I've recently started getting back into higher end hifi after having to leave my pride and joy behind when i emigrated just over a decade ago. This time I am working on a relatively portable headphone setup (WAF is also a factor there
). I still had my old Perpetual Audio P1/P3a combo with me from the move but the P1 now sleeps with the fishes and I don't doubt the P3a is too far behind, they've seen a lot of miles over the years. I recently added a Stax Sr-007/323s combo to the mix, sourcing from a Squeezebox touch to the P3a.
I am thinking of replacing the P3a before the end of the year and having been completely outside this world for so long have very little experience with DACs released over the last decade or so. So I'm looking for suggestions with a limit of ~$1500 or so, now I know there are many threads asking the same thing, I have gone through quite a few and see the Schitt Gungnir, Woo Audio WDS-1 and Matrix X-Sabre as good candidates but a big factor here is if that advice can come from experience of the P3a itself vs. newer DACs. Basically is there really a big benefit to newer models, or perhaps should I just look at maintaining/repairing the P3a instead?
My main requirements are min. 24/96 support, SPDIF connectivity (USB is a plus but not a necessity for me), no headphone amplification, RCA output (Balanced a plus but not a necessity). Clarity but not overly bright, warm vs. clinical if that makes sense.
Well I ended up going with the Matrix X-Sabre and am very happy with the choice. If you care about the unit itself then have a read of Project86's excellent write up, I'm just really posting here to answer my own core question of how it compared the P3A. In one word 'Rich', the P3A was a great DAC in it's day, very clean and neutral sound but compared to the X-Sabre it lacked warmth and texture, which the Sabre achieves without sacrificing clarity at all, it just makes the process sound effortless. I'm also very impressed with the build quality of the unit, it's perhaps twice the overall size of the P3A and easily 5-6 times heavier, it feels like a metal brick.
Service from Matrix was also great, it was at my door within 5 business days and Arthur (main USA contact currently) was very communicative (hell he responded to my first round of queries on a sunday ).