Author Topic: Best DAC under R20k?  (Read 7105 times)

Offline Rupert

  • Trade Count: (+5)
  • AVForums Veteran
  • ***
  • Posts: 410
  • Durbanville, Cape Town
Best DAC under R20k?
« on: March 09, 2015, 02:03:24 PM »
Approaching the same problem from a different angle.  What is the best DAC under R20k?  By "best" I mean sound quality only.  Everything needs to be there:
  • very good detail
  • authority and dynamism
  • good soundstage with reasonably accurate instrument placement
  • fluidity / "analogue" sound / absence of ringing (i.e. "digititus")
  • equal representation for all bands from bass to treble ("balanced fullness"), with no frequency band getting preferential treatment
  • no harshness or stridency but no exaggerated rounding off either
Don't need preamp or headphone amp. Don't particularly need DSD or USB either.  Just optical and coax inputs, really.  Outputs can be RCA or balanced, but RCA only is fine.

Offline xenithon

  • Trade Count: (+7)
  • AVForums Veteran
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,042
Re: Best DAC under R20k?
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2015, 02:26:02 PM »
Very difficult to judge, in particular when it comes to system synergy / interactions. From what I have read (not heard, unfortunately) the Rotel RDD-1580 would be a very strong contender. In particular in terms of locally available DACs within that budget.

Offline kamikazi

  • Trade Count: (+16)
  • AVForums Veteran
  • *****
  • Posts: 5,910
Re: Best DAC under R20k?
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2015, 04:20:23 PM »
I'd say your best bet is an older high end DAC, maybe an old ML or Theta DAC or something that is based on a ladder architexture, old Philips NOS TDA DAC for example. Its perhaps the only solution for digititus that I can think of.

Definitely not a Wolfson chipset though, almost every Wolfson implementation I've heard so far scored high on the digititus index, not even the Perfect Wave DAC 2 managed to fully mask it, but it sure was dynamic and detailed! The Rotel RCD-12 had me reaching for my ear plugs as did the Emotiva XDA-2. The Rega DAC seems to mask it well, but at the expense of outright detail where the Concero bested it. Most Burr Brown DACs also feature a high degree of digititus..

I don't know if one can source Metrum DACs locally, but sounds like the only solution that will work for you? My Concero DAC is also pretty balanced sounding, whilst keeping digititus in check if you are keen on borrowing it. Did you demo the Yulong DA8, what did you think of it?
« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 04:27:51 PM by kamikazi »

Offline chrisc

  • Trade Count: (+73)
  • AVForums Veteran
  • *****
  • Posts: 7,169
  • “Without music, life would be a mistake.”
Re: Best DAC under R20k?
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2015, 04:33:19 PM »
PS Audio Nuwave DAC - about R 8000

Offline kamikazi

  • Trade Count: (+16)
  • AVForums Veteran
  • *****
  • Posts: 5,910
Re: Best DAC under R20k?
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2015, 04:54:09 PM »
PS Audio Nuwave DAC - about R 8000

I wouldn't go that route, thought it was clinical sounding especially with CD quality music, though good dynamics and very quiet and very detailed, so nice for classical. Only shone really with high res material and good quality recordings, but unbearable with low quality and compressed recordings. Might sound better over coax though, the USB input was disappointing so the NuWave with an Audiophilleo 2 might be interesting.. And it was completely outperformed by the Vivere. The Concero manages to be slightly less detailed than the NuWave, but with a better balance and less clinical sound.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 04:58:14 PM by kamikazi »

Offline stereosane

  • Trade Count: (+26)
  • AVForums Veteran
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,152
Re: Best DAC under R20k?
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2015, 05:03:14 PM »
What about the NAD M51, sounded great to me, very smooth.

Offline chrisc

  • Trade Count: (+73)
  • AVForums Veteran
  • *****
  • Posts: 7,169
  • “Without music, life would be a mistake.”
Re: Best DAC under R20k?
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2015, 05:26:49 PM »
I agree with the summary of the Nuwave DAC.  That is exactly what it is used for.  A good friend has it and is very pleased, it has the attributes you mention.  He also tried the Direct Stream, which although undoubtedly better, costs 6 times the price

What about a Denon DA300 DAC?  Going for about R 8000 - friend in Australia has one and goes on about it

Offline scrarfussi

  • Trade Count: (+20)
  • AVForums Veteran
  • *****
  • Posts: 5,591
  • Quantum In Me Fuit
Re: Best DAC under R20k?
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2015, 07:42:11 PM »
wadia 121
suum cuique pulchrum est


"I refuse to prove that I exist,'" says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."

Offline Rupert

  • Trade Count: (+5)
  • AVForums Veteran
  • ***
  • Posts: 410
  • Durbanville, Cape Town
Re: Best DAC under R20k?
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2015, 10:34:05 PM »
NAD M51 under R20k? Where? I'd love to find one :'(  It might be exactly what I need.

My first DAC was an old Theta. Couldn't do 24-bit audio and shrieked like a really angry banshee when I inadvertently played some over it. Not keen to do that again :-)

Metrum DACs sound like a great option. More info needed.

The Denon DA300 is available in SA, I think, but I suspect it's at the cheaper end of the market. What HiFi also seems to think it lacks timing, bass, and punch. Not sure it would be an upgrade from my Yulong D18, which is already quite good.

From the reviews, the Wadia 121 is outperformed by DACs such as the NAD51 and M2Tech's Young DAC.

Haven't heard the Yulong DA8 yet. I won't pull any triggers before I do.

DACs really are troublesome components. I had a hard enough time finding a decent amp. This is worse!

Offline Rotten Johnny

  • ROONed for life.
  • Administrator
  • Trade Count: (+25)
  • *****
  • Posts: 13,897
Re: Best DAC under R20k?
« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2015, 05:52:12 AM »
I had a Metrum in my system for a couple of weeks. Didn't think it anything special.
♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ Cables, Interconnects & Other Stuff - The Truth.

We can tune in the 23W transmitter from the Voyager probes that are 5.8 billion miles away but audio remains a mystery. :roll:

Offline chrisc

  • Trade Count: (+73)
  • AVForums Veteran
  • *****
  • Posts: 7,169
  • “Without music, life would be a mistake.”
Re: Best DAC under R20k?
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2015, 08:28:47 AM »
I looked quite hard at Gustard DACs which seemed to find favour on Computer Audiophile.  They start off at around R6500 and appear to tick all the points.  You can find them on eBay.  They have been around for a few years and have brought out a new model which is very well designed

Offline Adagio

  • Trade Count: (+11)
  • AVForums Veteran
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,051
  • "Keep your coins, I want Change"
Re: Best DAC under R20k?
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2015, 09:44:08 AM »
I looked quite hard at Gustard DACs which seemed to find favour on Computer Audiophile.  They start off at around R6500 and appear to tick all the points.  You can find them on eBay.  They have been around for a few years and have brought out a new model which is very well designed

 :thumbs:

Offline chrisc

  • Trade Count: (+73)
  • AVForums Veteran
  • *****
  • Posts: 7,169
  • “Without music, life would be a mistake.”
Re: Best DAC under R20k?
« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2015, 10:25:00 AM »
There is a seller on AVSA with a Denon DA300 for R4900.  He lives in Tokai.  It got a reasonable write up here:  http://andreweverard.com/2014/03/19/review-denon-da-300usb-dac/

Offline Francois

  • Commercial Member
  • Trade Count: (+33)
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,947
    • Audio Exchange
Re: Best DAC under R20k?
« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2015, 10:43:24 AM »
The Cambridge audio DACS are quite good... the Azur 851c (CD&DAC) was exceptional....as good as the "unobtainium" vivere DAC

Rega DAC also quite good!

Chord's have a "nice" sound.... Ill be hunting one as soon as I have the budget for one
I was born analog, not digit by digit....

Online Rodney_gold

  • Trade Count: (+13)
  • AVForums Veteran
  • *****
  • Posts: 7,751
Re: Best DAC under R20k?
« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2015, 10:43:32 AM »
That question is like asking the forum what speakers you should get etc, you will get a zillion different answers and be none the wiser after...
The way is to trawl the 2nd hand stuff , try what catches your fancy , and if it doesnt work , sell it on and try something else , if you make a small loss in selling on , treat it as "equipment rental money" or "school fees"

Roon/tidal > SBT>DIRAC ddrc 22 > 2x Devialet D premiers>  Vivid audio Giya G1's ..fully treated room