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Author Topic: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?  (Read 4448 times)

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Offline rustoleum

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200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« on: June 17, 2005, 09:02:11 AM »
Hi All,

I'm in the market for a digital to analog convertor.  I'm pretty content with the way my DVD player makes 24 and 16bit recordings sound through my stereo, so I don't believe I need too spend to much money in order to get a signficant improvement out of the playback of Flacs and SHNs on a computer through the same stereo.  The only thing I know is it currently sounds like crap performing the D to A inside the computer.  I've got a Zoltrix Nightingale to get the bits out of the system, and since that has both optical and coax outs I'm pretty flexible about the inputs the DAC has.   Additionally, as I'm pretty content with the DVD player I don't need multiple inputs, although if it does have them, I'd certainly try plugging the DVD player in and see which I like better.  Multiple ins are a bonus, not a requirement.  Any ideas in the 2-3 hundred dollar range?  I could go a little higher, but if I'm going to spend 4-5 hundred, I might as well just go a higher than that and buy a used MiniDAC on ebay.  Thanks

Rusty

Offline rustoleum

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2005, 09:03:01 AM »
oh yeah... one more thing.  24 bit/48KHZ is required, but higher sample rates are not necessary, as the zoltrix won't pass higher than 48 anyway.  Thanks

Offline Daryan

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2005, 09:25:29 AM »
Bolden SmartDio used on the gon.  Not one up there now, but keep looking, it should pop up.
Microtech Gefell 200/210->Zaolla Silverlines->Fostex FR-2 (oade modified plus other self mods)

Playback: Bolder modified Squeezebox SB3 (building linear power supply)->Bolder Cable Modified Panasonic XR-45 with bybee's->Bolder Nitro speaker cables->VMPS Audio super modified 626r's, VMPS Larger SUB, 1000w class AB sub amp
Tweaks: isolation and room treatments, silclear, BPT 1.5r Power Conditioner (modified), isoblocks, vibrapods, many others

Offline Brian Skalinder

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2005, 09:51:52 AM »
Bolden SmartDio used on the gon. Not one up there now, but keep looking, it should pop up.

I'll second Bolder Cable Company's smART D/IO.  I use it for my PC / headphone setup:  Waveterminal 2496 > smART D/IO > AKG K501s.  Made a HUGE difference to my ears v. coming analog out of the WT2496, and resulted in a very distinct improvement over my cheapo CD/DVD player's DAC in my main system.  I moved it from my main playback system to my PC / headphone setup after picking up a Bel Canto DAC 1.1.  More info at Bolder's MOD page.  I believe the listed price only includes the mod and does not include purchase of the stock unit.  Keep an eye on Audiogon, they pop up every so often.
Milab VM-44 Links > Fostex FR-2LE or
Naiant IPA (tinybox format) >
Roland R-05

Offline macdaddy

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2005, 10:35:39 AM »
fyi the stock art dio is NOT made anymore (bolder does the mods), so you will have to be going the ebay/agon route...



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Offline Daryan

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2005, 10:49:49 AM »
I heard that fullcompass was trying to convince art to make one more run.  Whether that will happen or not was up in the air.  The ebay route is usually the best.  If you are handy with a soldering iron, I can dig up the mods that you can do yourself if you are into that kind of thing.  There is a seller on audiocircle.com, Danny Ritchie of GRresearch that has a "semi-mensa," the step up from the smart mod, for 250 shipped.  his e-mail I believe is danny@grresearch.com, or PM him on the audiocircle.
Microtech Gefell 200/210->Zaolla Silverlines->Fostex FR-2 (oade modified plus other self mods)

Playback: Bolder modified Squeezebox SB3 (building linear power supply)->Bolder Cable Modified Panasonic XR-45 with bybee's->Bolder Nitro speaker cables->VMPS Audio super modified 626r's, VMPS Larger SUB, 1000w class AB sub amp
Tweaks: isolation and room treatments, silclear, BPT 1.5r Power Conditioner (modified), isoblocks, vibrapods, many others

Offline rustoleum

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2005, 10:59:54 AM »
Thanks all... Ts all around.  Just checked ebay and audiogon and didn't see any, but I'll certainly be on the lookout. 

EDIT: just reread the post about audiocircle.com                    Heading there next... thanks!


« Last Edit: June 17, 2005, 11:03:07 AM by rustoleum »

Offline rustoleum

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2005, 11:31:07 AM »
So it looks like I was searching incorrectly and managed to a stock find one... what sonically is the difference between a modded one and unmodded?  Thanks

Offline Daryan

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2005, 12:06:37 PM »
Stock model has an extremely noisy power supply, and poor choices for capacitors.  I would get the modded one if it was my coin. 

You will definately hear the differnce...kind of like cable burn-in :P
Microtech Gefell 200/210->Zaolla Silverlines->Fostex FR-2 (oade modified plus other self mods)

Playback: Bolder modified Squeezebox SB3 (building linear power supply)->Bolder Cable Modified Panasonic XR-45 with bybee's->Bolder Nitro speaker cables->VMPS Audio super modified 626r's, VMPS Larger SUB, 1000w class AB sub amp
Tweaks: isolation and room treatments, silclear, BPT 1.5r Power Conditioner (modified), isoblocks, vibrapods, many others

Offline Daryan

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Microtech Gefell 200/210->Zaolla Silverlines->Fostex FR-2 (oade modified plus other self mods)

Playback: Bolder modified Squeezebox SB3 (building linear power supply)->Bolder Cable Modified Panasonic XR-45 with bybee's->Bolder Nitro speaker cables->VMPS Audio super modified 626r's, VMPS Larger SUB, 1000w class AB sub amp
Tweaks: isolation and room treatments, silclear, BPT 1.5r Power Conditioner (modified), isoblocks, vibrapods, many others

Offline macdaddy

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2005, 01:38:15 PM »
So it looks like I was searching incorrectly and managed to a stock find one... what sonically is the difference between a modded one and unmodded?  Thanks

alot.

but buy it stock (i thought fullcompass was selling them stck for a buck fifty, but i could be wrong)...

if i were you, and you are interested in the sh*t, buy the stock if you can find it for a bill and a half, and listen for a while. contact wayne (bolder cables), and talk to him about the $$$ you can spend. nickspicks and some others (in this thread, too)  spoke highly of the smart mod, and that wouldnt set you back too much...

and then listen and enjoy, and if you think you want to try get more performance after a while - send it back to wayne, and he will upgrade it to the mensa+

this way your initial outlay is doable, and it gets you in the game (which is big if there are no more stock units to be had), and your upgrades, which will be noticeable, and worth the money, can come later, when you feel you can spend the money...

leaving yourself room for upgrades, being totally frugal, and getting into the DAC game... good entry move, but that is kind of why i went that way, too :P
-macdaddy ++

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Offline rustoleum

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2005, 03:39:49 PM »
good call, macdaddy... the Bolder page says Full Compass has them new for around 125 and I can definately send it in at a later date for the mods... thanks

Offline rustoleum

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2005, 09:36:06 AM »
I heard that fullcompass was trying to convince art to make one more run.  Whether that will happen or not was up in the air.  The ebay route is usually the best.  If you are handy with a soldering iron, I can dig up the mods that you can do yourself if you are into that kind of thing.  There is a seller on audiocircle.com, Danny Ritchie of GRresearch that has a "semi-mensa," the step up from the smart mod, for 250 shipped.  his e-mail I believe is danny@grresearch.com, or PM him on the audiocircle.

Danny has made it very clear that this is not true. Price is 400 which is still probably a good deal, just not quite the deal I'm looking for. Thanks for the info, though.  I'll probably get a new stock one and mod it later.

Offline macdaddy

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2005, 09:50:06 AM »

I'll probably get a new stock one and mod it later.


good call, esp. if you can get a stock unit for a buck twenty-five...

here is the page for the "smart" upgrade. the mensa is even more involved, but you can upgrade from the smart to the mensa later on if you want, too...


$125 + $260 = $385

so for $100 over-budget (including shipping), you can get a very nice unit, and for $75 under budget you cant get in the game, and have a solid unit that will at least serve as a baseline...

well done.

-macdaddy ++

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2005, 01:37:32 PM »
Channel Islands Audio ?
Never heard it, but heard the stories, very nice press
No longer sold in US, btw

Offline Nick's Picks

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #15 on: June 20, 2005, 08:42:42 AM »
how about a sony str-da2000es reciever?
you can probably find one in the 3-400 range.  use it just as a preamp/DAC combo and you wont find anything we are discussing in this thread that will touch it.

Offline Daryan

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #16 on: June 20, 2005, 09:33:14 AM »
I heard that fullcompass was trying to convince art to make one more run.  Whether that will happen or not was up in the air.  The ebay route is usually the best.  If you are handy with a soldering iron, I can dig up the mods that you can do yourself if you are into that kind of thing.  There is a seller on audiocircle.com, Danny Ritchie of GRresearch that has a "semi-mensa," the step up from the smart mod, for 250 shipped.  his e-mail I believe is danny@grresearch.com, or PM him on the audiocircle.

Danny has made it very clear that this is not true. Price is 400 which is still probably a good deal, just not quite the deal I'm looking for. Thanks for the info, though.  I'll probably get a new stock one and mod it later.


Danny makes a lot of things very clear, some of which are complete nonsense but that is a story for another day :-X

Wayne told me just yesterday that they may indeed get another run, but who knows, and quite frankly, doesn't matter.  They will replace it with something assumingly better!
Microtech Gefell 200/210->Zaolla Silverlines->Fostex FR-2 (oade modified plus other self mods)

Playback: Bolder modified Squeezebox SB3 (building linear power supply)->Bolder Cable Modified Panasonic XR-45 with bybee's->Bolder Nitro speaker cables->VMPS Audio super modified 626r's, VMPS Larger SUB, 1000w class AB sub amp
Tweaks: isolation and room treatments, silclear, BPT 1.5r Power Conditioner (modified), isoblocks, vibrapods, many others

Offline capnhook

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #17 on: June 20, 2005, 10:55:07 AM »
How about the Entech Number Cruncher?   :coolguy:

Edit: Sorry, only 16 bit
« Last Edit: June 20, 2005, 10:57:46 AM by capnhook »
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Offline macdaddy

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #18 on: June 20, 2005, 11:06:45 AM »
Quote
use it just as a preamp/DAC combo and you wont find anything we are discussing in this thread that will touch it.

that is a pretty bold statement, and one i dont know if i can agree with, seeing as how we have discussed a number of dac options in this thread, and not all of them in the $300 range...

that sony unit is good for the $$, but it certainly doesnt flat-out outclass the modded units we have been discussing...
« Last Edit: June 20, 2005, 12:53:48 PM by macdaddy »
-macdaddy ++

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Offline rustoleum

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #19 on: June 20, 2005, 12:49:43 PM »
Just called FullCompass and they were all out of stock... so off to ebay I went and grabbed a new one for 157.50 shipped.    Now, the big question... how long am I going to be able to hold out getting this thing modified.   >:D

Offline Nick's Picks

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #20 on: June 20, 2005, 11:02:30 PM »
listen to it stock for a while before you mod it.
maybe just get the smart mod first, then the mensa later on.

I hear these benefit greatly from good power cords (as well as power).

Offline Daryan

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #21 on: June 21, 2005, 07:09:20 AM »
External power supplies are what Wayne builds for these things to make them sound better fwiw.
Microtech Gefell 200/210->Zaolla Silverlines->Fostex FR-2 (oade modified plus other self mods)

Playback: Bolder modified Squeezebox SB3 (building linear power supply)->Bolder Cable Modified Panasonic XR-45 with bybee's->Bolder Nitro speaker cables->VMPS Audio super modified 626r's, VMPS Larger SUB, 1000w class AB sub amp
Tweaks: isolation and room treatments, silclear, BPT 1.5r Power Conditioner (modified), isoblocks, vibrapods, many others

Offline Nick's Picks

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #22 on: June 21, 2005, 07:12:00 AM »
thats one thing....
Wayne also does the full MODs as well.  There are other companies out there that do it also.

But, buy the time you buy the MENSA upgrade and a fat power supply for it.....then you are into the price range of other DACs that might catch ones interest....like a Bel Canto.

but, the DIO holds its own......do doubt.

Offline Daryan

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #23 on: June 21, 2005, 09:38:12 AM »
I would think the benchmark used may be in this ballpark as well.  I am curious nick, how do you think your digital am stacks up to seperates, and more importantly, in what price range?  I have a jones to go sperates, and was thinking a tube pre, a benchmark, and something based around the icepower amp modules, class d design for an amp, or possibly build one based on the ucd 400's.

Daryan
Microtech Gefell 200/210->Zaolla Silverlines->Fostex FR-2 (oade modified plus other self mods)

Playback: Bolder modified Squeezebox SB3 (building linear power supply)->Bolder Cable Modified Panasonic XR-45 with bybee's->Bolder Nitro speaker cables->VMPS Audio super modified 626r's, VMPS Larger SUB, 1000w class AB sub amp
Tweaks: isolation and room treatments, silclear, BPT 1.5r Power Conditioner (modified), isoblocks, vibrapods, many others

Offline macdaddy

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #24 on: June 21, 2005, 09:41:58 AM »
I would think the benchmark used may be in this ballpark as well.  I am curious nick, how do you think your digital am stacks up to seperates, and more importantly, in what price range?  I have a jones to go sperates, and was thinking a tube pre, a benchmark, and something based around the icepower amp modules, class d design for an amp, or possibly build one based on the ucd 400's.

Daryan

boy, that setup sounds like it is in the "200-300 dollar DAC recommendation" range :P

i mean, the pb forum aint that big... cant we start new threads when the topic you want to address threatens to usurp the topic at hand (listed in the thread title)..? tia.
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Offline scervin

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #25 on: June 21, 2005, 09:48:02 AM »
I would think the benchmark used may be in this ballpark as well.  I am curious nick, how do you think your digital am stacks up to seperates, and more importantly, in what price range?  I have a jones to go sperates, and was thinking a tube pre, a benchmark, and something based around the icepower amp modules, class d design for an amp, or possibly build one based on the ucd 400's.

Daryan

I thought you were very happy with your modded receiver?  Why class D?

Offline Daryan

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #26 on: June 21, 2005, 10:06:14 AM »
I am extremely happy, but I am also a tinkerer, and want to always try something different.  I just happen to like class D amps, as I am able to get 500w for 750 bucks or so.

I will start another damn thread.  Thread highjacking is the rule around here isn't it? :P
Microtech Gefell 200/210->Zaolla Silverlines->Fostex FR-2 (oade modified plus other self mods)

Playback: Bolder modified Squeezebox SB3 (building linear power supply)->Bolder Cable Modified Panasonic XR-45 with bybee's->Bolder Nitro speaker cables->VMPS Audio super modified 626r's, VMPS Larger SUB, 1000w class AB sub amp
Tweaks: isolation and room treatments, silclear, BPT 1.5r Power Conditioner (modified), isoblocks, vibrapods, many others

Offline Nick's Picks

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #27 on: June 22, 2005, 07:29:58 AM »
the benchmark sells for $7-850 used.  never any cheaper.
and you dont need a preamp.

how do I think digital stacks up to seperates?
well, speaking from my Sonys perspective, it stacks up niceley.  Not enough power...cheap parts and construction...those are the downfalls.
its a nice dac with power.

I'd rather have seperates of my choice though.
:)

Offline Daryan

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #28 on: June 22, 2005, 09:40:30 AM »
The power thing is what is bothering me at the moment.  Must, have, more, power.  I may pickup a manley stingray and try that out with a benchmark sometime next month, or I may go hypex with an onix tube pre, who knows. 
Microtech Gefell 200/210->Zaolla Silverlines->Fostex FR-2 (oade modified plus other self mods)

Playback: Bolder modified Squeezebox SB3 (building linear power supply)->Bolder Cable Modified Panasonic XR-45 with bybee's->Bolder Nitro speaker cables->VMPS Audio super modified 626r's, VMPS Larger SUB, 1000w class AB sub amp
Tweaks: isolation and room treatments, silclear, BPT 1.5r Power Conditioner (modified), isoblocks, vibrapods, many others

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #29 on: June 22, 2005, 09:23:35 PM »
the stingray ....though strong and punchy for its 40wpc.... is not what i'd call a "poweful amp"
i'm sure it would be glorious w/monitors in a medium sized room.

Offline Daryan

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #30 on: June 23, 2005, 07:50:16 AM »
Any suggestions for a powerful integrated with tubes?  Budget would be around 1500 or so on the 'gon.  Otherwise, how about a tube pre with punch around 750 or so to mate with a 500wpc hypex based amp?

Alos Nick, I will send the panny for review in a couple weeks when I head home for a weekend or something.

Microtech Gefell 200/210->Zaolla Silverlines->Fostex FR-2 (oade modified plus other self mods)

Playback: Bolder modified Squeezebox SB3 (building linear power supply)->Bolder Cable Modified Panasonic XR-45 with bybee's->Bolder Nitro speaker cables->VMPS Audio super modified 626r's, VMPS Larger SUB, 1000w class AB sub amp
Tweaks: isolation and room treatments, silclear, BPT 1.5r Power Conditioner (modified), isoblocks, vibrapods, many others

Offline Nick's Picks

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #31 on: June 23, 2005, 10:54:42 AM »
Quote
use it just as a preamp/DAC combo and you wont find anything we are discussing in this thread that will touch it.

that is a pretty bold statement, and one i dont know if i can agree with, seeing as how we have discussed a number of dac options in this thread, and not all of them in the $300 range...

that sony unit is good for the $$, but it certainly doesnt flat-out outclass the modded units we have been discussing...

well, i stand by it.
iv'e done head to heads with the SMART dio, benchmark, GRACE 901 and a ton of built in DACs in various recievers.
the Sony...as a DAC / preamp combo (because you really cant utilize just the DAC) holds its own.  especialy when you are talking about a $400 2000es. 

your ears may varry.  I am just speaking from my own experience and personal prefference.

Offline macdaddy

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #32 on: June 25, 2005, 12:18:37 PM »
Quote
use it just as a preamp/DAC combo and you wont find anything we are discussing in this thread that will touch it.

that is a pretty bold statement, and one i dont know if i can agree with, seeing as how we have discussed a number of dac options in this thread, and not all of them in the $300 range...

that sony unit is good for the $$, but it certainly doesnt flat-out outclass the modded units we have been discussing...

well, i stand by it.
iv'e done head to heads with the SMART dio, benchmark, GRACE 901 and a ton of built in DACs in various recievers.
the Sony...as a DAC / preamp combo (because you really cant utilize just the DAC) holds its own.  especialy when you are talking about a $400 2000es. 

your ears may varry.  I am just speaking from my own experience and personal prefference.

i remember that.

did you ever get a chance to listen to the mensa..? i am very curious as to how that fits into the mix. i also am curious how the reclock/upsample boxes from monarchy perform (relative to the other products you mentioned - and listened to), but you are a little far (maine, right..?) for me to bring my toys and come over and play (or vice versa)...

how many digital inputs does the sony pre you are talking about have..?
-macdaddy ++

akg c422 > s42 > lunatec v2 > ad2k+ > roland r-44

Offline Nick's Picks

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #33 on: June 25, 2005, 02:38:35 PM »
its a full blown reciever, not just a pre.
at least 3 digi in that I can think of.

never heard the mensa upgrade.  but was very impressed w/the smart upgrade. 

DIP box's. very cool!
but not as cool as a benchmark.

Offline macdaddy

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #34 on: June 25, 2005, 06:02:40 PM »
its a full blown reciever, not just a pre.
at least 3 digi in that I can think of.

never heard the mensa upgrade.  but was very impressed w/the smart upgrade. 

DIP box's. very cool!
but not as cool as a benchmark.


no, but if you follow your ears, and not the techie specs....

and in theory, the re-clock/de-jitter device should be in the chain, it is the upsampledr box that doesnt belong...

i am biased, but digi source > 24/96 > upsampler > mensa > tube amp sounds mighty nice. i would love to compare with a bel canto2 and/or the 901 and now 902...
-macdaddy ++

akg c422 > s42 > lunatec v2 > ad2k+ > roland r-44

Offline Daryan

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #35 on: June 25, 2005, 08:41:56 PM »
Why would you want to upsample an alreay 24 bit 96khz signal?  I assume upsampling to 192, but would it make that much of a differnce where you could hear it?
Microtech Gefell 200/210->Zaolla Silverlines->Fostex FR-2 (oade modified plus other self mods)

Playback: Bolder modified Squeezebox SB3 (building linear power supply)->Bolder Cable Modified Panasonic XR-45 with bybee's->Bolder Nitro speaker cables->VMPS Audio super modified 626r's, VMPS Larger SUB, 1000w class AB sub amp
Tweaks: isolation and room treatments, silclear, BPT 1.5r Power Conditioner (modified), isoblocks, vibrapods, many others

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Re: 200-300 dollar DAC recommendation?
« Reply #36 on: June 26, 2005, 07:46:40 AM »
tech notes vs. ears indeed.

I put my SMART dio up against Carls Benchmark.  We both thought the benchmark edged it out.  but the DIO really did perform well, considering the costs involved w/both units.
Of course, the Benchmark is light years ahead in terms of versitility.  And it sounded better on some recordings.  On others we could not tell the two units apart.

 

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