View Full Version : Mid Priced DACs - What have people gone for?


GJP
15-01-12, 10:49 AM
Can fellow forum members help me draw up a list, even a short list, of mid priced DACs to consider.

I would expect it to have 24bit/192 USB.

In terms of price what is out there between £500 and say £1400. So I am thinking 1 step up from the Rega (just sold mine) but not stretching as far as the NAIM. I think I have also set the upper limit to exclude Cyrus. I have a NAIM system so pushing beyond £1400 or so, then I would "trade up" to the NAIM

So, I have identified

1/ AudioLab M-Dac
2/ TeddyDAC
3/ Leema Elements DAC
4/ Electrocompaniet DAC

Cheers
Gary

AdamWysokinski
15-01-12, 10:52 AM
TeddyDAC is limited to 48KHz via USB.

Stevie A
15-01-12, 10:54 AM
From standard,the the Audiolab is very good,however the "Budget" Arcam R-dac with better PSU punches well above its weight,not compared it direct to the Audiolab,but wouldnt like to say which was best.
The other option is to save for the naim Dac,imho it's worth it.

GJP
15-01-12, 10:56 AM
Adam, Thanks I hadn't yet researched it closely. There almost seems to be a new DAC coming to the market every week. I just stumbled across the Leema today. Gary

Stevie A
15-01-12, 10:59 AM
The new Cambridge Audio Dacmagic plus looks good value which includes a digital pre and HP amp,it also upsamples to 24/384,though received a lukewarm review in this months WHF,still worth a dem no doubt.

GJP
15-01-12, 11:01 AM
I didn't take to the Arcam, but I never had the opportunity to hear it with a better PSU. I bought the MF M1-DAC in preference to the Arcam, but sold that after just a few weeks for the Rega.

Stevie A
15-01-12, 11:04 AM
I've currently got my laptop via R-dac into naim Superuniti,connected with Chords new Silverplus USB lead,it sounds excellent,and thats without the alternate psu!!

GJP
15-01-12, 11:09 AM
I never tried the rDAC using USB only coaxial, but my dealer did say its USB performance was very good. Are you happier with that set up than using the SuperUniti's own DAC.

Stevie A
15-01-12, 11:19 AM
The Usb input is the best to use for Computer use,and imho and many others remains the dacs best input.
Having an older laptop i have no dig out.

finesensations
15-01-12, 11:27 AM
Can fellow forum members help me draw up a list, even a short list, of mid priced DACs to consider.

I would expect it to have 24bit/192 USB.

In terms of price what is out there between £500 and say £1400. So I am thinking 1 step up from the Rega (just sold mine) but not stretching as far as the NAIM. I think I have also set the upper limit to exclude Cyrus. I have a NAIM system so pushing beyond £1400 or so, then I would "trade up" to the NAIM

So, I have identified

1/ AudioLab M-Dac
2/ TeddyDAC
3/ Leema Elements DAC
4/ Electrocompaniet DAC

Cheers
Gary

The M-Dac is 24/96 via USB so should be removed from your list.

As a matter of interest, what is your thinking behind why your short list must be limited to 'must have' 24/192?

How many 24/192 recordings do you have, or expect to have?

GJP
15-01-12, 11:36 AM
I sheepishly have to admit that I have no 24/192 recordings. I was just stating that as a benchmark to use for comparison with a NAIM DAC or ND5XS etc.

My OP was a little misleading, the list was there only to stimulate ideas. I am trying to workout what sits between the MDAC/Rega and the NAIM, with what features and at what price point.

quad2fan
15-01-12, 12:12 PM
There's the Bel Canto DAC1.5 and DAC2.5 which are meant to be extremely good. If you know someone in the States you can save quite a bit on the UK RRP too ;)

I've ordered the MDAC, but was seriously considering the DAC2.5. In the end value for money won out. I doubt there's a day and night different between them anyways.

- John

JTC
15-01-12, 12:15 PM
I honestly can't hear a difference between 24/96KHz and 24/192KHz so would suggest you re-consider the 24/192 USB requirement, as (a) you might be like me and not notice any difference at all, (b) it seems that the 192KHz brings fancy drivers and therefore possible hassle into the configuration, and (c) there's precious little in 24/192KHz worth having.

I've gone for the MDAC, though I don't have it yet. I rather suspect that you'd probably have to go much higher up to improve upon it significantly, although that's off the back of my experiences comparing the CDQ to a Benchmark DAC1 HDR (the CDQ eventually won) - and that was a £1k CD+DAC compared to a £1500 stand-alone DAC.

JTC
15-01-12, 12:17 PM
PS. Have you tried to compare the Naim to the MDAC/REGA? Might not be as big a difference as you'd think - Naim stuff being hugely expensive for the performance you get, it might be no better. I'm saying this but I honestly don't know as I've not heard any current Naim kit, but the CDQ (as a CDP) sounds better than any of the Naim CD players that I am familiar with (CDS2/CDX/CDS3) so maybe that applies also to the DACs?

AndyU
15-01-12, 12:44 PM
A Benchmark DAC1 and a Lavry DA11 can be had for well under your £1400 top limit, depending in your other kit they might also replace your preamp. Both sound an awful lot better than an MDAC ime. But you are also within reach of the lower end Linn DS streamers like the Sneaky DS and the Majik DS, which will do 24/192 across your network.

mudlark
15-01-12, 12:44 PM
http://www.bartlettshifi.com/product_detail.asp?sku=971

Hexageneous
15-01-12, 01:00 PM
I went for a Wyred 4 Sound Dac-1. Taking a while to run in but very pleased so far.

Alan Brown
15-01-12, 01:04 PM
I think you'd have to have the Wyred 4 Sound DACS in there, the new MYTEK stereo 192, Calyx DAC, M2Tech Young DAC (Which I have & rate), probably something Wavelength too...

JTC
15-01-12, 01:53 PM
Both sound an awful lot better than an MDAC ime
I hope not. The CDQ sounds better than the DAC1 HDR, and so I had assumed that the MDAC, which is meant to sound better than the CDQ, would indeed do so. Maybe it was my error in assuming that if A > B and C > A, then C > B? Damn you, logic!

peter_964rs
15-01-12, 02:02 PM
This has just been reviewed and seems to fit your criteria. I had a Lindemann D680 SACD player which sounded excellent.

http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue59/lindemann.htm

You can always buy a non-USB (or poorer spec USB) DAC and fit an external converter; I use the Audiophilleo 2 USB-SPDIF which just plugs into the back of my DacMagic and works flawlessly.

I note the power supply I have from Custom Hifi cables (circa £100) works a treat and really lifts the DacMagic's performance. However, moving from the Rega is probably a bit of a sideways step than a genuine uplift.

Another one to consider that is well reviewed is the Metrum Octave.

killie99
15-01-12, 02:07 PM
One that doesn't get a mention very often but is an excellent DAC is the Eastern Electric (AudioEmotion are the only UK dealer I think) - haven't seen a bad word about it. I compared it with the M1DAC and it blew it away. I have also used the Benchmark DAC1 in my system and found it to be a bit clinical but still a very good DAC

AndyU
15-01-12, 02:10 PM
I hope not. The CDQ sounds better than the DAC1 HDR, and so I had assumed that the MDAC, which is meant to sound better than the CDQ, would indeed do so. Maybe it was myG error in assuming that if A > B and C > A, then C > B? Damn you, logic!

Well that was my experience. Tbh I thought the MDAC was very disappointing, glassy, unmusical, and completely collapsed at any kind of crescendo or complexity. Tried it for a week, sent it back. Haven't had a CDQ at home, though did listen to one in a dealer thru my HD650s. Didn't think much of it either - "hifi". Liked my HDR a lot. And like my current Lavry DA11 a lot too. Makes beautiful music.

YNWOAN
15-01-12, 02:16 PM
I suspect you will find that there is little, in terms of performance, between a £500 DAC and a £1500 one.

Darth Vader
15-01-12, 02:16 PM
More expensive doesn't mean better. Look at this list http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Computer-Audiophile-Suggested-Hardware-List

I see that the Lavry and DAC1 have been removed. Well worth a read.

Cheers,

DV

AndyU
15-01-12, 02:17 PM
I suspect you will find that there is little, in terms of performance, between a £500 DAC and a £1500 one.

Something tells me you have a £500 DAC!

muzzer
15-01-12, 02:18 PM
Well that was my experience. Tbh I thought the MDAC was very disappointing, glassy, unmusical, and completely collapsed at any kind of crescendo or complexity. Tried it for a week, sent it back.
Somebody on wigwam said more or less exactly the same thing:o

anubisgrau
15-01-12, 02:27 PM
AFAIK the naim dac is severely limited for hi-rez use, i mean you can only do it via SPDIF so you would on top need up-to-task USB/SPDIF converter if you opt for PC audio. it actually doesn't have a USB audio input at all (the USB input it has is to plug a memory stick directly)...

however (as a non-naimee), i found it an excellent machine which in many ways re-established my faith if it's worth investing more than a grand in digital. it was by a large margin better than one of 1000 pounds benchmark machines (not benchmark brand) however it's ergonomy is pretty weak compared to some of the latest offerings.

Rocketride
15-01-12, 02:38 PM
Can fellow forum members help me draw up a list, even a short list, of mid priced DACs to consider.

I would expect it to have 24bit/192 USB.

In terms of price what is out there between £500 and say £1400. So I am thinking 1 step up from the Rega (just sold mine) but not stretching as far as the NAIM. I think I have also set the upper limit to exclude Cyrus. I have a NAIM system so pushing beyond £1400 or so, then I would "trade up" to the NAIM

So, I have identified

1/ AudioLab M-Dac
2/ TeddyDAC
3/ Leema Elements DAC
4/ Electrocompaniet DAC

Cheers
Gary

Hi Gary,
M2Tech Young DAC is a KILLER it the price range you mentioned. IMHO. ;)

anubisgrau
15-01-12, 02:40 PM
Somebody on wigwam said more or less exactly the same thing:o


MDAC demands patience. it's not the best sounding DAC straight from the box. not sure if a week is enough to run it in, even if played 24/7. m2tech young is also needs time but doesn't sound as unconvincing when new.

luckily the impressions are different when fully run in. also choosing the correct filter is important. some are sounding a bit wooly and rolled off.

quad2fan
15-01-12, 03:00 PM
I don't think John Westlake is capable of producing a bad sounding DAC. I'm sure some of the (few) negative comments about the MDAC are simply due to the Audiolab badge on the front - people are perhaps sub-consciously expecting the 'Audiolab sound' of old (whatever that really is!)...

Expectation bias perhaps?

- John

AndyU
15-01-12, 03:05 PM
I don't think John Westlake is capable of producing a bad sounding DAC. I'm sure some of the (few) negative comments about the MDAC are simply due to the Audiolab badge on the front - people are perhaps sub-consciously expecting the 'Audiolab sound' of old (whatever that really is!)...

Expectation bias perhaps?

- John

If you don't think the designer of the MDAC is capable of producing a bad design, surely it is you who is suffering from expectation bias?

eisenach
15-01-12, 03:09 PM
I agree with Rocketride, although it might be a bit old-fashioned and not flavour of the month to say so, but the Young is very good indeed. I already liked it a lot, but thanks to Orangutang on here, I've just bought a used Avondale PSU for it and it's turned something that was already very good into something that's stunning.
You might argue that its PSU should be good enough anyway, but everything's built and sold to a price. The Young keeps coming up second-hand at decent prices, and it gives you 192kHz if you want to future-proof.

quad2fan
15-01-12, 03:14 PM
If you don't think the designer of the MDAC is capable of producing a bad design, surely it is you who is suffering from expectation bias?

I guess that response was to be expected.... ;)

AndyU
15-01-12, 03:38 PM
I guess that response was to be expected.... ;)

Out of interest, how long have you listened to an MDAC for?

Purite Audio
15-01-12, 03:55 PM
The M2Tech Young does 24/384 ( not a lot of.music at those sample rates mind)
Keith.

Robert M
15-01-12, 03:55 PM
Try to get a secondhand naim to match your system.

quad2fan
15-01-12, 04:05 PM
Out of interest, how long have you listened to an MDAC for?

I haven't - that's why I'm intrigued by the few that dislike the sound, after all the positive buzz recently. A couple have called it 'glassy' and 'hard edged', which seems at odds with just about every other comment I've heard about it, so far. This disparity intrigues me, though with different systems, rooms, ears, filter settings, burn-in etc etc I guess it's not that surprising. I'm not a brand 'fanboi', but I do try and keep tabs on the general 'jist' of products that interest me.

As it happens, I've actually just ordered an MDAC as it ticks all the right boxes for me, for the right price. Perhaps I've been foolish buying it without listening first (THE classic audiophile's mistake!), but John's previous designs have all been extremely solid, plus due to illness it's sometimes hard for me to get out there and listen to one. I shall report back (whenever it arrives!). It was either that on my short list, or waiting for a Bel Canto DAC1.5 to appear in the Classifieds. If I've made the wrong decision I guess I have 7 days to return it in.

- John

AndyU
15-01-12, 04:17 PM
Not too late then to get some others to try alongside it, just in case you've been influenced, perhaps sub-consciously, by wishful thinking, Internet hype or expectation bias. A few quid in return postage is nothing for peace of mind.

manicatel
15-01-12, 04:18 PM
Another Young DAC user here. Whilst I do plan to add an external pwr supply for it at some stage, I doubt,I'll be selling the Young for quite some time.
I bought mine 2nd hand for under £600. & it replaced a Lavry DA10.
Absolute bargain.
Matt.

quad2fan
15-01-12, 04:33 PM
just in case you've been influenced, perhaps sub-consciously, by wishful thinking, Internet hype or expectation bias.

Touché!!! :D

Out of interest, what system did you listen to the MDAC in? I presume you went through all the filters & none of them made much difference to the overall reproduction? So it never 'opened up' at all for you, or engaged you with the music in any way? This reminds me of some of the Benchmark DAC reviews - some people swear it's the best DAC out there, highly neutral, musical, others say it's soulless and cold. Guess it goes to show an extended demo is the only way to make a solid decision.

Has anyone here listened to the Bel Canto DAC1.5? Looks like a similar feature set to the MDAC, and I must say it looks fabulous. Fits into the OPs budget too.

- John

Rocketride
15-01-12, 04:59 PM
I don't think John Westlake is capable of producing a bad sounding DAC.

I am sure of that J.W. does know his job but if you don't mind (don't get me wrong...), I am afraid of "Made In China" mark on the back. :( There were some problems with Audiolab 8200CD too.

Sovereign
15-01-12, 05:11 PM
I have had many dac's through my system in the last year.
The MDAC is an incredible bit of kit but I would say a little controlled.
For me it is still the Young M2 Tech DAC that really sings, speak to Keith from Purite Audio.

Rocketride
15-01-12, 05:19 PM
The M2Tech Young does 24/384 ( not a lot of.music at those sample rates mind)
Keith.

Hi Keith,

if you don't mind, pleas tell us about youre experiences with Palmer Power Station from M2Tech in combination with Young DAC. How do they sound together? How much better?

Thanx!

Robert
15-01-12, 05:24 PM
Dacmagic at £200 is all that is required.
If you must spend more the MDAC has a built in pre and has good pedigree, so will sound transparent.

anubisgrau
15-01-12, 05:37 PM
MDAC and young have opposite sound characters, neither is 100% neutral. both very system dependent IMHO. young brighter and HF tilted, MDAC a bit darker and HF recessed. both very good for what they cost. if you want 100% neutral, look elsewhere.

Rocketride
15-01-12, 05:38 PM
Dacmagic at £200 is all that is required.
If you must spend more the MDAC has a built in pre and has good pedigree, so will sound transparent.


Yeah right:rolleyes:

Rocketride
15-01-12, 05:40 PM
MDAC and young have opposite sound characters, neither is 100% neutral. both very system dependent IMHO. young brighter and HF tilted, MDAC a bit darker and HF recessed. both very good for what they cost. if you want 100% neutral, look elsewhere.

Any advice perhaps?

realmassy
15-01-12, 05:41 PM
Hi Keith,

if you don't mind, pleas tell us about youre experiences with Palmer Power Station from M2Tech in combination with Young DAC. How do they sound together? How much better?

Thanx!
I had the palmer on trial in my system for a week (thanks Keith).
I can only compare it gainst the stock PSU, never used an after market one.

With the Palmer the Young simply sounds better, but two are the areas where I've noticed the bigger differences: bass extension (not quantity) and voices, especially choir. The overall sound signature is similar, but the Palmer is a bonus. I could have probably lived with the stock PSU if didn't listen to the Palmer...but I did, and decided to keep the Palmer.

Rocketride
15-01-12, 05:46 PM
Thx man!
That's what I needed to know!

Cheers!

anubisgrau
15-01-12, 05:46 PM
Any advice perhaps?

not in that price range. even ndac is not neutral IMHO (but great fun though...)...

if you can reach to weiss....

Rocketride
15-01-12, 05:50 PM
nDAC is not bad at all... :)
Weiss? Huh.... too expensive for me at the moment.

Lordhenley
16-01-12, 12:41 AM
I had a Young, which is an excellent DAC, I only sold it because the wife was nagging me to get a CD player since she could not work the mac! Ive now got on order a CDQ, all said though I can reccomend the M2Tech Young

Mike42
16-01-12, 01:25 AM
I use a Northstar Essensio DAC (£800 I think). It has an asynchronous USB (theoretically up to 32/192). I just use the SPDIF with a Rega Apollo as the transport. I was a CD sceptic before buying the DAC, but I know better now.

Like most decent kit, you can get one on a 14 day home trial.

onlyconnect
16-01-12, 01:52 AM
I will be demoing Caiman and (thanks to another member) MDAC at Scalford. If anyone would be able to throw in another DAC, I think there is room for another. Let's hear how it "blows away" the others!

Tim

Alan Brown
16-01-12, 02:03 AM
Caimans are nice little DACs (as are DACMagics), but both weren't so strong over USB IMO. The newer DACMagics have most likely sorted this.

I went from the above to several older high-end Thetas which I really liked, and thought quite an improvement over my Caiman.

Then I got a Young DAC which was much better still, but it's somewhat unfair to compare a Theta or a Young to a £200 Beresford.

Caiman sounds great with the 'Passive' mod, or the 'Gator' output board upgrade, provided it can drive your power amp (NVA didn't like it though :mad:).

quad2fan
16-01-12, 02:14 AM
One shouldn't forget with all these options, that John Westlake will also be debuting an external PSU (with extra's such as analogue inputs) for the MDAC at some point this year - I guess that will offer a further performance boost, and means one can buy the MDAC for a good price now, and extend that performance later on as/when funds allow.

£600 really is my current limit (unless I part with my SP-10 Mk.II afterall).

- John

bottleneck
16-01-12, 02:36 AM
I think you'd have to have the Wyred 4 Sound DACS in there, the new MYTEK stereo 192, Calyx DAC, M2Tech Young DAC (Which I have & rate), probably something Wavelength too...


Exactly what I was thinking.

I have a Young Dac.


If I'd have had £1,400 to spend, I would have the Calyx - to my ears it completely won the ''dac bake off'' (USB source dac comparison)

AdamWysokinski
16-01-12, 02:41 AM
I would add Burson DA160 (http://bursonaudio.com/DA_160.html) and Schiit Bitfrost (http://schiit.com/cart/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=0&products_id=7) to the list.

Purite Audio
16-01-12, 03:16 AM
Hi Keith,

if you don't mind, pleas tell us about youre experiences with Palmer Power Station from M2Tech in combination with Young DAC. How do they sound together? How much better?

Thanx!

Rocket Hi, the Young does sound a bit better with the external power supply,although the stock supply is absolutely fine, we encourage everyone to listen to everything at home and make up your own mind.
KR Keith.

muzzer
16-01-12, 03:32 AM
Keith
How much is the Palmer?

Purite Audio
16-01-12, 03:34 AM
Muz Hi, rrp is Euros 800 , we are running an introductory offer for existing Young owners though.
Keith.

Rocketride
16-01-12, 03:41 PM
Rocket Hi, the Young does sound a bit better with the external power supply,although the stock supply is absolutely fine, we encourage everyone to listen to everything at home and make up your own mind.
KR Keith.

Thanx Keith.

btw, exellent business policy! ;)

Purite Audio
16-01-12, 03:48 PM
Rocket you have to hear stuff in your own system ,there really isn't any other way, although I heard it said that some can pick out the contribution of one unit in a completely unfamiliar system in a completely unfamiliar room!
Keith.

Rocketride
16-01-12, 04:13 PM
Yes Keith, I know what you mean... any business could be risky from time to time but, you know what they say: "no pain, no game"... :)
And yes, at the moment I am typing this post Young DAC is "singing" in my setup.

MartinC
16-01-12, 10:17 PM
More expensive doesn't mean better. Look at this list http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Computer-Audiophile-Suggested-Hardware-List

I see that the Lavry and DAC1 have been removed. Well worth a read.

Cheers,

DV


Not to be cynical, but if you look at CA's recommended hardware list and companies advertising on there, there seems to be quite a correlation! I do find the forums interesting though!

Purite Audio
17-01-12, 03:47 AM
Rocket Hi, that's great, I am listening to the Young 'junior' the EVO dac, using the EVO to connect to my PC and Trying to figure out how to connect the external word clock!
KR Keith.

JamesJamerson
17-01-12, 04:15 AM
Keith, can the EVO clock be used with the Young ?

Purite Audio
17-01-12, 04:41 AM
James Hi, I will check,but I don't believe it will as the Young doesn't have a 'clock in' input.
KR Keith.