How did you choose your DAC?

Calypso

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Choosing any piece of equipment can be a journey. How did you choose your DAC? What were your criteria?
 

Todd Anderson

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Preamp, Processor or Receiver
StormAudio ISP.24 MK2
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Emotiva XPA-5
Additional Amp
Emotiva XPA Gen3 2.8 multichannel amp
Other Amp
Denon X8500H
Computer Audio
AudioEngine A2+
DAC
THX ONYX
Universal / Blu-ray / CD Player
Kaleidescape TERRA, OPPO UDP-203, Panasonic UB9000
Front Speakers
GoldenEar Technology Triton One.R
Center Channel Speaker
GoldenEar Technology SuperCenter Reference
Surround Speakers
SVS Ultra Surround
Surround Back Speakers
SVS Ultra Bookshelf
Front Height Speakers
SVS Prime Elevation x4 (Top Front, Top Mid-Front)
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SVS Prime Elevation x4 (Top Middle, Top Rear)
Subwoofers
dual SVS SB16s + dual PSA XS30s
Other Speakers or Equipment
Behringer 1124p; Aura Bass Shaker Pros; SuperSub X
Video Display Device
JVC NX7
Screen
Seymour Screen Excellence, Enlightor NEO AT Screen
Streaming Equipment
iFi Audio Zen Blue
Streaming Subscriptions
Qobuz, TIDAL, Spotify, ROON
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LG Electronics 65-inch B6 OLED, Sony 65-inch X900F, ZeroSurge 8R15W x 2, ZeroSurge 2R15W x 2
Wow. big question. I'm super curious to hear responses about this, because I have a reaaaaalllly tough time hearing differences in DACs. I'd probably hazard to guess that my criteria would center around other functionalities and connectivity associated with the DAC.

That said, I believe that some can hear differences. I'd like know how - and what - you're listening to!
 

Travis Ballstadt

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Seattle, WA
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Preamp, Processor or Receiver
Anthem AVM60
Main Amp
Emotiva BasX 5
Additional Amp
Emotiva UPA-500
Universal / Blu-ray / CD Player
Kaleidescape Strato C/Terra 48TB/Compact Terra 6TB
Front Speakers
NextLevel Acoustics Reference Cinema
Center Channel Speaker
NextLevel Acoustics Reference Cinema
Surround Speakers
NextLevel Acoustics Reference Cinema
Front Height Speakers
NextLevel Acoustics Angled Satellite
Rear Height Speakers
NextLevel Acoustics Angled Satellite
Subwoofers
SVS SB2000 x2
Video Display Device
JVC DLA X790R, Lumagen Radiance Pro 4240
Screen
SeymourAV Proscenium 124” diagonal 2.40:1
Remote Control
Unfolded Circle Remote 2, powered by HomeAssistant
Streaming Equipment
PLEX Server, AppleTV4K, Bluesound Node2i
Streaming Subscriptions
AppleTV+, Amazon Prime, HBO Max
Satellite System
They still have those?
Other Equipment
Rega Planar 6, Rega Exact2 cart, Rega Aria Mk3 Phono Stage, Jolida JD202BRC, Rega RS-5 Speakers (2-channel system)
I hate thinking about DACs.

For the theater, the DAC in my Anthem is all there is. I bought the Anthem for features other than the DAC.

For my 2ch setup, vinyl is the primary format involved there, but I do currently have a Bluesound Node 2i in that system. I did a head to head last year with a Node X and didn't hear any difference at all when A-Bing them, nor did any other member of the household. And the DAC was supposed to be the huge improvement.

The only thing that has me considering replacing the Node is the Eversolo A6, and ONLY because of the Apple Music integration. I hate having to AirPlay from AppleMusic, I want it to just take the stream over on the deck and drop from my phone.

I've dropped Tidal and Amazon Music HD. I don't have CDs or SACDs or Blu-ray Audio or any optical media. I don't keep a big file server of FLAC files. AppleMusic is just the best situation for me. The Eversolo is the only device with AppleMusic built-in aside from Sonos or the HomePods, neither of which fit my use case.
 

Sonnie

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StormAudio ISP Elite 24 MK3 Processor
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McIntosh MC1.25KW Monoblock Amps
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StormAudio PA 16 MK3
Computer Audio
Intel NUC w/ Roon ROCK
Universal / Blu-ray / CD Player
Panasonic UB9000 4K UHD Player (for media discs)
Front Speakers
RTJ 410
Center Channel Speaker
MartinLogan Focus C-18
Front Wide Speakers
JTR Neosis 110HT
Surround Speakers
JTR Neosis 210RT
Surround Back Speakers
JTR Neosis 210RT
Front Height Speakers
JTR Neosis 110HT-SL
Middle Height Speakers
JTR Neosis 110HT-SL
Rear Height Speakers
JTR Neosis 110HT-SL
Subwoofers
JTR Captivators - 4000ULF-TL x2 + 2400 x6
Other Speakers or Equipment
VTI Amp Stands for the Monoblocks
Video Display Device
Sony 98X90L
Remote Control
AVA Cinema
Streaming Equipment
Kaleidescape | Lenova X1 - Intel NUC for Roon
Streaming Subscriptions
Lifetime Roon Subscription
Tidal
qobuz
Netflix
Amazon Prime
Satellite System
Dish Joey 4K
Other Equipment
Zero Surge 8R15W-1 | Salamander Synergy Equipment Stand
I don't choose. I just accept whatever is included in my processor, but I know I would never hear a difference, and it wouldn't influence me psychologically enough to warrant adding something else in the chain of equipment.
 

Calypso

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That’s the appeal with this hobby, one can choose! What I am learning is that a proper implementation of a DAC should not colour the stream, so for me it’s helpful to review the independent testing of various manufacturers and their respective DACs. Once I narrowed it down to a handful, then I started to focus on interface support, UI, reliability, and cost.

Similar to other purchases, one can spend a lot on DACs but one can find very good affordable kit with impressive specs on the market. As with speakers, you can listen to them at your favourite audio store but the true test is when they are in their final place, your home. Some folks want their system all digital till the speakers, others well, lessor so.

Anyway, as I mentioned above, the fun is you can choose.
 

Tim Hector

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St. Charles Missouri
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SST Ambrosia and Accuphase Clone
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Sumo Nine (Rebuilt with outstanding parts)
Additional Amp
SST AMBROSIA Preamp
Other Amp
DIY Jeff Rowland 535.... found original boards
Computer Audio
Dedicated laptop optimized for music
DAC
Denafrips Enyo
Front Speakers
DIY - 2 Channel
Subwoofers
Velodyne (when used), Klipsch
Other Speakers or Equipment
DIY
Streaming Subscriptions
DIY DAC, ES9018, ES9038Q2M, AD1862 all Comp Audio
Satellite System
Living room: Marantz SR19 Receiver / SLS Q line mtm fronts, polk center channel, JBL Subwoofer
Well, I've been a 2 channel junkie since 1979. I've had at least a dozen dac's. Probably 7 of them was under $300. You know, you can hear the difference between a $100 dac and a $300 dac, but the differences were minor.
In brand names, I've had a Schiit, Modi 2... it was in line with my $200 dacs and only $100. I had a Chord MOJO, Slightly better than the Schitt, but not a different world. I had a Chinese balanced dac that was close to $400 (no name), I liked it, just a tad richer or more organic presentation. I got an SMSL SU-9 MQA. Never turned it off, it was the best so far. Smooth, detailed, good sound stage, good imaging and minimal digital glare that seemed to pop up its ugly head in all of the lower priced dacs. Recently, I purchased a Denafrips Enyo. This dac actually needed a fair amount of break in time, after that I found that It is a bit less detailed than the SMSL, but just a bit, what it does does do different is the way it presents music. A warm rich presentation without any glare that just feels more like music than the others. To be fair, this dac does retail at just about double of any of the other dacs and I do run it balanced in a fully balanced system. Overall, I have been enjoying this Dac more than any other that I have owned. I hope this helps in some way. Tim
 

Calypso

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Well, I've been a 2 channel junkie since 1979. I've had at least a dozen dac's. Probably 7 of them was under $300. You know, you can hear the difference between a $100 dac and a $300 dac, but the differences were minor.
In brand names, I've had a Schiit, Modi 2... it was in line with my $200 dacs and only $100. I had a Chord MOJO, Slightly better than the Schitt, but not a different world. I had a Chinese balanced dac that was close to $400 (no name), I liked it, just a tad richer or more organic presentation. I got an SMSL SU-9 MQA. Never turned it off, it was the best so far. Smooth, detailed, good sound stage, good imaging and minimal digital glare that seemed to pop up its ugly head in all of the lower priced dacs. Recently, I purchased a Denafrips Enyo. This dac actually needed a fair amount of break in time, after that I found that It is a bit less detailed than the SMSL, but just a bit, what it does does do different is the way it presents music. A warm rich presentation without any glare that just feels more like music than the others. To be fair, this dac does retail at just about double of any of the other dacs and I do run it balanced in a fully balanced system. Overall, I have been enjoying this Dac more than any other that I have owned. I hope this helps in some way. Tim
Most definitely it does! Interestingly enough, one of the DACs I am looking at is the SMSL SU-9 MQA from a price and performance perspective, along with the SMSL DO400 ES9039MSPRO Full Balanced Headphone Amplifier Audio Decoder DAC. My only headphone access point is on my CD player, so it checks another box for me. Just in case, the SQ change is minimal or not perceptible to me, I still have a win. Mark
 

skid00

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Carver Amazing Platinum Mark IV
I originally searched the internet, and then reviews for units that fit my price range, and that were portable. I wanted to listen to Sennheiser 800s headphones with a laptop.

After I digitized all my music, I wanted a good measuring DAC for my main system. I used Audio Science Review's reviews to find DAC's with the best measurement in my price range, and then narrowed that down to units available on Amazon.

Did the same thing again when I moved my headphone listening to a desktop PC, after my battery powered portable DAC's batteries died, and I couldn't find replacement batteries.

Properly designed DACs and amps should sound indistinguishable from each other. Even if there are sub-dB level differences on the deep and high ends of the frequency range, most speakers level differences, and the room they are in, will hide the DAC/amp's minor differences.
 
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