A mid-budget DAC that doesn't colour sound?

chander

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Hi guys,

As the bug to try something new has bit me again (not for discontent - but rather for 'why not'); I have booked myself a Apollon Audio amp; that I should have by May if nothing changes as far as COVID is concerned and AL6000a is on the way out. Now considering I want to keep BlueSound Node 2i as my source/preamp (till I can collect enough to buy the HiFi Rose Streamers :p) I am looking for a DAC to neutralise the DAC in the NODE 2i. Balanced output will be a plus as Apollon has Balanced In.

The requirements are -
1 - Budget upto 1L - Hard Stop - would prefer something cheaper.
2 - Should be a neutral/un-colored sounding or should be able to clean up what comes out of the Node 2i. I am fine with Neutral-ish sounding things, do not like bright sound at all and not a big fan of very warm sound. So something that is closer to neutral.

***I have been out of the desktop DAC game for a while - so absolutely unaware of what is great today.

Please help!
 

Kannan

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I would have suggested you Teac from personal experience, but the company has shot the roof with its latest pricing.
The latest Topping D90se has rave reviews as the best measuring DAC with a very neutral presentation.
 

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What does it offer which is audible more than a topping e50?
XLR outputs which the OP is looking for. E50 (that I have also ) is TRS balanced which is pretty rare to find in amp inputs.
Also , although didn’t have the chance to do a A-B , I heard it on a different setup and quite liked the sound. If streaming were my primary source , I would have bought it.
Another point , the Denafrips Ares at 90k is four times the price of Topping E50. I can’t comment on its cost vs value. But the Ares sounds great , and it has quite a few happy users in the forum too.
 
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Passive_audio_enthusiast

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XLR outputs which the OP is looking for. E50 (that I have also ) is TRS balanced which is pretty rare to find in amp inputs.
Also , although didn’t have the chance to do a A-B , I heard it on a different setup and quite liked the sound. If streaming were my primary source , I would have bought it.
I think if we buy a cable from TRRS to balanced, it’s still the same.

 

amrutmhatre90

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Denafrips Ares II
+1 for this

Value for money DAC, if I had the budget would have got this. Whoever owns this loves it.

I bought SMSL SU9 few days back, comes with balanced inputs. I like the way it sounds, enough punch and clarity but Denafrips is in another league.
 

muralimmreddy

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chander

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+1 (for my ears)
The review below compares some of the dacs mentioned here. Don’t think you can go too far wrong with any one of them. Just choose what sonic traits suit your taste.

Thanks - love this guy - his MQA piece taking on tidal was wonderful!
 

raghupb

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Give R-2R a listen. Locally procured Denafrips seems like a good option.

If you can source from UK/EU/US then consider Soekris too. It will be cheaper if bought there and hand carried. DAM1021 or 1121 will be the cheapest if going DIY

Cheers,
Raghu
 
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raghupb

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Looks like quite a few happy with Denafrips Ares II. Curious to know if you feel its a neutral dac?
I don't think you will get a straight answer to this question based on user experience.
"Neutral" is a vague term, as is "warm" or "bright" or "natural" or "organic" or "revealing".
Every single component in the chain brings it own personality.
A user can and will decide if it sounds right/good/bad to him/her.

If you are looking for a measurement based reference to neutrality, there may be one.
On hearing such a component, it may or may not appeal to your preference.
So, if an opportunity presents itself, hear out something different and then decide.

Cheers,
Raghu
 

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I don't think you will get a straight answer to this question based on user experience.
"Neutral" is a vague term, as is "warm" or "bright" or "natural" or "organic" or "revealing".
Every single component in the chain brings it own personality.
A user can and will decide if it sounds right/good/bad to him/her.

If you are looking for a measurement based reference to neutrality, there may be one.
On hearing such a component, it may or may not appeal to your preference.
So, if an opportunity presents itself, hear out something different and then decide.

Cheers,
Raghu
Couldn’t have articulated better.
 

muralimmreddy

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I don't think you will get a straight answer to this question based on user experience.
"Neutral" is a vague term, as is "warm" or "bright" or "natural" or "organic" or "revealing".
Every single component in the chain brings it own personality.
A user can and will decide if it sounds right/good/bad to him/her.

If you are looking for a measurement based reference to neutrality, there may be one.
On hearing such a component, it may or may not appeal to your preference.
So, if an opportunity presents itself, hear out something different and then decide.

Cheers,
Raghu

Thanks for the explanation. Agree its hard to define what is neutrality other than flat response in measurements.
Since OP has asked "DAC that doesn't colour sound" I am trying to get a even subjective opinion


In my long headphone journey, i came across some studio staples beyerdynamic dt-150, sennheiser hd 280, and etymotic's etc, you just instinctively feel its faithfully reproducing the source. I learned you can get outstanding sound for 5-10K INR with these studio staples after spending a lot. I am hoping that RME ADI2 that I mentioned above coming from company producing professional studio products should be close to neutral.
 

Kannan

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From my personal experince of R2R to SD (Sigma Delta) Dacs, either way implementation is important. I have not heard Denafrips, but have heard R2R at some extremes of pricings. With R2R there is no way you can implement by compromising on pricing or component quality. With Sigma Delta it will be diminishing returns as you scale up as good quality DAC can be designed at pretty reasonable cost. The 25 dollar Chromecast Audio is an absolute killer device.

Now coming to the sound quality, both are good, there are subtle differences in presentation, especially upper mids and highs when you listen side by side.

In R2R, I own a dual 1702 NOS Dac, have extensively heard the Soekris, have heard a few cheaper DIY R2R where the bandwidth was lacking and the sound quite coloured and a top of the league DAC which was possibly just a little better than the Soekris.
 

chander

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I am hoping that RME ADI2 that I mentioned above coming from company producing professional studio products should be close to neutral.
if only it was priced 5-10K :p

In R2R, I own a dual 1702 NOS Dac, have extensively heard the Soekris, have heard a few cheaper DIY R2R where the bandwidth was lacking and the sound quite coloured and a top of the league DAC which was possibly just a little better than the Soekris.
@Kannan - just to understand - you are recommending the Soekris (to keep in my shortlist) and which one?
 

SiR

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FM's,

anyone using iFi ZEN Blue V2 , ( any iFi ) couldn't find the DAC they use in it, just they have mentioned ESS Sabre Hyperstream DAC

[ TOPPING D90SE - uses ESS SABRE ES9038PRO DAC ]

Which DAC is good/best, when comparing iFi and Topping ?
 
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