Best "bang for the buck" DAC

fuscobal

New Member
Apr 8, 2020
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#1
Hello guys. I currently own the old EMM Labs CDSAse and would like to upgrade soon. The budget would be 7-8K Euros for a second hand unit and I am of course looking at Emm DAC2X V2 in the first place as I very much like the sound of EMM (don't have a lot of experience with ultra high end dacs but CDSA outperformed easily everything I've heard up to it's price range). The upgrade has 2 reasons > even better sound quality and convenience as CDSA has no inputs (I intend to also purchase the Aurender N10 in order to bring all my high res music on its internal HDD or connect the TV through the DAC). Questions :

1. Are there any other comparable/better options to consider at this price point ?
2. How much of an improvement would I see going from CDSAse to DAC2X V2 ? (can't afford a DA2 V2 unfortunately)
3. Any compatibility issues between Aurender N10 and DAC2X v2 ?
 

christoph

Well-Known Member
Dec 12, 2015
1,980
1,172
195
Principality of Liechtenstein
#2
Hello guys. I currently own the old EMM Labs CDSAse and would like to upgrade soon. The budget would be 7-8K Euros for a second hand unit and I am of course looking at Emm DAC2X V2 in the first place as I very much like the sound of EMM (don't have a lot of experience with ultra high end dacs but CDSA outperformed easily everything I've heard up to it's price range). The upgrade has 2 reasons > even better sound quality and convenience as CDSA has no inputs (I intend to also purchase the Aurender N10 in order to bring all my high res music on its internal HDD or connect the TV through the DAC). Questions :

1. Are there any other comparable/better options to consider at this price point ?
2. How much of an improvement would I see going from CDSAse to DAC2X V2 ? (can't afford a DA2 V2 unfortunately)
3. Any compatibility issues between Aurender N10 and DAC2X v2 ?
Maybe @marty can say a few words as he had an EMM Labs DAC as well before...
 
Likes: bonzo75

Leif S

Industry Expert
Feb 14, 2015
746
123
80
California
www.vonschweikert.com
#3
Hello guys. I currently own the old EMM Labs CDSAse and would like to upgrade soon. The budget would be 7-8K Euros for a second hand unit and I am of course looking at Emm DAC2X V2 in the first place as I very much like the sound of EMM (don't have a lot of experience with ultra high end dacs but CDSA outperformed easily everything I've heard up to it's price range). The upgrade has 2 reasons > even better sound quality and convenience as CDSA has no inputs (I intend to also purchase the Aurender N10 in order to bring all my high res music on its internal HDD or connect the TV through the DAC). Questions :

1. Are there any other comparable/better options to consider at this price point ?
2. How much of an improvement would I see going from CDSAse to DAC2X V2 ? (can't afford a DA2 V2 unfortunately)
3. Any compatibility issues between Aurender N10 and DAC2X v2 ?
If you haven't done this yet, I recommend Lampizator. I owned the DAC2x and once I received our Lampizator Golden Gate I was floored by the performance. We just received the Amber 3 DAC and I can't believe how well this little Lampizator performs like it's more expensive partners in the Lampi product line. I was also using the Aurender N-10 until we took delivery of our Aurender W20SE. You may be able to find a Used Golden Gate for a descent price.

No compatibility issues between the Aurender N-10 and the DAC2X
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
13,793
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London
#4
If you haven't done this yet, I recommend Lampizator. I owned the DAC2x and once I received our Lampizator Golden Gate I was floored by the performance. We just received the Amber 3 DAC and I can't believe how well this little Lampizator performs like it's more expensive partners in the Lampi product line. I was also using the Aurender N-10 until we took delivery of our Aurender W20SE. You may be able to find a Used Golden Gate for a descent price.

No compatibility issues between the Aurender N-10 and the DAC2X
Same here, Lampi GG1. Ran my previous Lampi model with Aurender s10 for a short period sounded beautiful. Also have tried w20 into my GG
 
Likes: Leif S

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
13,793
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London
#5
Same here, Lampi GG1. Ran my previous Lampi model with Aurender s10 for a short period sounded beautiful. Also have tried w20 into my GG
And Marslo runs the Lampi Pacific with Aurender w20, and audioquattr also has the Lampi with the Aurender w20 and now the extreme. So a lot of Aurender owners with the Lampi there.
 
Likes: marslo
May 30, 2010
16,471
1,368
420
Portugal
#6
Two people I know well got the the DCS Bartok and are very happy with it, although they do not own Pass amplification. But as far as I could see the Stereophile test of the Bartok used Pass amplification - see: https://www.stereophile.com/content/dcs-bartok-da-processorheadphone-amplifier. Aurender is an usual pairing with DCS - we can find a recent review of the DCS Bartok carried with the N10 https://positive-feedback.com/reviews/hardware-reviews/dcs-bartok-dac/

But although it is selling pretty well according to dealers and distributors, the DCS Bartok can be hard to get in the used market.
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
13,793
3,113
530
London
#8
Well, "a few words"...
The CDSA is good. The DA2 is better. Neither are in the Lampi league.
From what I hear, the lower priced Lampis are great values and perhaps should be explored?
Just so that the OP knows, Marty owned the DA2 before trying out the GG and then moving to Lampi nation
 
Likes: Golum

fuscobal

New Member
Apr 8, 2020
23
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#9
Thanks for your inputs guys. Will consider GG2 as well since I see a used unit is in the same price range as DAC2X v2 (7-8K).
 

Golum

Well-Known Member
Jun 7, 2018
611
586
110
Lausanne, CH
#10
We just received the Amber 3 DAC and I can't believe how well this little Lampizator performs like it's more expensive partners in the Lampi product line.
Actually I don’t know what Lukasz was thinking when throwing this one to market as it’s stupidly good for the money.
Glad to realize that despite all i’m not that deaf :D
 

Golum

Well-Known Member
Jun 7, 2018
611
586
110
Lausanne, CH
#11
Thanks for your inputs guys. Will consider GG2 as well since I see a used unit is in the same price range as DAC2X v2 (7-8K).
GG2 would be a digital playback game changer...once you’re in you don’t look back..;)...and btw 7-8k is a phenomenal price
 

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 18, 2011
1,876
1,087
240
Hong Kong
#13
I love the Metrum Pavane and Adagio. Hard to beat for anywhere near the money.
Following his creations of the Metrum brand, Mr. Ruijtenberg has moved forward and the new Sonnet Morpheus dac is even a better-buy!
 
Likes: musicfirst100

DeMarko

New Member
Mar 27, 2020
14
3
3
#15
I'd add Lampizator Atlantic, especially TRP, and Lampizator Baltic to the list. Totally breathtaking.

TRP has an added benefit of easy tuning to a particular system/ room / preferences just by changing tubes / tube type sitting on top of the DAC. This easy tube tuning is very unusual and precious really once I experienced what it did.
 

DeMarko

New Member
Mar 27, 2020
14
3
3
#17
I got two more bang for the buck ones if we go to lower price levels.

Lampizator Amber 2. WITH tube rectifier (my preference) but there was a non-tube version. Used to be under 3k even for the tube rectifier one.

BorderPatrol DAC SE. Under 2k and even 1k for a non-SE version, although I only heard SE. Unbelievable how much music is in that small box and at that price. No DSD, though. Great with both USB and RCA inputs.
 

fuscobal

New Member
Apr 8, 2020
23
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#18
I don't think 7-8k is a bang for the buck dac personally.

I'd try the Holo Kitsune for under 3k as a bang for the buck dac.
I'd say 7-8K is as bang for the buck compared to 25K as it's 3K compared to 8K. It's about how much I'd pay for a second hand unit in % from it's list price as new. DA2 is considerably more expensive than GG2 (new and used), which makes GG2 a great value if it's as good as you guys say. I am not not favorable to SS or Tube design, I just think a good design should sound well anyway. Only comparison I could make is in the headphone department where I owned a cheap chinese tube amp (BADA PH-12) that has now been replaced with the Benchmark HPA-4. On a critical listening level, Benchmark at 5 times the price beats it hands down (noise, dynamics, space between instruments...). However, the Benchmark is a little too clinical/digital/lifeless as compared to the old Bada that was very fluid and musical. I can't say the same thing about the CDSA however which I feel takes the best from both worlds !
 
Last edited:
Jan 23, 2011
4,532
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Amsterdam holland
#19
Does second hand count .
Mark levinson 360S DAC , easily beats the much later designs like Meittner MA2 Wadia 581 i players which i owned regarding detail retrivial , bass definition , natural sounding , rhytm , it simply makes digital not sound digital , which is the highest compliment in my view .
 
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fuscobal

New Member
Apr 8, 2020
23
2
3
40
#20
DAC2X v2 on its way. Lampizator GG2 may come in the future for a headphone only system with Benchmark HPA-4 as an amp and HD800 !
 

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