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Which DAC?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
In the process of revamping my system that will utilize a computer (digital output via M-Audio card) and I've been looking at dacs. Anyone have experience, good or bad, with the MSB Link III or the Channel Islands Audio VDA-2? Looking to spend less than a grand and any recommendations are welcome.
post #2 of 18
I'm in the market for one too and was looking at the PS Audio and Benchmark.
post #3 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jefrpol View Post

In the process of revamping my system that will utilize a computer (digital output via M-Audio card) and I've been looking at dacs. Anyone have experience, good or bad, with the MSB Link III or the Channel Islands Audio VDA-2? Looking to spend less than a grand and any recommendations are welcome.

The VDA is very good. Even better with the upgraded PS. I only chose the Benchmark over the VDA2 cause it Has XRL outputs.
post #4 of 18
fwiw I've been happy with my benchmark dac1. Didn't compare it to the ones you mention. At that price range I'd also consider the Lavry unit. I wanted headphone output as well as xlr and rca. You may not need that flexibility so might have more choices.

You might want to look at http://www.head-fi.org/forums/showthread.php?t=161032
This came after I bought my benchmark.
post #5 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by KBI View Post

The VDA is very good. Even better with the upgraded PS. I only chose the Benchmark over the VDA2 cause it Has XRL outputs.

I own the VDA-2, and it's a wonderfully musical DAC made by a pretty amazing guy. Just today I sent it back to Dusty b/c mine is from a series that needs "upgrading" of a few internal components, which I was told, would lower the noise floor even more and up the overall quality of sound.

This upgrade is being performed for free, and will be shipped back to me for free.

Further, because the VDA-2 is a native balanced DAC, Dusty also sells an adapter cable for $149 that you plug into all 4 RCAs (1 set out of phase with the other to create the balanced signal) and then terminates in XLR.

I just ordered a Headroom Balanced Desktop with Home Module so am psyched to see how these two will play along!
post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by eharuki View Post

I own the VDA-2, and it's a wonderfully musical DAC made by a pretty amazing guy. Just today I sent it back to Dusty b/c mine is from a series that needs "upgrading" of a few internal components, which I was told, would lower the noise floor even more and up the overall quality of sound.

This upgrade is being performed for free, and will be shipped back to me for free.

Further, because the VDA-2 is a native balanced DAC, Dusty also sells an adapter cable for $149 that you plug into all 4 RCAs (1 set out of phase with the other to create the balanced signal) and then terminates in XLR.

I just ordered a Headroom Balanced Desktop with Home Module so am psyched to see how these two will play along!

I've been thinking of getting the CIA Dac...isn't the cable offered on his site (quality not withstanding) made by other companies or is this a unique design?
post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jefrpol View Post

I've been thinking of getting the CIA Dac...isn't the cable offered on his site (quality not withstanding) made by other companies or is this a unique design?

That's a good question - one that I haven't been able to fully flesh out, so I just bought the one from Dusty. I believe he outsources the production of the cable, but since his DAC design is unique, the cables would then be unique to fit the purpose.

It was actually a bonus for me, as I'm only now getting into a balanced headphone setup, and I bought the DAC about 1-2 years ago for single ended purposes. I was seriously considering the Benchmark DAC1 but lo and behold, for $149 above my original investment, I get a balanced output from a DAC that I love.

If nothing else, buy both - the VDA2 from Music Direct and the Benchmark from, well, Benchmark as they both have 30-day eval periods.
post #8 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jefrpol View Post

In the process of revamping my system that will utilize a computer (digital output via M-Audio card) and I've been looking at dacs. Anyone have experience, good or bad, with the MSB Link III or the Channel Islands Audio VDA-2? Looking to spend less than a grand and any recommendations are welcome.

I bought a used MSB Link II with mods very inexpensively on eBay and am very happy with the sound coming out of an M-Audio Audiophile 2496 via coax. I believe that the III version is essentially the same components with more upgrade potential.

For my purposes (2 channel music only) I would prefer a used MSBL II with upgraded parts than a new, significantly more expensive v. III. The other DACs you mention are very highly thought of but more expensive. Once you get near $1000 (I spent *much* less) there are a number of good options.

Ron
post #9 of 18
Do you guys really notice a difference in 2 channel music with external DACs vs. the squeezebox or something similar?
post #10 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by elmalloc View Post

Do you guys really notice a difference in 2 channel music with external DACs vs. the squeezebox or something similar?

The squeezebox DOES have its own DAC, if you wish to use it.
post #11 of 18
What do you believe about the Squeezebox's DAC? Good enough for a beginner?

Trying to minimize costs while sitll being impressed by tube amps.
post #12 of 18
This is a response your wallet may not want you to read...

Yes, the DAC in the Squeezebox V3 is decent - it's a Burr Brown, although I don't recall which one in particular. I enjoyed my Squeezebox for months and months until the dreaded day when on a lark I started reading up on what the big friggin' deal with DACs was. Eventually I came across the Channel Islands Audio VDA2, and bought one from Music Direct. The rest is sweet musical history.

To my ears, there's no comparison. Cleaner, blacker, sweeter, all sense of veil lifted from the music. Very recently, I sent the DAC back to Dusty to have it upgraded and started listening to the Squeezebox and my Denon DVD-2900, both using its respective DACs, with its analog outs feeding my headphone amp.

Man, those were a looonngg few days that I had to wait for the DAC to return. The sound just sucked! Right away I knew something was just... wrong, just blah! The DAC came back, and all was right with the world again.

I say just buy it. Go to MusicDirect.com and buy it - they have a 30 day return policy if it doesn't float your boat. In my case, it became the irreplaceable soul of my system - nothing else (other than speakers / headphones of course) in my audio chain makes more of a difference.
post #13 of 18
I am ont buying that particular DAC, but probably the perpetual tech stack (p1/p3)...thanks.
post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by elmalloc View Post

I am ont buying that particular DAC, but probably the perpetual tech stack (p1/p3)...thanks.

Elmalloc,
Did you get the DAC? I am struggling also with the decision whether to add an external DAC to one of my network players, so I am curious about your experience with it....
post #15 of 18
Not sure if anyone mentioned the new dac from peachtree audio, integrated 50 wpc, usb, toslink, pretty neat unit tube pre amp I think
post #16 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by monsteraudio View Post

Not sure if anyone mentioned the new dac from peachtree audio, integrated 50 wpc, usb, toslink, pretty neat unit tube pre amp I think

Monsteraudio, have you seen this unit yet? A local boutique audio shop says they're getting it soon, but still nothing. Does look interesting though....
post #17 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by elmalloc View Post

What do you believe about the Squeezebox's DAC? Good enough for a beginner?

Trying to minimize costs while sitll being impressed by tube amps.


I've done quite a bit of playing with different SB3 setups. I have the Bolder Enthusiast mods done to mine, digital and analog section. I also have their modded Elpac power supply and the Ultimate Power supply. And the DAC's I've tried with it are a Lavry, Benchmark, Lite DAC-60, and Xindak DAC-5.

My favorite is using the analog out of the SB3 when hooked to the Ultimate power supply, second is analog out with the modded Elpac.

Before I had the mods done I used it with all those Dac's as well and they all made huge gains, my favorite of the Dac's is the Xindak. But once the Bolder mods were performed, using the analog out sounds best.

So for $525 get the Enthusiast mods done to the analog section only, and get the modded Elpac PS. Those are about the same price as a used Benchmark DAC and give superior performance on a SB3.
post #18 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by eharuki View Post

I own the VDA-2, and it's a wonderfully musical DAC made by a pretty amazing guy. Just today I sent it back to Dusty b/c mine is from a series that needs "upgrading" of a few internal components, which I was told, would lower the noise floor even more and up the overall quality of sound.

This upgrade is being performed for free, and will be shipped back to me for free.

Further, because the VDA-2 is a native balanced DAC, Dusty also sells an adapter cable for $149 that you plug into all 4 RCAs (1 set out of phase with the other to create the balanced signal) and then terminates in XLR.

I just ordered a Headroom Balanced Desktop with Home Module so am psyched to see how these two will play along!

That doesn't work for me since My headphones are in a balanced configuration & need a male XRL out put..
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