Bare Bones Dac Suggestions
Aug 21, 2012 at 6:43 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 5


New Head-Fier
Feb 16, 2005
Hi guys,

I know there are a ton of threads like this, but none of them seemed to quite address this particular use-case, so if I just missed one, I apologize. I'm looking for a super simple dac recommendation. I don't mean simple as in crappy, but simple as in, I don't need or want USB or volume control or really anything more than coax or optical in, and analog out (preferably supporting up to 24/192khz). My setup is a computer with the Asus Xonar Essence STX card, a Music Hall a50.2 amp that also feeds a shanling headphone amp. I'm driving Dali Mentor 2's from the music hall, and a pair of HE-5's from the shanling. I'm looking to not break the bank (I can go up to $300-350 max, but am looking for the bang for buck sweet-spot). I would also prefer not to end up with a dac that is worse than the asus's onboard dac. The reason I don't just use the asus's dac is because its started to pick up some annoying interference whenever I move my moue, and no matter what I do (tried moving slots for it and the video card several times) I can't track down a definite cause. I'd like to keep using its DSP though, hence wanting a simple coax or optical option. Anyway, suggest away. From my research, I'm looking at the emotiva xda-1, the cambridge dac magic, the maverick d2, and MAYBE the bitfrost. I am not in any way against cheaper options if they don't suck, but most of them seem to be amp/dac combos with volume knobs, and that worries me. I don't object to any of that, (or usb), I just don't want to lose sound quality per dollar because that stuff was included. Anyway, thanks for any input.
Aug 22, 2012 at 7:59 AM Post #4 of 5


Headphoneus Supremus
Jul 17, 2011
Do you also hear any noise if you disconnect any amplifiers from the line output, and use the built-in headphone amplifier (preferably the 1/4" jack, not the front panel which is often prone to noise issues itself) ? If not, then you probably have a ground loop; it may or may not be possible to fix it without buying a DAC, but if you do get one, then optical S/PDIF would be preferred, as it provides galvanic isolation from the PC's ground.

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