Originally Posted by WB2016
Interesting discussion at the right time. I (as well as many others) are looking at dacs in that range $500-1500. Its good to have a bit of up to date across board opinions here. I am curious though that noone has mentioned any of the PCM1704 DACs/R2R DACs, or even NOS or tube dacs if you are looking for slightly warm.
Actually, remembering back to hearing a lot of Naim kit, I believe all the better naim dacs used PCM 1704 chips R2R. I remember they were focused on mids and bass, not overly bright, but cost around 2500. If I remember correct that is;) With the external power sources we are talking serious money though;) Naim gear has that anologue feeling to it and might be a good idea to not mess up the synergy for sure, especially if you already invested in naim gear that usually specializes in dynamic differentiation, structure and rhythm, you should feed it a dac of similar characteristics. Else why did you get Naim if that is not what you are looking for???
I myself am looking for a DAC and like the look of the Audio Gd's build solidness, but have not heard the DAC 19 ($800) 2xPCM1704UK R2R and was wondering how that compared to a yulong d18 or a gustard x20, or even against a NFB 29H for that matter. Seems like a solid contender, but the Sabre chips are definitely cheaper. Has anyone heard the naim TOTL and the AudioGD DAC19 and can comment on them if they are similar?
I have heard quite a few highend dacs at shows but want something for the office and have been surprised at how close, especially the Chinese dacs have come recently. Schiit I have only heard the Bifrost Multibit, which was good, but I would like something a bit better as well.
Europe has quite a different availability, it is much, much easier to listen to a Total dac than a Schiit Gungir for example and that would be the DAC to rate almost all DACs IMO, but again we go into very diminishing returns. For me the most important thing is that the magic, excitement and soul of the music come over well, PRAT and good rendering of vocals.
I think that the reason you don't see much mention of 1704 DACs is that not a lot of people have heard them/owned them for an extended period. They tended to be expensive in the past, when engineered well, because they were/are very demanding of their implementation. I have heard TOTL Naim DACs and they are nice. At the time, I was using a Marantz CD7 and then a SONY SCD-1. I have heard Sabre DACs, including tweaked designs, but they just don't sound natural to my ears. It would be cheaper for me if they did.
Audio-gd are famous among those looking for ultra-fi at 'affordable' pricing, and for their devotion to the 1704 chipset. When I bought my (4x) 1704 DAC, I did consider their line (Master 7 in fact). As it happens, I went for the Lite Audio DAC 83 and LT ONE transport for two main reasons. Firstly, the Lite transport is a better design, I believe, than the one Audio-gd was offering. Their I2S protocol, and especially their pulse transformer design for signal connections is similar to concepts you might find on Audio Note UK's high end DACs and transports (which I can't afford).
Secondly, I like the design of the output stage of the DAC 83. The output transistors are the same (older/semi-vintage) as those used in Audio Innovations Alto amplifier of many years ago. As you'll probably know, Audio Innovations were famous for the tube/valve designs. Coincidentally, Peter Qvortrup, who helped form Audio Innovations went on to establish the Audio Note UK brand. There are also a few tricks to the filtering stages of the DAC 83 which seem to be based on a few ultra-fi ideas floating around some years ago, for DIY 1704 DACs.
I still keep a couple of Cambridge Audio CD3 players around (4x Philips TDA1541A in the digital section, Philips transport). However, there are a few DAC83s left, some available on eBay. That would be my highest recommendation for a DAC up to $10k. They can be had, new, for $1.5k or lower, if you make an offer. Here's a review of the DAC83 (not Darko) that may interest you:
The only other DAC of interest to me at the moment, is the EC Designs Mosaic DAC, the T24. But I want to hear that in a few systems first.
Edited by jusbe - 4/12/16 at 11:27pm