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I've got the itch again - looking at $500-$1K DAC/Amps


Active Member
Jun 27, 2018
Boquete, Chiriqui, Panama
In 2012, at the age of 70, I moved from Sonoma County in Northern California to Boquete, a small tourist, farming and ranching town in a valley on the slopes of Volcan Baru the mountains of Western Panama near the Costa Rica border where I could live better on my Social Security income here as an expat - my at the time, my only source of income was my SS pension.
Boquete.JPG Click to enlarge thumbnail

Before I left Northern California, I sold most of my belongings, including my living room and office stereo systems, and ripped all of my CD's to MP3. I bought a TEAC AH-01, an older and now discontinued IcePower Amp/DAC with 30wpc. I also bought a pair of the very well regarded Paradigm Atom V6 monitors, and an Intel Celeron NUC PC to use as an A/V player source. I brought the whole kit with me on the second of three trips with two suitcases and a carry-on, and then purchased a 32" LCD-TV here. I ended up with a limited range, but high-fidelity system - perfect for a retiree living in a modest little rental casita.

Because of my age, I thought that the Teac might be my last amplifier after 55 years of buying and selling audio gear, and I was quite happy with the system. Then 6 years later, the Teac died - shortly after a lightning strike hit a power pole right in front of my eyes about 50 yards outside my window. The lightning apparently bypassed the protection on my ups via my internet service cable. It even took out the old main breaker at my electric meter.

After the Teac failed (the local - and very talented) electronics repairman said the the main board needed replacement. I didn't even bother to price out a replacement main board for a 6 year old unit.

So I used my laptop and an old Trends T-amp temporarily until I could afford a better DAC and amp. I considered a tube or tube/SS hybrid, but instead bought an SMSL Q5. Although it wasn't a bad unit, the combination of no RCA's for line input and anemic power output led me to "upgrade" to an SMSL Sanskrit 6th DAC and a Topping PA-3 amp - my current electronics combo.

That combo is quite good for driving the Atoms, but I found a way to make a little extra money, and want to get back up to a larger DAC/AMP unit with Bluetooth and USB inputs. I wanted to try a Hypex-based amp, and NAD seemed to have some of the best budget implementations. However, after looking carefully at a couple of NAD offerings, I'm leaning towards another purchasing another TEAC IcePower DAC/AMP. Here are the three units that made it to my final list - finishing with my current choice - subject to change until the day I order something.

NAD D3045.JPG Click to enlarge thumbnail
NAD – D 3045 - $700 (too new for discounts or used/refurb), 60wpc @ 8Ω, Hypex amp, USB input, Bluetooth. Cheap plasticky design, looks to be nearly identical to the seemingly quite flawed D7050 "streaming amp" that Amir just reviewed. However, the reviews of the D3045 are mostly very positive.

NAD C328 -1.JPG
NAD C-328 - $550 ($410 refurbished), 40wpc @ 8Ω Hypex amp, has Bluetooth, COAX, optical inputs, but no USB. Classic NAD plain & simple case, but it’s all metal, and not plasticky like the D-3045. It is a modern “airbox” case – lots of empty space inside. This one is tempting - I could always use my SMSL Sanskrit DAC if I really wanted to use USB.

Teac Ai 503-2.jpg

Teac 503-AI - $900 (used units sometimes available). 30wpc @ 8Ω IcePower amp. Preamp out if I want more power. Bluetooth, USB, coax and optical inputs. Classy, solid looking and elegant industrial retro look, which I find very appealing. It has received some excellent reviews. My current plan is to save a couple of extra months and get the Teac – and drop-ship it via Amir for review.
I might even make a pair of cocobolo (our local true rosewood) side panels that don't stick out as far in front like the pseudo-rack handles, which are the only thing I don't like about the case design.
Last edited:

Blumlein 88

Major Contributor
Feb 23, 2016
Don't have anything useful to add right now. But I do love cocobolo wood. Side panels of that would look really nice.

I recall from having some small pieces of it the wood was very dense. The page I copied this photo from said it won't float in water, and I can believe that. It is quite beautiful. This photo doesn't exaggerate.

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