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Best DAC for £500 or under?

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Nov 14, 2018
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#1
I ideally would like balanced out and USB in but it's not a must. Other than that, I just want it to sound good. I'm replacing an old Theta DSPro Basic IIIa due to it's high Vout which makes it a pain due to me having to set digital volume very low whenever I listen to music. No Schiit or SMSL please.
 
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Feb 16, 2018
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#2

Pluto

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#5
I ideally would like balanced out and USB in ...
I'm delighted with my Topping DX7s.

Great sound, stable & reliable using USB input over hundreds of hours. Software slightly crude (i.e. somewhat β-ish, not quite finished). Brilliant VFM and works well in conjunction with Windows 7/8.1 – no glitches when changing sample rate etc.

It's odd that you have to order the remote separately and that will add about 20GBP to the cost. Caveat – I only use the balanced output feeding loudspeakers so I cannot comment on the headphone performance.
 
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#6
Aune S16. Very good DAC. Nice sounding.
Availability seems to be rather hit or miss though...
I'm delighted with my Topping DX7s.

Great sound, stable & reliable using USB input over hundreds of hours. Software slightly crude (i.e. somewhat β-ish, not quite finished). Brilliant VFM and works well in conjunction with Windows 7/8.1 – no glitches when changing sample rate etc.

It's odd that you have to order the remote separately and that will add about 20GBP to the cost. Caveat – I only use the balanced output feeding loudspeakers so I cannot comment on the headphone performance.
I wonder if there's a DAC-only version of that as I don't want an amp that will sit around doing nothing.
 

SMc

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Dec 21, 2018
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#7
If you like your old DAC, add an attenuator or inexpensive passive volume control.
 

frogmeat69

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Apr 25, 2018
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#9
The cheapest well-tested no-headphone, balanced output DAC is the SMSL SU-8 (version 2). It should go for half your budget.
AND, it's available on Massdrop now for $199.99, drop started today.
Not sure why OP would pass on this SMSL item when it is one of the best measuring DACs on your list,and one that they seem to have done right with the latest version, they have a bad experience with another SMSL product?
 
Last edited:

Willem

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Jan 8, 2019
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#11
I recently bought a Pioneer U-05-s for 475 euro. It has usb, AES/EBU, 2x optical and 2x coax inputs. Balanced and RCA out and balanced and unbalanced headphone output. Variable and fixed level, so it is effectively a pre amplifier with digital inputs (no analogue inputs, but I don't care). 8ch Parallel Drive with SABRE32 Ultra DAC (ES 9016S x 2). And it has a neat little remote control. Built quality as you would expect: excellent. In fact, that was a major reason I bought it. It is built impeccably, from a company with extensive R&D, so no nasty surprises and unlikely to have any reliability problems.
And for those who ask: yes of course the sound is perfect, as it would be, and as just about any decent DAC can produce. I am using it in a system with Quad 2805 electrostats (plus subwoofer), and it is hard to think of more revealing speakers.
 
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Jul 20, 2018
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#12
Like I said on Reddit, look at the SMSL su-8 V2. Look for good measurements of individual products, and don't necessarily write off a manufacturer based on past performance.
 
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Jan 27, 2019
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#15
Might I jump in? I sold V90 and now looking for a new DAC/PRE amp.. Has anyone listened to or own a Project PRE BOX S2? I was looking at a Cambridge Dac magic plus, but the Project does MQA which I want and I also sold my Schiit SAGA today. I'm looking for a DAC / Pre amp. Under 500.00 US or so. Thank you,
 
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#17
Good to hear! I did a quick search but could not find his review. Is there a central place on this website where all the reviews can be found in a folder or group?
 

clarkydaz

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Feb 10, 2019
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#18
would either the SMSL su-8 V2 or topping Dx7s be a sonic improvement over my audiolab mdac? My mdac is solid for my needs, just wondering if these new chips may offer better sound quality. Don't need headphone amp, but do need xlr outputs.

Also im reading about this ES 'hump', does this get in the way of the listening experience, or does it just exist on graphs? :) thanks
 

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