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My DAC Died. What to Replace it With?

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Dec 6, 2018
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#1
Hi everyone,

I’ve enjoyed reading through the posts here this last week as I’ve been searching for a replacement DAC after mine bit the dust. (TubeDAC09). I’ve learned a lot from the reviews and testing but in some ways I’ve become more bewildered at the choices.

I’ve gone from looking at budget Topping DACs, hearing Schiit being recommended everywhere then reading here that it’s mostly schiit, Massdrop Grace + O2, to considering an older Bryston, to looking at the latest NAD, then an integrated NAD amp w DAC, and today talking myself out of the Pro-Ject S2 and towards the RME ADI-2 DAC.

My home system is a Sansui AU999 with Sansui SP5500s. I have a pair of Focal Shape 50s for my home studio. I am considering Genelec (or other actives) for listening and maybe moving away entirely from passive speakers. I have a pair of HD650 and HE4XX.

I’m looking for a DAC that has a good headphone output, USB in so I can connect my PC and optical in for game console. Also want to be able to use it as a preamp should I keep my Sansui stuff around.

The RME is the highest I want to go on price. I trust RME due to experience with their audio interfaces but they’re damn expensive. Would something like the Pro-ject or even an SMSL serve up the same level of fidelity as the higher priced options?

Any other DACs to consider?

Thanks,
 
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#4
Sorry Frogmear, it was the RME ADI-2 DAC that I was considering, not the Pro. Although a week ago I would have called myself crazy for considering spending this much on a DAC (love the avatar btw. That’s the best film in the series for me).

I have been eyeing a few of the dedicated headphone amps (THX) and then a cheaper DAC. I’m having a lot of fun with these headphones and could see myself venturing further into headphone land. Is the dedicated headphone amp a better audible performer than the RME option? I’m not so concerned about the theoretical arguments, rather the quality of the sound hitting my ears.
 
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andreasmaaan

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#6
The RME is the highest I want to go on price. I trust RME due to experience with their audio interfaces but they’re damn expensive. Would something like the Pro-ject or even an SMSL serve up the same level of fidelity as the higher priced options?
Absolutely. The Adi-2 DAC is great, but if you don't need all the DSP features then there are plenty of much cheaper options that won't be audibly different.

Do you need balanced outputs or just single-ended RCA?
 

Roen

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#7
Technically, your DAC didn't break, your DAC / Amp broke.

I was giving DAC only recommendations because I thought your DAC broke.

For separates, D1 + THX combo is slightly outside your price range. 1300 + 350 = $1650. It was $130 cheaper on Black friday though.

Barring that the next choice is the cheaper SMSL SU-8 + THX which is $600 in total.
 
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#8
I don’t need balanced but I’d prefer that it’s there for actives. I’ve found a Teac UD-501 that just came up for a reasonable price. Considering the favorable opinions on it, I’m thinking to get this and source out the THX amp.

Good point on the RME. The DSP, while it looks like great fun is probably overkill for my needs.
 
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helloworld

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#9
I’ve found a Teac UD-501 that just came up for a reasonable price. Considering the favorable opinions on it, I’m thinking to get this and source out the THX amp.

Good point on the RME. The DSP, while it looks like gear fun is probably overkill for my needs.
check two reviews of teac products in this site, you will lose confidence about teac product
 

andreasmaaan

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#10
I don’t need balanced but I’d prefer that it’s there for actives. I’ve found a Teac UD-501 that just came up for a reasonable price. Considering the favorable opinions on it, I’m thinking to get this and source out the THX amp.

Good point on the RME. The DSP, while it looks like great fun is probably overkill for my needs.
It might come in handy for bass management in the long run, and I love it for EQ'ing headphones. Otherwise you could probably drop 90% off the price for audibly equal performance and RCA out only, or at least 50% if you restrict yourself to balanced options.

The Focusrite Clarett 2Pre might be a good option if balanced is a requirement. Or Motu Ultralite ESS. Both perform well enough to be way beyond any chance of audible noise/distortion. The Motu has a slightly nicer feel and a lot of additional features, more like the RME. Note that both these units use TRS balanced connectors rather than XLR, which I don't like as much but which are not an issue in terms of performance.

The only disclaimer would be that I can't find figures for headphone output impedance. It should be reasonably low given they're both pro units, but I'm not sure...

Topping DX7S also ticks all the boxes and is a simpler and nicer looking home audio unit. However, support is likely to be worse than for an established pro manufacturer. The Topping has a 10 Ohm output impedance IIRC.
 
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