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    Best DAC for Tube Amp Under $1k

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    B&WTube

    Posts : 20
    Join date : 2019-08-19

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    Post by B&WTube on Mon Oct 28, 2019 1:56 pm

    I am going to hook a Mac Mini (probably using Audirvana) to my VTA-70 and was wondering what people are liking. I am tending to lean towards a R2R style DAC, but wonder if it could be too laid back and perhaps a Multibit DAC may be better. I am currently considering the following, but am open to more suggestions (lowest to highest price):

    Schiit Modi Multibit
    Massdrop Airist
    Soekris 1321
    Audio-GD R1
    Soekris 1421
    Denafrips Aries II

    Thanks, in advance!
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    StevieRay

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    Post by StevieRay on Mon Oct 28, 2019 3:55 pm

    Last year I got a Modi Multibit, having owned a iFi Micro Dac, a HRT Music Streamer II+ (that got blown up by lightning) -- several $300-$400 Dacs.

    Why that price range?  Lots of competition there for your money, and as I'm mostly an analog record guy, wasn't going to put a ton of money into a DAC.  In fact, the older (and maybe wiser) I get, where I actually have more disposable money for hi-fi, the less I spend on it, getting records instead, or paying for streaming service.

    All that crap being said, the Modi Multibit is a DAC that I can walk away from the specs and the hi-fi merry-go-'round and just listen.  I think it's THAT good, and others who hear my system say the same.

    And no, I don't have a crap system:  Modi Multibit --> conrad-johnson PV10a --> VTA ST-120 --> Wayne Piquet refurbed Quad ESL-57's.

    I feel the same about phono cartridges -- spending a ton is just entirely rubbish.  I got a Nagaoka MP-200 this past summer ($400) and I am DONE.
    GreggW
    GreggW

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    Post by GreggW on Mon Oct 28, 2019 11:59 pm

    I use a Schitt Fulla (discontinued) from an iMac to a loaded pseudo PAS-3 (Roy's PC6 phono board, 4-tube TCLA, ALPS volume and balance, upgraded power supply w/rectifier tube). Music sounds noticeably better from the computer than the same Apple Music library played on an iPhone through a Bluetooth adapter, also connected to the PAS. I'm considering an upgrade to the Schitt Modi, $99 version, to get more input options. It might sound better too...
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    B&WTube

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    Post by B&WTube on Tue Oct 29, 2019 10:59 am

    Thank you for the responses. I was kind of leaning towards the Soekris 1321, for a discrete ladder DAC, but now you have me curious about Schiit, again. Anyone have any thoughts on the R2R vs Delta Sigma?

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    mresseguie

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    Post by mresseguie on Wed Oct 30, 2019 1:23 pm

    B&WTube,

    Hello. I've been absent for quite a while, but I'd like to add my thoughts for your consideration.

    Not a single R2R/NOS DAC that I have demoed or auditioned in my systems have been what I would call 'laid back' - unless 'laid back' is the opposite of 'sterile and analytical'(?). I have an incredibly difficult time describing what I hear when my either of my NOS DACs are in my systems.

    Anyway, I must keep this short because I've got a 2-hour drive ahead of me. I've never knowingly heard a DAC based on the TDA1321, but I have heard a couple older MDHT at an audiophools' G2G, a Denafrips Venus in my system, and my own dB Audiolabs Tranquility SE (1543) DAC, and my SW1X III STD NOS DAC (TDA1541). They all do something better (IMHO) than multibit DACs. They play CD quality music very well. That's what they were designed to do in the first place. Sure, within the R2R/NOS DAC world there are less great sounding and there are fantastic sounding DACs. Combining different chips with different architectures yields different listening experiences.

    I listen almost exclusively to CD quality music. I love what my Tranquility and my SW1X III do for my listening experience (and great pleasure!). I realize my SW1X DAC is very different and much more expensive, but a used Tranquility can usually be found for ~$500 to ~$650.

    I'd encourage you (Okay, I am encouraging you) to give the Soekris a try. Give it a good 200 hours to burn in. Then, listen to your favorite tracks. Listen to acoustic piano, guitar, cello, voices, harp(!), etc. Decide for yourself if this is the flavor you want. Many people have discovered they really like this sound. I love this sound, so I am very biased in my recommendation. If you don't care for the Soekris, there's an excellent chance you'll be able to sell it for close to your purchase price, or can you return it?

    I'm out of time, but I'll be back tonight.

    Regards,

    Michael



    Kray
    Kray

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    Location : Denver

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    Post by Kray on Thu Oct 31, 2019 3:48 pm

    I can recommend the Soekris DACS

    Very good and if you’re ok opening it up and connecting a cable you can update the built in filters thru the FPGA, including adding a NOS “filter”
    AmpedUp
    AmpedUp

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    Location : Kansas City

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    Post by AmpedUp on Sat Nov 02, 2019 1:56 am

    B&WTube,
    Those DACs that you listed are all good. If you do enough research you will find that you can go down just as deep a rabbit hole for DACs as you can with tubes. I really like the quality and price of all the Schiit DACs. I almost went with the multi-bit Gunny before I made another choice that I am happy with. Most Schiit DACs use AKM DAC chips which are my favorite. The multi-bit Gunny uses the AD5781Bruz which looks to be good but I dare not say if it is any better than an AKM chip. And this does not even account for what OpAmps are being used inside the DAC case.

    I would have purchased the Schiit Gunny if I had a high quality CD player that I would have played most of my music. Because I stream my music via my original iTunes collection, Tidal and Roon my music source is from a computer so I spent my money on a quality sound card. For $200 I got the EVGA Note that uses the AKM4493 DAC and upgraded with some Burson OpAmps. For under $400 I have the sound that I was exactly looking for. I can even roll my OpAmps further if my wallet starts burning a hole in my pocket. The ASUS STXII sound card might be just as good and it uses a Bur Brown DAC chip.

    I don't want to confuse anyone but wanted to share an example that you have so many options to choose from. My recommendation would be to choose which option works best with the equipment that you are going to feed into your DAC. If you're mostly playing CDs the Schiit or Soekris will serve you well. If you are playing vinyl or streaming you might want to look further at other options. Good luck with your adventure for that perfect sound.
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    B&WTube

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    Post by B&WTube on Mon Nov 04, 2019 12:51 am

    Thanks to everyone for their feedback. I have decided to go with the Soekris 1321, as the designer is active in a number of forums, and seems to be very knowledgeable.

    Another reason I am selecting it, is because I have been auditioning different speaker wires. I am really loving the significantly large soundstage of pure silver solid core speaker wires. However, the silver is brighter sound that copper. The Soekris leans towards the darker side, so I am hoping it balances the sound a little.

    I tell you that if my budget was a little higher, I would probably go with the Denafrips Pontus. That DAC just seems incredible even at $1,600
    PeterCapo
    PeterCapo

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    Post by PeterCapo on Mon Nov 04, 2019 1:06 pm

    I'm looking at the NuPrime DAC-9.  It got a good review in TAS.  In addition to its sound quality, it also has a finely adjustable volume control that I find appealing. I believe it sells for around $800.
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    mresseguie

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    Post by mresseguie on Mon Nov 11, 2019 3:07 pm

    Peter,

    Two things to consider:

    Used DAC-9s can sometimes be found for ~$650. Hifishark.com is a great resource for finding used gear.

    Nuprime is (has already??) going to raise prices this month. I don't know if the price increase will be across the board or selected products.

    I had a DAC-9 last year. Its volume control is great. In a fit of foolishness, I sold it because I thought I no longer needed it. (mistake) Rolling Eyes
    PeterCapo
    PeterCapo

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    Post by PeterCapo on Mon Nov 11, 2019 3:09 pm

    Thanks for the tip!

    I've just gone ahead and ordered one!

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