Good DAC in the $500 to $1,000 range


Apr 2, 2010
Seattle, WA
Hi guys. We currently carry the Berkeley DAC but like to carry a much lower cost one to pair up with our more value-oriented system (Paradigm/Anthem vs Mark Levinson/Revel). I am searching for a DAC that hopefully has a USB asynch input and retails between $500 and $1,000 mark.

So what suggestions are there?
Thanks guys. Looks like no one owns anything in this tier. What is the general feeling then? Lack of interest? To low or too high a dollar? Not knowing why you would want one?

I am not sure what is available at this point in the $500 to $1,000 especially with the price increases in a lot of equipment. The Lavry DA10 used to be under $1,000, but as I say it lacks the USB input. But, in stock form it is a very good and very capable unit. My DA10 is modified and it is in another league. But, you may want to consider something in the $1,000 to $1,500 range. I believe that the Lavry DA11 may fit that bill.


Do you have any other criteria, such as maximal resolution handling capability or volume control (for direct connection to amplifiers)? The Lavry DA11 tops out at 24/96 currently. With the advent of more USB Class 2-compatible DACs, we should see the higher resolution models becoming more common in the next year.

I am glad you asked. I really like to have built-in volume control. We are trying to build dead simple systems with fewest components. Rather someone put the money toward a better DAC than an extra pre-amp.

I was just reading the review of the DA11 and noticed that limitation. That's a bummer as I have HRx files that I need to play.
Does Cambridge audio makes sense to you? - not sure of their distribution rules.
Does Cambridge audio makes sense to you? - not sure of their distribution rules.
Not the one I have seen. It uses sample rate conversion to get around jitter and I am hoping for a higher-end solution than that.

Expanding, hope to have a three tier solution:

1. "Good." The DAC in any AVR and lower end processors. Cost: Free if you already have one.

2. Better. The device I am searching for here. Good attention to true value add features. Hoping to avoid every garage shop who takes a mass market DAC, slaps a toroidal power supply in a hobby box and calls it done :). Prefer a product from a company who has the means to design and properly test the device to make sure it is a true step up from a component in a mass market product. Hence things like Asynch USB and such.

3. Best. The likes of Berkeley DAC with outboard USB to S/PDIF converter. And DACs in higher-end processors. Cost $4K to $6K to $20K+.

Currently we are set for #1 and #3 but missing the one in the middle.
I'm biased somewhat by the recent purchase of a DAC1 on the cheap but I am really picky about digital sound and this DAC gets my toes tapping and also gets many things right on my own recordings. The level of resolution and bass quality is superb imho.

Look at the DAC1 and strongly consider spending a little more for the USB option.
Just found this new Peachtree Dac:


Doesn't have async USB but the ESS DAC claims to get low jitter without it. We will see :). I will see if I can get my hands on one to evaluate. Searching online, seems like no one has yet reviewed it..... $999.
Steve-As you know I own the EMU 0404 DAC. I'm using mine with USB from my computer/server. I am not happy with the sound, but I don't know if it's because of the USB connection or the DAC just isn't that good or its just me and my aversion to digital. I bought an interface cable so that I can take the S/PDIF signal that is lurking on my MB and feed the S/PDIF signal to the EMU and see if that makes any difference. The jury seems to be out as to whether it will make any difference or sound better or worse based on some comments I received on another thread. The cable should show up next week and I will give it a try. I would like to sort this out as I don't think my digital should be so far in the weeds in comparision to my analog rigs. I know that you liked the sound of the EMU that Larry brought to your house. Until I get this sorted out (assuming I ever do), I personally wouldn't recommend the DAC until the time comes to put it on Audiogon and extoll its virtues.

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