What DAC to buy?

Under $1000.

I’ve been out of the DAC buying mode for 5 years. My Project Pre Box S2 sounded good enough. It seems to be dying...something in the output stage is scratchy and distorted sounding. Time to move on. I can buy something of equal or better sound quality, but I don’t have an audiophile system, so I doubt I’d get the full value out of a high end DAC.

Make a suggestion...lets keep it under $1000.

Here’s some specifics. I don’t need a combination DAC + Preamp. My Adcom GFP 750 pre got a refresh with Nicholson capacitors a couple years ago, its fine for me, even if its old school. I stream in CD quality...I gave Tidal a try, MQA sounded good to me, but plenty of CD recordings in the last 30 years are also pretty good, so, I don’t need to do MQA moving forward. So I stream via Amazon music for the most part, occasionally movies, and occasionally use my old CDs. That’s it. I don’t need upsampling, I don’t need any features really, no headphone option needed..just accurate sound, a USB port and a digital audio port. Maybe a Schitt Modi Plus?

I also have an Adcom 565 GMA amp that I refreshed with new capacitors and Tyler Acoustic speakers. Let me know your thoughts. I stream through a PC, not MAC. Don't even need bluetooth functionality in the DAC.  Many thanks.


The only thing we can really do is use borrow or return policies to listen in our system.  I am still looking Gustard, Topping, SMSL, RME, JDS, Schiit, and hope to borrow a Qutest ( big bucks) to see if they really are smoother. I have a very specific sensitivity to vocal sibilance.  Others are looking for detail, others impact.

DACs, though they do sound different to me, are close to the last component to look at.  An Apple dongle is better than many amps and I venture to say, all speakers. 

Aries II, renamed ENO, also jumped in price to $1200. Too many positive reviews I guess.  Over budget, but it may be worth it. I hope to try one. 

DACs have gotten much better recently, so a 2 year old winner may be mid-pack now.  I still have not found one under $500 that can beat my $99 JDS.  I'll take it over a Cambridge and about any esoteric brand any day. I have not heard a built in ( integrated amp) that is significantly better.  DAC sound is 99% the input and reconstruction stages. The actual DACs are so good as they don't make a big difference. I doubt audible through speakers. Maybe really good cans. 

Gleaning many many subjective reviews and some objective measures, the Geselli is a very nice DAC. Choice of DACs, choice of op-amps.  But it's USB is terrible. Of course, it will measure well on a $20K measurement box as it will have a clean USB output.  Not so on a PC.   The new SMSL DO300 seems to be pretty widely accepted sonically and it also measures well. I am curious how good the Hugo is compared to a Qutest as it falls under 1K. Gustard X16 has my eye.

There ia steal at TMC for a MHDT Pagoda DAC.....check it out! The DAC has a beautiful sound