Looking for a Dac --- focused imaging, good sound stage, no-forward vocal

Hixs

Distinguished Member
Can't beat a bit of distortion 😂;)
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Sell your amp, dac and ancillaries and buy one of these to replace the lot.

RP will add massively more than any possible dac.

 

hwest

Novice Member
Dear all,
I am looking for a good DAC to replace my Audiolab M-dac (the old one).
Source: Bluesound n130 ---Chord coax----> Old dac: Audiolab M-dac --- Chord clear RCA ----> Amplifier: Yamaha a-s 1200 ----> Speakers: B&W 606s2.
I listen to instruments (cello, piano, violin, etc) and watch movies most of the time.

I consider focused imaging as the priority and then the separation and sound stage. I do not like forward vocals. As my amplifier is single-ended, a DAC that is good at the single-end output would be really appreciated.

Indeed, I have been searching around according to my budget (<2000) and landed at:
Qutest (good single end) --- relatively poor dynamic, forward vocal, and poor bass? Can be improved using a good power supply?
Matrix Sabre pro ---- close to Qutest, not sure about single-end output.
R2R---- I never listened to R2R, so it is difficult...

I can only order Dac online, most likely without a home-try-return policy. Your comments are most welcome.

Thanks,
T.

I have been through so many receivers and separates and the old Onkyo PRC-5530 with a great TI Burr brown DAC and clean amplifier produces the best quality sound I have ever heard. The new receivers with the AKM 768's sound ok for movies but can't match the PRC-5530 for movies but especially music. If you have never heard an Onkyo PRC5530 with a clean amp you really won't understand what you're missing therefor anything else sounds good but not great, not powerful, not engaging with the kind of separation you get in extremely high end systems. I could never get a Mcintosh, Rotel, or other expensive systems to sound nearly as good and I tweaked every setting. Denon and Pioneer, Marantz, all of those brands are garbage when it comes to the qualities mentioned above, they are just not engaging and never have been, commodity stuff not on the edge of anything special. Even the newer Onkyo's are not up to the test so I'm sticking with my PRC5530 until it dies, it supports Dobly Atmos and 4K passthrough so I'm good for awhile. My next receiver may have to be either an Audiocontrol with Sabre DAC's or Emotiva that does many things around an AKM DAC that should produce good sound but if it doesn't I have 30 days to return it.
 
Last edited:

hwest

Novice Member
Dear all,
I am looking for a good DAC to replace my Audiolab M-dac (the old one).
Source: Bluesound n130 ---Chord coax----> Old dac: Audiolab M-dac --- Chord clear RCA ----> Amplifier: Yamaha a-s 1200 ----> Speakers: B&W 606s2.
I listen to instruments (cello, piano, violin, etc) and watch movies most of the time.

I consider focused imaging as the priority and then the separation and sound stage. I do not like forward vocals. As my amplifier is single-ended, a DAC that is good at the single-end output would be really appreciated.

Indeed, I have been searching around according to my budget (<2000) and landed at:
Qutest (good single end) --- relatively poor dynamic, forward vocal, and poor bass? Can be improved using a good power supply?
Matrix Sabre pro ---- close to Qutest, not sure about single-end output.
R2R---- I never listened to R2R, so it is difficult...

I can only order Dac online, most likely without a home-try-return policy. Your comments are most welcome.

Thanks,
T.
B&W's are great, Yamaha for anything not so much. Try an Emotiva AMP and you won't believe the difference. They are in a different class.
 

Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
B&W's are great, Yamaha for anything not so much. Try an Emotiva AMP and you won't believe the difference. They are in a different class.
To be honest I think you are being disrespectful to OP. Perhaps it is not your intention.

Still Yamaha are legends, and always be be. But if you are really serious about the AS1200 is trash, then by al means.

Then Marantz, Denon also.

Can you tell me why?
 

dollag

Well-known Member
I am with @Paul7777x 100 percent.

Without seeing your room, I'd seriously consider getting an amplifier with good room eq.

I prefer listening to my music through an avreceiver with dirac over my pretty expensive dac, which i feel only benefits my headphone rig. through a blind a/b i can hear a difference and i know what's what; however, there is not denying bass, imaging and soundstage are main benefits of using a good room eq for your system and this is pretty obvious comparing them in the same space with the same equipment. the return on your investment would be a lot more than a dac imo. just my 2 pence
 

ashenfie

Well-known Member
I have been through so many receivers and separates and the old Onkyo PRC-5530 with a great TI Burr brown DAC and clean amplifier produces the best quality sound I have ever heard. The new receivers with the AKM 768's sound ok for movies but can't match the PRC-5530 for movies but especially music. If you have never heard an Onkyo PRC5530 with a clean amp you really won't understand what you're missing therefor anything else sounds good but not great, not powerful, not engaging with the kind of separation you get in extremely high end systems. I could never get a Mcintosh, Rotel, or other expensive systems to sound nearly as good and I tweaked every setting. Denon and Pioneer, Marantz, all of those brands are garbage when it comes to the qualities mentioned above, they are just not engaging and never have been, commodity stuff not on the edge of anything special. Even the newer Onkyo's are not up to the test so I'm sticking with my PRC5530 until it dies, it supports Dobly Atmos and 4K passthrough so I'm good for awhile. My next receiver may have to be either an Audiocontrol with Sabre DAC's or Emotiva that does many things around an AKM DAC that should produce good sound but if it doesn't I have 30 days to return it.
Didn't AKM factory burn down, and that the cause of chip shortages across the world, so it might be a long wait.

I have seen a few AVR updates that simply look like they have changed over to Sabre DAC
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Didn't AKM factory burn down, and that the cause of chip shortages across the world, so it might be a long wait.
Certainly did, 100% loss.
 

Spigot

Active Member
If you can't audition then you can only go by measurements, and even if you could audition any of these you shouldn't hear a difference. The Topping D30Pro is apparently measurably transparent (slightly better than the chord, and a fifth of the price(£400)). You could also get any of the new £100 dacs from schiit, atom, smsl and topping and not hear any difference, it seems to be a solved technology for not much money.

If you want AKM then there's the Topping E30, which is £150, and again according to measurements will sound as good as anything, and will have way lower noise and distortion than any amp/speaker/headphone.
Topping D30Pro Review (Balanced DAC)
Topping E30 DAC Review

There's also this smsl m400 for £860 (AK4499) which has many nice features and vanishingly small noise/distortion.
SMSL M400 Balanced USB MQA DAC Review
For £700 there's the topping d90 (AK4499): Topping D90 Balanced USB DAC Review
(for reference, here's the one you mentioned: Review and Measurements of CHORD Qutest DAC )

With the more expensive ones you're paying for more features and outputs, there shouldn't be audible differences from the budget ones (according to measurements).

Also, don't bother with any fancy power supplies unless you already have an audible mains hum problem. That same audio site has connected several power supplies/filters/conditioners (some costing thousands) to various dacs and it made no measurable change to its output. DACs seem to convert noisy ac to dc pretty well, even at the budget level.
 

Tension255

Active Member
Thanks, guys. Sorry for the late update, but I have been dealing with some dirty people these days. Now finally have a second to relax.
In the end, I got an Etude and a Dave (from Chord). Mainly because every post online says they have a good image/stage. Indeed, they are great, but not a good combo with my B&W 606s. Too revealing and analytical. I am now searching for a new pair of speakers that can smooth the upper mid-low treble a bit.

Thanks all, all the same!
T.
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
@Tension255 Sonus Faber are renown for having a smooth and realistic midrange so may be worth looking at the Lumina 2 or a step up to the Sonetto 2 if you want standmounts, there is a good review on here of them. However, as always, best to get an audition with your won kit and preferably in your won room if you can.


 

Tension255

Active Member
Thanks, Ugg10, I did not get a chance to try it at the local store. I found Kef r3 and dynaudio evoke 20 are a bit better than the others. So compared to r3 and evoke 20, how does the sonetto 2 and lumina 2 sound?
Cheers
T.
 

AudioJosh

Active Member
I strongly recommend the Q Acoustics Concept 300's if your budget allows and you can audition them. They might be just what you're looking for.
 

gava

Well-known Member
I strongly recommend the Q Acoustics Concept 300's if your budget allows and you can audition them. They might be just what you're looking for.

Definitely worth a try.

The upper registers are extremely clean. Plenty of detail but not forward or shouty at all. Astonishing sound stage. Quite likely a very good match for the rest of your setup - they do need an amp with plenty of power to truly come alive but your Yamaha will be fine.

If you get them placed right and bring someone in blindfolded, sit them down, play some music and ask them to point to where they think the speakers are you would likely get the response "I have no idea." or possibly "I thought you had a band in here." :)

I got mine from @Yorkshire AV who were good enough to allow a 30-day return if I wasn't happy, I'm not sure if they still do that but it takes a lot of the risk out of the equation.
 

TB Rich

Well-known Member
In the end, I got an Etude and a Dave (from Chord)

Thanks, Ugg10, I did not get a chance to try it at the local store. I found Kef r3 and dynaudio evoke 20 are a bit better than the others. So compared to r3 and evoke 20, how does the sonetto 2 and lumina 2 sound?
Cheers
T.

I've heard KEF R series with a Chord Dave, sounded great, but.... you've bought a £9000 DAC(!), you need to be looking at way better speakers than any of those mentioned.
Conventional wisdom would be that speakers should be the best most expensive item in the chain, or, at the very least on a parity with the source!

I wouldn't look at anything less than KEF Reference series to use with a Dave etc. To be shopping at the £1000-£2000 mark as with all those you've suggested, seems horribly unbalanced to me.
- and if that's the speaker budget then you should probably have reversed it with the DAC budget.
 

Khazul

Well-known Member
I've heard KEF R series

Many KEF speakers have quite a good smooth off axis response which tends to make then much more forgiving of the room in which they are placed. For anyone in a position to have to buy without auditioning, then they can often be a good safe bet for this reason and may indeed sound better in a non ideal room than something much more expensive.
 

Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
I would very much borrow OP ears, or clone them if that amount cash can justify the cost in the long run.
 

TB Rich

Well-known Member
Many KEF speakers have quite a good smooth off axis response which tends to make then much more forgiving of the room in which they are placed. For anyone in a position to have to buy without auditioning, then they can often be a good safe bet for this reason and may indeed sound better in a non ideal room than something much more expensive.
Yes I find my R5 very smooth, with the right front end at least, as they also have enough resolution to punish too. The Dave DAC has both resolution and smoothness, having heard the pairing as I said it’s very good and frankly can’t go wrong with it’s sound signature - but it doesn’t redress the massive delta in speaker to DAC price mind!
 

mseve1

Active Member
The Dave DAC has both resolution and smoothness, having heard the pairing as I said it’s very good and frankly can’t go wrong with it’s sound signature - but it doesn’t redress the massive delta in speaker to DAC price mind!

And don't forget the Dave is feeding a £4k Chord Étude which further adds further to the price delta...
 

Tension255

Active Member
Hey, all,
the budget runs out ..... can only get 2-3 k speakers (for now). My system now is over-exciting .... need to find something smooth >2 KHz at least.....

Heard r3 with my etude. Great sound. I owned a pair of r3 previously and thought they were too forgiving. To my surprise, with Etude, they sound excited but not aggressive. Leaning towards r3.

Evoke20 was also quite ok, a touch more relaxed than r3.

Special 40 are a bit thin at the top to my ears.

Evoke 10 is far behind all mentioned above.

The local store has no Sonus Faber at this moment. But previously I did hear Sonett II. They seem to be also great-sounding speakers.

Mellow and slightly rolled-off sound speakers seem to be a good combo with my gears.

Planning a home demo with R3s .... ;-)
 

Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
Speaking of the DAC, if you can hear any sound difference then that’s all that matter.

But am afraid you perhaps are pushing the envelope to far, and may regret buying it, then selling it with considerable loss.

If the top end is bothering you, then B&W is not the way to go. This you of course know.

If buying used speakers, then perhaps Harbeth might interest you.
 

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