Best DAC’S $5k to $15k

I have Chord Mscaler and TT2 and it’s very good. I’ve been considering the DAVE. Any recommendations? 


I have DAVE and M-scaler. they are excellent.  Better than great.  Spectacular.    that said, I'd like to hear some of the other responses to this thread.


Given your positive experience with the Chord Mscaler and TT2, the Chord DAVE could be a great choice within your budget. It’s known for its exceptional sound quality and performance. 🎧 Dog blog 🎶 However, I recommend auditioning it if possible to ensure it meets your preferences.

There are obviously many great DACs in that wide price range so it’d be most helpful to know what specific improvements and sound characteristics you’re looking for in order to suggest other DACs that might be worth considering.


yep …. Nailed it ….. +1

FWIW, check out the myriad of top-tier performance and build units offered by MOON by SIMAUDIO … they have units in your $5K to $15K range, and further to $25K.

1. Made in Canada with platinum support and class-leading digital interface/ app
2, built like a tank and outstanding top tier performance
3 If you Register it properly within 30 days of purchase , the warranty is 10 years
4. Upgrade pathway like no other if you want to upgrade it to a higher unit:
- within first year: 100% trade in value credit of full original purchase price
- within second year: 75% trade in value credit of full original purchase price




I'm waiting for "room treatment guy" to chime in.....

You know ...the guy with 1000 dollar system and 10K in room treatments.



In my home, the Tambaqui bested the Dave.  We did not have the M Scaler; is this Chord's streamer?

+1 on the Moon by Simaudio recommendation by @akg_ca . They have some spectacularly good products, I'll be installing a 780D in my system in a few weeks time 😀


For context I've owned a PS Audio Directstream, Jeff Rowland Aeris, and Bricasti M1. I had a home audition of a Chord TT2 with Mscaler, Rockna Signature, Mola Mola Tambaqui, DCS Bartok(non-APEX), DCS Rossini APEX DAC, and several others.

I currently own a Chord Dave DAC without the Mscaler. I don't like the Mscaler in my system. To my ears the Mscaler makes everything sound artificial. In direct comparison to the TT2 with Mscaler, I found the Dave more open and detailed.

In my opinion differences between highend components are often exaggerated. I've heard differences between all of the DACs, but none were night and day. I often find there is a trade-off when switching from one DAC to another. The Bartok was too dark in  my system, while the Rossini was way too bright(best soundstage). I found the Mola Mola Tambaqui to be very close to the Dave, but in my system the Dave produced better defined bass. If I owned the Tambaqui, I wouldn't sell it for the Dave, that's how close they sound in my system.

The knock on the Dave is it's supposed to be bright and/or analytical sounding. In my opinion we must consider the rest of the "system". In my "system" the Dave just sounds right based on my preferences. The Dave is very open, 3-dimensional, very good tonality, and produces detail without brightness. That being said, you may prefer something else in your system.

I’ve tried a few and the ones that sound most non fatiguing and natural to my ears are the Audio Mirror Toubadour V and the Merason DAC1 latest version. I use both one in my main system and one in my office system. Speakers are Dali Epicon 8 and Focal Diablo Utopia. Amps are pathos adrenalin and kinki B7 monoblocks. streamers are Lumin U2 and Hifi Rose 130. I’ve also tried them out with Sophia electric Set amps and gold note 1175 amp. 

I tried the Dave but ultimately didn’t go for it. Also have a Schitt Yggdrasil OG and Okto Dac8 as cheaper alternatives but the AM Toubadour and merason blow them out of the water. 

You should try the Wyred4sound 10th anniversary DAC, one of the reviewers put it up against his VPI turntable with a $5,000 Japanese cartridge and he said that the 10th anniversary DAC sounded every bit as analog, on that review I bought it and I totally agree one of the most analog DACS I've had in my system, and they also give you a 30-day trial period if you don't like it you can send them back and get your money back I don't think you will if you try it.

We are so close to Munich HiFi 2024. You might want to wait and see what new DAC might be released during that show.

My two cents:  I tried the TT2 (without the M-Scaler) vs the T+A DAC 200 in my system and preferred the T+A.  The Chord was a bit lean in comparison.  The Dave and Tambaqui are obviously on another level price-wise and I'm sure performance-wise.

Depends on what sound you are looking for of course. I personally prefer the sound  of R2R ladder DACs, and the Denafrips Terminator Plus 12th is the best out there. All the traits you want from a game changing DAC, but with a more “analog” prest

My pal with his end kit prefers his Holo May KTE DAC to his combo Chord Dave and M-Scaler, the latter of which he sold and is extremely happy with the upgrade.  Don Sachs is ecstatic with the sound of his Lampizator DAC, as close as you can get to analogue SQ in the digital realm.  The Lampi's I have heard at audio shows have been astonishing.

I have heard many within the last 2 years the T+A

200 dac retail $6200 can meet or beat Any dac up to $15k

Or more ,read reviews then get a demo ,many dealers will send you 

One to buy before you buy.


-2.6 Ferrum Wandla - HR competes w 10k DACs

+1.2 HYPSOS power supply

3.0 Musician Aquarius - sounds like a $5k DAC

4.3 Denafrips Terminator [BNC in, XLR out](But USB in best per AudioBacon)

4.5 Wired4Sound DAC-2v2SE

-5.0 Audio-GD R7HE MK2

5.6 Kitsune Hifi May-KTE.

*6.6 Lampizator Baltic 4 (punches way above price point- beats KTE).

-6.8 Bel Canto Ex1 DAC (Transparent)

-7.1 T+A DAC200

7.3 Lampizator Golden Atlantic TRP,


8.0 Legacy Wavelet II processor +$200 custom speaker

10.5 Meitner’s MA 3.

12.0 Mojo Mystique Pro (max 24/192)

*12.0 Rockna Wavedream EditionSignature DAC balanced

-13.4 Mola Mola’s Tambaqui

15.0 APL Hi-FI DSD-SR mk2 (most analog, unique sound)

I picked up the streamer+DAC Linn Klimax DSM/2 w Organik DAC card upgrade because it seemed like a sonic bargain compared to the best DACs.  


What do the numbers and their + and - signs represent?

numbers are prices (not up to date), “-“ I like, “*” I like a lot.

i keep lists of components I like including future upgrades/endgame targets.

If you already have a chord dac, just going up the chain with another chord dac isn't going to be a revelation/enlightening. Try a different type of dac for a different flavor.

You could add the Aavik D-280  (Price ~12k, a different type of dac/different technology) from AudioGroupDenmark to your audition list.

Mola Mola Tambaqui is also a strong candidate.

There is also a lot of trash/foolery in this price bracket (not even remotely worth the price)...Beware!


I highly recommend MOJO Audio. Ben has garnered 

multiple positive reviews/ awards. He is available by phone.

MOJO-AUDIO.COM. HE offers a trial period.

Definitely look at an ARC DAC 9. I compared mine (actually a CD9SE) with a $22K Berkeley Alpha Reference.. I was prepared to shell out the money for the Berkeley, but found the ARC ever so slightly (but importantly) more musical… while the Berkeley was a tiny ( itsy, bitsy) bit more detailed (tiny). I have had a couple other more expensive DACs in my system and the ARC bested them, particularly in terms of natural and musical, and equaled in terms of detail.

So, Chord has a particular sound profile that is unlike most other brands. Detailed, musical and a touch forward.  It has incredible depth between the speakers in terms of image.  It lacks width and height of other DACs in this range. 

Other you could consider - Weiss 501/502.  Will have a bit more scale than the Chord at the expense of image depth.  Both are incredibly detailed.  Tonally similar.  This unit has incredible DSPs and can be tweaked in ways most other DACs can’t.  

Bircasti will have a far larger image in terms of width and height with good depth.  It will not be as detailed as the Chord or Weiss and is also less forward and more neutral.  This is true for all three DACs (M3, m1 and M21) with M3 being far less detailed.  

Rockna is incredibly detailed and is class leader in terms of image width and height.  It lacks depth.  The signature is most detailed of all of these while the Edition is quite competitive with the others in terms of detail.

Playback MPD6 is at the very top of your price range and is INSANELY good.  The unit is neutral with good depth, width and height.  It has great detail and there is a musicality to PBD that no one else really delivers.

meitner MA3 is $10.5k and is slightly warm.  Strong detail and a hair soft.  If your system is cold, this is just what the doctor ordered.  Good detail, great image and a built in streamer to boot.  

Soul Note D2 and Lumin X1 sound virtually identical.  Soul Note is $9k and DAC only, Lumin X1 is $14k and includes VC and Streamer.  Brilliant units that are good all around.  Not best at anything but good in terms of image and detail.  Tonally just a hair bright.  

There are others that are awesome.  Jadis, Berkeley, MSB, etc….  The above (except Lumin) are all brands I carry.   The key is system matching and what do you want to change about your current sound.

things that can help narrow down choice.  What is your current DAC?  What is the balance of the system?  What do you like/dislike about current sound?  

My final shortlist last year included the Dave, the Bartok and the Tambaqui. All are great DACS and, frankly, the decision comes down to your system and environment, your musical tastes and the state of your ears! (as for any of us). 

For my tastes, system and room (YMMV!), the Tambaqui came out ahead of the others: the Dave (without the MScaler) had fantastic detail and clarity but lacked impact, imaging and staging compared to the others, the Bartok was very close, but benefited surprisingly more from an external streamer and the Tambaqui just did it all, with that near-indefinable dose of musicality and engagement.

By a country mile best dac, value put together the T+A200 dac for $6k nothing is in its league at $6k,even 2x that it still competes with anything up to $15k very well .

visiting many audio get togethers ,my brother owns the dac200 with HQ player incorporated ,which allows you to tune to your taste. I have heard at least 90% out there . At the moment the Mrs has me engaged in building a home edition ,meaning 

I get 💩-0 until this is finished which still not started .I have not really purchased 

anything substantial in over a year going through Audio withdrawal .

I guess 🎅 🎄 if I am lucky 🍀 . Go listen to at least 3-4  then in your audio system 

before you commit .

This one's easy for me.  The Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC is the best under $20K that I've ever heard.  The myriads of reviews out there are unanimous in their praise. Super transparent, smooth up top, excellent bass slam and articulation, and very 3D. At $13,500 it's one of the gifts of the audio world. 

I had a Lampizator Golden Gate, the sound could be tailored by tube rolling.

I now have the Mola Mola coupled with a Grimm MU1 streamer which soubd tremendous. The streamer is as important as the DAC.

Have owned a TotalDAC D1 for a few years and love it.

I think they will be presenting a complete system in muich this year.


You won't be able to hear a difference.

Yet another highly useful comment from The Flat Earth Society. 🙄

At $13,500 I don't think a better DAC can be had than the Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC. Most reviewers and critics have concluded one has to spend > 50K to get anything that sounds nominally better. 

I will add this.  If a DAC has a top quality volume control/preamp it can eliminate a component.  Not all DAC's have this ability. 

spending even 5K, much less 15K is no guarantee that you will get superior sound to a DAC costing under 1K

For me it's the Lampizator line.  The Baltic 4, Atlantic TRP, and Big 7 all fit your price range.  The Lampis beat several of the brands listed above.  I went through a LOT of DACs before settling on the Golden Gate.

@audioman58 The T+A Dac 200 is not $6000, it’s $7600. You have misquoted this in a few threads.


Ok Retail is $7200 but around $6k is what it could be bought for if you shop around 

to be correct,as far as it’s quality of sound it’s very good my most any standard .

My favorite 3 DAC by increasing price, all great :


Mytek Manhattan II

Bricasti M1 SE

Berkeley Audio Design Alpha Ser 3

Try the Ideon EOS or the ION you will be shocked

I really love this comment from Lavornga in his review of this DAC: 


I bet some people are wondering exactly which DAC from ESS is inside the EOS and I’m not saying because it doesn’t matter (imagine going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and spending the entire day trying to figure out what kind of primer each painter used instead of looking at the paintings).

I think I’d like to listen to the Mola Mola

@axeis1 I don't think you could go wrong here


The world needs a new DAC shoot-out!

As many in this thread have alluded to, at this level it is about synergy and particular sonic preferences. 

I would love to see a shoot-out where various power cables and digital cables are swapped out on one DAC, and then the DAC's are swapped out while a particular power cord and digital cable remain in place.

I would bet the listening panel would sense more change with the former than the latter. 

And then we throw different streamer/players into the equation!

Absolutely, listen to the Mola Mola. It is the most perfect sounding DAC I have had in my system, but not the most musical, IMO, and so I sold mine.

However, even if you decide you like something better, it is so good that hearing it in your system will be informative. I suggest playing with the output voltage to optimize for your gear/system and not using the onboard streamer in your audition. Also, some say the I2S input is best so try that if you can.