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USB Asynchronous DAC - what's the best current bang for buck?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

Things seem to move so fast in the DAC world, and from what I can gather, unlike with more mature technologies, like speakers for example, in the world of DACs, time really seems to march on fairly rapidly. Already we are seeing new technology in 2013 from Meridian and Arcam, no doubt with more to come.


For that reason, I don't want to spend a fortune on a DAC, particularly as I'll probably upgrade it relatively frequently (like a camera body versus lenses).  But I do want extensive detail, a lack of the harshness that I am experiencing at the moment, and a better soundstage.

That shouldn't be hard to improve in my system given that what I am currently using as a stopgap is the DAC in an Airport Express, but I would like to keep this under £400, and I wouldn't mind keeping it well under that.  I also wouldn't mind buying British as I am currently living in England and they do have some good audio firms.  And here, things like the Schiit are quite expensive.  Over-priced really.


Finally, I don't need this to be a headphone amp, and don't need inputs beyond the async USB.  Any AirPlay can go right to the Mini which I will be moving next to the HiFi when I get this DAC.


Current System:


Mac Mini 2010, Rega Brio-R, and B&W 685 (the next component to be upgraded).  Most files are ALAC rips from CD along with Grateful Dead lossless matrix files from eTree, some of which are now 24-bit.


Thoughts? Suggestions?

Edited by netdog - 2/21/13 at 4:30am
post #2 of 4

Meridian Explorer? That thing has me curious after having good results from the Dragonfly.

post #3 of 4

So you are going to stream from the Mini, to an airport express? I would think that you would want an optical link in that case, which the airport express handles brilliantly. Many of the low priced DACS do include headphone amplifiers, but you aren't forced to use it. If you are streaming from the mini itself, then something like a DragonFly would probably be your best bet, as it has the smallest footprint and is asynchronous. Runs for about $250 in the sates. 


Since you have a great budget, what about something like this, if you are streaming from Airport Express?




edit: was thinking that you might want something that has more versatility.

Edited by ravager - 2/21/13 at 9:50am
post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 

Well I'd come around to thinking that I'd move my currently headless Mini over to my stereo and hook it up via USB to my Rega amp.  The thinking for that was that I'd get less jitter with an asynchronous USB device rather than drawing optical data through from the Mac.


Any comments over whether that is a better strategy are welcome.  Would be just as happy to keep the Mini where it is (or move it).

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