Seven of us (two trade, one ex-trade, four audiophiles) just concluded a mammoth audition on neutral territory of Emotiva, Musical Fidelity, Wyred 4 Sound, Rega, Audiolab, Calyx, Young, Heed and Antelope DACs, along with the Item and NVA music computers. Nine hours, one track, one food break; audio-geeks only need apply.
We strove to make it as fair as possible - trying each with two (some with three) transports, and via several digital inputs, and via multiple filters and configuration options where available, in order to hear each at its best.
Although our individual opinions varied slightly, there was little dissent from a broad consensus that the Calyx DAC was two clear notches above the Young DAC, and that the W4S DAC deserved its price premium over the Young. In fact, with one or two exceptions, it was generally felt that there were simply no 'giant killers' - that the more you paid, the better the sound quality.
Having said that, the Rega, Young and Calyx were all felt to offer outstanding performance for the price, and gave some of the best sounds of the day, In particular, I thought the Young was very transparent and neutral: probably the best resolving DAC £800 or so can buy right now.
However, unmistakably, it's not as good as the best DACs at £900 and above. Beware, though, that we sell W4S and Calyx, but not Young or Heed, so you're welcome to take that with a pinch of salt! Better to read their comments than mine (at PinkFish).
Other than the Zodiac, which was another level of price and performance, none of the DACs were tested with aftermarket power supplies, which doubtless would have improved the Young further. The Calyx was auditioned USB-powered only by a 5-year old standard Acer laptop, and the Stealth Mini computer transport.
Edited by hubsand - 3/14/11 at 3:40am