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  1. #1
    Forum Regular
    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    Looking for thoughts on choosing a DAC

    Hey guys,

    Looking to pick up my first dedicated DAC to be used with a iRiver HP120 source, and feeding a NAD preamp and amp two channel rig. (Jm Lab 700LCRs as well)

    The current DAC page on Audiogon actually has a pretty decent cross-section of DACs I'm actually considering...all of which are in the $400 and under catagory...

    California Audio Lab SIGMA II - $300
    Msb Dac III & P1000 Power Supply - $400
    Audio Alchemy DDE 1.1& DTI Plus, + Power Station - $300
    ADCOM GDA-700 - $350
    Bel Canto DAC 1 - $450 (breaks my $400 rule...but want to consider anyway..)
    California Audio Labs System 1 D/A Converter - $400

    I like the Ack! unit as well...but no optical takes it off the board.(optical out from iRiver)

    Comments? Recs? Warnings?



  2. #2
    Forum Regular
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    And as a follow up -

    Does it even make sense to invest in a dedicated DAC at the $300 price point when I could pick up an entire surrond sound receiver (has the required optical audio in and on-board DACs) such as the Yamaha RX-V650 or NAD T742 or so? Both of which can be had in new/like new condidition for the same price?

    This just occured to me last night, that perhaps it didn't really make sense to purchase the stand alone DAC when I could get an entire quality reciever for the same price....


  3. #3
    Forum Regular
    Join Date
    Jul 2003


    In all honesty the newer DVD players and recievers with 96/24 and 192/24 converters make external DAC's somewhat irrelevant - IMHO.

    I have a older but well regarded Adcom GDA-600. In the late 90's I was astounded at how the GDA 600 when run in A/B config alongside a typical $200 CD players or second generation DVD player would destroy the integrated unit. When I flipped on the GDA 600 the soundstage would explode to double it's size, and dynamic clarity would clean up remarkably. The difference was obvious to even the non experienced 'ears' of friends I would show it off to. Only my HI-Fi buddie's Pioneer Elite model CD transports would match my GDA 600. Mostly because they were using the exact same DAC.

    Last week I tested my GF's cheap Panasonic DVD player (does 192/24) alongside my GDA 600 expecting the GDA 600 to crush it. Alas, no more sonic difference. The units sounded the same.

  4. #4
    Forum Regular
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    For what it's worth -

    I ended up going with a Marantz 4500 that I picked up for $314.99 off of

    I decided that the whole dedicated DAC just wasn't for me at this time, and that reciever would give me more options down the road.


  5. #5
    Forum Regular hermanv's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Santa Rosa, CA

    ACK a DAC?

    I am firmly in the external DAC camp. I started with a unit that would resell for about the price you are considering (happy for about 7 years) and currently own a Levinson No36 for which I paid $1,300 used. (Which by the way is pretty much the price of a new good CD player that won't need a DAC. I have worn out 3 CD players I buy relatively inexpensive ones and my DAC takes care of sound quality)

    Yes I know that $1,300 is well outside your price range. Please consider the endless upgrade merry go round. You buy a better DAC, suddeny your pre-amp is clearly the weak link, OK more money better pre - damn now the power amp doesn't get it. So after new speakers and cables things are much better but your DAC, it just isn't up to snuff.

    Over the years I have replaced pretty much everything and some more than once, I spent more than I would have carefully saving up for the one item that was close enough to the best availble that a future upgrade seems unlikely. Of course there is the reality of better than nothing and finite lucre supply.

    Some posts recommend an all in one solution. Seperates offer the ability to relace a small part of the chain. An all in one first class receiver is truly real money as well. With this solution you do not have the option to fix whatever small piece is the weakest link. The baby must get thrown out with the bath water.

    One last thought, many devices today have digital outptus, get a DAC with selectable inputs maybe 3 if one can be had at your price. (I have a hard disk recorder, a laser disk and the CD hooked to mine, everything sounds pretty much identical, hooray ). Also consider that digital cables cost quite a bit less than decent analog, a multiple input DAC saves a bunch of interconnects.

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