Assuming I am using the SGCD as a DAC only, I am curious what would be the next level up? Sources are PWT and rpi/volumio for Spotify Premium/NAS/TuneIn. I realize the only option new is the end game DirectStreamDAC, but what about used? Is a PWD getting too long in the tooth and not a major jump? I have not seen many DS Jrs available, but I imagine that’s a step up the ladder. A switch from the I2S port to SPDIF on the PWT gives me access to other brands (lot’s of competition) and perhaps more features (the CA CXNv2 has a lot going for it in terms an all-in-one convenience - e.g., https://darko.audio/tag/cxn-v2/). It’s a pity there isn’t a stellar DAC with bridge option.
Check out the new Stellar Strata:
That’s adding even more components that I do not require (pre+power) just to add a slightly newer (not necessarily better) DAC + streamer. Was hoping for someone to recommend a new or used standalone DAC (by PS or others) that could improve on the SGDC at price point somewhere between a SGDC and DS.
Gotcha. Sorry about that. I think the only current PS options if you are only interested in a DAC are the Gain Cell and then it jumps up to the DS SR.
With that said there are still some good used deals that pop up from time to time for DS SR and DS Jr.
I own all three of the aforementioned devices and highly recommend them if you can find one within your budget.
Best of luck!
Thanks! I will certainly be on the look out for a used DS Jr.
I would also like to hear anyone who has compared a SGCD to a Mytek Liberty or Holo Audio Cyan DSD in terms of if they thought it would be a sideways step (esp. if they utilized the I2S on the SGCD)
Of course the next step up is the DS Jr.
It is quite apparent that at the more budget level up to say $5,000 there has for some time been an increasing trend for combining streaming/DAC and often with a pre-amp, and a key selling point is the quality of the streaming app and control software, plus whether it is Roon Ready. Of course this avoids connection issues between streamer and DAC and the liking for I2S (which escapes me, which is a very rarely used and limiting method, as you note in your opening post).
As PSA has been late to the streaming game, with only the Strata issued, you would have to look at other brands. Auralic streamers are popular here and I’ve used two of them, liking their software. The Altair G1 would be great except it does not have Spotify onboard, so you would have to connect it to an external Spotify source.
NAD is an obvious choice as it uses the BluOs software that has Spotify onboard, and Amazon HD, which may be a good long term investment. Very few devices have Amazon HD. There is a unit called the C658 and the more expensive M12, which had been around a few years but has been very successful.
The other choice that reflects your original suggestion is the Cambridge Audio Edge NQ, a very well regarded unit about the same price as the M12.
I read a review the other day that stated what I thought was fairly obvious, that most budget DACs are now pretty much the same, in that you can’t tell one from the next, and you have to spend a lot of money for something that is noticeably better. I doubt the DSD DAC would be considered long in the tooth as standalone DACs seem to have dried up. If you look at Stereophile’s DACs category https://www.stereophile.com/category/digital-processor-reviews there are very few standalone DACs. Most do something else, whether spinning discs, streaming, headphone amps, etc.
While I would agree that most modern DAC’s are good, and often sound similar, I personally would not consider the DS DAC’s to be “long in the tooth” or obsolete. I have owned too many DACs to count ranging from the same chips used in some of the current Mytek products, Burr-Brown, AKM, Ladder, FPGA, etc and always come back to the DS DACs as my favorite even though the differences are admittedly small. While I still have a long way to go in my journey of learning and growing in this crazy hobby, I would liken the differences between DACs to how a connoisseur of fine wine or cigars, or musical instruments can detect small differences between the products that they are passionate about.
If any particular audiophile can enjoy music as much I do while using less expensive DACs, then I think that is great and more power to them but I personally haven’t found a DAC to be as enjoyable as the PS Audio DS’s without spending considerably more money. Please believe me when I tell you that I have searched far and wide for a way to save some money
I owned the NAD C658 and found it to be the most buggy piece of hardware that I’ve ever purchased and I definitely didn’t enjoy the sound anywhere near the level of my Gain Cell DAC connected directly to my Roon server even after running Dirac calibration multiple times which is a whole story in itself. I am currently testing a Cambridge CXN V2 and am extremely impressed with it for the price and features, but again, it does not compare to my PS Audio stuff when looking to do some serious listening.
I don’t know why anyone, specifically Auralic, would not implement Spotify first. It’s the most popular streaming service and my wife and kids use it.
That said, my wife is now using Roon and loves it. The reason being that she uses it in her clinic and can start a playlist and turn her phone off. With Spotify she had to leave her phone on and it kept on interrupting her.
In the UK Naim have a streaming pre-amp, N-272, unchanged for 4 years, with Spotify Connect. About the same price as the Edge and M12. Can also use an external power supply (as with virtually all Naim products). We have a Naim Muso Qb 2 that has a fabulous software and is Roon Ready.
Thanks, both for your thoughts. For ‘serious’ listening I do tend to stick to my vinyl setup (LP12+SPP), but do still enjoy CDs played from PWT into the SGCD. I find Spotify a great music exploration tool and listening to BBC Radio 3 and 6 music via the rpi often puts me onto some great new music.
Since streaming services are evolving rapidly I worry about investing too much on combined streamer/dac hardware that will become obsolete in just a few years. The CXNV2 does, however, tick a large number of boxes and at ~$1.1K is quite affordable. It also allows me to access Qobuz without an additional cost of a premium volumio subscription.
So you would still rate the SGCD over the CXN V2?
I think the Gain Cell DAC sounds better (more analog) to my ears but the CXN V2 is definitely more convenient to play music from. I can kick off music directly from my iphone or iPad using the Spotify App, or Tidal app, or Roon, or the Cambridge App. Spotify, Airplay and Google Cast are extremely convenient because I can control the volume directly from the volume up and down buttons on the iPhone. I think Cambridge did a great job tuning the device to sound very good with Spotify, Airplay and Google Cast.
I currently have the CXN V2 connected to the Gain Cell DAC via home theatre bypass mode, and will often start listening sessions with that. When I really start getting into the groove, I will then switch to my Direct Streaml Jr and then take the listening enjoyment up another level.
I have come to learn that I greatly prefer the sound of high quality analog volume controls. I used to love the sound of my DS direct into my amps but then my eyes were opened to the value of inserting a high quality preamp in the signal path by adding a Gain Cell DAC in one room and a BHK Preamp in another room.
I have several devices that do a good job with digital volume control such as my DS SR/JR, Sony TAZH1ES, McIntosh MHA150, but they still sound more “digital” than analog to me. Paul has created a couple of videos and forum posts about this topic which really helped to bring clarity to what my ears were hearing.
Hope you are able to glean something helpful from all of that
I’m using a Chord Qutest>PS Audio SGCDac setup for my office headphone rig. It’s a step up from the DAC alone in the SGCDac / Preamp. I’ve had the DSJr, and it’s a nice DAC, but I’m not a fan of the Bridge ii. I think you’re better off when using another streamer other than the Bridge ii.
After a fair bit of surfing, I think while the CXN V2 offers a lot of functionality, I won’t be happy with a downgrade on the digital sound. I am now leaning towards getting a Altair G1 due to it having a good app to control it, a digital in for the PWT (unlike the Lumin D2), will index my collection of music on the NAS and can be fitted with an internal SSD - a simple one box solution. If the sound is on a par with the SGCD (TBD!) then it will be very livable and opens up hires services like Qobuz. Following that I will be looking at changes that improve the entire system (analog and digital) such as looking at the power and eventually a BHK preamp.