DAC recommendation in the 300-500 dollar range?
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ady1989

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Hello everyone, I'm once again going to turn to this awesome forum and ask for some advice. I am in need of a DAC to go with my Bijou amp and my DT 880/600s. I am currently looking at the Schiit Bifrost but it's quite costly. If I went with that I think I would go for the Uber Analog and the USB input but that will drive up the price to 500 dollars. How much difference would the Uber Analog upgrade make, worth the cost? I also know I can upgrade it later so that's also an option. I am looking to buy a decent DAC that I will keep forever, basically. The price ceiling is right around 500 dollars but I would prefer to spend less. How much difference in audio quality really is there from a 150 dollar DAC to something in the 500's? I have never had a dedicated DAC or was able to listen to one so I'd like to hear some opinions from people who have owned some in this price range. Thanks!
 
My current setup goes like this: Xonar STX with opamp mod > Bijou >DT880
 
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I'm currently looking at the HRT Music streamer II+ and HD, and the Peachtree Dac ITX in that range. 
 
The whole "how much difference is there in different dacs" thing is a living debate. Be prepared for a world of hurt if people start answering. heh. 
 
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InternetSandman

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When it comes to DAC's (speaking purely out of online research, no real world experience) the big differences lie with the features offered: i.e. does it offer 24/192, does it provide balanced output, does it support the connections you're going to use, etc. I imagine that, objectively, higher end DAC's will produce better results than lower end ones, however (again, I have next to no experience with DAC experimentation) the variations between them in terms of sound quality are probably much less than the variations between various amps and, obviously, the headphones themselves

Personally, I'm looking at the Schiit range of DACs, in particular, the $350 Bifrost, simply because I love the aesthetic and I haven't seen anything that would show me that, for example, a Gungir, would be worth the added cost over a Bifrost. I could be wrong, I'd have to listen to be sure, but that's my take on it
 
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I imagine that, objectively, higher end DAC's will produce better results than lower end ones, however (again, I have next to no experience with DAC experimentation)
 
I'm forced to imagine things in the same way. I live in a rural area and can't go around testing dacs out. Reading about it on the internet however, has proven massively frustrating, especially the "there's no difference / there's big differences" debate. 
 
I finally decided to spend what I can reasonably, upgrade off my hrt music streamer (standard) and just swallow the "I can't hear a difference" if it comes to that. 
 
It's really irritating however. 
 
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You didn't say what your source was going to be...computer, dvd player, apple tv?  These can make a difference in recommendations, especially at the price where you are hunting.
With the proviso that I've never heard this dac, here's one that caught my eye:
 
 http://www.tnt-audio.com/accessories/sparkos_ss3602_e.html
 
Read the review.....the writer felt that with the addition of the discrete opamps, the Maverick rivaled his $1500 dac...that's quite a statement. 
 
I think, but am not sure that they offer a money back trial. 
Don't get caught up in too much technical jargon....some people on this site worry too much about what chip or resistor or cap is used....a bad engineer/designer
can make a good part sound awful and a good designer can make a cheap part sound just fine. And don't worry about the tube....it's just a buffer stage I think..
you don't even have to listen to it if you don't want. 
 
Steve
 
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ady1989

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Sorry I forgot to mention, but this is a computer setup.
  You didn't say what your source was going to be...computer, dvd player, apple tv?  These can make a difference in recommendations, especially at the price where you are hunting.
With the proviso that I've never heard this dac, here's one that caught my eye:
 
 http://www.tnt-audio.com/accessories/sparkos_ss3602_e.html
 
Read the review.....the writer felt that with the addition of the discrete opamps, the Maverick rivaled his $1500 dac...that's quite a statement. 
 
I think, but am not sure that they offer a money back trial. 
Don't get caught up in too much technical jargon....some people on this site worry too much about what chip or resistor or cap is used....a bad engineer/designer
can make a good part sound awful and a good designer can make a cheap part sound just fine. And don't worry about the tube....it's just a buffer stage I think..
you don't even have to listen to it if you don't want. 
 
Steve
 
Sorry I forgot to mention, but this is a computer setup. I like the Maverick D2 from the quick read and I will look into it further. I am a bit biased towards tubes because I built my Bijou and the sound has been so nice and smooth. Might be a less accurate audio reproduction than solid state but I love the way it sounds. I'm not sure if a tube in the pre-amp stage will alter the sound much but since I like tubes I wouldn't mind. I will definitely look into the D2 and the op-amp upgrade further, thanks!
 
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On the high end of your range would be the Emotiva DC-1, gets you a really good dac and another headphone amp all in one. You don't have to use the built in amp but it is there if you need it.
 
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ady1989

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  On the high end of your range would be the Emotiva DC-1, gets you a really good dac and another headphone amp all in one. You don't have to use the built in amp but it is there if you need it.
 
That looks very nice except I don't need a built in amp and having that just drives the price up. I am planning to build a nice solid state amp using one of the AMB Labs designs in the future. Do you know of any good DIY DAC kits in this price range?
 
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Parasound Z Dac. Its only $299 with three digital inputs( USB is 24/96 only) with headphone amp. I am using this dac with LD MK III amp. It sounds great.Its far better than my three years old CA DACMagic
http://www.audioadvisor.com/Parasound-Zdac-Digital-to-Analog-Converter/productinfo/PAZDAC/#.U5aJS5RdUpg
 
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manizkrishnan

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parasound z dac $299 shipped from audioadvisor. I have been using this dac with LD MK III . They both sound great.
 
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