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.



"tda1541 crown series will beat every dac you have ever hear period!!"

"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."

Must be nice to live in a world that is so black and white.

Would love to know how long it took for you to listen to every DAC  available.

Get back to me in a month when you buy the next "best in the universe" DAC.


I am extremely happy with my PS Audio Directstream 2 DAC. I found the imaging is superb with sonic images that take me to the original performance of the musicians. It is very detailed without any harshness or grain in the presentation, in addition to being beautiful to listen to all day.

The only downside for you is the physical size of the DAC. Enjoy the music!

Another Border Patrol fan. You wanted great sound and a small size, the BP gives you both. I heard it at Capitol Audiofest and stopped my search. Why spend more time auditioning when you could simply be listening to good music well-reproduced? Good luck in your search. 

This Thread has introduced me to a good variety of suggestions across a broad price range on DAC's that are available, some at very attractive used purchase values.

I would be very confused if I were attempting to produce a shortlist, there is very little way to learn about the Sonic models suggested are capable of.

It does seem the OP is needing to receive demo's of a few types of DAC in systems with hopefully other ancillaries that are quite popular in use. By making it known what type of DAC and System was used for the Demo's, creates more avenues to receive comments on experiences had by others.

The follow up reports that can then be offered, these will certainly jog memories and help others who have had a similar encounter, which may have resulted in making a decision on purchasing the DAC demo'd, or alternatively discovered something else to be more attractive / or more of a repellent. This type of exchange of info, is one that prompts, experiences can be called on and the supply of ones thoughts/recollections on the impression that had been made are able to be offered with a useful and dependable description. 

I would certainly want to know what the Sound being produced is like, prior to releasing the $3.5K - $5K funds. Nobody can describe a sound to the way a listener is to perceive it, this is a seat in from to the device experience only, I do not know any other method to accurately evaluate. 

I feel confident, that if the OP was to sit down in front of my CDT>Bespoke Built Valve DAC > Bespoke Built 845 mono's > Modified ESL Speakers, they would thoroughly enjoy the experience, to the point where they have been very influenced by what has been shown. The complication with this is that the whole system is bespoke, and not understood by non-listeners, resulting in little help being forthcoming.

After the dust settles, there is always the 'but' moment, as the Honeymoon Fades and the reality appears, and it realised something that was uniquely important to them from a produced sonic, failed to manifest just as they like it. 

As an Old Friend, now deceased used to inform me in jest, " when she starts farting in the bed, you now know the Honeymoon is over".😏

I like my Sparkler Audio DAC a lot. It's very small, sounds wonderful and very tubelike, but unfortunately costs less than $1,000 so well below your price range. Hope that's not a deal killer?