Sweet Sounding DAC

Ok, here's another one of those threads seeking DAC guidance.  Certainly, I have started more than my share of such questions.

This search started as a need to find a smaller DAC and streamer due to overcrowding in my cabinet.  Current players Bricasti M3 and M5.  But as I started looking and listening, I realized there is a sonic search as well; just to complicate the process.  As much as I like the Bricasti gear, I have always yearned for a softer- perhaps more tube/ analogue sound.  So the search got  harder.  Here are some of the contestants with my questions/ comments or concerns.  I seek advice from those who actually own or know the gear to follow ,  I will try to be brief.  BTW my budget is essentially what I can recoup from selling the Bricasti gear.  So lets say 3500 to 5000 ( if I sell both pieces). The first 4 I have sampled, the rest I have read about

1.  Wattson Madison;  great size.  Found vocals a little off/ sounded better w external streamer - but then whats the point of the DAC / Streamer

2. Lab 12 DAC: loved the sound; too big a footprint.  Great vocal tone

3. Konus : real nice, still a strong contender

4. Merason Frerot with LPS: not for me ( suprisingly)

5.  Audio Note: would need to be entry level due to size.  Is it good enough?

6. Gold Note DS-10 + Evo.  Looks good on paper; has anyone heard it?  Some dealers are not so high on it

7.  Ferrum Wandla:  looks good on paper but would add a box ( LPS ) to my cabinet.  Anyone hear it?  Word is that is a rich - smooth tone

8.  Audio 11 Sagra:  not much to go on but supposed to be smooth and sweet sounding

9.  Border Patrol:  some love it and some don't.  Cannot fathom who is right.

10.  AudioMirrow Tubadour.  Seemed like a strong contender until a user told me its not that sweet sounding.  More neutral in tone.  I was bummed to hear that. Not sure it has the Lab 12 tone I seek.

I think thats enough to choose from.  

Any insights would be appreciated.  Please refrain from snarkiness....I much too tired for snark,  But I do appreciate the help.


Given the number of positive forum comments regarding the mods done by @grannyring to the AudioMirrorToubador , I would not reject that DAC outright.

Regrettably, I cannot advise you on any of the others you’ve listed.


How does one reach @grannyring?

I have tried to message him in the past to no avail.



Too bad space is a concern.  I have had the LAB 12 for a year and still love it.  Like you mentioned it has great tone.  

Hello mdrone! Sony made a very sweet sounding DAC/headphone amp, now discontinued. I have tried lots of DACs, have eight at the moment. The Sony beats them all. Model is PHA-3. I got one new, in the box for half price:$500. Very nice smooth sound, instantly became the main DAC.Runs off two USB ports. Power and signal are seperate. Happy Listening.

I have heard most everything out there that has been reviewed 

if you have $7k  the T+A 200 dac is the best dac I have heard under $15k 

I stand by That statement, read a few reviews then seek out a dealer to give it agood listen, 4 guys I have met in the north east owns one , myself it will be my early Xmas 🎅 present , for comparison chord David ,Denafrips Terminator12th+ which is not worth it , Lampi Golden gate, Aqua , PS Audio 

Bricasti M1SE, they are all good , but not the realism the T+A 200 brings 

plus it Has HQ player built in ,to complement Roon ,or any one wishing to tune your dac even further. with a bunch of options and beautiful functional meters , A true bargain .

4 guys, wow! I have been on forums that have hundreds/thousands of customers/owners of the dac I have, but that doesn’t mean the OP will like it over the others he listed. My dac is also listed in stereophile’s A+ category of DACs which means jacksh$t because of 2 reasons: I don’t trust steteophile reviewers and you need to go listen for yourself to see if you think it’s worth the $$$ and if the synergy is there with the rest of your gear.

We did a dac shootout with a half dozen DACs using our system, in our room, which is the only way to really tell what’s best for you

@mdrone, I owned a M3 (and still own the M5).   Like you I was looking for something with "more tube/analogue sound.", and ended up selling the M3 for a Mojo Audio DAC which was much closer to the sound that I was looking for.   If you can get a chance, take a listen to a Mojo Audio DAC.    I now have a Meitner MA3 which to my ears offers a nice blend of the strengths of both the Mojo and Bricasti.

Dac are source information then they are very important...
But dac technology is a mature technology now.... Correct me if i am wrong...
If your new dac can give a MINIMAL S.Q. information flow , and even a better one than another dac
which you had owned then for sure it is a positive upgrade...
But no dac will upgrade your audio system itself, what you hear through your amplifier and speakers or headphone FROM THE DAC
depend of the gear downstream...
Now suppose a person exist like me very satisfied and in ectasy each evening because his system give him complete satisfaction with no fault or identifiable defect...
And all this occur with a low cost basic dac...
This means for me that dac technology is indeed a so mature designed technology nowadays that even if there is better dac , a basic one can do the job...It did for me...
Conclusion : for me the last thing to upgrade is the dac especially aimimg at costly one on par in price or near the price of your other component ...
Because if i pay 5 thousand dollars for a better dac than the one i already own , these 5 thousand dollars could have been perhaps be better spent on new headphone, new amplifier or new speakers...
Upgrading a dac make sense only if your gear price is already high and your dac is a very low cost one compared to them...
But there is always exception to any astute observation and no generalization are possible anyway... 😁
i will now contradict myself and i will say that i will invest in a Dr. Choueri Dac BACCH filters which cost more than 5 thousands bucks , then way more than my 600 bucks audio system...If i want to upgrade my already perfect for me system to begin with for sure...
I will made this exception from my above rule because i think it offer way more than just any dac on the market... No i never listen to it...😁
Then why am i so sure?
Read about Dr. Choueri BACCH filters to understand why... Just in case...

Border Patrol owner here. I got mine to bypass the internal DAC on my Bluesound Node2. 

I find it has a nice soundstage and when the tube rectification is kicked in, it’s even better. Vocals are enchanting. 

On the downside, it’s pretty limited in features but if you can live with that, it’s worth a listen. 

Happy Listening. 

Playback Design, Low Fatigue, Smooth. easy on the ears


Or If you want a Rich Smooth sound Aries Cerat

DCS is super Analytical,Precise and tiring to listen too,.

MSB sounds better than DCS in most cases but over time it is still Analytical thou over DCS its smoother and easier to listen too.

This search started as a need to find a smaller DAC and streamer due to overcrowding in my cabinet. Current players Bricasti M3 and M5. But as I started looking and listening, I realized there is a sonic search as well; just to complicate the process. As much as I like the Bricasti gear, I have always yearned for a softer- perhaps more tube/ analogue sound.


since mid 2020 i have tried over 40 dacs in my system (now nearing 50), at various cost levels, learned a ton in the process as i have committed to streaming music in my system going forward

please check out my past posts answering varying queries like this on dac recommendations

of the ones you listed i have only had/heard a minority - here are my takeaways

-- border patrol... smooth, rolled off $1000 dac, mediocre overall, with a below average level of insight, air, or drive, probably one of the weakest on your list

-- audio mirror tubador ... i had the 3se, one gen prior to vlad’s latest, which i am sure has improved incrementally... a nice sounding dac, sweet rich and analog sounding, but had some issues with sibilance in my system, overall a fairly good value used at ~2000

-- audio note kit 4.1 - very nice sounding, lively yet rich, dynamic, holographic... but lots of tubes inside, truly gargantuan box, input card has limitations (only up to 96k sampling rate), if you can stand a refrigerator sized dac with zero features the sound is unimpeachable

-- i also had a bricasti m1 se mdx and i concur it is a truly excellent clean modern sounding dac, tonally accurate very precise open airy sounding but not overtly warm/rich in presentation per se (i liked the linear 2 filter setting best iirc)

for what sonics you seek, as you describe it i would suggest

-- denafrips pontus (rich tone, good detail and air, very slight grain, but still very very nice), for 1500

-- cambridge cxn v2 modded by modwright with tube output stage - beautiful sound, sweet yet dynamic, quite well focused, lovely tube magic at play here, nla modded new due to parts issues, but they do appear used occasionally

-- mhdt r2r tube buffered dac with upgraded tubes (we 2c51, or old stock 6dj8 via tube adapter) -- 80-85% of the modded cambridge but half the $$

-- msb analog dac with power base (lovely sounding, very appropriately named) - uber refined sweet treble yet at the same time airy open holographic good focus... $$$ but worth it, newer even more expensive msb’s are more modern precise sounding, which i do not prefer

i currently own and enjoy all of these mentioned, among a few others with a more ’modern’ sound



I"m not able to help you with contacting grannyring.

Choosing a DAC is highly subjective; really you need to try some in your system and discover what pleases your ears. It seems to me

@jjss49 has provided you with a great starting point

BTW, I’ve found TMR excellent to work with.




Sonnet Morpheus and Hermes are exactly what you are looking for.





Another Border Patrol owner here, and supper happy with its sound within my system. I'm a 300B SET guy so it works for me, plus Its super compact. I also have an AN kit DAC heavily modified with a tent lab clock which I absolutely love. So don't discount the newer ANK DAC's entry level 1.1x 6×4 USB with AN Copper film caps is only $1,375.00 built. As everyone will say it depends on your system and your ears.

Sonnet Morpheus and Hermes are exactly what you are looking for.

I am going to second this recommendation as it is what I use in my system.  To give you an idea the rest of my digital system consists of Synthesis Roma nono blocks, Synthesis Roma pre amp, and Audio Note AN-E LX Sig HE.  The sound is very organic with incredible detail and weight.  Happy to give more details if interested.



I recently purchased the Gold Note DS-10 EVO along with the PSU-10 EVO power supply.  I am very pleased.  Very musical.  The PSU-10 EVO is a must with it.

I’ve owned the Audio Mirror Toubadour IV- SE for a year now. It’s a keeper. Very musical ...Scary Realistic vocals...You just can’t get a more " You are There" sound for $3500. Call Vlad. Great Guy....

Just glanced through, but I don’t think Weiss Dacs have been mentioned yet. Outstanding and very unique sounding, true to source, realism and not harsh (depending on your front end with any dac of course). TMR has them. I also agree Aqua dacs would totally fit the bill 👍🏼

Yes Weiss and Aqua were on the list; but the price point was out of budget - per my spouse.

Aren't the Aqua DACs rather large in size?

This is why you need to audition and not take peoples word. One mans garbage is another mans gold. 

Also, I was told the Weiss DACs were " brighter" than the Bricasti gear

When I bought the LAB 12 it was with the intent of trading up within a year.  My dealer does a trade up within one year to something that costs 2 X as much.   

The LAB 12 sounds so good I took that $3200 and bought a new Sota Escape TT and a phono pre and never looked back...   

It's the size of a CD player but it sounds like you are looking for something 1/2 size.    Weiss just came out with a new DAC.  204.     It's under $3k

@mdrone : based on your budget, and on how you describe the sound you would like for your new DAC, I would recommend you put the following in your research list:

1) Denafrips DACs (such as Terminator+)

2) Holo Audio (such as May or Spring II)

3) Schiit Gungnir


I owned (E30) M3 & (E28) M5  BMW'S awsome cars😄 I own the Exogal Comet Plus DAC (no longer made ) and it's a very sweet smooth sounding DAC  Great reviews and maybe a used one available 

you should try the Wyred4sound 10th anniversary dac, It's about $4,500 US, one of the reviewers put it up against his VPI turntable with a $5,000 Japanese cartridge and he said it was every bit as analog sounding, I bought one and I totally agree it sounds phenomenal and they also give you a 30-day money-back guarantee if you don't like it you send it back and get all your money back, I don't think you'll be sending it back and it's quite small too which fits the bill.

OP...You stated the Lab 12 has the sound qualities you're looking for. Can you then use the rest of your Bricasti proceeds to upgrade your cabinet to accommodate your preferred DAC?



couple quick responses to comments


Sonnet Morpheus and Hermes are exactly what you are looking for.

i disagree, i was disappointed with the morpheus... airy soundstage and voices were well portrayed but i heard a graininess to the treble and an ill defined bass that did not compare favorably with other dacs in the price range - i feel the r2r technology is well done in the sonnet but cees cheaped out a bit on its analog output stage... i compared the morpheus in a good friend’s system against his beloved metrum pavane, and we both could hear the pavane is sweeter, purer sounding


I was told the Weiss DACs were " brighter" than the Bricasti gear

no, to my ear, my weiss 501 and the bricasti m1se mdx had pretty much identical (an excellent, clear but saturated) tonality, and given the smal form factor and manifold features of the weiss, i kept it, and sold the bricasti

soundwise, i would be very very happy with either when i want that clear crisp pure dynamic sound

With your size requirements, the Mojo Audio Mystique X has a small form-factor that might work for you.  It's the next gen of the Mystique EVO, which got positive reviews.  If you are looking for a natural, organic, slightly warm sound, check it out.


"Yes Weiss and Aqua were on the list; but the price point was out of budget - per my spouse.

Aren’t the Aqua DACs rather large in size?"

To answer your question(s):

Aqua La Voce S3 dimensions; 18 X 12 X 7

Price: $4650


There is so much dac to choose...

And only one is revolutionary  acoustic completely new design ...Designed by a physicist and acoustician, not an electrical or an audio engineer...

The Choueri BACCH dac dont differ from other dac by a "flavor" or "a color" or more details ...

It is a complete revolution in virtual speakers room acoustic or for headphone .. Why buying a new colored dac or more detailed dac? especially if you own an already good one ?

Anyway... Inform yourself before throwing money...

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I really have grown to like this DAC more and more. I switch back and forth between my Aurender and my Turntable and sometimes it’s hard to say which I like better depending on the media.  

It is built like a tank , 5 year warranty.    Some limitations like no DSD and the Opt and Coax 2 are limited to 24/96.   I thought something was wrong with it at first … the new manual does note the 24/96 limit.  It’s important for me to note that as it may be a deal breaker and that is a good chunk of change. 

I had the opportunity to go in last week , plunk down $3200 and upgrade it and I don’t said nah….  It really does sound sweet.  May not be for everyone but I love it.  

Did someone mention they wanted the sound of a "sweet" DAC, meaning midrange warmth, the type of characteristic that vacuum tubes cook-up in the form of a second order harmonic signature?  Well then, how about one of these?

This is an inside shot of a DAC I recently got, and that is an Audio Research DAC 9.  As part of the preamp or signal processing input, it uses a 6H30 tube per signal half.  The rule of thumb, at least this is what I read, is that a single 6H30 preamp tube has the same output as a pair of smaller 6922 tubes, which is a very popular signal tube.  Tubes bring a midrange warmth that "most" transistor configurations cannot cook-up.  Also, as a clue to how a component will sound is heavily influenced by its power supply.  As you can see, its got a large transformer, and a  brace of filtering caps to give the music that "jump" when it comes to transient "snap."  Anyways, find a dealer and give it a listen.  Happy hunting for your DAC.  :)

The dacs you listed are all junk compared to your Bricasti. Pay up buy a Lampizator Baltic 4 for $6500 from the best company in audio.

In another thread there are two guys that just had their Lampi repaired.   For a tiny company  that is not confidence inspiring.   

As far as being "junk"  those DACs mentioned are in the price range of the OP and I doubt they are junk so to speak..  

I honestly think the LAB 12 is a great value...   the Bricasti is excellent  but I listened to them both and took the LAB 12 home.   It was not worth $2500 more to buy the Bricasti in my opinion.   It's built well , nothing junky about it. 

What are you using for a DAC Pennfootball71?

I have to thank you all for your thoughts; very helpful.

Let me redirect the search a bit ( focusing on cost and dimensions).

Has anyone had the opportunity to compare the Lab 12 DAC to AudioMirror Tubadour?

If so, any comments on how they compare sonically?

I haven't read all of the responses but I'll throw in my two cents.When I bought my Tubadour it was possible to have upgrades/mods done when the order was placed. It responds well to different tubes and cables if one wants to tune the sound to taste. Just something to consider as you're searching. Best of luck!

Yes...  There are many good sounding DAC's out there and I've been extremely pleased with my BorderPatrol DAC.  I believe you'd have to spend twice the price for an R-2R DAC that sounds better, and it has a smaller form-factor compared to other DAC's.  I've had Gary's 1st iteration of the DAC and now the latest and it sounds more detailed, has more body and sounds more analog than other DAC's I've heard.  If you want a sweet-sounding DAC that doesn't do any harm to the music, I feel this is one you should seriously consider.  If you do decide to get this DAC, get the one with the Jupiter capacitor upgrade.  Definitely worth it.  They may even have a trial-period to return it if not satisfied.  Speak with Gary Dews who is the owner/designer.  A great guy...Happy Listening !  

I’m another happy Audio Mirror Tubadour IV SE owner. It has great detail, a deep soundstage, and a little warmth. It also has an i2s input if that matters to you. It’s a real bargain at $3500.

You guys need to do MORE research.

Perhaps the industries best kept secret would be the Prism Callia Dac (or any Dac from Prism) An honest DA that is accurate, detailed, and natural sounding. / as in "warm" - Not Tube warm which is a coluration but rather harmonically warm and accurate. Extremely well made as well. Prism Dream DA's were / are the pro industry standard and could be found in any real high end studio. The used market and "audiophiles" in the know have scouped them up over the last 15 years and I know industry people who have silently been getting their hands on them as did I.They also image like few can and match analogue in that repsect also.

(Note: Prism Dream studio dacs were costing between $7500 - $15,000 through their life)  The Callia is a consumer Dac that costs about $3K give or take.

I've been looking for an equal in case mine dies, as nothing lives for ever, and the closest I've come is the AVM MP6.3 Ovation media player, Likely too expensive for most, but their lower line shares the attributes. Next would be SPL Director with bult in Dac, a Pro company with consumer audio line. All 3 of these will wipe out the majority of "Audiophile" brand DAC's in a heartbeat. Prism is like hearing all the best attributes of analogue combined with the attributes of digital. Stop sturggling to enjoy digital and try a Prism Dac !!!

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