@M0N forgot his manners and forgot to welcome you to HFG! that sets a bad example as lord / master / head honcho / boss man / ruler of the audio life / the great one / knower of truth / giver of knowledge / etc / etc / etc
@M0N I am not very well versed with jargon. Not sure how I am supposed to answer that. Would “I want to enjoy the piece to its maximum extent with regards to clarity and staging” be too vague? Also are DACs HP dependent? i.e If I were to say buy a Susvara at a later stage, would it affect the choice of the DAC? Sorry for the barrage of questions
Somewhat, it may want to be tilted coloration wise or also could change what aspects should be prioritized. And the susvara is more demanding on the source gear overall imo
I think your missing dynamics specifically microdynamics which can be important, but yeah otherwise these basic characteristics are important as well. Generally a dac can have an affect on any aspect of sound just as much as the amp can imo, since if the dac isn’t able to recreate something, the rest of the chain won’t be able to either
So if you are looking for general clarity with more stand out staging, I think aiming for a Holo spring 2 kte (although there will be a spring 3 soon so perhaps wait until that happens) is a good pick as long as you don’t mind a bit warmer smoother sound overall. The Holo is pretty light on it’s feet with great speed and detail, holographic staging that’s fairly immersive, good clarity while feeling organic, and impressive microdynamics. Potential concerns with this pairing would be that it would sound a bit dryer and lacking a bit of tonal density (not enough to be a big problem though), and that it might be a bit lighter in bass impact.
I think a great option would also be a lampizator amber 3, this would really give a full and rich sound while still being very controlled and technical (moreso than the Holo actually), and more organic as well. It’s stage is not as immediately expensive as the Holo but has more depth and is more accurate in placement which lends it to sounding pretty immersive as well. Very dynamically alive, and also great at resolving low level information. The only thing though is that it’s going to be higher in price at least in comparison to the spring
Edit: Just realized this is for the HA-2 SF not the SE, I have only heard the SE
Both good dacs but I would really want to go higher end for this personally. Although the bf2 is a good option if you can’t go higher for the dac in this case imo (although actually with your preferences and the amp the denafrips ares ii might be better at that price range)
I’ve never heard the graham majestic, I’ve only tried their amps so can’t comment there
I do really like the sonnet and was considering mentioning it, but I didn’t since the stage isn’t immediately stand out in comparison to the other two. The sonnet does a great job at resolving a ton of lower level information very smoothly, and also ends up having really good microdynamics too. It’s stage is pretty accurate although not as immediately immersive. It does have pretty great clarity overall, and I think it’s got decent timbre too. Reasonably tonally dense, but can be a slight bit soft and relaxed feeling. I think it’s also a solid choice if you can get one, I’d generally say it’s a bit higher tier than the spring and slightly below the lampizator (they trade some blows for resolution but it doesn’t compete for organicness and control)
If you were going SE instead of SF I would have been more inclined to suggest the sonnet based on what I now have read about the SF, but I won’t know absolutely for sure until I hear the SF for myself
Typically the control of low level information, how accurately can it represent more minute changes in volume, and not have lower level changes become overwhelmed or masked by more large scale changes. While it’s not a term that is immediately apparent to think about, it’s actually pretty easy to tell when something lacks it. Setups that lack good microdynamics can tend to almost feel surface level and lack long term listing satisfaction, without microdynamics some things can sound boring and dull (and it’s hard to realize that problem is due to microdynamics at times)
General attack and decay, transient response speed, how quick is the attack and how quick is the decay. Get too quick and things sound inorganic and unnatural, get too slow and things sound sluggish and overly drawn out. Also think tightness as well, if something sounds very tight and controlled it’s typically pretty fast, if something sounds more loose and slightly more sloppy, that can be due to being on the slower side of things
For tonal density, think how much weight the dac gives to a note, if notes sounds lean and lack meat on the bone per se, or if something sounds more substantial, hefty, and sense almost if that makes sense. Something more dry would be leaning more towards the lean side of things. Ideally you want to be in the middle, you don’t want to lean too far one way or the other, but if you have a dryer or more lean sounding amp, having a dac with a bit more rich tonal density can help offset that problem
If you are new to the hobby, I really wouldn’t recommend jumping this high right off the bat tbh, there’s a lot of value to starting lower and experimenting with things to better hone your preferences, improve your skill as a listener, and figure out how you actually want to move forward when the time comes
If you make the jump up right away or move too quickly it can come back to bite you in the ass or it can lead to an unsatisfying journey in the hobby imo.
So far, what have you heard and what do you have now?
Personally I’m not a fan of the amethyst or onyx, mainly since I personally don’t find them that organic sounding (in comparison to the sonnet, even though the sonnet guy is the metrum guy lol, I just thought he did a much better job with sonnet than his metrum dacs). They have good technical performance but are a bit too dry, lack good timbre, and sound slightly incoherent imo. That being said, there are new dac3 modules coming out that are apparently pretty similar to those in the sonnet, so it might become more similar to the sonnet, so in that case it could be a pretty solid pick (but haven’t heard the new modules myself so can’t say)