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Looking for new DAC, suggestions please...

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 

Want to get a new DAC for my computer rig and i'm on a budget of $800 max. I had a look at the CEntrance DACmini and the Nuforce Icon HD and I was hoping I could get some more suggestions. It doesn't have to be portable but I don't want it to be huge either. Any suggestions?

post #2 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by deniall View Post
 

Want to get a new DAC for my computer rig and i'm on a budget of $800 max. I had a look at the CEntrance DACmini and the Nuforce Icon HD and I was hoping I could get some more suggestions. It doesn't have to be portable but I don't want it to be huge either. Any suggestions?

the CEntrance DACmini is a KILLER choice for 800 bucks.

 

But you could go with the HRT Music Streamer HD and save some money.

 

I think iFi may have come out with a dedicated DAC as well - I'd look into that.

I own the iFi iCAN headphone amp, iPhono phonostage, and iUSB PowerPlant

and they're all fantastic products!!

 

Some ideas...

post #3 of 36

I'm an uber big fan of Audio GD

 

Reference-5.32 [$909 new] (Also I really like PCM dacs chips) might snag a used one for $800 if you need a balanced DAC 

NFB-1.32 [$650 New] an ESS Sabre Dac, balanced as well

 

I'd personally like to try the Ref 5 My self, seeing as I've always been a fan of Hifiman Daps, I owned the hm601 [a NOS dac in there] and I currently own a hm801 [good ole PCM there] and I really like it. While my NFB 10ES2 at home [using a ESS Sabre] has a smidge more details and spacious ness, I would think a full sized PCM based dac would be on par with my some what budget 10ES2 [Dac/Amp combo]

 

But either way, Audio GD makes a great product at a nice price. There's also the 

 

Schiit BiFrost with it's Uber Upgrade 

post #4 of 36

Dacmini Dac section is pretty good, in the future you can pair it with a standalone headphone amp (in case you go for higher end headphone models)

post #5 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by jackwess View Post
 

Dacmini Dac section is pretty good, in the future you can pair it with a standalone headphone amp (in case you go for higher end headphone models)

A great point as well. It's not often an $800 DAC (+ headphone amp, w/ possible mod to make it a line stage w/ an analog in and output) makes the cover of Stereophile!  I've kept my DACmini for reference all this time.  And I rock much higher-end desktop units now.

But it still holds up!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mshenay View Post
 

I'm an uber big fan of Audio GD

 

Reference-5.32 [$909 new] (Also I really like PCM dacs chips) might snag a used one for $800 if you need a balanced DAC 

NFB-1.32 [$650 New] an ESS Sabre Dac, balanced as well

 

I'd personally like to try the Ref 5 My self, seeing as I've always been a fan of Hifiman Daps, I owned the hm601 [a NOS dac in there] and I currently own a hm801 [good ole PCM there] and I really like it. While my NFB 10ES2 at home [using a ESS Sabre] has a smidge more details and spacious ness, I would think a full sized PCM based dac would be on par with my some what budget 10ES2 [Dac/Amp combo]

 

But either way, Audio GD makes a great product at a nice price. There's also the 

 

Schiit BiFrost with it's Uber Upgrade 

YES, I LOVED my Bitfrost!

Passed it onto my nephew!

 

So that's a GREAT option too

post #6 of 36

most dacs on the market are extremely overpriced imo.

 

you should be able to get something nice for less than $100 (ex: highly reviewed schiit modi vs Audioquest Dragonfly 1.0).

 

I would highly recommend looking at Stoner Acoustic's UD 110v2 for $49+10S&H (amazing deal for outstanding sound - using a PCM5102A dac chip). The $900 Audio GD Reference-5.32 uses lower model number PCM1704UK dac lol. The UD 110v2 was favorably compared to the $350 Nuforce Icon HD dac (Burr-Brown PCM2706 chip)


Edited by money4me247 - 12/17/13 at 5:52pm
post #7 of 36

What do you guys think separates DAC's from each other or better question from low cost to high?

 

My FiiO E-10 run out of my computer into a Realistic vintage amp sounds flat amazing into my D600's.  How much better is a $500 DAC over a $50 FiiO?  I don't mean to start a sound science war but aren't most of the DAC's all about what chip they use?

post #8 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oregonian View Post
 

What do you guys think separates DAC's from each other or better question from low cost to high?

 

My FiiO E-10 run out of my computer into a Realistic vintage amp sounds flat amazing into my D600's.  How much better is a $500 DAC over a $50 FiiO?  I don't mean to start a sound science war but aren't most of the DAC's all about what chip they use?

that's what I thought too... the price should be based on the DAC chip inside. unfortunately, after my research, that appears not to be the case. people say that the wiring/connection makes the sound for the dac, but that sounds silly to me. when you are buying a PC, you look at the actual components. in our era, the wiring should not be a problem.

 

if you think about it, a dac can only improve your music by maybe 10% at best (your headphones & source files are so much more important in determining SQ). So it doesn't make sense for me to spend more than 25% of my overall budget for a dac. For DACs, there seems to be severely extreme diminishing returns after you hit the $200 price point (aka you can find people preferring the SQ of specific cheaper DACs over DACs that are double/triple the price). I think at $100-ish, you get the best value for your money provided, you do some research & find a quality product. The fact is that jumping from a $50 dac to a $500 dac will definitely not net you a x10 improvement in SQ. and most people don't even have good enough headphones (think $1,000+) to take advantage of the improved dac. better off spending the money on nicer headphones.

 

I think it's really just brand-name & perception that determines the price along w/ the fact that the audiophile market audience is willing to fork over absurd amounts of money, so companies can keep the prices high.


Edited by money4me247 - 12/17/13 at 6:19pm
post #9 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by money4me247 View Post

that's what I thought too... the price should be based on the DAC chip inside. unfortunately, after my research, that appears not to be the case. people say that the wiring/connection makes the sound for the dac, but that sounds silly to me. when you are buying a PC, you look at the actual components. in our era, the wiring should not be a problem.

 

if you think about it, a dac can only improve your music by maybe 10% at best (your headphones & source files are so much more important in determining SQ). So it doesn't make sense for me to spend more than 25% of my overall budget for a dac. For DACs, there seems to be severely extreme diminishing returns after you hit the $200 price point (aka you can find people preferring the SQ of specific cheaper DACs over DACs that are double/triple the price). I think at $100-ish, you get the best value for your money provided, you do some research & find a quality product. The fact is that jumping from a $50 dac to a $500 dac will definitely not net you a x10 improvement in SQ. and most people don't even have good enough headphones (think $1,000+) to take advantage of the improved dac. better off spending the money on nicer headphones.

 

I think it's really just brand-name & perception that determines the price along w/ the fact that the audiophile market audience is willing to fork over absurd amounts of money, so companies can keep the prices high.

 



well my nfb 10ES2 Dac was a clear upgrade to my oDac. So you can start small and work your way up. However the OP posted that YEARS ago chances are they already have a solution. So maybe we make a new thread?
post #10 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mshenay View Post
 
well my nfb 10ES2 Dac was a clear upgrade to my oDac. So you can start small and work your way up. However the OP posted that YEARS ago chances are they already have a solution. So maybe we make a new thread?

hahaha... poor OP... it look 2 years before his question got answered... zombieee threaddd 

 

but that's kinda exactly my point, you have to jump to a $600+ dac from a $150 dac to notice a clear upgrade... and wow what do you know the ES9018 dac chip in the $600+ ngb 10es2 dac is the same dac chip in the $50 Hifimediy Sabre U2. rotfl.

 

with $600 you can basically afford the HE500 or LCD2 on a sale, and the audio upgrade is much larger & more apparent when you improve your headphones. no offense meant & a personal opinion, but I think you could have gotten a lot more for your money.

post #11 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by money4me247 View Post
 

hahaha... poor OP... it look 2 years before his question got answered... zombieee threaddd 

 

but that's kinda exactly my point, you have to jump to a $600+ dac from a $150 dac to notice a clear upgrade... and wow what do you know the ES9018 dac chip in the $600+ ngb 10es2 dac is the same dac chip in the $50 Hifimediy Sabre U2. rotfl.

 

with $600 you can basically afford the HE500 or LCD2 on a sale, and the audio upgrade is much larger & more apparent when you improve your headphones. no offense meant & a personal opinion, but I think you could have gotten a lot more for your money.

well actually for $600 I got a fully balanced Dac and a balanced Solid State amp with enough power to drive an HE 6, I think I did pretty good for my money, thanks much. No to mention I didn't want new headphones. I wanted to upgrade my amp and dac as I was happy with and I'm still happy with my DT 880 :3

 

And going back to the 10ES2 AMP [because it's a Dac Amp Combo] that amp is going to last me a while! 

post #12 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mshenay View Post
 

well actually for $600 I got a fully balanced Dac and a balanced Solid State amp with enough power to drive an HE 6, I think I did pretty good for my money, thanks much. No to mention I didn't want new headphones. I wanted to upgrade my amp and dac as I was happy with and I'm still happy with my DT 880 :3

 

And going back to the 10ES2 AMP [because it's a Dac Amp Combo] that amp is going to last me a while! 

mmm... everyone has different preferences, but for $600 I would much rather get the $300 project ember tube amp + pick any dac under $300 lol

 

glad you found something you liked tho! :regular_smile : 


Edited by money4me247 - 12/18/13 at 3:01am
post #13 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by money4me247 View Post
 

mmm... everyone has different preferences, but for $600 I would much rather get the $300 project ember tube amp + pick any dac under $300 lol

 

glad you found something you liked tho! :regular_smile : 

exactly, and I'm not a fan of tubes what so ever... I like the Vali very much because it's... very solid state like :D [wth a smidge of tubey wetness] 

 

That said, imo a good dac needs functionality, since your dac is part of yur Pre-amp in your audio chain. I value it being able to have multiple input and outputs. Not sure of many $300 dacs that have 3 inputs and 3 outputs [or a nifty remote to switch between them all with <3] 

 

But function is just as important as how it sounds, my oDac sounded MAYBE about 85% as good as my nfb 10ES2 [dac vs dac] but it had lke 10% of the functionality. One in and one out... it was terrible for me >.>, so again functionality is key for higher priced units imo 

post #14 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mshenay View Post
 

exactly, and I'm not a fan of tubes what so ever... I like the Vali very much because it's... very solid state like :D [wth a smidge of tubey wetness] 

 

That said, imo a good dac needs functionality, since your dac is part of yur Pre-amp in your audio chain. I value it being able to have multiple input and outputs. Not sure of many $300 dacs that have 3 inputs and 3 outputs [or a nifty remote to switch between them all with <3] 

 

But function is just as important as how it sounds, my oDac sounded MAYBE about 85% as good as my nfb 10ES2 [dac vs dac] but it had lke 10% of the functionality. One in and one out... it was terrible for me >.>, so again functionality is key for higher priced units imo 

I was blown away by the Vali! I especially loved the look on my cousins face when I handed him my LCD-3's (hooked up to the Vali and Modi DAC) and told him the Vali was 99 bucks!!

Also a KILLER choice that I was too burned-out to remember. LOL

 

Functionality is important indeed sir! That's why I thought about the DACMini CX - as he would have a DAC w/ multiple inputs (capable up to 192K), a decent headphone amp, and a way to connect an analog front-end

w/ a phonostage. He'd also have a line-stage (pre-amp w/o a phonostage) if he wanted to use it as such. Functionality is KEY. Good point there too.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by money4me247 View Post
 

mmm... everyone has different preferences, but for $600 I would much rather get the $300 project ember tube amp + pick any dac under $300 lol

 

glad you found something you liked tho! :regular_smile : 

GREAT idea. I enjoy tubes and solid state.

But this is a killer solution.

Bravo there - seriously.

post #15 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikemercer View Post
 

I was blown away by the Vali! I especially loved the look on my cousins face when I handed him my LCD-3's (hooked up to the Vali and Modi DAC) and told him the Vali was 99 bucks!!

Also a KILLER choice that I was too burned-out to remember. LOL

 

Functionality is important indeed sir! That's why I thought about the DACMini CX - as he would have a DAC w/ multiple inputs (capable up to 192K), a decent headphone amp, and a way to connect an analog front-end

w/ a phonostage. He'd also have a line-stage (pre-amp w/o a phonostage) if he wanted to use it as such. Functionality is KEY. Good point there too.

 

GREAT idea. I enjoy tubes and solid state.

But this is a killer solution.

Bravo there - seriously.

Indeed, still I wonder how the Vali is going to impact the market that amps like the Project Ember had... granted the vali lacks the optional sound, and tube rolling but for a third of the price and equal the quality and detail retention... it's again a great amp!  And I own one :D 

 

and technically, I paid $300 for a Dac and $300 for a Solid State :D so for $600 I got two awesome units! That happen to be in one Metal Case! Lucky me 

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