Why do I prefer R2R over Chip based DAC's?

I have had a couple of mid to low priced DAC's. Schiit Modi, Schiit multibit in a card. Topping E30. all inexpensive I know. Am I not spending enough money? I have heard a Schiit Bifrost, I did like it. I am currently using a Topping Octo with the Schiit Midgard for headphones. This has been my best combination to date for a all in under $1000 us. The Octo has good instrument separation and the soundstage is expansive. The Octo does not have that harsh semblance I can not stand. What would be my next upgrade? 

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What would be your next upgrade? It sounds like you are happy with the Octo. So why not stop there and listen to the music?

Yes, thank you. I will look into MHDT. I listen to 80’s 90’s rock. I like the ballads and stings. Some classical strings. I think that is what you say “Musical”. 

What is your current source ? When I started out , I quickly found out everything made a difference. 

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on a good hp setup i think you will definitely hear a difference when you go to better more resolving dacs than what you have tried thus far

You need to save up for a Wadax. That is the only chip-based DAC that sounds any good, and probably the only one you would prefer over R2R ones . 😉😁


I thought all DACs are chip-based. Are there ones with discreet circuitry like separate transistor/diode components? What is R2R DAC after all?


The DAC it have the Topping D70 Pro OCTO uses a series of 8 Cirrus Logic chips (CS43198), offering a robust 8-core driver setup.

The amp is the Schiit Midgard. It is a fully discreet design. The first of it's kind for Schiit. 

You can read about it




There are three questions in your post. Why do I prefer R2R over chip based DACs? Am I not spending enough money? What should be my next upgrade?

Not to be rude, but your post is confusing.

I really think only you can decide what you like or how much money you are willing to spend?

I much prefer fpga based dacs. Numerous reasons: sound great, software updatable, more easily handle the hires or dsd files.

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The DACs you are looking at flavor one thing over another.  A true R2R DAC does not always sound better or more musical then a Chip designed DAC, that comes down to parts and design.  For your budget of $1000 you would be better off upgrading the DAC you like now with key parts.


Happy Listening.

@grinell why get a used MHDT when you can get a new Orchid for roughly $1,200 (what I spent a couple years ago)? I highly recommend it. Excellent DAC with a tube output stage.

R to R is the most overrated format ever it has horrible stats, if you put different forms of Dolby to get the his down you have to align and figure out what type of Dolby to decode. Only about 85 db of dynamic rage with all the many ratings they came up with to make that number less embarrassing. R to R never fooled anyone what I mean is when we played back the R to R the people in the studio or control room always knew you were playing back, when digital came in it fooled many people into thinking the musician or actor was really playing or singing live it startled many people, that was a real and honest reaction. 

Tape is a little like records it sounds great because of the warm distortion and hum during the music, yes it sounds great and the distortion of tape saturation is perfect and emulated everyday in digital form, but no don't think it's good it's not. 

i would agree there is considerable confusion oversimplification and misunderstanding regarding what goes into a dac and what inside a dac contributes to how it sounds as a finished product -- r2r or delta-sigma chip-based d/a conversion is but one of several key factors...

here is a place to start... an old thread from several years back, you can page down and scan for my comments trying to clarify the subject


alternatively, watch this video


hope this helps

If I was you I’d look at something like the Musician Draco R2R DAC, which apparently gets very close to my pricier Pegasus (see below), and pair it with a Linear Tube Audio MZ2 amp with linear power supply that can be found used for around $1300.  I’d think that combo would bring you to a much higher level across the board for not all that much more $$$.  Just one option to ponder FWIW.



I think you’ve confused R-2R (resistor ladder) with R to R (reel to reel). This thread is about digital to analog conversion.


From reading your original post it sounds like you’re happy with what you already have- what’s wrong with that? 


I’m quite surprised nobody has mentioned the Denafrips dacs at this price point and for the post that says chipsets aren’t that good I have no problem with my Tad d1000

I can say, I didn't expect so many responses. I have learned so much from this community. Thank you all. 

Another DAC that can sometimes be found used that is simply amazing to my ears, and to many on Agon and other forums - is an Okto Research DAC8 Stereo. Not at all sibilant, very natural, engaging, nuanced, expansive, dynamic, incredibly detailed. Many find as good or even better than many d/s or r2r dacs way up to even 5k. Having had both types, and can attest to that. Ultimately, it’s way more about the design and output stage than the chip type. Even though higher end r2r does lend noticeably more stage (in general).





I’ve experimented with seven topping/SMSL DACs in the low to mid-priced range so far. One critical aspect I’m missing from these Chinese chip-based DACs is the depth in soundstage. Despite having an expansive ’width,’ every DAC (even Topping D90 sounds flat (2D). However, I discovered this missing trait in the sound when auditioning the FPGA-based DAC, Chord Mojo. From various reviews, including those by iiwi (I assume you’ve considered his insights in making your choice), I’ve learned that some R2R DACs also exhibit excellent soundstage depth. If that is something you are craving for, you might want to consider exploring that option.

Generally the blurb you hear the most (at least from the YouTubers doing reviews) is that R2R (resistor ladder-based DACs) often sound more tonally correct with instruments and for some "unknown reason" offer a wider, more expansive soundstage and better imaging and more depth than you get with comparably price "chip based" DACs.

Then there are "multibit" DACs that are different a bit (pun not intended) than the "chip-based" ones, and of course as someone mentioned above, there are DACs based on FPGA chips, but the software controlling the digital to analog conversion is written by the company or a 3rd party, not based on just an "off the shelf" chip "as is" like a Sabre ESS or AKM or Burr Brown.

But to do FPGA "right" takes a lot of skill and experience, hence the generally higher cost of such DACs like those by Chord or PS Audio.

There’s a whole world out there of DACs. Accept some advice from others, and read all you can, but ultimately, you and your ears and your system’s capabilities will determine what you like or what is most important to you.

You say you generally listen to rock music from the 80s and 90s. Painting with a broad brush, many seem to think that chip-based DACs, especially AKM based ones, offer more bass "slam" than R2R DACs.

Everything is a cost/engineering/preference tradeoff. Just as there are no "perfect" speakers or amp, there are no perfect DACs. Audiophiles will always find something to quibble about, even in a $10,000 DAC.


I don't think he has to save up that much money for a wadax that's not the only chip-based DAC that sounds that sounds very analog, the Wyred4sound 10th anniversary DAC is very analog sounding and it's only 4,500 US, one of the reviewers put it up against his VPI turntable with a $5,000 Japanese cartridge and he said that the tenth anniversary DAC sounded just as analog, on that review I bought it and I totally agree and they even give a 30-day trial period.

@magnuman that is my sarcastic sense of humour- just trying to make a point. Have a look at my system and note my "inferior to any R2R DAC" ESS DAC. 

Much of what goes wrong in a DAC occurs after the DAC portion itself. For example, a datasheet implementation of an industrial op amp I/V/LPF/buffer. The DAC will never achieve better than that limitation. Industrial OA are relatively easy to use but they are limiting in sonic results, no matter who does the design or how much the unit costs.

And all R2R are not equal of course; for example Denafrips DACs are unusual in that they have no output buffer at all. The ladder drives the line out directly. Obviously this will at least have benefits in no buffer coloration added, since there isn't one.



I was using all harmonic tech magic stuff in my system which was incredible sounding and then I upgraded to the NeoTech rectangular OCC single crystal wire holy F what a big improvement but the biggest upgrade I made was when I put the Townshend podiums underneath my speakers it was like I upgraded to more expensive electronics they're not cheap but they stop all the speaker vibrations down to three Hertz.

These two helpful suggestions do not seem to fit here budget wise. 

the Wyred4sound 10th anniversary DAC is very analog sounding and it's only 4,500 US

You should try a Lampizator Baltic 4 ($6800)



I'd be interested in hearing what improvements moving up to a better R2R or NOS bring. Dynamics? Detail? Focus?

@cdc Just generalizing because there can obviously be differences between individual models, but my experience is an overall more natural sound with better imaging and deeper 3D soundstage — this is versus a decent single-bit DAC BTW.  Just my experience and not saying it’ll hold true for everyone and every system, but seems to fit with the overall impressions out there.  FWIW.

Check out Denifrips. Even their least expensive DAC, the Aries ll, sounds great!  I have had the next model up, the Pontus ll for two years now and am still very happy.

All the best.

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I still dint get what's R2R all about?

I still think it's Reel 2 Reel, but having extra hard time to relate subjects discussed. Perhaps I need to attend university and get some Phd on that unless I'm enlightened. 

Tank uz.


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@czarivey  Technically not R2R, but R-2R.  Rather than me fumbling through typing a treatise on R-2R DACs, maybe this fairly simple to read article can help:


Maybe the fact that some of the best DACs/players deal with the signal in an (almost ?) pure discrete fashion rather than purely in chips/chipsets. R-2R DAC’s can be designed in silicon but there are discrete component designs. Some like in the Esoteric Audio products go as far as making the PCB tracks the same length Check out the photo of the Esoteric DAC, It’s a work of art. But I know that there is more than just that in designing a digital player/ product. Everything matters. I remember Keith Johnson at Spectral Audio discussing how important it was to design a discrete I/V converter that would simplify this process. The D/A converter typically outputs the analog signal through an I/V conversion through chips. Keith went to the big companies to create one for him but for whatever reason, could not do it so he came up with his own design, the first one I think. Because everything matters there is more than one way to bake a cake. An acquaintance of mine who is into all of this much more than I, seems to have a thing for the Gryphon Ethos CD player(40K) based on Sabre ES9038Pro D/A converters and flew to the west coast just to hear one (now that’s a commitment). 



I've had a few R2R DACs Schitt and Denafrips and a few Delta Sigma W4S and Lampizator.  I found the R2R vs Delta Sigma was less important than cost for sound quality.

I preferred the more expensive W4s to the Schitt and the more expensive Lampizator GG to the Denafrips Terminator Plus.

For a DAC under $ 1000 the power supply and clock are likely to matter more than the conversion process.  Garbage in is garbage out.

I also agree with @pennfootball71, try the Lampizator.

I found the sound you get is only indicative of the technology used at the lowest levels. As sophistication of the implementation rises, the sound quality rises and any generalities disappear. For instance, at one time I owned a couple cheap DACs that used ESS chips. They had a similar sound… but high quality DACs using them sounded nothing like the inexpensive ones. 

I really enjoy my digital setup. Auralic Aries G2.2 , Chord M-Scaler, Chord  TT2. Cables for Digital connection are all Shunyata Sigma, USB and two Sigma S/PDIF ..