Streamer/DAC combinations

Looking for opinions on Streamer/DAC combinations.  I am currently using a Node as my streamer and DAC.  Considering upgrading.  The options seem to be endless, so thought I'd solicit some of your opinions.  My node is currently running through a McIntosh C42 Preamp into a McIntosh MC352 Power amp.  Using Klipsh Forte IV's.  The node sounds good, but I think I may be leaving something on the table in SQ.  Not wanting to break the bank so to speak.  Maybe spend in the $2-3K area for budget.  Opinions???



First off, the Denafrips Pontus II (or 12th) is a really really good DAC on it's own.....and one of the greatest bargains in audio in my opinion at $1,800. Adding the Pontus II to my humble Node 130 streamer and the Audiolab 6000CDT transport gives surprisingly excellent SQ. To my ears an R2R ladder DAC sounds best, giving a more analog sound than say a Chord (which is too detailed for my ears).

Other positives for the Pontus is that it is a "true balanced" design, using two complete separate channels for each side of the signal.....and XLR outputs as well. Denafrips also is really good at releasing updates for the FPGA, putting out a couple a year to keep it updated. The distributor Vinshine Audio and it's owner Alvin Chee is excellent to deal with, and unlike many Chinese products, has a US based repair Texas I believe.

Yes you can add a few bits to get even more out of the Pontus II if you choose, and I do have the Denafrips Iris DDC....and I personally preferred the Pontus/Iris combination to the next step up Denafrips Venus DAC.....I know several will disagree, but the Pontus II just has a lovely tone. You can always get the Pontus II 12th, and add an Iris if you want more out of it at a later date.

The Iris has a better internal "temperature controlled crystal oscillator" clock than the Pontus which uses a standard femto clock. In the case of a DDC with a DAC, the clock in the DDC is used rather than the one in the DAC......upgrading the signal to a TXCO clock. Additionally the Iris has an I2S output, and the Pontus II has a fully configurable I2S input.....which I have found to be superior to any other input into the Pontus II. I know others have found the same, not just with Denafrips, but other brands as well.

The Cliffs notes version of why, is that the internal signal transport in most digital audio equipment is I2S serial bus (built into the board, not a cable). Using I2S connections allows the I2S signal to transfer internally and externally from device to device without having to be converted to another format like (USB, SPDIF, Toslink, etc). The fewer times a signal is converted, the more stable and true it will be. NOTE: I am not an electrical engineer, so don't flame me if I got a point or two incorrect.

I just recently upgraded my speakers (Clayton Shaw Caladans), and my amplfier (CODA S5.5); and at no time have I thought the Pontus II was a weak link in the chain. It has held it's own with some seriously good equipment.

Lumin gets my vote. It's great place to start and maybe end. If you are a Roon user then setup the features you life inside the Lumin app then flip it over to setup in Roon Only mode then sit back and enjoy. The T2/T3 or D2/D3 is a wonderful spot to try. In my setup I preferred the T2 over the very nice R2R Holo Audio Spring 3 KTE. I'm a firm believer in streaming DAC's over USB DAC's nowadays. Had a few troubles when trying to get HQPlayer to play well with the Holo. The Lumin products just work with no issues ever and they also have their own decent app if you don't use Roon. The only thing I found with the Lumin T2 or other Lumin with the ESS Sabre chip is that they don't sound the best with stat's or electrostatic speakers for some reason.

Or check out Hifi Rose RS150 or Eversolo DMP-A8 for some good examples as well. Each have their disadvantages but you can't go wrong with any these mentioned above.

A lot of options. How about checking out the Ferrum Wandla DAC? A+ rated by Stereophile, says it rivals DAC’s costing $10K or more. I think that it’s $2,800 (without the upgraded power supply, which you could do at a later time). And Lumin U2 Mini streamer for $2,400. Lumin has leedh lossless digital volume control, so you can also use it as a preamp. Apparently Lumin is part of the Pixel Magic Systems Ltd group-- which has experience in professional broadcast applications, for whatever that is worth. I have no personal experience with either product, but I have been searching for both a new DAC and streamer, and have been itching to buy/try both of these products. Good luck with your search.


My 2 cents- upgrade the power cord to the node and invest in the DAC. The node is just the server!