List of DACs "Under $450"

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wisnon

Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #60 on: 19 Nov 2012, 03:46 am »

OzarkTom

Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #61 on: 19 Nov 2012, 04:02 am »
More insight into iFi thinking:
http://www.monoandstereo.com/2012/11/interview-with-thorsten-loesch-ifi.html

Thorstan is a huge believer in tweaking and the tube sound. He has tried his best at making the Idac sound like tube. We shall see.

OzarkTom

Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #62 on: 22 Nov 2012, 07:28 pm »


Here is a review of the IUSB on Audioquest's Drgonfly.
http://www.audiostream.com/content/ifi-iusbpower-taking-audioquest-draginfly-dac-notch

Watch for a later review of the IDAC from the same revierer. Also watch for many other upcoming reviews. Even Harry Pearson has some for review.

aragon63

Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #63 on: 20 Jan 2013, 09:33 pm »
 

   This one appears to be hot little dac under $400 / Made in France. Looks interesting ....


   Micromega MyDAC


   









  John Darko review

 Robert Harley preview

 Impression from Audio Asylum



 




OzarkTom

Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #64 on: 20 Jan 2013, 10:24 pm »
And here is John Darko's review on the AMR IFI IUSB.

http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/2013/01/amr-ifi-iusbpower-review/

WJT4

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Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #65 on: 6 Apr 2013, 05:14 pm »
Here's another review of the Micromega MyDac. Sounds promising.

http://cheaptubeaudio.blogspot.com/2013/02/review-micromega-mydac-part-i_4.html

ScottD

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Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #66 on: 8 Apr 2013, 01:13 pm »
Not really sure where to post this, but here's another addition for your list:

I very recently purchased a Non-Oversampling NOS DAC TDA1543 DIR9001 SPDIF Coax & Optical w/ 9V NiMH charger on eBay from Christophe in France for my 3rd system (Starting Point Systems is the name of his company which is mostly non-audio).  I'm breaking it in on my main system out of convenience and for reference.  To cut to the chase - I can't think of a better $125 I've ever spent on an audio component and I've gotten some really good deals over the last 30+ years on used EQ.  The ~$125 is for a new DAC + the couple of extras needed to complete the unit.

My system:
Dedicated AC audio circuit
MIT Z Stabilizer + MIT Z Strip
Well Tempered TT + upgrades w/ Benz Glider + all the other things needed for a good turntable system
Sony DVP NC650V (easily better than several much more expensive Sony ES units I've tried)
SqueezeBox Touch (very little good FM left in my listening range even with a large antenna + rotor. 
  Sadly no more OTA FM for me - otherwise a Kenwood KT-990D tuner which I very highly recommend)
2x - Monarchy Audio DIPs (one for the DVD player and a second for the SqueezeBox + computer)
Very highly modified MSB Gold Link + highly modified MSB P1000 power supply
Jeff Rowland Consonance preamp w/ phono + upgrades
Jeff Rowland Model 102 amp + upgrades
Mod Squad Deluxe Line Drive (signal routing for recording)
MSB ADD-1 w/ Monolithic Sound HC2 power supply + upgrades (ADC for recording)
M Audio - Audiophile 24/96 sound card + additional audiophile type upgrades for my PC (for recording)
MAC, Mod Squad, MIT, Revelation Audio and several decent DIY cables
Highly modified Energy RC-10 monitors (better or much better than several very well regarded $1500 monitors I've owned or auditioned in my setup)
Epos ELS sub (not modded - yet.  Excellent sub for audio, though not so good for HT)

I would not normally include my system components or may perhaps put them at the end of my comments if I thought it would be helpful, but I want to give you some idea of the kind of rig I'm listening to this little DAC on as I write these comments.  Is the Starting Point DAC the equal of my highly modded MSB Gold Link setup - no.  Is it in the ballpark - yes.  It lacks detail, is less 3D and is not as laid-back by comparison, but not by a large margin and has a very similar type of musicality.  When I have components in my system that don't cut it or are not a good match - they do not last long.  Listening to the Starting Point DAC for many hours this past week+ as I work in my studio has been a real pleasure and at times has made me forget which DAC is currently installed in the system.  I can't think of a better recommendation.

Is the Starting Point NOS DAC right for your system?  I don't know and neither does anyone else, most particularly those who haven’t heard it - regardless of their rational or supposed expertise.  We all have different tastes and a system is a system - not a single component.  All your components have to work together to make a system to your liking.  What I can say is that regardless of all the audiophile BS we read on a regular basis, this is a component very worthy of consideration.  Is it the DAC for your main system?  I don't know.  It works very well in mine and it will be a great addition to my 3rd system.  What I feel confident in saying is that if you like MSB or similar sounding DACs (like I do) then you will find this an almost unbelievable bargain.   This is not an ad for Christophe (Starting Point Systems) and his creations, but an honest opinion from a long time audiophile, listening to one of my favorite musicians – Pierre Bensusan – via Christophe’s little DAC board as I write this and really enjoying it.

As previously stated I bought this DAC for my 3rd system and I know that I'm going to be very happy with it in that setup.  When the transport/DAC in my 2nd system dies (the player has an internal upgrade DAC board) dies - hopefully a long time from now - I will likely add one of these to that system as well. 

Cheers,

DS-21

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Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #67 on: 10 Apr 2013, 12:59 am »
The Meridian Explorer, at $300, is one. It sounds fine. I plan on doing a blind test between mine and the headphone output of my MacBook to see if it's actually any better...

But frankly the idea of spending $300, let alone $450, on a mere DAC in the context of a system that's "maximum *** price = $1000 (I'll accept 20% overhead given variations in 2nd hand  market and currency difference)" is completely absurd.

persisting1

Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #68 on: 10 Apr 2013, 08:11 am »
Quote
But frankly the idea of spending $300, let alone $450, on a mere DAC in the context of a system that's "maximum *** price = $1000 (I'll accept 20% overhead given variations in 2nd hand  market and currency difference)" is completely absurd.

I won't go as far as saying it's absurd, but I also think it's too much money for a sub $1k system.

Letitroll98

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Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #69 on: 10 Apr 2013, 03:16 pm »
But frankly the idea of spending $300, let alone $450, on a mere DAC in the context of a system that's "maximum *** price = $1000 (I'll accept 20% overhead given variations in 2nd hand  market and currency difference)" is completely absurd.

Well, not actually, as it depends on the system.  I'm presently running one with an Oppo DV-971 as transport, an Audio GD 2.1 DAC using it as preamp as well, the power amp section of a NAD 3020B, Magneplanar MMG speakers, interconnects from Tuan (Sonny) and a Monster digital cable, speaker cables are White Lightning Moonshine from Wal-Mart, and there's a free Pioneer turntable sitting there that can be hooked into the NAD with a couple of cables switched.  Total, complete out of pocket cost $835, everything except cables and the Oppo purchased used.  Not only does the SQ rival most of what I've heard anywhere within 4x the cost, but there's $165 wiggle room to improve the DAC to that $300 price point.  Granted, I think the $450 DAC would be pushing it as well, but depending on system I think you could reasonably hit the $300 mark in Cheap and Cheerful.  In a slightly unreasonable system, one could argue the $450 mark, so it's left in.

A separate argument to ponder, what do you get in SQ and/or features moving up from $200, to $300, to $450?  Or, in a C&C system, should you stick to one of the under $100 DAC's listed in other threads?
 

DS-21

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Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #70 on: 11 Apr 2013, 12:29 am »
Well, not actually, as it depends on the system.  I'm presently running one with an Oppo DV-971 as transport, an Audio GD 2.1 DAC using it as preamp as well, the power amp section of a NAD 3020B, Magneplanar MMG speakers, interconnects from Tuan (Sonny) and a Monster digital cable, speaker cables are White Lightning Moonshine from Wal-Mart, and there's a free Pioneer turntable sitting there that can be hooked into the NAD with a couple of cables switched.  Total, complete out of pocket cost $835, everything except cables and the Oppo purchased used.  Not only does the SQ rival most of what I've heard anywhere within 4x the cost, but there's $165 wiggle room to improve the DAC to that $300 price point.  Granted, I think the $450 DAC would be pushing it as well, but depending on system I think you could reasonably hit the $300 mark in Cheap and Cheerful.  In a slightly unreasonable system, one could argue the $450 mark, so it's left in.

A separate argument to ponder, what do you get in SQ and/or features moving up from $200, to $300, to $450?  Or, in a C&C system, should you stick to one of the under $100 DAC's listed in other threads?
 

The obvious question there is, what makes you think the whatever brand DAC is not just superfluous? That is to say, what makes it any different from using the Oppo player's DAC and the NAD integrated's preamp section?

Now, your DAC may have some functional reason to be there. For example, perhaps it has a remote control and your NAD integrated doesn't. For example, I bought the Explorer primarily because it has two outputs: a variable one that can drive a nearfield system's amp, and a fixed one that can feed a headphone amp. (And, frankly, because I like the Meridian brand.)

But sonically, unless the DAC actually has a more important function than mere digital-analog conversion (bass management, EQ, something like that) using a separate one seems to be just a waste of the perfectly transparent DAC in the Oppo player.

In a well-optimized "C&C" system, usually the DAC in use should not be a separate box, but built into the source. Even if the source is, say, an AirPort Express.

Anyone interested in a level-matched same/different blind listening test between a Meridian Explorer and the analog output of a MacBook or an AirPort Express?

Letitroll98

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Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #71 on: 11 Apr 2013, 03:41 am »
If you don't think some DAC's sound remarkably different then we really have nowhere to go here, you should use the cheapest DAC you can find, preferably included with whatever $50 CDP is on sale this week at Sears.

To answer your question for myself, the Audio GD DAC sounds significantly better than the DAC in the Oppo and somewhat better than other inexpensive DAC's I have lying around here.  Going broader with your question, I think you bring up a good point.  I know the da Vinci digital system sounds vastly superior to anything I've ever heard, albeit for something around $100k if memory serves.  But everything below that point I find hard to quantify. I share your doubts about what you get for the money in various products and wouldn't know what to recommend on the list here beyond the few I've personally heard.

I've been told that between different chipsets there are some small family differences, but the real sound of the product comes from implementation of the digital circuits, the analog output, and the power supply regulation.  This makes common sense to me.  Therefore it's not unreasonable to assume a stand alone product may take more care with this than the digital section included with a price point product.  But that assumption doesn't make it a rule, only a starting point for investigation.  I wish I could sample fifty different digital products in my home so I could make a more informed statement, but going on the 8-10 units I have here, better quality DAC implementations do sound better, poor quality ones sound much the same. 

OzarkTom

Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #72 on: 11 Apr 2013, 11:59 am »
Keep watch from IFI Micro. Soon to have an add-on that will make any sub 1K dac sound better, maybe even some 2-3k dacs. It should be about $300 or less.

DS-21

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Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #73 on: 11 Apr 2013, 07:45 pm »
If you don't think some DAC's sound remarkably different then we really have nowhere to go here, you should use the cheapest DAC you can find, preferably included with whatever $50 CDP is on sale this week at Sears.

Sonic difference is simply not something that intelligent people "think" about. Its presence or absence  is a verifiable, falsifiable claim.

After participating in an ACTUAL test (level-matched and blind not the meaningless "I put it in my system and it sounded amazing" sighted BS) between a Meridian 508.20 factory upgraded to 508.24 spec (a machine with over $4k invested in it, between purchase and upgrade) and a commodity Samsung DVD-A/SACD/DVD player ca. 2005 (purchased at a big box for maybe $60) where we all thought the Meridian was much better when we could see what was playing but were clearly guessing when we couldn't, I stopped caring entirely about DAC quality.

Sadly, there are too many people who haven't taken the clarifying step of participating in an actual listening test, so still think that commodity parts have "sound quality."

Furthermore, your claim that "better quality DAC implementations do sound better, poor quality ones sound much the same" is on its face absurd to any thoughtful person. "Better" parts should converge to "no sonic character," whereas there are many ways to screw up. So here are the real options:
1) the good stuff all sounds the same and the junk falls short in various different ways,
2) your conception of "better" simply has it backwards, and the parts that you imagine to be "better quality" are actually the broken/incompetently-designed ones, or
3) it's all in the head, and has absolutely nothing to do with the actual sonic/electrical performance of the part in question.

My hunch is most 3, with some 2 if your so-called "better quality" means expensive "high end" boutique parts, as "high end" audio is chock full of rank incompetence.



fredgarvin

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Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #74 on: 11 Apr 2013, 08:03 pm »
Sonic difference is simply not something that intelligent people "think" about. Its presence or absence  is a verifiable, falsifiable claim.

After participating in an ACTUAL test (level-matched and blind not the meaningless "I put it in my system and it sounded amazing" sighted BS) between a Meridian 508.20 factory upgraded to 508.24 spec (a machine with over $4k invested in it, between purchase and upgrade) and a commodity Samsung DVD-A/SACD/DVD player ca. 2005 (purchased at a big box for maybe $60) where we all thought the Meridian was much better when we could see what was playing but were clearly guessing when we couldn't, I stopped caring entirely about DAC quality.

Sadly, there are too many people who haven't taken the clarifying step of participating in an actual listening test, so still think that commodity parts have "sound quality."

Furthermore, your claim that "better quality DAC implementations do sound better, poor quality ones sound much the same" is on its face absurd to any thoughtful person. "Better" parts should converge to "no sonic character," whereas there are many ways to screw up. So here are the real options:
1) the good stuff all sounds the same and the junk falls short in various different ways,
2) your conception of "better" simply has it backwards, and the parts that you imagine to be "better quality" are actually the broken/incompetently-designed ones, or
3) it's all in the head, and has absolutely nothing to do with the actual sonic/electrical performance of the part in question.

My hunch is most 3, with some 2 if your so-called "better quality" means expensive "high end" boutique parts, as "high end" audio is chock full of rank incompetence.

Then you really don't belong in the thread. Of course, your silly rant makes little sense, this being the cheap n cheerful circle. That is something 'intelligent people' think about. Your post is 'absurd to any thoughtful person'.  :lol:

Letitroll98

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Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #75 on: 12 Apr 2013, 05:29 am »
Sonic difference is simply not something that intelligent people "think" about.

Furthermore, your claim ..... is on its face absurd to any thoughtful person.

Ok, I tried to be polite about this, it obviously didn't work.  Anybody doltish enough to make those kinds of statements in a public forum displays a unique and singular lack of social skills and just plain common sense that renders any judgment they make of what is intelligent or thoughtful moot.

FYI, the Meridian was a notorious underperformer that anyone with an ear ran quickly away from.  You can find them for incredible discounts on the used market if any of them are still working.  So your "ACTUAL test" was in fact a rigged affair constructed to fool the unwary and uninformed, apparently it succeeded in at least one example. 

As Mr. Garvin noted, there is little reason for you to continue posting in this thread other than to troll, so please don't.  Unless of course your posts are an unqualified apology.  However I do wish you all the best in finding wonderful sounding audio products in your local Sears or Farm & Home Supply stores.

(Edited to remove stupid statements by me posted in haste)
« Last Edit: 12 Apr 2013, 11:55 pm by Letitroll98 »

geowak

Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #76 on: 12 Apr 2013, 10:55 am »
With all the hoopla above, regardless of misunderstandings or misleading information for anyone reading this post. The OP created a very useful list of DACs. This thread is a very good one. IMHO

fredgarvin

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Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #77 on: 12 Apr 2013, 03:25 pm »
With all the hoopla above, regardless of misunderstandings or misleading information for anyone reading this post. The OP created a very useful list of DACs. This thread is a very good one. IMHO

I agree, there is lots of information and kudos to all that have put in the effort.

thunderbrick

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Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #78 on: 12 Apr 2013, 04:02 pm »
+1!   :thumb:

K Shep

Re: List of DACs "Under $450"
« Reply #79 on: 12 Apr 2013, 04:38 pm »
This thread is valuable to anyone looking for a well performing DAC at a reasonable price point.  I own 3 DAC's, the Parasound Z-Dac reatails for $475 so it doesn't fall under the OP list, nor my BDA-1.  But this little darling does.



The Schiit MODI at $100 it is a champ, powered over USB, obviously USB only but great for a computer based system and you don't need to purchase an after market power cord for your digital front end (sarcasm).