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Thread: Your favourite DAC?

  1. #1
    Join Date: Mar 2012

    Location: Gloucestershire

    Posts: 3,951
    I'm Paul.

    Default Your favourite DAC?

    There seems to be a plethora of really good DACs around for reasonable cash these days and even the excellent Young DAC seems to be getting pipped to the post by rivals at half the price. Are things really progressing that fast with audibile improvements or do you think that there's other reasons such as a shift in sampling philosophy or the growing fashion for tubed buffer stages (which certainly sound good if well implemented to my ears)?

    What would you offer as the top 5 DACs out there sub 1000 at present and why?

    My list would include the following:

    Musical Fidelity M1;

    Jolida FXII Tube DAC;

    Simaudio Moon 100D;

    Rega DAC;

    Eastern Electric Minimax DAC

    Of that list, the MF DAC is possibly the leanest sounding up top but over-all quite neutral and flexible. The Simaudio seems to have been voiced similar to their other kit, slightly fuller than some in the mids and very smooth, not unlike the Rega in some ways (that seems to have slight emphasis on upper bass/mids) but for me, in my system, it'd have to be the Eastern Electric or the Jolida. DACs in general seem to vary only slightly between manufacturers (as you'd have every right to expect) until something comes along and punches your ears with sheer musicality and involvement with "nothing missing". I'd put the last two in that category. Not tempted to venture into DAC territory yet personally as I like what the droplet CDP does but for the cash, a cheap (DVD) transport and sub 1K DAC just seem to make more sense than a high end CDP these days.

  2. #2
    Join Date: Apr 2011

    Location: Finland

    Posts: 1,157
    I'm Mika.

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    Interesting topic as have auditioned few myself at the same pricepoint but still have decided to stick with my old and reliable Russ Andrews DAC-1, which seems to hold up its own pretty well. So have figured out that perhaps need to really step up to get improvement at some point and also at the same time consider what is available at the the hires market..
    Loricraft / Garrard / SME / Transfiguration / Micro Seiki / Fidelity Research / Zu / Dynavector / Ensemble / Auditorium 23 / Shindo / Pioneer / RA / Genelec / JBL

  3. #3
    Join Date: Apr 2013

    Location: Granes - Haut Vallee de l'aude - EU

    Posts: 2,833
    I'm Richard.

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    Doubtless just the deranged ramblings of the sentimental and senile, but my favourite (no longer available) is the DaCapo 22bit I have managed recently to pick up from ebay. The HDCD is supposed to be better, but I've never heard it. And I haven't heard 3 of the 5 you list. However, I have been struck that Dacs sound like Dacs, and disappointingly so. After 20 years away, I just assumed all the advances had been made, stuck on a chip, and would be available in any modern player. I haven't auditioned at home. I auditioned the MDac (the rather obvious one missing from your list) on my own headphones (but it's preamp / headphone amp) as well as in an unremarkable 7oaks hifi set up. I was going to take them up on their (very fair) offer to take it home and audition it there because I was unimpressed in the shop, and then thought I'd try to pick up a DaCapo just one more time to prove that what I thought I remembered was rubbish, and the modern dacs were so much better

    And discovered quite the opposite. I have stated at length elsewhere that I use my own ears for auditioning, but on this occasion I think it is useful to note my wifes observations. She had accompanied me, in a "interested to be polite" way on all my skirmishes with modern equipment. We got the DaCapo home, plugged it in, stuck a CD on and her comment was "you were right, it does sound like vinyl". In fact when we then did a direct comparison on the one recording I have on both media (Katie Melua Secret Symphony" vinyl remained slightly better. But slightly. And not completely different.

    So to answer the thread question - my favourite Dac is Dacapo 22bit (for now)

  4. #4
    Join Date: Dec 2008

    Location: Yorks

    Posts: 16,649
    I'm Nobody.

    Default

    Musical Fidelity 'Digilog' & the old Kingshaw 'perception' DAC

  5. #5
    Join Date: Feb 2011

    Location: northern ireland

    Posts: 288
    I'm ron.

    Default

    The MF M1 would not be on my list had one and thought is was crap to me frank, my cheap Sony blue ray played with or without the dac there was no difference.

    YBA W202 latest hi Rez for 800 is a cracker with bal connections too
    Best budget by a country mile and right up with most 1000 dacs is the bushmaster, but the power supply and connectors are not great but it sounds bloody great.
    Jolida gets a great review from owners but I'm cautious with the new tangled flavour of the month, the young was followed with great fervour when launched and a good lot of those owners now have the rega, must sat the rega is as sweet as a nut and a good price too

  6. #6
    Join Date: Feb 2011

    Location: glasgow

    Posts: 2,194
    I'm tony.

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    I have the musical fidelity M1 and the HPA as my headphone rig but also utilised as a single line pre amp. I recently invested in a passive pre so the M1 is strutting its stuff through the new line up. I put my hands up, I really like it...it is a bit brighter and tighter than a lot of its peers and needs to be to be matched with suitable electronics and cables. A few of us Scottish lads have got together on a number of occasions and the M1 has been tried in a few systems, it didn't fair too well against Ali Tates valve DAC or even a audio note valve DAK that really entranced me.
    Again returning home to my set up and room the M1 really shines in term of soundstage/ detail and pace. Recently Gary (gazjam) brought over a young DAC with a separate PSU, it sounded really good in my system in both a t/amp ,spendor combo and my valve/static combo, grabbed my son to borrow his ears and he agreed it was the best noise we had heard in my room. The Rega I have tried a couple of times in my set up and just did not get along with it at all. All DACs to me, seem to have they're own unique flavour, but are all essentially the same dish. the M1 is to my taste, and never ceases to satisfy my appetite......horses for courses me thinks.
    Might be prudent to add that all DACs ive tried have been fed by co ax from a v-link/usb/lap top....nothing esoteric.

  7. #7
    Join Date: Mar 2012

    Location: Gloucestershire

    Posts: 3,951
    I'm Paul.

    Default

    I can empathise with just about all the responses so far as IME there's never been a clear consensus on DACs (so it seems) and the comment about being wary of what's in fashion is very true to a lot of hifi, but I listed the ones I personally liked for the money, and I'm sure there's many more that are equally as good or better for the money (its just I haven't heard them). I must admit to not having heard the Young DAC but do remember the hype at its launch, followed by more hype when all the upgrades were discovered (making me think "was the original hype justified?"). I have heard many good things about the Da Capo too but have yet to hear one.

    The summing up by Tony about reflects my own impressions of the MF Dac. I liked it for its detail, flexibility and sound staging plus price wise, it's not too shabby compared with its peers. I'd say it would need to be more carefully matched than some and this about reflects my experience with most of MFs digital kit...it seems to verge on brightness although nowhere near as much as earlier MF digital players do. I once owned the X-Ray V8 CDP and as detailed as it might have been, it could make your ears bleed it was that sharp. My favourites despite the many technically minded shouting "no, don't go there!" remain the valved DACs and some of the NOS varieties. In truth, few seem to have wrought night and day differences and some of the oldest chipsets seem to be still amongst my favourites today, including the Phillips TDA1543.

  8. #8
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: That London ( North)

    Posts: 1,274
    I'm Keith.

    Default

    The Young was never 'hyped ' at all, it is just a really good dac, that sounds identical through all it's inputs, it found favour with computer users because it's async USB protocol is properly designed and implemented ,unlike the Rega!
    It has never been 'upgraded',perhaps a little more research before the pronouncements!
    Keith.
    Cessaro Horn Acoutics,David Wright ,Mola-Mola , Weiss MAN301,Dynavector XV1- Manger Loudspeakers Grimm Audio LS1,worlds best sounding loudspeaker.
    Mini DSP digital signal processing.
    www.puriteaudio.co.uk

  9. #9
    Join Date: Feb 2011

    Location: glasgow

    Posts: 2,194
    I'm tony.

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    the M1 is very system dependant.....took it along to another of the troops gaff, it sounded pure pish. I was honestly cringing.....but in my own set up/room its spot on-horses for courses as I said.

  10. #10
    Join Date: Mar 2012

    Location: Gloucestershire

    Posts: 3,951
    I'm Paul.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by purite audio View Post
    The Young was never 'hyped ' at all, it is just a really good dac, that sounds identical through all it's inputs, it found favour with computer users because it's async USB protocol is properly designed and implemented ,unlike the Rega!
    It has never been 'upgraded',perhaps a little more research before the pronouncements!
    Keith.
    Sorry Keith, the upgraded comments were not related to the manufacturer but to some of the DIY upgrades reported widely for the DAC, I should have made that clearer. I do think that there was a lot of forum based discussion of it, hence the "hyped" terminology which I do think is fair comment and there's nothing detrimental in that unless its taken that way? As mentioned, I never heard one and its reputation stands being quite good. I merely made a valid point that when things are reportedly that good, inevitably someone will take one and "upgrade it". Nothing detrimental was intended regarding it, and certainly nothing said to jump on so quickly Its just subjective opinions, not facts to be disputed. Also, the discussion isn't really aimed at bashing any particular make nor to have the relative technical drawbacks or merits highlighted unless relevant for the comparisons in sound quality. Personally, its what something sounds like that matters to me, not whether company A has done something that company B "ought" to have done.

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