AUDIO FORUMS >> General Discussion and Support >> DACs for Around $1000

Message started by beowulf on 10/06/12 at 08:21:45

Title: DACs for Around $1000
Post by beowulf on 10/06/12 at 08:21:45

Hey guys, since Decware discontinued the ZDAC1, what other DAC's look promising to you around $1000 or under?

There are a lot on the market, but I like to keep my dollars in the USA whenever possible (but not a deal breaker).  I would like 24 bit/192k, asynchronous USB 2.0 and SPDIF.

So far I have been looking at these:

1. Schiit (gotta love that name) Gungnir:

2. CIAudio Transient MKII Asynchronous USB Converter:

3. Wadia 121 Decoding Computer:

Does anybody have any input on these or additional recommendations?

Thanks!  :)

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by jameskk on 10/06/12 at 11:33:06

Ok Beowulf . I have the zcd 200i, I also have the Rega Dac , I can go back and forth using the tascam side of the cd player with the coax ouput, and AB it on the fly with the inputs of the white se84c+. There something about that rega dac thats more real sounding  when you listen to instruments , but thats where it ends . the zcd is a wider and deeper soundstage and maybe slightly more detailed, these are both around a 1000.00 dollars , the zcd being slightly more as to your options , I just got the regulator and one volume control. I'll tell you the 5 volt ouput really keeps me from wanting anymore power than the zen amps provide...........

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by Donnie on 10/06/12 at 11:53:08

Wyred 4 Sound DAC1

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by busterfree on 10/06/12 at 16:48:37

PS Audio just released a new DAC (NuWave $999) to replace the DLIII. It is built in the US. I think it has  24 bit/192k, asynchronous USB 2.0 and SPDIF. I have not heard it. Thanks

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by opnly_bafld on 10/07/12 at 14:34:47

Both are NonOverSampling DACs ~ Havana has tube buffered output ~ Octave doesn't have USB input (good converter wil put it over $1k budget).

Mhdt Havana

Metrum Octave

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by JazztoGo on 10/07/12 at 16:19:51

I use a AVA vision dac that is very nice with my mini torii :D

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by Longbowbbs on 10/08/12 at 03:16:41

I have listened to both the Wadia 121 and the W4S DAC2. Both are terrific and both require a couple of hundred hours of burn in. The W4S has a few more inputs so its a bit more expensive. I am sure there are better DAC's but the prices really go up and the law of diminishing returns really kicks in above either of them.

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by Morganc on 10/08/12 at 16:27:18

The dB Labs Tranquility is Selling for $700 or so on Audiogon and it is fantastic for that price and is made in America with very good support.  I just plugged mine in and it compares very well to the EE Dac Plus and the Metrum Octave.  

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by opnly_bafld on 10/08/12 at 22:35:30

dB Labs Tranquility is USB only.

IIRC it started out as SPDIF only and was changed to USB, now they have a SPDIF DAC coming soon. :-?

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by beowulf on 10/09/12 at 07:08:38

Wow, what a great list of feedback, I can see I have my work cut out for me!

jameskk, I never thought about the ZCD 200i as an option, although I don't have many CD's, I prefer reading files from my PC as my source, so it would almost be a waste to get something with a CD player.  But good to know!

Donnie, the Wyred 4 Sound DAC1 has got some great reviews, but I was trying to get 24/192 ... Although the DAC2 has that feature, but at $499 more.

busterfree, the PS Audio looks promising.  I'll definitely check into that one. I think I read somewhere that Lon has the big brother PerfectWave ... that is a cool piece of gear, however out of my budget.

JazztoGo, the AVA's are interesting.  I never heard of them, but would love to hear that hybrid tube DAC ... very industrial looking design too!  I wonder if they come up on audiogon every once in a while for a used one?

Morganc and opnly_bafld (cool name by the way), I read about dB Labs last year and then forgot all about them,  Have you seen this thread ?  It is an extensive post about their products and overall just a whole lot of good info in general.

Thanks guys for the great feedback!

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by Lon on 10/09/12 at 13:47:47

I do have the big brother to the new PS Audio NuWave DAC, and because I love the big brother so much I would definitely audition the new one if I could if I were in the market for a DAC at that price point.

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by Audioqwest on 10/17/12 at 13:02:24

If you can find a used Theta Pro Gen model you can't go wrong, or the Benchmark DAC are also very good for the money, especially used.

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by Crazy Bill the Eel Killer on 10/17/12 at 14:15:24

Hello Beowulf,
Couple of things,
If you are at least an average DIYer, w/o question, you need to check these guys out:
State of the art stuff.

Second, if you are using a Windows based system, w/o question, you need JPlay riding on J.River Media Center as your media playback engine. Truly incredible computer playback. Nothing is better than this for a Windows system.

I'll elaborate further if anyone is interested.

Cheers,                 Crazy Bill

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by beowulf on 10/18/12 at 07:50:41

Wow, Crazy Bill ... thanks for turning me onto that site, very cool and tons of reading and info!

Have you built one of these yourself?  If so, which model?


Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by Crazy Bill the Eel Killer on 10/19/12 at 17:18:06

No Beowulf, I have not, as of yet, built one of their DAC's. Though I will be ( short of hitting Lotto and having unlimited cash ), building one up in the future. Probably the Buffalo III, though I haven't ruled out the COD as it would ( for me ) be easier to design an all tube IV converter output stage.

That said, I do have, in house, their Ventus headphone amp w/ Placid BP PS. Just haven't got around to building it yet, and very possibly might never actually build it. But I can unequivocally state that I am incredibly impressed by the quality of what I received from TP. Everything in the kits are first class right down to the available documentation. If you can stuff a board, you can build their stuff.

That's all the time I have for now. More to follow.

Cheers,                    Crazy Bill

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by Fireblade on 10/19/12 at 21:59:16

Check out John Kenny's JKDAC32.  Combines USB asynch. with I2S transmission, and out of grid battery power.  Impressive reviews.

Also, JPLAY mini (hibernation mode) in Windows is really the best USB-based high-end streaming media right now.  JPlay by itself apparently beats any JPlay plug-ins (to Foobar or JRiver, etc.) ... $0.02

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by beowulf on 10/20/12 at 05:55:33

I will check them out, thanks Fireblade.

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by Longbowbbs on 10/20/12 at 12:58:22

Now that my CSP2+ is here I am really enjoying it together with my Cambridge Dac Magic Plus. It also sound really nice when I use my Audioquest Dragonfly though I prefer the DMPlus between the two, Considering the DMPlus can be had for $599 and the DF is $249 I am glad the DMPlus is showing stronger... :)

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by Donnie on 10/25/12 at 01:23:16

This one is just coming out. DAC and preamp.

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by beowulf on 10/25/12 at 08:05:05

Donnie, thats a really good price for what you get.

Hey guys, have you seen this page yet?

This is a nice resource for a lot of DAC's that are out.

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by Longbowbbs on 10/25/12 at 12:25:43

Wow that link has a ton of converters. I wonder how they all stay in business....

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by beowulf on 10/26/12 at 04:18:01

Longbowbbs, you said it!!!  And that's just the tip of the iceberg!

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by Longbowbbs on 02/10/13 at 01:42:05

I upgraded to the Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2 from the Cambridge DacMagic Plus....Better bass and wider soundstage.

The journey continues!  :)

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by DBC on 02/10/13 at 17:09:47

OK, I know this does not fit the traditional definition of DAC, but check out the New Oppo BDP-105 audiophile Blue Ray player. To call this a Blue Ray player does not do it justice. Oppo has morphed this product into something entirely different with all of it's input and output connections. It's really more of a state of the art digital to analog processor which is getting a lot of good press for its features and sound.

I own the Oppo BDP-83SE which is now two generations old and it sounds great. Sold my $1,200.00 Bel Canto DAC and have not looked back. The 105 is supposed to sound even better and has many new features.

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by Longbowbbs on 02/10/13 at 17:39:35

Lots of good things are being said about the BD-105. What I have not seen is direct comparisons with dedicated audio dac's specifically for 2 channel use. My Wyred 4 Sound DAC also is using the Sabre DAC's (9018's). It is amazing with the CSP2+.

I do won a BDP-83 and it has been a stellar video performer for many years. At the moment, my systems for video and listening are separate. Should logistics suggest a merger, I may have to take another look at the 105.

Let us know how it is performing for you as an audio DAC!

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by Pale Rider on 02/10/13 at 19:44:48

I can attest that the BDP-95 audio section is in fact very, very good. The 105 by all accounts is indeed that much better. And one of the things that intrigues me about the 105 is using it as a full-on processor. It appears that it could accept the HDMI or other outputs from my DVR and AppleTV, and then feed into the Ultra when she returns from Decware. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I am currently using an Outlaw 975 pre/pro in the absence of the Ultra, and while it has the advantage of simplicity, and really quite good cinematic performance, if I were to continue using it, I would have to split the audio and home theater. So, the 105 is getting a hard look right now as a potential integrator for me. I love the 95, but the 105 solves some problems that have heretofore required other devices.

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by JasonGmt on 02/10/13 at 20:10:53

I do not have experience with any other DACs, out there, but can say that I have been listening to my new DAC and hearing so much more detail then ever before and have been thoroughly happy with it's cleaner, more natural sound.

I usually use my sound card's added software to make the low end a little more aggressive which fits my music tastes, however, I have been loving my new set up with the Asus Xonar Essence One, Muses' Edition. I would highly recommend it.

More info on it here.

Got mine for $874 shipped to my door. If you like Tube rolling, this has replaceable Op amps to alter the sound signatures of the DAC output, Or the Headphone Amp separately. I went for the Muses Edition as these are supposed to be superb sounding Op amps, and I do not have the experience, patience or $ to try all the different Op amps out there to find the best sound for me, this ones sounds, pretty expectional to me out of the box.

Looking forward to getting a CSP2+ in between this and my amp some day soon.

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by Pale Rider on 02/10/13 at 23:24:43

I am not a big fan of Asus design (can you say "ugly"?), but the quality of this DAC appears worth checking out for anyone in the <$2k range. Check out the very favorable 6 Moons review.

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by Pale Rider on 02/16/13 at 16:02:08

As noted above, I took a good look at the Oppo BDP-105 and decided to buy it. Have been running it for about 4 days now, straight into Decware amps, in effect using it as disc player, signal process, and preamp. It is indeed very good. While it has some video/audio sync issues, well-publicized on the net, on which their engineers are working, the quality of the video and audio are excellent. If you can only have one source unit in your system, this may be the one to have.

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by Lon on 03/26/13 at 21:19:25

Review of PS Audio NuWave DAC:

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by beowulf on 03/26/13 at 22:01:04

Thanks Lon, it seems the PS Audio knows their DACs - that's for sure - as I don't think I've ever heard anything but praise in when it come to the sound (the most important part).

While, we're at it I would like to add 2 others.

PaleRider pointed out the TEAC UD-501 is not only priced agressively at around $849, but it also plays DSD natively (which sets a new price point for this format) AND people are saying that the sound quality is on par with  DACs costing substantially more.  This has got to be one of the best bang for the buck DSD DACs out there right now and I'm suspecting more to follow pretty soon.

When I think of TEAC, for some reason I think of budget electronics, but I think this will be a really popular item for them and perhaps it will trickle up to their more hi-end brand Esoteric.

Another DAC worth mentioning is the AudioQuest Dragonfly.  This thing has been getting really high praise and I think it has walked away with a product of the year award or so.  Top it off that it is only $249 bucks and we have a real contender here for entry level DACs.  In fact in the comment section of the PS Audio NuWave DAC Review you posted in the link above, a guy mentions that he had a hard time differentiating the sound of the Dragonfly compared to the NuWave DAC ... that is until he put a higher priced PS Audio power cable into the mix and the NuWave DAC pulled ahead substantially.

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by beowulf on 03/29/13 at 08:41:05

New firmware release for Oppo BDP-103 and 105:

March 27, 2013

Added support for Direct Stream Digital (DSD) file playback from local storage. The DSD files can be either stereo or multi-channel. Both the DFF and the DSF formats are supported.

Added support for the AIFF audio format.

I think a picture of these guys are in the dictionary under the definition of "over-achievers". 8-)

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by DBC on 03/29/13 at 14:35:07


Thanks for posting that info on Oppo. Looks like Oppo may do to Blue-Ray players what Apple did to the Cell Phone ?? Morph it into a new and unique product category.

I've not had much interest in digital music up to this point. I may reconsider since Oppo seems to be pulling all the pieces together into one fine package.

My Oppo BDP-83SE is four years old now. It's amazing the advancements Oppo has made in such a short time. I look forward to upgrading to the BDP-105 this Fall.

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by beowulf on 03/29/13 at 23:39:23

Yes, I really dig this company and they are a lot like Decware when it comes to giving you a lot for your money.  They have very few (if any) companies to compete with their products in their respective price class that's for sure.

I'm just so curious what the Modwright mods would do to it in terms of the already great performanace it has.  

Title: Re: DACs for Around $1000
Post by DBC on 03/30/13 at 14:15:11


Dan Wright of Modwright talks about the New Oppo:

On stock 103 vs 105 sound. "To me the stock 105 is superior to the stock 103 which is good but sounds like a typical SMPS-powered unit with cap-coupled outputs. The 105 stock just on CD is really good. I am honestly surprised by how good. Oppo really stepped up their game by improving the power supply and the bigger more rigid and non-resonant fan-less enclosure for fully passive cooling. They've also added S/PDIF and USB inputs."

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