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DAC journey with "happy ending"


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Hope that got your attention....LOL

 

Anyway so rewind several years back to when I decide I want to explore affordable external DACS to see if I can beat my OPPO 105's performance.

Here's the journey in a nutshell......

 

1. Benchmark DAC2HGC

 

Bought used from U.S. for around $2K 

Beat my OPPO convincingly and life was good.

 

Then bought an OPPO 205 for 4K viewing and, after a playoff, I decided the Benchmark was just a little bit short of the mark re SQ "bang for buck" so off it went.

 

2. Gieseler Klein DACIII (with Kraftwerk PSU)

 

Lived happily with my OPPO 205 for a while and read a lot about Gieseler Audio here on SNA

A used Klein DAC III popped up here for just under $1K so I gave it a go.

 

Nice smooth sound that beat my OPPO.

Did the job well until..........

 

3. Denafrips ARES II

 

OK so I'm sure everyone here has heard about this little R2R unit that gets a lot of praise.

As I live only about 10 mins away from DACMAN (Aust Dealer) I thought "why not"?

 

Played with it for a few weeks but regardless of OS/NOS and Filter settings I just couldn't get it to sound pleasing to me.

Returned it with no fuss (thanks Stav)

 

4. Topping D90 MQA

 

ASR were all over this so couldn't resist trying such a well measuring DAC sporting an even higher spec AKM chip (AK4499) than the Gieseler.

First thing that hit me was detail........serious detail with a super low noise floor.

Presentation maybe a bit thin but still very impressive.

 

Preferred it to the Gieseler (which I also still have) 

 

5. Gustard X16 MQA

 

Also measured very well on ASR but offered a couple of extra features that interested me

As it was pretty cheap I took a punt thinking I could just move one of my others on to offset the cost anyway.

 

After just a few weeks It was sounding decent but of course Gustard decided to screw me by then releasing an updated X26PRO!!!!

After reading a review on it and checking out specs and pics I once again was seduced........

 

The X16 was moved on via a wanted ad here on SNA and the new owner is a happy man.

 

6. Gustard X26PRO MQA

 

OK so the review on this thing is a great read...........https://soundnews.net/sources/dacs/gustard-x26-pro-dac-review/

 

Here's where I bought it (was delivered by DHL in a week over Easter with no GST or import fees)

 

https://shenzhenaudio.com/products/gustard-x26-pro-full-decoding-es9038pro-2-chip-dsd512-bluetooth-5-0-xoms-xu216-high-performance-audio-decoder

 

 

It rocked up on Wednesday this week.

My usual plan of attack is to let a DAC run in for a few days,  then some light listening followed by playoffs and critical listening with a couple of friends.

Have approached all previous DAC's this way as a tried and true method of confirming exactly what's going on.

 

So anyway...........after literally the first note I thought WTF is going on here.

The soundstage was suddenly a LOT bigger but detail was all still there and body was back.

Everything sounded so clearly better to me that I just removed the Topping D90 from the system and stored it next to my Klein III.

 

This DAC resides at higher price point ($2K) than all the other Chinese ones I had and this was instantly reflected in SQ and build ( 7KG's!!!)

 

I have to tell you this is the best my system (ATC SCM70 ASL's with ATC CA2MK2 pre) has ever sounded and once again (for now....LOL)..........

 

 

LIFE IS GOOD  😁

 

 

If you are in the market and have $2K to spend then I heartily recommend reading the outstanding comprehensive review on this unit.

 

All the above is just my 2c about what worked and didn't work for me in my system

 

Of course YMMV and TBH IMHO and IME all the above DACs perform well and offer great value for money.  

 

 

Cheers,

John 

 

PS.......Drop me a line if you are interested in purchasing my Gieseler Klein III or Topping D90 MQA

Edited by JohnL
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1 hour ago, BugPowderDust said:

for what I paid for my DAC I would have hoped it came with a “happy ending” too.

 

Yeah all the DAC's mentioned were ones that I could afford!!!!😄

What do you have?

 

FWIW.....

Best DAC I ever heard so far was actually a mates Jeff Rowland AERIS

Wonderful unit................. but at $15K so it should be!!!!!!!😵

 

 

Edited by JohnL
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54 minutes ago, mjs said:

That’s a great journey, thanks for sharing. I trust my Auralic Vega G2.1 would fit in that list somewhere 🤣🤣

 

Looks like you and BugPowderDust  need your own lists!!!!!

Compared to you two I am just a bargain basement guy........🙂

BTW....Your Auralic is a looker....👌

Edited by JohnL
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2 hours ago, BugPowderDust said:

Ha.
 

I’m deeper down that DAC hole than your mate. 

 

I have (an admittedly used) MSB Premier with Premier power base, network renderer, single ended input module and Femto 93 clock.

 

 

Wow.........That is DEEP..........You should get a happy start and middle too!!!!

Might be just able to manage the MSB if I sell my entire system..........oh hang on.....🤣

 

Maybe I will just start saving for the remote and take it from there.

Edited by JohnL
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