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!

Wadax Reference 105

MSB Select II 100

Ideon Absolute 98

Lampi Horizon 97

Lampi Pacific 90


Dave (Farad 3 linear power supply and Mscaler (fed by linear supply) 90

Ideon Ion 89

Wells Audio Cipher Dac II 88


After spending one week with Dave modified with Farad 3 power supply, I upgrade its score from 87 to 90.


Now its bass is very tuneful with nice decay while some remaining siblilance is gone.


If you have Dave, I have strong recommendation for Farad 3 installation which cost me 3k euros including three separate power supplies.








Berkeley Audio Design Ref 3 DAC ought to be in consideration. I own a BAD Ref 2 DAC. Streaming via DH Lab D-750 SP/DIF IC with BNC adapters from Bluesound Vault 2. Even with that low-cost streaming set-up, sound is vivid, natural, and dynamic.Sound has both large scale and intensity present with best analog set-ups. 

Just took possession of a Gryphon Kalliope yesterday. To my ears and to my wife’s ears, it is absolutely fabulous. Smooth as silk without being gooey or sloppy at all; dynamic as hell; extremely fast and incredibly detailed without being etched, grainy, or even dry sounding; and seemingly effortless. It sounds just about perfect to my ears.

To me, "reference" DACs means High Fidelity more than anything else like "musicality" or "engaging" that are so subjective to evaluate. Those are the spice that you can add later by dsp, tube, or the placebo effects of your choice -- the price, build look...



’reference’ means nothing - simply what baseline one refers to in sound in comparing others

it is all about the experience level, system quality level, hearing acuity and taste of the person who is doing the comparisons