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Best DAC for stereo system under $400

  1. karsavuran
    Hi all,

    I have a good hifi stereo system and I want to add a DAC. I considered to buy SMSL M8A, it will cost $200 from massdrop. $200-$250 is a good price, I wrote $400 to title but I want to quarentee I wont miss someting much better than M8A. For example SMSL M9, would it worth it?

    I will be happy with your recommendations. I want to buy it and use for long time.

  2. HBen
    To be able to give advice please specify what you mean by "I have a good hifi stereo system" and how you listen to music now, since I guess there must be some kind of DAC somewhere in the chain unless you only listen to analog audio.

    On a general note I might add that the expectations of the sound improvement of "a better DAC" are often higher than the products can deliver by a very fair amount which either leads to a lot of disappointment on the side of the buying customer and the included buyers remorse - or of course leading people to "hear big differences" even though they don't exist, because otherwise they could't justify their expenses in front of themselves or others.

    I personally found most DAC's to sound pretty much the same or at least very similar (until I started playing with more expensive multibit and R2R-DAC's that is) and still think nowadays that pretty much all DAC's below around a few hundred $ (with a few exceptions) are a waste of money because if your stereo system is on the cheaper side (lets say under a few hundred $) its better to invest the money somewhere else in the chain like better speakers or room improvements - and if your system is expensive (say in the multi-thousand $-range) then better invest in a serious DAC which will cost considerably more than 200$ ...

    Add this to the fact, that after you pay for the separate enclosure, connectors, the separate power supply, the dealers margins, the marketing and all that there is not really much money left to go into (obviously not very high end) internals and leaves you not really much better than a DAC placed on your PC-Soundcard or even in your smartphone.

    Either way - cheap DAC's are (in my opinion of course) money thrown out of the window.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2018
  3. karsavuran
    Actually I did not write it since I do not want to buy anything system specific. I want to buy a "good" dac and the best I can buy. I generally listen vinly, rarely cd. I do not have dac except cd player. I have two systems, Pioneer SA-9800 JBL 4410 and Sansui G22000 Yamaha NS1000M. Also a high end (local brand) tube amp is on order.
    I considered SMSL M8A because everyone wrote it sounds great :)
  4. karsavuran
    any idea?
  5. m-i-c-k-e-y
    There's a used Chord Mojo and Schiit Bifrost Uber in the FS section that fits your budget
    karsavuran likes this.
  6. karsavuran
    Are they better than smsl m8a or did you post as an alternative?
    I am also looking for Massdrop x Airist Audio R-2R. I am totally confused.
  7. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Hifimediy DAC, $42-$70.
  8. Rodmunch
    Just a few ideas:

    Schiit Modi Multibit (I own one).

    Or the Hifimediy UDA38Pro (haven't heard it but gets good reviews and I'm looking forward to owning it; I do own an older cheaper Hifimediy ESS DAC and love it).

    That Massdrop x Airist Audio R2R DAC looks promising too.

    Or used Schiit Bifrost as mentioned above.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
    karsavuran likes this.
  9. surfgeorge
    I bought a Chord Mojo as portable DAC, but also use it in my pretty high-end stereo system (10k€, CD-Drive, DAC, Amp, custom speakers)
    It really surprised me with a 3D soundstage, clarity, dynamics and natural timbre that blew my 3k DAC out of the water...
    This is not a standard DAC chip, it's a proprietary technology, and after hearing it I am a believer.

    Only issue is, that it's not designed to be permanently powered - that leads to hot batteries and early battery death.
    Can be solved IMHO with a timed power supply that just charges the unit 2-3h per day.

    And to get it below 400 USD you may have to look at a used unit.
  10. Arniesb
    I tried Bifrost and mojo and in my opinion Topping DX7S is much better... More neutral, more detailed, more resolution. Just better. Sure Something like Gumy and Qutest is better but not low end schiit or mojo.
    karsavuran likes this.
  11. Oscar-HiFi
    Topping D50 or JDS Labs EL DAC would be my choice, I own both and they are both excellent.

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