Owned the original EE DAC, couldn't hear a difference between stock tube, Lion tube, or solid state. Not impressed, sold it (and I'm not one to flip a lot of gear.) Friend has a very highly modded EE DAC (total price $4000), again not impressed.
Home auditioned Gungnir MB, made 10% of my iTunes ALAC ripped CD library sound better, but 30% sound worse compared to my $900 DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core.
A bit over budget, but take a look at the $1100 German made RME ADI-2 (DAC, preamp, headphone amp, DSP and other advanced features). RME traditional builds for the professional side, but the ADI-2 is meant for the highest home audio consumers. Sound quality is on par with Mytek Brooklyn, Benchmark DAC3, and other similar units that cost twice as much.