What’s the best DAC < 6k (system specific)

I have a decent DAC built into my SS integrated amp but think I can do better with a stand-alone. I’m looking for accuracy, definition and sound stage. Emphasis on sound stage. I have few vinyl albums and find that the ones that sound really good are quite expensive. So, trying to improve the streaming to it brings or approximates that magical HQ vinyl sound. Maybe I’m chasing a red herring but, from what I read, there are some boxes out there that can come darn close. Has anyone compared the Holo May KTE with the T+A DAC 200 or similarly priced products? I know the T+A is a little more but I don’t mind used too. I went from Border Patrol SEi to Ayre Codex to Ayre QB9 Twenty. When I changed my Pass Int 60 amp to one with built in DAC, I thought it sounded better than the QB 9. Actually the QB 9 had more detail than the amp DAC. However, Using the new amp’s (Hegel 590) DAC bypass, to my ear, the QB9 is somewhat fatiguing during extended sessions so, I’m using the smoother, marginally less detailed Hegel built in DAC. There are no places to demo equipment near me so, I have heretofore depended on forums such as this for decisions, of wihich have been very satisfactory thus far. I love pure jazz sounds like the guitar plucked from the fingers of Bill Frisell and John Schofield; the edgy sound of a tenor saxophone; the sultry female voices of Melody Gardot, Chantal Chamberlain and others. Enjoy classic rock as well.

My system:

Hegel 590 Integrated Amp+DAC

digital streamer pis Innuos Zenith MK3 with Innous Phoenix reclocker (strmg Qobuz)

analog is VPI Classic/Transfiguration Axia cart into Parasound JC3+
Magico A3 spkrs w/Audio Sensibility Statement cables.

I was using Audio Sensibility Statement silver interconnects for the QB 9 which I still have to use with a stand-alone.

I know that good sound is more often a matter of taste. However, I am still interested in the opinions of others in this forum and welcome yours if you have one.

Thanks in advance.


I use a Pass 250, Aurender N200 to a recently purchased May KTE. I have never been happier. I like Warm, not hyper-detail. The combo works so well together, it is as if I am using a turntable. I have had a schitt Ygg, various Denefries, up to the top terminator. Never really satisfied. I'm sure the other mentioned Dac's are good, but I was shocked at how good the May is in my system

I love my Hegel H590 integrated amp strictly as an amp/preamp.  I never even considered using the H590s internal DAC.  Sure, I thought the H590s internal DAC sounded lovely when I auditioned it, but I knew that I could do better with a higher-end outboard DAC.  Anyway, my search ended with the absolutely incredible Ayre Acoustics QX-5 Twenty reference DAC.  Happy listening.

I finally popped for the “new” DAC. A slightly used t+a 200. Sounds mahvalus! But, has no hdmi. Trying to figure out how to listen to dsd as I gather it may be even better than pcm.

@hysteve ,

Trying to figure out how to listen to dsd as I gather it may be even better than pcm.

This will depend on, if you have DSD files OR are using a SACD transport/player with HDMI out. If the latter, then you probably need either a D.BOB Digital breakout box OR the HDMI cards installed in the DAC 200.

But if you have DSF/DFF files, then you need USB connection.