DAC for second system

Putting together an office audio system; with space constraints ( not to mention cost).

Looking at R2R  NOS DACS; for an organic sounding system.

There are many threads on Border Patrol, MHDT, Lab 12 etc.  I see there is an upgraded ( as compared to earlier threads) Border Patrol SE-1.

Any listening perspectives on the upgraded model.

Any suggestions in the 2-3 K price point ( up to 5 if its really good ).



Consider the Schiit Modi Multibit 2. It has a very small footprint and is getting excellent user reviews over at Head-Fi.org -- its the subject of a long thread. I'm really enjoying mine. The only catch is there is now a 10 to 12 week wait for them.

Don't get separates for the office, get a pair of active speakers like the Kef LSX. They are an entire system of speaker/amp/pramp/dac rolled into an active speaker:



or the Paradigm PW-600:


I have the LAB 12 and it’s a great sounding DAC.   Zero features but great sound 

for a small form factor dac with a highly organic and musical presentation, i can heartily recommend a tube buffered dac from mhdt - orchid, stockholm, istanbul, toucan etc etc... lovely, highly refined sweet yet resolving sound, small footprint

greater resolving power than the border patrol (i have had both side by side), sense of space and clearer leading edge transients without any trace of harshness

in the past couple years, i’ve compared the orchid (stock and grannyring modded) against ayre codex, musical paradise, various schiit, chord, denafrips, and numerous higher priced units


oh oops, sorry.

I use an Auralic Altair G1 in my vacation home.  It TOTALLY outclasses and upgrades my 20 year old Parasound / B/W 802N system.  I run it on wifi and it works perfectly.  

I’ve got a Musician Pegasus R2R NOS DAC that, while I wouldn’t call it warm, it is certainly natural and musical sounding with no sense of digititis. It’s got a small footprint and at only $1099 is well within your budget. For about $2k more you can step up to their Aquarius flagship DAC that gives a bit more of everything. Here’s a review, and you can find a review of the Aquarius on the same site.

Now here’s where it gets even better — you can add their Pisces DDC that re-clocks the data and allows you to take advantage of their DAC’s i2S input via HDMI that significantly boosts the performance even higher (from personal experience), and at $619 you’d still be well within your budget with either DAC above. It shares the same footprint and form factor as the DACs so they look good together, and even with the DDC stacked on top of the DAC they’d probably still be around the same size as the Border Patrol DAC. As with the DACs you could step up to their Leo or flagship Phoenix DDC and get better clocks, etc. and still be within budget.

Just another option to ponder, and best of luck.


Here’s a nice Musician Aquarius, that doesn’t  come up used often, at like a 30% discount fyi…


Two inexpensive Musical sounding R2R DACS for 2nd. system that sound wonderful...Denafrips Ares 2 and Schiit Bifrost 2. ....Also... Audiomirror tubed R2R Toubadour IV SE.....@ $3500. Handbuilt in USA. Beautiful Music.

Has anyone heard the upgraded SE-I version of Border Patrol?  Recent reviews have been very postiive.

I have not auditioned it personally but Gustard r26 had excellent reviews. Pay due attentions to its performance relative to the new Ares 12th and BF 2/64.

Consider a Topping DAC.


A friend of mine bought a Topping DAC, he's just getting into audio, he said the topping sounded the same as his CD player from the 80's, but he did say it made music from his computer sound better.

A Topping DAC is the polar opposite of an R2R NOS DAC that the OP is looking for. 

Can't go wrong with that border patrol. I have the basic model from a few years ago and I love it. However, for much cheaper, the musical fidelity v90 is an unreal dac for the money. 

DACs that I have heard in my system that I can recommend in your price range, all are R2R ladder DACs that are not fatiguing:

Denafrips Pontus II DAC - $1,850 for the new 12th anniversary edition

Musician Aquarius DAC - $3,100

Denafrips Terminator 12th anniversary - $5,000

Holo Audio May DAC KTE - $5,600

A Topping DAC is the polar opposite of an R2R NOS DAC that the OP is looking for. 

@soix +1

you beat me to saying this

those recommending the topping in this case are pretty clueless


I did not have the Terminator and the Aquarius in my system at the same time, so I'm going off of a few notes and my memory.....for what that is worth. My equipment: Denafrips Hades Pre-Amp, Denafrips Thallo amp, Tubes4HiFi VTA ST-120 tube amplifier with highly upgraded NOS tubes, BlueSound Node 130 with LHY LPS, Audiolab 6000CDT transport, and Buchardt Audio S400 MK II speakers, very good for the value cables.

(1) Pontus II (Note: I have not yet added the Pontus II firmware update that was released over the weekend, which appears to offer real world improvements) - This is the DAC I currently own and love, I've often posted that this DAC has no comparison at it's price point......and I still feel that way. The Pontus II is lively, detailed (enough for me), wide and high soundstage though soundstage depth is not class leading, great instrument separation, good attack and bass, and glorious mid range, and NEVER fatiguing which is my major concern. The DAC is more on the "comfortable" side of things (which I find all R2R DACs are to some extent), and definitely not analytical.

I have since added the Denafrips Iris DDC ($550) between my LPS modified Node 130 and the Pontus. This has brought the noise floor down greatly, and the background is quieter (black background as some might call it). The soundstage is now even wider and taller, though it didn't do much for the depth. Detail is improved, but still comfortable. The Iris just brought out more of the "goodness" of the Pontus, and covered up more of the Node's faults.

(2) Musician Aquarius - I did not have the Denafrips Iris when I borrowed this unit, so notes are from the DAC alone. Compared to the Pontus the Aquarius is a definite improvement in many areas. It has a wider and taller, and definitely a deeper soundstage. Attack and speed are better, and the bass has a beautiful grip that gets your attention, it has the same wonderful mids of the Pontus and more detail and instrument separation up top....drums sound sublime with this DAC.

What I had issue with, is the detail, speed, and urgency being so defined. This DAC is more "in your face" and let's you know it's there, not the comfortable sound of the Pontus II. To me it was a lightly fatiguing after a few hours, especially with critical listening. However, if you are looking for all of that "extra" from a DAC, it is a GREAT option. Also not that when paired with the tube amplifier, it was amazing. For me the Aquarius is more closely related to the Holo Audio May DAC, for $2,400 less.

(3) Denafrips Terminator II - Here I also did not yet have the Denafrips Iris DDC, so listening is with the DAC only. HOLY CRAP! Take all of the wonderful things I said about the Pontus II, and every single one is improved with the Terminator II. It is more of everything, and improves the things that I feel the Pontus needed: soundstage depth, instrument (and vocal) placement and separation, more detail.....all while keeping the warmth and easy listening sound, it was hard to listen critically as I just wanted to play more music and relax with a warm blanket.

Overall these are 3 great DACs! The Pontus is the definite value winner, the Aquarius is the "more is better" winner, and the Terminator II would be my price doesn't matter winner. Take with a grain of salt: I definitely have a sensitivity to audio components that provide a great amount of detail, they can get "too much" after a few hours of listening and cause me to cut my listening time short.

@vthokie83 Excellent summary and thanks!  That’s kinda what I woulda thought but very helpful to hear from someone who’s heard them all.  BTW, I inserted the Iris into my HeadFi rig and found much the same improvements.  I found the noise floor dropped and imaging improved greatly where individual elements just popped more in a 3D space and more occupied their own space.  IME the difference was not small and I’ll no longer listen without the Iris.  Thanks again. 

couple years back i had compared the original terminator to the pontus 2 at length, both had the ’updated dsp module’ offered in that period - i felt the terminator brought the treble energy forward quite a bit and had a slightly broader soundstage (no doubt due to a more robust output stage and power supply), and a slightly finer grain to the sound

the one fault of the pontus i heard was a sense of noticeable grain in the lower treble/upper mids, despite the midrange and midbass being so lovely, warm and dimensional (which made it special, to my ears).... at that time, i ditched the term and kept the pontus, which i felt represented great value given its sound and fairly modest cost

only later i got a modded mhdt tube buffered dac and that to my ear was even more beautiful and organic sounding than the pontus, with enough detail and speed, and without the slight grainy texture to the sound


Similar for me, I preferred the Pontus II to the Venus II straight up, even though the Venus II is $1,300 more expensive......others will disagree with me on that point. The Venus seemed to not have the Denafrips "house sound" that I personally like very much.

A Pontus II with the Iris DDC clearly outperforms the Venus IMO, and the cost for the Pontus II and Iris DDC is still $750 less than a Venus II.

For office use, I think convenience and practical aspects are major. I would look into active speakers. I agree with Pontus (I have one), but I think it is overkill for office.  Dali or Bluesound speakers with a bluesound node will let your colleagues easily connect their Spotify or Apple accounts, so that all can contribute to the sound in the office. 

Get a Ladder. I just got mine today. Very impressed and it is not even run in yet.


Anything else is old news. Don't be living in the past man. 😀


My local dealer gave me his Watson Madison ( streamer plus DAC ) to try out in my main system.

Very simple design.

Very compact ,

Sounds great; huge soundstage.

Has anyone tried one?

Consider a Mojo Audio DAC. Call Benjamin. He'll answer.

30 day no obligation trial. He's discounting some items.

There are several reviews to check out.


Mopmerantz my home office system is primarily used to fill in the background of a normally boring day working though I listen to it 6-7 hours a day 5 days a week it gets used far more then my main system, being married with kids I could never ever get away with that .

The dac I use Gustard A-26 chip base is much lower in price then your budget though it’s not a r2r it’s brother the Gustard R-26 is I understand this model also is equal with performance way beyond its retail price .



Mojo Audio R2R DACs are terrific and fit your price points.  I've the Mystique' 3.  Many other models are R2R.

i enjoyed my time with a mojo dac, but ultimately i returned it to benjamin -- not because i didn’t like the sound, but because i wanted a dac that had variable volume to drive a power amp directly (in addition to sounding terrific)

i felt the r2r mojo sound very very nice, very natural and organic very refined, not a trace of digital nasties/harshness - if anything it is a touch on the ’polite side’ to my ears

Here's another one I stumbled on.

Woo Audio wds-1.

It go some good press a few years back

Anyone with any listening knowledge?