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julianprice's picture
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Oct 16 2005 - 8:07am
Unbelievable - An inexpensive twenty year old DAC with SUPERB sound

I recently bought a Wadia 170i Ipod transport and then I began to look around for a DAC that would be compatible with the Wadia and not be too costly. Most of the used DACS that I found were WAY too expensive to dedicate to a $300 IPOD transport and I was afraid that I might just have to punt on using my Ipod with "the good stuff"

Then I remembered that I had an almost antique Meridian Bitstream Digital Converter model 203 - very favorably reviewed by Robert Harley and Sam Tellig way back in 1991- lurking in a closet somewhere. (These reviews are still on line in

I finally found the almost 20 year old machine at the bottom of a pile of old discarded computer screens, broken tuners, cassette players and the like.

I got it out, dusted it off, cleaned the terminals, plugged it in and MY GOSH it sounded really, really good.

The thing cost $990 in 2001 and it sounds, to me, as good as some of the new multi-thousand dollar DACs of current vintage.

Mr. Tellig - you and Mr. Harley called it right. This thing does sound good.

Audiogon's Blue Book tells me that these boxes may be had on the used market for less than $200.00. If you have a Wadia 170i and need a dac that will really do the job, I will recommend this Oldie but goodie really, really very highly.

commsysman's picture
Last seen: 1 day 12 hours ago
Joined: Apr 4 2006 - 11:33am
Re: Unbelievable - An inexpensive twenty year old DAC with SUPER

The THETA PRO BASIC DAC is still in my system after close to 20 years, and is excellent. It was $2000 new, but I am sure that you could get one for a few hundred bucks used.

I have used it for many applications, but at present all I use it for is when one of us wants to use my old Yamaha 5-disc player (which has a coaxial digital output). By itself, it basically sounds rather bad, but through the Theta, with balanced connections to my preamp, it sounds fairly good.

hollowman's picture
Last seen: 6 hours 21 min ago
Joined: May 28 2009 - 12:59pm
Re: Unbelievable - An inexpensive twenty year old DAC with SUPER

Old stuff can beat a lot of new stuff if/when modded. I basically went pretty much all DIY a few years back and never regret that decision. E.g., I took a Musical Fidelity A324 DAC -- a class A Stereophile product for a few years -- and performed a few mods. Some suggestions for improving the stock A324 in myriad DIY audio/hi-fi forums:
The sound of the A324 was so greatly improved that I wonder what the hell "class A" really meant?
Moving on, I took an old Philips/Magnavox CD-650, did a couple of inexpensive mods, and bingo: WAY better sound than even the much-modded Musical Fidelity A324. I later expanded the mods to the CD-650 to include an external pwr supply, Pass/D1 I/V stage, etc., etc. And the sound is orders of magnitude better. But the beast is ugly:

Its sound is like Naim, but better than stock Naim; for DIY-modded Naim, see stuff like:

Some audiophiles talk about the

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