DAC shopping and completely lost in the reviews

Huda

New Member
Aug 9, 2023
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Hi everyone, first time poster here after reading and researching a bunch. The more I do, the more I get confused so i thought the time had come to ask for help.

I finally decided to get back into properly listening to music (i am the only one in the household who cares as everyone else is more than happy with Spotify on the boombox).
My main listening are CDs and FLACs from my server as well as my old MDs, DATs and vinyls

I first got the Cambridge EVO150 with the Audiolab 9000cdt which I replaced with the EVO cdt which was a big disappointment. Compared to the Audiolab, it sounded tiny and the first CD I tried skipped. It also can only be connected to the EVO and cannot be used separately as a transport. For the same money as the Audiolab, it is not worth it.
I bought the Audiolab 9000a to go with the transport and put that combo in my office and it is perfect.
The EVO is now in my main music room and it is time to move it to the living room and get a proper system. I also have a Naim unity star but the sound is too punchy. It gives me the feeling of being in a club.

I have ordered the Mission 770 speakers and the Jay's Audio CDT3-MK3 and am now ready for the DAC.
I like a nice smooth sound at low volumes and highly dislike mids and a forward voice. My listening goes from Erasure and kost 80s to Imagine Dragons, OneRepublic, Rag 'n' Bone Man and most pop rock from the 90s and naughties.

I was first convinced to get the Denafrips T+12th. I then got confused with too much information.
My current short list would be
-Lab12 Dac1
-Vincent DAC-700
-Merason Dac-1 Mk2
-Merronome Le DAC2
-Holo Audio May DAC KTE

I would like a DAC that is great NOS

Thank you for your time
 

vermaxis

Member
Jul 3, 2023
11
25
15
Hi Huda!

As someone in a similar situation, I have a few pieces of advice.

- Take a deep breath. Getting caught up in reviews can feel like a never ending merry go round. Remember to pause for a bit.

- Take your time. If you’re like me, you want something definitive and want it over with quickly. In audio, that rarely happens. This will take time so buckle in and try to enjoy yourself.

- Most often there’s ‘different’ instead of ‘better’. Someone at my favorite hifi shop once said “When you get to a certain level, it’s not necessarily about ‘better’. It’s more like Baskin Robbins. There’s 31 flavors out there, which one do you want?”

- Everything matters. In my experience, changes in source, cabling, power, etc. all had an audible impact on the sound. Make sure you’re not changing too many variables. And if you like a certain component, maybe change something else first? I’ve made some big component changes, like an amplifier, only to find out that my old amp with a different cable or source was what I was looking for.

- And I saved the most important for last: you have to hear it in your own listening environment. Period. Hifi shops are great, but they’re not your setup. Reviews are good, but they’re not your rig. Finding reviewers that have similar tastes to you can be valuable, but take everything with a grain of salt and plan to hear the component at your place. Whether it’s through an audition, a buy-and-return or getting a great deal so you can resell, chances are the only way you’re gonna find the right one for you is hearing it for yourself.

Good luck and enjoy the journey!
 

Rocknroll

New Member
Jun 3, 2023
20
9
3
70
Huda, I am enjoying the Audio Mirror Tubadour V with high satisfaction. I believe it probably out performs other dacs in its class. Vlad the owner and builder would let you audition it. Good luck and enjoy the search.
 

scoc

New Member
Aug 20, 2023
13
8
3
Belgium
This all sounds so familiar.

I’m going through the same cycle and seems I cannot decide on my preferred dac. Therefore, I have changed almost other components in my hifi set the past 12 months first. New streamer being the Aurender N20 and new amp (Passlabs Int250). And since a few days my new speakers arrived (ATC SCM50). For the past 12 months I have changed dac’s 3 times and also borrowed a few others. The ones I had recently were the Metronome Dac 2 and (2nd hand) dCS Bartok. The dCS surprised me and shows you really must listen at home for a longer time. I was so surprised by the dCS Rossini dac during my ATC SCM50 demo that I bought the shop’s Bartok demo unit. Only to find out a few weeks later that the internal streamer was not that great compared to the Aurender N20 and in my set the dCS sounded a bit harsh at times. I had already sold my Metronome Dac 2 at the time … which in retrospect I should not have done since I much preferred the Metronome since it had a more relaxing sound whilst still keep all needed detail and drive but not being too forward (sort of speak).

In the past 2 weeks I read so many review of dac’s that my head is spinning. Some times I just think of trading in my Aurender N20 and going for the Aurender A20 and use the built-in dac. This would maybe stop the whole search for a dac … but on the hand I already have the N20 and like it very much as a streamer and my main source (I only stream from Tidal btw).

So, I sold the dCS as a well (for a considerable loss) and I have now decided for a brief timeout. Since I was dacless and could not run in my new speakers I bought a temp dac (Topping E50).

One of the many dac reviews I read was about the Okto Research Dac 8 stereo. However, there were always long delivery delays but last week I noticed on their site there were back in stock so I ordered one and should have it somewhere next week.

But even without having heard the Okto dac I know it might not stop there but in reality I want to get it over with and settle on a dac for the next few years (or go for the Aurender N20).

Also in the back of my head I might even go back to a Metronome Dac2 or still checkout the Merason Dac 1 mk2 of Meitner Ma1 v2.

Btw some of the other dac’s I have tested the past 12 months were: T+A Dac200, Rockna Wavelight, Chord Qutest, Copland dac.
 
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Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 24, 2015
15,228
12,026
2,665
Beverly Hills, CA
Hi Huda!

As someone in a similar situation, I have a few pieces of advice.

- Take a deep breath. Getting caught up in reviews can feel like a never ending merry go round. Remember to pause for a bit.

- Take your time. If you’re like me, you want something definitive and want it over with quickly. In audio, that rarely happens. This will take time so buckle in and try to enjoy yourself.

- Most often there’s ‘different’ instead of ‘better’. Someone at my favorite hifi shop once said “When you get to a certain level, it’s not necessarily about ‘better’. It’s more like Baskin Robbins. There’s 31 flavors out there, which one do you want?”

- Everything matters. In my experience, changes in source, cabling, power, etc. all had an audible impact on the sound. Make sure you’re not changing too many variables. And if you like a certain component, maybe change something else first? I’ve made some big component changes, like an amplifier, only to find out that my old amp with a different cable or source was what I was looking for.

- And I saved the most important for last: you have to hear it in your own listening environment. Period. Hifi shops are great, but they’re not your setup. Reviews are good, but they’re not your rig. Finding reviewers that have similar tastes to you can be valuable, but take everything with a grain of salt and plan to hear the component at your place. Whether it’s through an audition, a buy-and-return or getting a great deal so you can resell, chances are the only way you’re gonna find the right one for you is hearing it for yourself.

Good luck and enjoy the journey!

Very wise advice here!
 
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Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 24, 2015
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Welcome to WBF, SCOC!
 
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Republicoftexas69

Well-Known Member
Hi Huda!

As someone in a similar situation, I have a few pieces of advice.

- Take a deep breath. Getting caught up in reviews can feel like a never ending merry go round. Remember to pause for a bit.

- Take your time. If you’re like me, you want something definitive and want it over with quickly. In audio, that rarely happens. This will take time so buckle in and try to enjoy yourself.

- Most often there’s ‘different’ instead of ‘better’. Someone at my favorite hifi shop once said “When you get to a certain level, it’s not necessarily about ‘better’. It’s more like Baskin Robbins. There’s 31 flavors out there, which one do you want?”

- Everything matters. In my experience, changes in source, cabling, power, etc. all had an audible impact on the sound. Make sure you’re not changing too many variables. And if you like a certain component, maybe change something else first? I’ve made some big component changes, like an amplifier, only to find out that my old amp with a different cable or source was what I was looking for.

- And I saved the most important for last: you have to hear it in your own listening environment. Period. Hifi shops are great, but they’re not your setup. Reviews are good, but they’re not your rig. Finding reviewers that have similar tastes to you can be valuable, but take everything with a grain of salt and plan to hear the component at your place. Whether it’s through an audition, a buy-and-return or getting a great deal so you can resell, chances are the only way you’re gonna find the right one for you is hearing it for yourself.

Good luck and enjoy the journey!
Agree 100% get a demo in your home. There are good dealers who still do this, it is how I got off this merry-go round
 
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Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 24, 2015
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Huda, SCOC,

There is a bewildering variety of solid-state DACs out there. I defer to our vastly more experienced digital members here. But here is a suggestion which could, possibly, eliminate a lot of contenders.

Is it possible for you to audition a tube DAC? Abbas, Lampizator, SW1X for example?

The reason I ask this is because if it turns out that you like how a tube DAC sounds, then that greatly simplifies the decision process, and maybe even eliminates many of the solid-state DACs.
 
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StreamFidelity

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Jun 30, 2020
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griggaudio.de
I would like a DAC that is great NOS
This is important information. Because it could mean that upsampling is not an option for you. Right?

In this case, DACs that do not offer NOS are out of the question. These are for example DACs from PS Audio, Linn Organic or from Meitner, which convert everything internally to DSD.

Here is a list of real NOS DACs: https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/...tal-filtering/?do=findComment&comment=1250449

Make a list of what else is important to you. E.g. usability (remote control), digital interfaces (USB, I2S, etc.), tube sound, streaming client for Qobuz, Tidal, ...

Your target image should narrow down the selection. ;)
 

scoc

New Member
Aug 20, 2023
13
8
3
Belgium
Huda, SCOC,

There is a bewildering variety of solid-state DACs out there. I defer to our vastly more experienced digital members here. But here is a suggestion which could, possibly, eliminate a lot of contenders.

Is it possible for you to audition a tube DAC? Abbas, Lampizator, SW1X for example?

The reason I ask this is because if it turns out that you like how a tube DAC sounds, then that greatly simplifies the decision process, and maybe even eliminates many of the solid-state DACs.

I have been thinking of maybe trying a tube based dac. Like the Aqua La Scala mk II or Lab12 dac 1 ref.

But something is holding me back since I think I would lose some dynamics and bass might be too soft (I like to listen to quite some electronic music). Furthermore, since they are tube based I assume you need to turn off the dac (or at least standby) when not in use to save on the tubes lifetime. I prefer to leave the dac on all the time since I generally does not consume much power and no need to turn it on/off each time.

For example. I did not like the Rockna Wavelight that much, which is not tube based btw. Some say it is has a very anolog sound but to my ears it sounded too rounded, soft with lack of drive and dynamics.

Choices choices … not a first world problem though :)
 
Last edited:

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 24, 2015
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Some say it is has a very anolog sound but to my ears it sounded to rounded, soft with lack of drive and dynamics.

Respectfully, I would ignore almost universally what "some say." I would focus on figuring out what sound you like, and then find a DAC which delivers that sound to you.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 24, 2015
15,228
12,026
2,665
Beverly Hills, CA
For example. I did not like the Rockna Wavelight that much, which is not tube based btw. Some say it is has a very anolog sound but to my ears it sounded to rounded, soft with lack of drive and dynamics.

This suggests that resulting sound might be at least somewhat independent of topology.

I have not heard the Aqua, although I know it is a very well-respected company.

I have heard all three of the tube DACs I suggested. Each of the companies whose DACs I suggested makes a model below $6,000.
 
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joaovieira

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Feb 16, 2013
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On the short list I would go Metronome. I listened and it’s a great dac.
my personal option is APL.
 

Bonesy Jonesy

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Jan 3, 2017
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UK & Spain
The R2R 'Border Patrol DAC SEi' appears from online reviews to be a good performing DAC with no up-sampling, hand built, upgradable and not crazy money ! ;
 
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scoc

New Member
Aug 20, 2023
13
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3
Belgium
On the short list I would go Metronome. I listened and it’s a great dac.
my personal option is APL.
The Metronome Le Dac 2 is a very good dac indeed. I had one in use until a month ago but then sold it for a 2nd hand dcs Bartok. Like mentioned I preferred the Metronome for its more natural sound (not so upfront and “pushy“ like a dCS or Chord).
 

scoc

New Member
Aug 20, 2023
13
8
3
Belgium
This suggests that resulting sound might be at least somewhat independent of topology.

I have not heard the Aqua, although I know it is a very well-respected company.

I have heard all three of the tube DACs I suggested. Each of the companies whose DACs I suggested makes a model below $6,000.
I’m based in Europe so not all options mentioned are available to me however most are like the Lampizator (which is relatively close since it’s based in Poland I saw).

I just never imagined me using tubes … ever. So, it will take me a while (if ever) to test a tube based unit in my set.
 
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Bonesy Jonesy

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Jan 3, 2017
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The Metronome Le Dac 2 is a very good dac indeed. I had one in use until a month ago but then sold it for a 2nd hand dcs Bartok. Like mentioned I preferred the Metronome for its more natural sound (not so upfront and “pushy“ like a dCS or Chord).
The Chord DACs can be tamed with the Chord M Scaler and a high quality external linear power supply for them i.e. for the Chord DAVE a 'Farad Super 3' for instance !
 

AudioLibertarian

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Dec 25, 2017
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NEW YORK CITY
For almost 2 years I have been using the Chinese made SMSL D3 , Burr Brown 1704 based dac, priced $3600 from the company's web shop, or Apos shop. Its very well made, has clock input option, and I feel it is very "analogue" sounding unit, has to my ears highly refined, organic musical wholesomeness to it. It is "sanely" priced , and I ve tried about various 15 dacs in the 800-30 000 range. If bragging rights and "prestige" on the audiophile forums are of little importance to you (HA-HA), then you could consider trying the D3. It takes at least 600 hours to fully break in thou, if not longer, so keep that in mind. You might be pleasantly surprised and your bank account will breathe easier as well.
 

Sampajanna

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Apr 1, 2021
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I would second Ron’s suggestion. I also listen to a lot of electronica and my Lampi has no issues with that type of music. In fact, my system sounds incredible with it> listening to John Hopkins at this very moment. Sounds incredible. While I agree that a lot of audio is overpriced, I do not agree that the cheapos are “giant killers.” Also, I disagree that most people buy nice gear for “bragging rights.” I am sure such people exist, but most of the people I know with SOTA systems are not on any forums and are quite humble. They do it for the love of audio and music. I know several local audiophiles who are not super wealthy and yet have very high end systems that they have invested in over many years, and they sacrificed to create, i.e. less other things or trips, etc. I see little difference in bragging about having expensive gear versus bragging about how smart you are for not falling for the “snake oil” and getting the cheap Chifi that is just as good. Both are just stories. Instead, enjoy your music with the gear you have. If you can, upgrade, if not be grateful you have a system.
 
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