Rank the top reference DACs you've heard

Usually the battle goes between DCS Vivaldi set and MSB Select II.

However, since Swiss/Japanese (boutique level) DACs are usually out of reach, we rarely read about ultra high end DACs and where they fit with the rest of the league ($5000-$100,000) price range. 

There are other topologies and SOTA designs floating around, what comes to mind:
- new DCS (above Vivaldi) flagship to be announced
- Wadax Atlantis Reference
- Esoteric Grandioso D1X (Dual Mono)
- TotalDAC Twelve Mk2
- Lampizator Golden Gate 2
- Chord Dave+mscaler
- CH Precision C1+X1 (Dual Mono) 
- Soulution 760
- Aries Cerat Kassandra Ref
- Aqua La Scala mkII Optologic
- EMM Labs DV2/DA2

I mentioned flagship DACs only since the list will be bigger and we will lose focus of the subject. It is interesting to know some of us "lurkers" or who has reached audio nirvana with his choice of DAC and what did he it compare with. The more input we get, the clearer the big picture will be. 

Let's go!
I would disregard probably 50% or more of the DACs listed as completely unengaging. I would then add in the Denafrips Terminator Plus.

 I would then add in the Denafrips Terminator Plus.
Also Holo Spring and May as well as MSB all disctrete R2R dacs

Cheers George

I haven’t heard any of the DACs that the Op listed, please advise which of those fall into your delete list and what you found lacking in them while directly listening to them. Txs

@facten as per my previous post what I found lacking about them was a lack of musical engagement i.e. each had some good stuff going on but it left me cold. It left me disengaging from the music and flicking my eyes out of the window or starting a conversation or otherwise distracted. 
Naming names? One mans meat etc. but, for example, the dCS stuff does an awful lot absolutely right but manages to sound clinical and not like music in the room with you. I understand why it’s on the list and understand why people might enjoy it but, for me, it errs more on the side of mechanical and analytic. I also don’t believe the last 4 on the list belong on the list for similar reasons. 
This is all subjective but ultimately it’s about what they do for you and if you don’t find yourself musically entranced then that’s fine.


You are correct that one man’s meat is another…..

I have heard the Terminator Plus and found it….mechanical. LOL. I guess that just goes to show us that it is pretty subjective, especially on internet forums. I thought the regular Terminator a better dac than the plus. I have owned neither.

I certainly haven’t heard all of the dacs on the list, few have. With that said, of the ones I have heard or owned I find it odd that you believe the EMMLabs or the AQUA “mechanical”. I do not presently own either but both are exceptional and hardly mechanical the extended periods I have listened in diverse systems. Please describe the setup you heard them in. Maybe there was a mismatch somewhere in the chain. Peace.
MSB - I have spent time with the reference and it is insanely good.  I have never heard the select, but I can imagine how incredible it is. 
Playback Design DreamDAC - everything is upscale to to 512k DSD. Not only is it smooth and detailed, it is not bright.
Lampizator Pacific is their top offering now.  I've owned it for the last 1½ years and it is quite competitive with vinyl in my system, with an appropriate sense of liquidity and coherence, while dishing up a lot of musical information.  It really feels like you are at the event.  I really hardly spin LP's now, because the digital avenue is so good and easy, too.

I just bought a used original Denafrips Terminator for a second system, and I have to say, it is quite good for the money.  I absolutely could live with it long term.  Yes, the Pacific bests it, but there ain't no "wiping of the floor" going on. You get more harmonic completeness and a slightly more coherent sense of space and performance, which is a bit more satisfying musically, but the Terminator is no slouch in these areas, either.

Important to note, my impressions of both DAC's are based upon them being fed by the outstanding Taiko Audio Extreme server.  This device has me believing that the server could be more important than the DAC for ultimate sound quality.
I haven’t heard any of those so I don’t have any real input.

I did hear the Nagra HD DAC which I thought was very musical paired with an Innuos Statement music server.

I think the Nagra should be added to your list
I now own a Lampizator Atlantic TRP which I love (tonally right, spatially excellent, detail just right).  I've recently heard the full dCS Vivaldi stack (CD/DAC/Clock) in a friend's system (with top-line CJ and VAC tube gear) and the contrast was shocking.  Two completely different sonic styles.  I personally found the level of microscopic detail in the dCS artificial, edgy, and lacking in spatial realness, although the right speaker cables helped balance it out.  Went home to my Lampizator and could relax again.  After hearing my mid-level Lampizator, the same friend has a Lampizator Pacific on order now...
Audio GD 7r he mk2. Nos mode with vinyl simulator. This sounds fantastic. Best i have heard. 
Greetings, I recently upgraded to Lampizator Pacific and would add it to your list.  It is nothing short of phenomenal.   
Bricasti make several very good sounding dacs-streamers 
A. potent combination.
Any comment or experiences with Wavelength Cosecant V3? I am considering a purchase. 
I would also add Rockna Wavedream Signature and particularly the with the Wavedream NET Server.

Weiss 501/502 belong on any list of top DACs and it should rank higher if you need it for headphone use along with tons of features and a built in renderer. 

I have not heard the Bricasti M21 yet but if it bests the M1 SE, it most definitely belongs here.  
Aesthetix Pandora Signature or Eclipse  and Brinkmann Nyquist II should be on your list. I own a Lampizator but not piling on there as it is already affirmed above.

I also find DCS sterile.

Great to have choices ….world class choices…
I thoroughly enjoy reading everyone’s post.  And, this is a flagship model post.  But... what is very good for a middle class blue collar individual like me.  Thanks for some ideas ... 
You should go listen and read the reviews on the Wyred for sound 10th anniversary dac. It's beating other dacs from the 9 to 15,000 range and it's only $4,500. And I would love to put it up against the DCS and see how good it is if not better. This dac is the most analog sounding deck I've ever had in my system. And my system is worth over $60,000.
Appreciate everyone's respose , Nagra HD X is indeed a top dac , I can't edit my og post now but I agree it is. 

I wonder if anyone heard soulution 760, they put overkill specs but I rarely see any discussions. 
All those dacs are currently out of my price League, but believe the Molo Mola Tambaqi needs to be included. 
I would put the Playback Design Dream Series DAC on top of the list here, its by far the most fatigue free dac compared to allot of the Dacs on the list some i have never heard so cant comment. Andreas koch designs is pure mastery when it comes to Digital Playback.

I am not into Tube DAC or artificial induced Distortion.

My Vote would be:

Playback Design Dream Series DAC and Dream Transport, Its uses a proprietor Fiber Connection that no other system on the planet is using. Far More superior then BNC, AES, USB, HDMI. The way this system works is leap years ahead of others.

Second Vote: MSB 

Third Vote: Total DAC

Another vote for Playback... out of my reach for now, but found i could get closer through carefully upgrading my network and a Meitner MA3.
The Rossini is the current sweet spot of the dCS Streamer / DAC lineup when it comes to price/performance.  The Vivaldi may be slightly better but at a considerably higher price.
Linn Klimax DMS
dCS Vivaldi
dCS Rossini

Full disclosure, I have a dCS Bartok, so have a listening preference to their products.  Both the Vivaldi and Rossini are fantastic pieces of kit, but the full stack Vivaldi is not cheap.  

I've also owned Linn products over the years and was recently blown away by the new Klimax DSM.  It is the most natural and organic sounding streamer I have listened to.  I hate to say it, but I think it sounds better than any of the dCS products.  
Gustard A22
warm sounding, drives power amp easily, dual AK4499EQ "velvet sound” chips, discrete path class A outputs, fully balanced, BT and other whistles 
Ayon audio S10 sigature

any love there from others.

ive got one sounds pretty goodcto me!
Another Playback Designs fan here.The Dream Dac is out of my reach now, at my age the income is just no longer there. My current dac, the Playback Designs Merlot is my 4th dac and for now a keeper. Just the right balance of revealing details, harmonics, timbre, dynamic subtlety without being analytic or bright.

It was when I got the Merlot that I started forgetting to listen to my system because the music was so naturally present and engaging it kept "distracting" me. If it has a drawback, it is that poor recordings became so much more evident. I like the selection of inputs. I use usb from cashing server for best SQ, and usb from MacbookPro  to usb to spdif converter through digital coax to Merlot when you tube or other online sources call.
I've heard most of them in this list except the Wadax and the Soulution and my vote still goes to the Totaldac D1-Twelve Mk2.I own the Aqua Formula xHD Rev 2.
A friend home demoed the Tambamqui. He mentioned playing Roger Waters' Amused to Death recorded with "Q Sound" and the renowned spatial fireworks were completely absent. That's never happened with any other DAC he's tried. I know nothing about how Q Sound works, but does that tell us anything much? 

Haven't had the pleasure of hearing most of the models on the OP's list, but I have to agree that the Aqua La Scala is fantastic, as are the Bricasti's someone else mentioned. Cheers,

thieliste, may I ask why you went Aqua if you prefer Totaldac?

also did you prefer totaldac over Aries Cerat? I seem to remember seeing a thread where you liked the AC.
I suspect that this is very system dependent. Before upgrading to my Rogue Audio RP9 and Apollo Dark mono blocks, I thought the Chord Dave was excellent.  Once I upgraded, I then could hear the "cloudiness" and the relatively small soundstage. I tried the Briscati and the dCS Rossini and bought the latter.  The sound stage is wide AND deep.  The noise level is sufficiently low that there is clear articulation and separation, the presentation is either in my room (typical of jazz recordings) or about 10th row center in a concert venue (classical) depending on recording.  The timber is accurate and NOT clinical or "cold" (but remember, I have an all tube preamp and amps and Sonus faber Amati Tradition speakers).
At the price level of these DACs, an audition in YOUR home/system is mandatory because of the numerous variables.  (The Rossini actually sounds better on my system than it did at the dealer with his Boulder preamp/amp and Wilson Alexa speakers-- at least to my taste.)
Esoteric N-01XD. Streamer built in

As a side note, if your “system” is comprised of cheap DIY speakers, and “adequate” amplification, and stock cables, then all these DACs are snake oil, as all DACs sound the same. Heck, someone at the famous ASR forums of Amir told me a DAC is not even part of audio chain, just simply part of electric transmission, whatever that means. This was also widely “proven” by the Null Tester magic device invented by the famed audio guru Ethan Winer. Which in many people’s opinions is THE man (the legend, the myth, etc. etc.)

At least in my book (which is the only book that matters to me) Amir is hardly the go to guy that I would consult for advice. His and his cult like followers and their little fussy war regarding Totaldac turned me off for good. Ive heard and owned a Totaldac and it is an exceptional piece of gear.
@flame I chose Aqua because Totaldac flagship was out of reach for my budget this time around and i wanted to try Aqua at some point so this was the opportunity.I'm a patient guy so i know i will own the Totaldac flagship one day.The AC Kassandra is for sure one of the best DACs out there but the Totaldac Twelve still is number one in terms of musical engagement.Only my opinion.
Post removed 
I have recently acquired the HOLO Audio May KTE and like it very much. However, I have listened extensively to the dCS Bartok and Vivaldi stack and the Totaldac (not the flagship) in the systems of friends. All of these DACs sound excellent and I have difficulty picking one over the other and stating "this is the clear winner". The associated equipment in the particular system and even the type of music played has a strong influence on preference. This was particularly evident when listening to a comparison of the Bartok to the Totaldac in one system where a particular music selection  favoured the Bartok while another selection favoured the Totaldac. I just consider myself very fortunate to be able to enjoy such outstanding digital audio and have the means to get reasonably close to the best.

hey if amir at asr says it so, it must be true right???  😆😆😆😆
Yes. If it’s in the Internet, it is definitely true. Especially if “backed” by “solid” scientific evidence like graphs and “measurements”