I'll take DACs for under a thousand Alex...

MrEd

Senior Nobody
Reading some current threads here about dacs, both pi related and stand alone I am seriously considering upgrading.
I am finding that I listen more and more streaming now.
I have an older sabre dac kit and recently got a Topping D30.
The ES9028 with transformer out, I can listen to it for hours on end has wonderful mid good sound stage, but is a bit rolled off at the top.
The Topping has more top end sound stage does not have quite the depth, and I get fatigue after a while.
I have read positive notes about R2r dacs when folks have systems similar to mine, but seems the headphone crowd dislikes them.
I find most non audio magazine reviews to be from the headphone contingent, so not sure how to take them.
Long winded, but looking for experience from trusted ears.
Not opposed to new or used....
Thanks
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
I think anytime you get much past the couple/three hundred bucks so "who cares it doesn't break the bank" range, this becomes very much a personal preference thing, and one that ideally involves listening to something before you buy it, or buy it with a money back guarantee in the event it just isn't your cup of tea.

Unfortunately, with the sad demise of the typical retail dealer (there are really none left where I live and I'm not exactly in the boondocks one county north of NYC), and now COVID complications too, listening to something first isn't really a thing unless it is sent to you for trial in your own room. Least likely of all would be a trip to some stranger's house where you might be buying a used piece pending a listen, not really happening right now.

I do agree with the very limited utility of other's reviews, whether professional reviews you'd see in a magazine, or worse yet, the highly opinionated and flavor of the month type shit you'll often see on forums. While that kind of thing might give you some ideas about what to pursue (or not), it can't possibly substitute or account for one's own personal taste and subjective preference or their specific system attributes and room acoustic.

Ed you have a fairly customized/specific system arrangement, that headphone crowd you mentioned and their highly opinionated view that tends to champion the flavor of the month out of China is likely of little use to you in that context.

I also HATE the dogma and over generalizations that abound online, for example "all ESS Sabre DACs are bright" or "oh, the dreaded ESS hump", or "AKM-based DACs are always more musical and less fatiguing than ESS-based", or even "all Delta-sigma chip-based DACs suck", morphing into "the only good DAC ICs were produced 30+ years ago", now becoming "only R-2R-based resistive ladders sound natural", and on and on, none of which is in any way across the board true or something anyone can hang their hat on in attempting to choose a DAC.

What can you hang your hat on? Listening to a DAC in your own system to form your own opinion of it. I know, that's no longer an easy thing to do at all.

The good news is China-made brands like Topping, Gustard, Matrix, Denafrips, etc... are all bringing something to the table in terms of absolute value for $ spent, and that cannot be a bad thing for the consumer, but it also does not mean that one might not prefer the sound of a more traditional (and potentially expensive) offering from the likes of Bryston, PS Audio, Benchmark, RME, EXOGAL, Marantz, or SIMAUDIO Moon... just as a few examples.
 

prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member
To me, Schiit hits a sweet spot. Yes, you actually have a real company to deal with should something goes wrong. They actually have to meet proper design standards, so it won't burn your house down. Pricing is very competitive, and at least in the US, they have a great in home trial. I can't say I've heard a lot of their stuff, but the stuff I have heard has been great.
 

billfort

Administrator
Staff member
This would be an easy choice for me; a Musical Paradise MP-D2. I still love mine as it's right in my sweat-spot; well built, covers everything up to hi-res (and my favorite, DSD256) with an AKM DAC chipset and a fantastic tube based output stage including a tube rectifier. The tube rolling and easily swappable coupling cap options provide a level of flexibility here that really let you fine-tune this thing to a flavor that satisfies your ear.

I'd actually sell my 5yr old Mk1, but only so that I could move up to the current MK3 (AKM) version.
 

MrEd

Senior Nobody
Schiit is on my radar along with MHDT, Denafrips, and Border Patrol, and now the Musical Pardise thanks to @billfort .
I was very close to trying the Musical Pardise several years ago.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
and Border Patrol
I've always been interested in the Border Patrol DACs, but I'm getting old waiting for them to update their USB input beyond UAC1 and 24/96.

Once upon a time this was a perfectly understandable limitation, because smaller firms with limited resources and in-house expertise might not have been able to write/update/support a Windows driver necessary for UAC2 compatibility, or afford licensing one from someone else. Additionally, the use of an XMOS or Amanero input board might also have been too costly or complicated from a firmware perspective.

But that was 10 years ago, and now most all DACs under $100 retail offer UAC2, and PCM at least up to 24/192 if not 384kHz or higher, plus DSD64 or 128 too. For any higher end DAC to still not offer UAC2 features at a much higher price is a non-starter for me personally, especially since the advent of Windows 10, now it's just a firmware issue as Windows 10 does not require a custom driver like Windows 7 did, it should now just be plug n' play, and it pretty much always was on both macOS and Linux too.

This was also somewhat excusable when physical media was still the predominant source of music, as most people never bothered with DVD-Audio or SACD, and only had 16/44.1 from CD to play anyway. But with the fast growth of hi-rez streaming from the cloud using Qobuz, Amazon, and TIDAL, this is no longer the case at all, and as such DAC manufacturers really need to up their game if they are still peddling UAC1 playback.
 

prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member
This would be an easy choice for me; a Musical Paradise MP-D2. I still love mine as it's right in my sweat-spot; well built, covers everything up to hi-res (and my favorite, DSD256) with an AKM DAC chipset and a fantastic tube based output stage including a tube rectifier. The tube rolling and easily swappable coupling cap options provide a level of flexibility here that really let you fine-tune this thing to a flavor that satisfies your ear.

I'd actually sell my 5yr old Mk1, but only so that I could move up to the current MK3 (AKM) version.
You can very easily get that guy up to $2k. Lots of options there.
 

MrEd

Senior Nobody
I've always been interested in the Border Patrol DACs, but I'm getting old waiting for them to update their USB input beyond UAC1 and 24/96.

Once upon a time this was a perfectly understandable limitation, because smaller firms with limited resources and in-house expertise might not have been to able write/update/support a Windows driver necessary for UAC2 compatibility, or afford licensing one from someone else. Additionally, the use of an XMOS or Amanero input board might also have been too costly or complicated from a firmware perspective.

But that was 10 years ago, and now most all DACs under $100 retail offer UAC2, and PCM at least up to 24/192 if not 384kHz or higher, plus DSD64 or 128 too. For any higher end DAC to still not offer UAC2 features at a much higher price is a non-starter for me personally, especially since the advent of Windows 10, now it's just a firmware issue as Windows 10 does not require a custom driver like Windows 7 did, it should now just be plug n' play, and it pretty much always was on both macOS and Linux too.

This was also somewhat excusable when physical media was still the predominant source of music, as most people never bothered with DVD-Audio or SACD, and only had 16/44.1 from CD to play anyway. But with the fast growth of hi-rez streaming from the cloud using Qobuz, Amazon, and TIDAL, this is no longer the case at all, and as such DAC manufacturers really need to up their game if they are still peddling UAC1 playback.
I think as I do more research the Border Patrol slips down on the list.
Not writing it off, because it seems to be good performer for the price range.
The power supply seems a bit of a gimmick though.
 

prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member

prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member
The other nice thing about Schiit is they have incredible resale value. Should you ever tire of it, it's really easy to get out of it, with a really high resale value. That is something I find very attractive nowadays.
 

MrEd

Senior Nobody
The other nice thing about Schiit is they have incredible resale value. Should you ever tire of it, it's really easy to get out of it, with a really high resale value. That is something I find very attractive nowadays.
You have a valid point and the Gungnir is on the list
 

prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member
What kind of trial policy do they have?
I'll answer my own question. They have 7 days, but then you have to ship it back to China. You're on the hook for shipping costs.

Schiit is 15 days. They charge you 5% for restocking. But it's too and from California, so things should go much faster.
 

MrEd

Senior Nobody
Yeah, any I time order a China product I resign myself to owning it lock stock and barrel.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
Are you in Westchester County? Many moons ago I lived in Mt Kisco.
I am Gary, about 10 minutes north of Mt. Kisco.

Mt. Kisco alone used to have 4 good dealers: The Sound Mill, Accent On Music, Audio Outlet, and The Sound Concept.

Of the 4 above, only Accent survives, by appointment only. They are the local Linn/Naim/Rega dealer since 1985, in some ways not surprising then they are the sole survivor.

Both The Sound Mill, and Audio Outlet were dealers for Conrad-Johnson, and Audio Research, unusual in that typically those brands didn't like to have more than one local outlet, and also didn't love sharing the same dealer. Thats how many well heeled residents of Bedford, Armonk, New Castle, Mt. Pleasant, or even nearby Greenwich, CT were interested in good hifi.

All gone now except for the Linn/Naim/Rega dealer, by appointment only.
 
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