amp. 

The Gustard R26 sound now rivals my vintage Pioneer PL-707 turntable in sound quality. It has the ability to be upgraded as well.




I have a variety if systems with DACs. My base system is a Denefrips Ares II. it is a really good basic dac. My mid system has a FIIO K9 Pro ESS. it is a dac and streamer. it has two ESS 9038PRO dac chips and costs less than $1k. Absolute bargain of the century. My high end system has a Cary Audio DMS-700. It is good, not great and definitely not worth the high $8k price tag. 

I also had a RME Adi-2 and a Schiit Bifrost, which I didn't like. Sold them.

I really think the FIIO sounds fantastic. Especially for the money.