Originally Posted by Sweden
I think it would be sad not including the great Arcam irDAC. I'm always rooting for the underdog who gives you better value.
NAD M51 and Bryston BDA-2 would be excellent choices as well.
Otherwise I find the choices really good.
After owning the LCD-3 for a while I don't think they would be really the optimal headphone to test DACs fully.
Even though I find them pretty neutral they put something of their own flavour (of greatness though) to the sound and are a bit forgiving.
A Stax SR-009 or Omega with greater detail retrieval and transparency combined with a really transparent amp like BHSE or KGSSHV would get closer to the ultimate in revealing gear and make it a lot easier seeing straight down to the source. Other less pricey electrostatic systems would perhaps also be of interest for this task.
Do you have any opportunity to get a setup like this on loan?
Okay, which one of you rich guys is willing to send me your $10K Stax setup for this test?
Nobody? Where's your sense of community! Zilch is sending me his Concero! Happy Camper is sending me his Hilo! I have secret donors sending or sponsoring the Gungnir and DA8! Somebody please send me a high-end Stax setup!
Okay, no fair being flippant with poor Sweden. The reality is that I would love to have a Stax setup to do comparison tests, but note the title of the thread: mid-level DAC comparison. If I were evaluating the highest-end DACs, in the >$5K price class, I would push to use the finest Stax setup... And I would expect that the number of folks interested in that test would be pretty small -- the folks with big bucks and the dreamers/droolers (I admit I am one of those...).
Not that I'm just doing this to serve the masses -- I'm looking for a new DAC for my rig. Yeah, that's pretty selfish of me, but my community service quotient is at least as limited as those who aren't willing to ship me their Stax setups. My cans happen to be very nice upper-mid class LCD-3s. Pricey, no question, but still accessible, or at least conceivably attainable some day, for a large number of folks on Head-fi. So this is an upper-middle-class test for those in the upper-middle class, or aspiring to be in that class, and I just can't see the SR-009s and BHSE as falling in that category.
Just for the record, I am thinking of getting a Stax setup, but at most I think it'll start with a Woo Wee and the Japanese version of the SR-007s, and at the earliest it will be next year. I do try to keep my head-fi expenses to a reasonable level each year. Mostly I fail, but I do try... And if/when that hardware ever shows up, maybe I'll do another comparison test. Or maybe not.
In addition, I do have a pair of Koss ESP-950s I could use for this test. But I consider them to be much lower quality cans, and not as revealing of how good a DAC could sound as my LCD-3s will be. I have every confidence that whatever any of these DACs can deliver, the LCD-3s driven my my Cyclops amp can deliver. That said, if there is time, at the end of the comparison I will try to set them up and give you folks a few notes on them. But no promises.
And finally, my offer still stands: anybody wanting to bring their own rigs around while I have all of this hardware here is welcome. Just PM me and we'll arrange for you to show up here with your uber Stax rig!