Best DAC from $1500 to $2500 (or so) Can anything beat the Eastern Electric Minimax?
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Tuberoller1

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I currently have an eastern electric minimax dace with a mullard tube in it as well has a musical fidelity v-link asynchronous usb->spdif feeding it.  From what I've read the EE seems like a giant killer (especially with the MF v-link feeding it).  My question is, how much would I have to spend to actually make a significant upgrade to this DAC.  Would dacs in the $1500-$2500 range really sound that much better?  Has anyone compared the EE to some in this range:

Ayre QB-9
Bel Canto 2.5
blue circle 507
Neko D100
Wyred4sound Dac-2 (6moons says this one isn't much better than the EE)
red wine audio isabella
wavelength brick
ps audio perfect wave
audio GD- NFB-7
weiss dac-2
Audio note (whatever dac of theirs is in the pricerange)
tranquility DAC

These are the ones off the top of my head around $2000.  Please suggest others if you can think of any.  Also I would prefer to stay with the warm musical characteristics of the EE.
 
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thegr8brian

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I can't speak from experience, but a lot of people seem to love the Anedio D1 which is around $1200.  There is talk of a future more feature laden model which I'm sure would be closer to the $2000 range.  I'd be curious to hear if anyone has done a comparison between the Anedio and the EE since they both use the same saber dac.  
 
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Bubu1

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Having done a side by side comparison, the Headroom UDAC (also with the ESS9018 processor) provides an extremely cohesive frequency response (nothing is exaggerated), deeper and wider soundstage and is overall smoother sounding without loss of detail over the stock minimax.  This is all provided with the supplied power brick for the UDAC.  (Unfortunately, this DAC is extremely underrated and below the radar of most head-fiers, IMO!!)
A close audiophile friend (9pintube) just upgraded the opamps in his minimax to AD797BRZ and the sound is greatly improved and brings the sound signature closer to that of the UDAC. The UDAC still wins in width and depth of soundstage and cohesiveness, though.  Do some opamp rolling with the minimax and you should be happy for a very long time!! The minimax is a steal at $750 and upgrading the op amps (at least to the AD797's) is around a $150 bucks.  The improvement in sound is excellent and well worth the investment in the op amps.
 
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Shahrose

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mahesh

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Hi
I have hegel hd20.
Its warm yet very transparent.
:)
 
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DaveBSC

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Willing to consider something used? I'm really not in love with any of the new DACs in that price range, but on the used market that could get you anywhere from a Theta Gen Va to a Levinson 360 or Accustic Arts DAC-1 Mk4.
 
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bixby

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Quote:
I currently have an eastern electric minimax dace with a mullard tube in it as well has a musical fidelity v-link asynchronous usb->spdif feeding it.  From what I've read the EE seems like a giant killer (especially with the MF v-link feeding it).  My question is, how much would I have to spend to actually make a significant upgrade to this DAC.  Would dacs in the $1500-$2500 range really sound that much better?  Has anyone compared the EE to some in this range:

Ayre QB-9
Bel Canto 2.5
blue circle 507
Neko D100
Wyred4sound Dac-2 (6moons says this one isn't much better than the EE)
red wine audio isabella
wavelength brick
ps audio perfect wave
audio GD- NFB-7
weiss dac-2
Audio note (whatever dac of theirs is in the pricerange)
tranquility DAC

These are the ones off the top of my head around $2000.  Please suggest others if you can think of any.  Also I would prefer to stay with the warm musical characteristics of the EE.
I have heard several on your list and would rank these as better than the ee Minimax which I auditioned over a long weekend.
 
Blue Circle 509 and 507, Ayre QB9, Wyred Dac2, Tranquility dac, and Weiss Dac2.
 
Below the ee Minimax, PS Audio perfect wave.
 
All others not heard.
 
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dirtrat

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You do realize this thread is 1 year and 2 months old since the last post?
 
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bixby

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Quote:
You do realize this thread is 1 year and 2 months old since the last post?
Duh!  

 
But I do know some folks take that long to decide 
 
Note to self, self look at last post dates more carefully 
 
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What has my curiosity now, albeit because of reports of a good USB implementation are the NAD M51 and the Calyx DAC. I just caved and nabbed the latter from another Head-Fier after finding the NAD was unavailable in Japan. 
 
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bixby

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I would be curious to hear your thoughts on the Calyx as well.  I respect NAD but their digital amp at RMAF with PSB flagship speakers sounded awfully bright.  I know, not the place to judge, but more times than not it gives a good taste.
 
I am going to be spending more time trying to get a few of the other usb spdif bridges in for audition / review.  My recent trip to my friends with my dac and bridge vs his Ayre was eye opening.  I liked lots of what my dac did vs the Ayre, yet liked some things on the Ayre.  But a simple power cord swap to one I brought got things very close indeed.  Actually the BC did better int he hall ambiance and depth dept on some cuts.  Sometimes there is less diff in dacs and more in OS.  The new Mountain Lions running Audirvana Plus sounded great vs Lion.  Much bigger diff than the two dacs.
 
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colinharding

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I've heard/owned most of those and I can personally guarantee that the Audio Note, whichever fits your price range, will blow the others out of the water.  Different sound sig tho.  The others will all be brighter and thinner, leaning toward a more spatial and audiophile sound...all about the details and airy top end.  The Audio Note will be heavy and rich, with lush overtones and rolled off top end.  More more fun to listen to and non fatiguing.  The only downside is that you won't get a USB connection if you need that.  If you can stretch your budget to 3500, you could get a synthesis matrix.  Dual mono, 12ax7 tube dac (two per side) with opamp buffers, two optical, two coax, usb, should have everything you need.  Both of the DACs I've mentioned will not sound like your other choices, just to be clear.  They are heavily involving and emotional, not detail retrieval hounds.  Think Sennheiser HD650 (lush, midrangy, emotional) vs AKG 701 (detail oriented, dry, sparkling), becomes and exercise of taste one is not technically better than the other.  Just my two cents.  
 
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In that range, the Antelope Zodiac ($1900US) might be the best out there. I recently purchased the Gold, and if its less expensive siblings are cut from the same cloth they'd be at the top of the heap.
 
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danne

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In that range, the Antelope Zodiac ($1900US) might be the best out there. I recently purchased the Gold, and if its less expensive siblings are cut from the same cloth they'd be at the top of the heap.
+1 for the Zodiac, its something you really need to check out before you pull the trigger.
 
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computerparts

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Quote:
I've heard/owned most of those and I can personally guarantee that the Audio Note, whichever fits your price range, will blow the others out of the water.  Different sound sig tho.  The others will all be brighter and thinner, leaning toward a more spatial and audiophile sound...all about the details and airy top end.  The Audio Note will be heavy and rich, with lush overtones and rolled off top end.  More more fun to listen to and non fatiguing.  The only downside is that you won't get a USB connection if you need that.  If you can stretch your budget to 3500, you could get a synthesis matrix.  Dual mono, 12ax7 tube dac (two per side) with opamp buffers, two optical, two coax, usb, should have everything you need.  Both of the DACs I've mentioned will not sound like your other choices, just to be clear.  They are heavily involving and emotional, not detail retrieval hounds.  Think Sennheiser HD650 (lush, midrangy, emotional) vs AKG 701 (detail oriented, dry, sparkling), becomes and exercise of taste one is not technically better than the other.  Just my two cents.  
 
I agree, though I wouldn't say the the Audio Note has a rolled off top end. More like an even tonal balance with no spotlighting. In my AN dac detail is there in spades, it's just not emphasized and calling attention to itself.
 
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