Best sub $1500 DAC?
Aug 12, 2014 at 11:13 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 5


500+ Head-Fier
Nov 11, 2010
Riverside, California
Well after the LA Head-Fi Show I have come to the conclusion that I want a new DAC. It has to be a dedicated DAC with no amp in it.
It has to have USB, Coaxial and tos-link inputs. It should be asynchronous but doesn't have to be. It has to be very good. I'm willing to spend around $1500 and I'm willing to spend well below that. Doesn't matter to me.
What brands do you prefer in this price range. I have a few ideas but I'm looking for some input.
I currently use a Oritek OMZ DAC which is fantastic. Hell; do I need a better DAC? Maybe not But I want something better.
Post away and thanks in advance to any who actually help.
Aug 12, 2014 at 11:21 PM Post #2 of 5
I have the Headroom Ultra Desktop DAC and it does wonders for me, balanced and unbalanced. It's around $1595 MSRP I think when it was discontinued late 2013, so you can probably pick it up for cheaper. It has all the outputs you want and more (dual XLR balanced). An uberfrost (upgraded Schiit Bifrost), which I also have, is good, but it doesn't have the outputs you want and isn't as flexible.
Aug 12, 2014 at 11:28 PM Post #3 of 5
Am I wrong in thinking this DAC (Headroom Ultra Desktop DAC) is from 2006?
If I'm wrong then I will consider it. But if I'm right then I would prefer something from 2012 and up.
I will say that it looks like a killer DAC though! (performance wise that is)
I am considering the Schiit Gungnir but I think I can do better for my money.
Aug 12, 2014 at 11:29 PM Post #4 of 5
Any particular characteristic you're looking for? Number of outputs/kind of outputs?
For most DAC's... diminishing returns hit really quick. Pretty soon, you start just paying for features (remote control, higher res USB service, more I/O options, fancy case)... I'd also consider putting some of that money into a possible amp upgrade. Those Garage1217's are great bang for the buck, but they can be beaten for the price. For your price bracket, I'd try the Audio-GD NFB-7... but that's just because I really support Kingwa's work.
Aug 12, 2014 at 11:42 PM Post #5 of 5
I'm more than happy with the Garage1217 amps. These are just used for headphone duties and they work amazingly well. For 2-channel speaker duties I run a HK 3490 into some amazing speakers.
The amps are not the issue. When I was at Head-Fi LA meet I tried amps costing hundreds more than my Garage1217 amps and came away thinking my current amps sounded better. (I didn't try any amps over $1k though)
So as for amps I'm fantastically well off.
My DAC on the other hand is good. But not great. It's very transparent but I found that while testing; the DACs in my Rotel CD player just sound better. That made me realize (along with some DACs I heard at the meet) that a better DAC is whats needed in my current headphone stack.
Out-put wise I need analogue of course. But digital out would be cool as a bonus. I am currently (or I should say I have been) looking at Audio-GD kit.

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