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DAC Advice


Jan 21, 2021
I need some help picking a DAC

I have some old 2.1 stereo systems I want to update to stream Apple Music Lossless

For reference, some of my audio equipment includes - Krell KSA-50, Krell Pre-Amp, Adcom GFA-555 monoblocks, Classe Audio DR-4 pre-amp, Densen DM-10 Integrated Amp, SimAudio Moon I-5 Integrated Amp, Audio Physics Virgo Speakers, Apogee Stages, and B&W 803 Speakers

I do not have any interest in surround sound at this time. Just 2 speakers and maybe a sub woofer.

- Apple Music Lossless
- TV from a Roku, Fire Stick or Smart TV output to run in stereo
- Unless I am missing something, I do not see a need for Tidal, Spotify or any other streaming music service
- I will need more than one DAC as one is for listening and the other is for TV/Listening

From what I've observed, I can use an old iPad as my User Interface and Source to feed my DAC via the iPad USB port. Currently I am running everything on the iPad 1/8 audio jack via a 15ft cord to my pre-amp. While its not wireless, I can sit on my sofa with my iPad on my lap and select music and adjust the volume easily. It makes listening to music so much fun and enjoyable. And the CD quality lossless sounds pretty good as is.

Now I am ready to hopefully improve the sound quality.

Specifically, I am looking for improvements in
- Sound-stage
- Listening fatigue that is associated with digital music
- TV - improved quality of dialogue versus music and special effects

DAC Questions
Having looked Amirm's reviews and several posts, I have a general understanding of the Chinese market but have several questions.

  • If I choose a DAC in the EXCELLENT SNAD category am I going to be happy sonically with that DAC?
  • Am I best off buying a DAC with or without an integrated amplifier to use with my headphones (Senheiser, Hifiman, and Audeze)?
  • I see lots of good reviews for Topping, Gustard and SMSL and other brands too...but is one Chinese brand known for better quality components, build quality, reliability and support? Or maybe some brands to avoid?
  • Is there a specific chip like ES9038Q2m or ES9038PRO or maybe the Rhom BD34301EKV or AK499?
    • I don't think I need MQA as I will be using Apple Music
  • Note - I have balanced Amps and Pre-amps so that is a desirable feature
Said differently, I know I could buy the 'top of the line' DAC from a company, but do I really need to do that? Why not one of the brands more modestly priced DACs?

For example in the SMSL line there are plenty of options...but how do I know which one to buy since I can't listen to them in advance?

-SMSL DO100 ES9038Q2M
-SMSL D300 BD34301EKV
-SMSL D6 AK4493
-SMSL M400 AK4499

Any advice on Brand, Chip, Amp, Features...would be great.
Same for me..how can improve my Copland cda player with which SMSL dac?


Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Jul 4, 2020
From reading your goals - just get the cheap DAC and treat your room. One step at a time.
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