What D/A convertor would you use with $2 to spend?
Lavry DA10Benchmark DAC1Grace m901Apogee miniDACother?
Just wondering what other people use?
Greetings and welcome!
My short list would include:
Channel Islands DACCIA 24 Bit D/A converter
I've heard it on numerous occasions and it is fantastic. I'd be hard pressed to name a flaw, even after hearing it in a few really high end set-ups. I'd call it a bargain at 2K, but it's only a few hundred bucks. Really worth your attention.
I've also heard and really liked the Benchmark line. Very refined. Another winner product.
Lastly on my list is the PS Audio DAC - super quiet and well behaved.
Even though those are cheaper than your budget, I think they are fab.
The new sub thousand dollar DACs are doing what 20,000 dollar DACs did five years ago! (IMHO)
Another thing to consider would be to think about spending that 2K for an all in one player - fewer cable expenses and also a very highly evolved group of performers!
Buddha brings up some good points. What will be you using as a transport? Why do you want a DAC? In my experience a one box CD player will out perform a comparably priced Transport/DAC set up. Mostly this is because in a one box CD player you have much less digital jitter than in a Transport/DAC set up. A couple of years ago the Transport/DAC set up was preferable simply because it allowed more flexibility in the upgrade path and digital technology was moving in leaps and bounds every six months. Things have slowed down considerably. Now I believe that single box units have the advantage.
The Edge - Do you mean Grace m902? Or the earlier Grace 901 (no m)? They're both very good headphone amps (I happen to own both.) But, I have to say, I'm less than impressed by the DACs in them. They're good, but, to my ears, a bit grainy up top (to my ears, it's as if there was a light dusting on top of vocals... not a lot, pretty fine, but, there.) The DACs definitely don't have the liquidity of something like the Linn CD12 (I know, what does?), but, are probably better than a lot of 16/44.1 DACs. You should listen for yourself, because your ears may not agree.
Some people I know prefer the headphone section of the 901 to the m902. I haven't bothered to spend the time comparing them head to head. I tend to listen to the m902 more (using an outboard DAC) because I like the crossfeed feature. It's a gently applied circuit and not overdone. It's been a long time since I've heard an DACs by Apogee and I haven't heard the others on your list.
I have a SONY SCD-777 SACD/CD player, and even though it sounds very good, it sounds even better through my Theta Pro Basic 3 converter (balanced), with balanced outputs to my AR LS-26 preamp. Truly excellent sound!
The Theta is no longer produced, but I think you can look around and find a used one for around $1000; you will find very few that sound better. The Pro Basic 2 is a definite step below it; it sounds fairly good, but the 3 is really much better.
I think either the Pro Basic 2 or 3 sounds better than anything you can currently buy for under $2000.