What the Best Dac have you heard or owned. How could you tell it was that good.

I wondered what’s the best sounding dac you have heard or owned. What did it do that the others didn’t. 


Owned: Areas 12th-1 so far; this has kept my Cen Grand DSDAC 1.0 Super Clock off my rack for 6 weeks, and I don't feel like I'll be changing this anytime soon. The Cen Grand is 3x the cost of the Ares, but it doesn't come close to sheer enjoyment compared the the Ares. This is of course my subjective observation in my system, my room, my humble ears.

For £1k+, the Ares12th-1 is a monster

@painter24 20th year in the hobby. Infigo method 4 DAC. I’m done. Does everything I want it to. Went from a solution 540. I have owned 5 or 6 in my life. I’m truly done. We were part of a shootout on Whatsbestforum. Went up against the best of the best and held its own.  I’m happy. 

I have had a Sim Moon 650D with auxiliary power supply ($18K), my current Audio Research Reference CD 9SE ($17K), Berkeley Reference Alpha 3 ($22K), dCS Lina with external clock ($20K), in my system and heard the top of the line Linn and mid-tier (I don’t remember the exact cost. Also Ayre, McIntosh, Schiit Yggdrasil, and Gungnir… and several more.


In general, these first group are all very good DACs and not including the Sim, the differences are very small (since this was ten years old now, hopefully there is a big improvement with their contemporary offering.. it wasn’t very good). The Audio Research wins for me. It is ever so slightly more musical and natural. In a real head to head the Berkeley (which I fully expected to be coughing up the extra $5K for, I liked the ARC better). The difference is very very very small… tiny more detail in the Berkeley. There are real small differences in presentation. If I had to rank them on a scale of 1 - 10 the difference would be between 9, 9.5 and 10… at most. I would say this is true for most DACs over $7K or $8K.

Now streamers make a much bigger difference in general. I think DACs get really good more quickly as you invest more ( up to $5K - $7K). Streamers have a much steeper improvement. So once you have a good DAC say over $5K mating it with a Aurender N100, N200, N20, W20SE each brings really big, non-subtitle differences. This is a generalization… you have to go with the spirt of it. Not taking a Yggdrasil and mating it with a W20SE. If you’re in the high end of the streamer line up, you are going to need to mate it with a better DAC than a $5K one to get everything out of the streamer, but the magnitude of the DAC improvements will be smaller.

DCS is one that seemed ahead of the pack a number of years back.

Many great sounding DACs at all price points these days.  I bought a dongle for $80 that is amazing. 

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Do a search for AG member, jjss49. Look at his thread "dacs that I have had in my system - a listing".

I am unable to attach the link at this time 


Lampizator Baltic V4 is the best DAC I've had in my system for most vocal or acoustic music, for electronica/ambient and often (not always) large scale symphonic music, the DAC in the Lumin P1 is my preference. Among budget DACs I really like the Weiss DAC204, it's got me thinking the Weiss Helios might really be end game for me.

When I went to upgrade my dac I listened and demoed in my system as much as I could. After narrowing it down to the MSB Reference with separate power supply and the Nagra Tube Dac with separate power supply I ended up purchasing the Nagra. If your budget allows, I highly recommend a unit with a separate power supply.  You will notice a much cleaner sound with more quiet background in my opinion. Love them both but felt like the Nagra did a much better job of making the music uncolored and sounding like the actual instruments are in my room.

I have a Ladder Schumann r2r ladder dac I’m very fond of. It has a beautiful wide and deep soundstage, detailed yet never edgy. I bought it used and to me, best bargain in my system.

At this time I own a Berkeley Alpha Reference 2 MQA, Tubadour IV, Black Ice Glass FX Tube DAC, and a Marantz KI Ruby SACD player. Prior to that I have owned a PSA PerfectWave MK II, and a Resolution Audio Quantum.

I'm afraid that this won't be a very satisfactory answer but I can't really say that one DAC is clearly superior to another. You would think that the Berkeley Reference 2 ($20,000) would blow away the Black Ice ($800) but I've compared them several times and to my ears the differences are pretty small. I could easily live with the Black Ice and be happy. The Tubadour IV is very similar to the other two but there is something about the sound that I find relaxing.

To help put this in perspective, I can't hear the difference between interconnects either. I've tried numerous times and I even bought a pair of silver cables from Audioquest because so many people said they had a distinctive sound. I compared them using a control (two very similar sounding DACs) and I could not hear any difference at all between the silver cables and Blue Jeans cables.

People who report dramatic differences in DACs must have way better hearing, or have a much more resolving system than I do.

I haven’t spent a ton of money on DAC’s. So I know there’s really good ones above my price point. But I bought a Black Ice tube DAC at $900. Replaced the power chord with a Pine Tree iso-braid power cable, and the game changer for me was purchasing 2 NOS Amperex Bugle Boys (12ax7) for the output tubes. I’ve got the magic of tubes along with many other superlatives. I’m good for now! 

I have the WYRED4sound 10th anniversary DAC I bought it because one of the reviewers put it up against his VPI turntable with a $5,000 Japanese cartridge and he said the 10th anniversary DAC was every bit as analog, on that review I bought it and I wholeheartedly agree this is the most analog DAC I've had in my system, one of the other reviewers put it up against his$9,000 COS1 DAC and he said the 10th anniversary DAC was better and then he put it up against Bricasti, chord and other more expensive d a c s and he said the 10th anniversary DAC was better, and they also give you a 30-day trial period if you don't like it send it back and get your money back can't beat that, after you hear this one you won't be needing $30,000 DACS.

After years with the built-in DAC in our tube Jolida JD100 CD player and decades with our Quad amp/pre-amp, we bought an Audio Note Cobra tube integrated and started using its DAC with the same Jolida tube player. Light years in difference in detail! We then splurged and purchased an AudioNote CD 3.1x/II player with its built in DAC. Again, light years ahead of the DAC in the Audio Note integrated amp, and got bonuses of tighter bass, specific sound stage placements of instruments, and amazing sound at low volume. We could A/B every stage with our Quad ESL-57s, and the differences were dramatic. We are now set. I can't imagine any better.

The Weiss Dac 501 is excellent. So are all their products. The minute it was on was a wow. (The 501 is also a Roon endpoint.) That's how I knew.. or was the streamer or something else?

The Grimm MU2 (I have not heard yet) looks to be an excellent one box solution. 

For the kind of money needed to acquire upper DAC's and streamers for a fraction of the cost room treatment and vibration control would be more revealing. Then the DAC, streamer or sound would make yah quake.

Playback Designs MPD-8.

It simply plays music at the highest level of enjoyment.

I no longer think about anything but the music. It's the last DAC I plan on owning.

OP, you work for Infigo Audio. Bit disingenuous (but par for the course here I suppose) for you to ask your question and then answer with the brand you work for.

I owned many Ayre products -Codex, QB 9 Twenty, as well as much of the Schiit line. I got very lucky and scored a Brinkmann Nyquist II used. 

The QB9 is plenty good, but the Brinkmann is just has that little bit of clear sparkle. I honestly didn't want to spend that much, but got tired of just making little jumps up in fidelity. Now I have my grail DAC.


My brother has the latest DCS Rossini $40k 

but I have heard their 3 box$100k setup which is great but Waay over priced.

to be totally honest the T+A 200 dac $7200 retail ,I still am saving for ,having built a addition to the house and now have to do many upgrades and landscaping has destroyed my plan by over a year,being married sometimes many compromises at times.The T+A 200 dac  Per value and sonics by many The best dac under $15k I stand behind this .

please note to obtain these results you need a quality LPS from the router

linear tube audio by far the Best Buy at $700 with excellent DC cable to router,

then 2 quality Ethernet cables the most important cable without question is at the end point. In between a solid Ethernet switch . I only spent $600 the lhy sw8 bar none gives the most value vs anything under $1k , a $3k Ansuz is far better still.

best Ethernet cable  bargain as good or better then my $1300 AQ Diamond in many  areas

Sablon $400 and nothing in that class better  at this price. Everything in the Chain counts .I still have a system to go but the quests continues.I am hoping to upgrade my entire system within the next year. Having owned a Audio store I have made lots of contacts and go to many audio clubs and get togethers getting more and paying much less $$ is now paramount being older and hopefully wiser. For $50k I can can now build a very good system that 5years ago would be over $100 k.

to me That is progress. The Denmark audio group has fantastic products.

the Borrensen X line is exceptional .the x3 Loudspeaker is on my very short list 

their X1 monitor for $5500 exceptional by any standard. Their new budget Axxiss line for $5500 dac,streamer 100wpc integrated and up to a 2T SS hd astounding much  better then it should for its price point.. Class D technologies have come a long way. AAviv is their upper line.theI280 integrated is the sweet spot in their line up I hope this helps others looking for not only digital but the other factors needed to getting digital to sound at it’s best.

I’ve had a few DACs over the years. My latest, a Mola Mola Tambaqui is my end game in terms of quality vs price. A great sounding DAC that involves you in the music.

I used to want a tube dac. But there is always tube noise. My infigo method 4 has a low noise floor. Great detail soundstage and image placement. It’s expensive but delivers. I went from a Resonessence Mirus pro to a soulutions 540 to the Infigo Method 4. It’s a 35k Dac. Went up against the dcs -Weiss - msb- lampizator etc. It does the trick for me. I’m basically done. So full disclosure. I do work for them. I started after I heard the dac. I was sold on it. So I started working for them. SO BEFORE ANYONE SAYS ANYTHING. I have my own business I do audio as an additional hobby/ business. I’m a hobbyist first. I been blessed. I have worked for other companies and it has allowed me to try a lot of stuff near a lot of dacs and Amps and speakers. I recently had along demo of the Esoteric N01xd I was impressed with it as well. I owned the LUMIN s1 it was good but too warm for my taste.  It didn’t get up in the air enough. I will be going out to hear a DCS stack in July and I’m excited to see how that is going to go.  

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An inexpensive Topping E30 is the only separate DAC I’ve ever owned. I hooked it up to a nearly 30 year old Denon CD player, and it simply sounded clearer to me compared to the built in DAC in the Denon. Along with clarity comes a host of other descriptors. I can say that it’s not at the level of my vinyl setup overall, but it’s good and that’s partially recording dependent. Now I’m curious what the next DAC step up might sound like. 😎

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@metaldetektor it just is so I answered the question.  I’m going to be going out to hear a DCS stack in July.  I mainly do the cable side of Infigo.  I just wondered how people thought about the dacs they owned. I just heard the esoteric N01XD I thought it sounded great. I’m a hobbyist first. I been doing this 20 years.  I’ve heard a lot of stuff so I’m allowed to give my opinion.  Most of the guys here know I work with Infigo. So it is what it is.  I get to hear a lot of stuff because of the shows and my audiophile friends. Just because I do work don’t mean I can’t comment etc.  I enjoy talking to fellow audiophiles. I’m also going to build a second less expensive system using my Kr audio va 900 as the tube intergrated. I’m looking for a cheaper dac to possibly pair with it and a pair of Vienna acoustics speakers. Try to find something in the 2-5k range that’s really good. 

Anyone who is in the Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana areas. We will be at THE LONE STAR AUDIO FEST IN DALLAS TEXAS JUNE 7-9.  Come out and listen to some music and meet me. The lone Star Audiofest is more of a hobbyist show but I will have my home system there. I love to talk audio and find out about new music.  What equipment you are running and your journey in Audio. Please come out. Would love to listen to some tunes and learn more about other people’s systems. I have some Gato Speakers no affiliation to them. Infigo audio Method 6 amp. Method 4 Dac. I’m affiliated with them.   I use a little homemade server with a power supply. Come check us out and bring some tunes you wanna hear. 

@magnuman i left. Audiogon a few years ago. But if I’m correct I think you have changed your name several times. I’m not sure but you seem to be the odd copper 99.99999 guy who responds like that all the time and talks cables all the time. If I’m wrong then I apologize. But I recognize the way you talk and the things you say. Part of the reason I didn’t post on Audiogon anymore because of the constant following and posting on stuff that I would post and pretty soon there would be about 20-30 responses by you alone. If you are not that guy then I apologize but the language you use is similar. Anyway. Anyone who wants to meet me and discuss anything in person. I will be at Axpona in April. Dallas in June and at the Capitol Audiofest in November. Yes I do sell cables so I’m not hiding that. But I would love to meet any of you to learn about equipment music etc. this hobby is fun for me not trying to argue with folks about this and that.

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The amount we pay for a dac for sure must be commensurate to the other pieces price tags...

I will not recommend a dac even if the one i own is satisfying for my needs...




First good dac I have had and have kept the longest, was the schitt Yggy. I have owned all the Denafrips DACs up to the terminator 12th. I purchased the Holo. Springs May KTE. Done. Added a aurender N20 streamer, done. Better seems to never stop so I’m stopping. 

@maghister. I been blessed to be able to get the stuff I have. It’s not for everyone. Music is my hobby and my joy listening to it at its finest is the pursuit I’ve taken on. For  some I spent too much but for me my Friday Saturday and Sunday nights are filled with hours of musical joy the way I wanna hear it. When I started 20 years ago I thought I would never pay X amount for anything. Well I have worked hard. I have a great career in my outside audio life and I’m going enjoy it while I’m still an amongst the living. You don’t have to spend what I spent to be happy. I just want everyone to enjoy what they have and experience hearing as much as you can at all levels take care.

@dwest1023 i understand I thought I was done 5 years ago then I went dine the rabbit hole for the last time. I’m done at this point. My audio is worse than a car hobby for some people. 

@audioman58 what are your thoughts about the Rossini. I’m going to hear it in July  at a friends house when I travel to Cali. 

The DCS Rossini Apex is a slid step up from the older model yes it is worth the upgrade considering he received $20 k on the 2 year old one it just brings out Everything in the recording ,and does it with amazing naturalness .

I do want to mention cables do matter .he is using Ansuz cables Ethernet switch And D series line conditioner and A $5k switch and cables. And AAvic 580 integrated Amp,and 280 streamer.above my  pay grade , but a revelation to me .

his New Borrensen X series Cryo floorstanders just dissapear into  the room .

Sadly I am just working on upgrades but never to his $$ standards.

@audioman58 i was using Ansuz cables. They make a great cable.  Very clear and clean. I have my infigo cables all through. Even in my streamer power supply connection. Everything matters once you get to a certain level.  Sounds like he has an expensive system. Believe me it doesn’t take much to spend a lot of dough on stuff 

Best DAC I've ever heard is either Denafrips Terminator Plus, both in my system and in a friend's system I know really well. Would love to hear a Lampizator though

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@vthokie83 sold my Terminator II for a Lampizator Baltic 4, for me in my system it is more accurate for tone/timber/pitch and more resolution, bigger soundstage. Tube rolling and cable swapping can tweak the sonics substantially, for better or worse of course lol.

@calvinj The Weiss is feature rich (with presets) including a vinyl filter that I have feathered in just a bit. Skipping all the usual superlative verbage excepting it punches above it’s price using it along with the Grimm MU1 doesn’t make me wish for anything more.

The AES/EBU connection is key between DAC & Streamer. As I said above there are many variables in the whole system/room making DAC judgement preference not the be all and end all y’all.


@magnuman im not going to argue with you. You have been coming on these threads for years with the same ofc junk wire talk and 999999 talk saying you know how to design cables. We actually let people demo cables to see for themselves before they buy. This thread isn’t about cables it’s about dacs. Please don’t fire bomb this thread too. I would appreciate if you would stay on topic. You are part of the reason I left Audiogon. Just trolling. Move on plaease. Let’s get back on topic. 

@wsrrsw seems interesting.  The Infigo method 4 has about 6 or 7 filters. It uses the ess 9038 Sabre dac chip. Our designer used to work for the sister company of the brother that invented the chip.  I usually listen with the apodizing filter which takes limits the pre and post ringing of notes that can cause ear fatigue. The dac does detail extremely well without sounding analytical. I haven’t had a chance to hear a Weiss dac. Sounds interesting though.  

@kairosman @vthokie83 i want to hear that lampizator as well. I’m going to see if I can check one out at Axpona or the Capitol Audiofest if someone brings one I would love to hear it. I used to be a tube guy. I’m going to hear a dcs in a home listening room environment in July.  

@woots the Nagra is also on my lists of dacs I want hear in an extended listening session just for a reference to see how it sounds into comparison to what I own. I’m going to try to see if anyone at Axpona will be using to see if I can check it out even though we will be showing there I would love to hear how it sounds. 

@mapman i had a buddy that borrowed a dcs for a long audition and in his system he didn’t like it. He currently owns a chord Dave. I think it might me a preference or a system thing. Sometimes it’s synergy as well as what you listen to and for in some peoples systems. 

Also everyone depending on your system you don’t have to spend a whole lot of money on a dac to be happy. For some folks it’s going to synergy. Some of the companies have really put out some great stuff at lower price points. Also we are at all different places in this hobby. Growth and Finances and on what we are willing to spend. There are also trade offs in our systems 

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Tbh I haven’t auditioned a new DAC for a couple of years except at Axpona last year, and I find it hard t make conclusions about anything in a show environment.  Is it possible that given the nature of trickle down technology, it is possible now that a $2K DAC might be equal to a $10 K DAC from a few years ago?  The chips are bound to be less expensive as newer ones come out.  For $2K the designer can still do a decent power supply and other quality aspects of implementation.  Just wondering