Looking for DAC recommendation budget 800$

I’m using a SMSL M500 and i would really like an upgrade. Been looking around and i’m wondering what you guys might recommend? budget 800$ but its flexible

What type of sound are you after, and what amp and headphones/speakers would be using?

My headphones are the Sennheiser HD800s, ZMF Auteur hope to get a ZMF Verite closed soon. not sure what you mean by what sound i want. I like rock.

What amp are you using your m500 with? And by sound I mean is there a specific type of sound you would want to tilt your system towards or a specific aspect you would want to improve on?

I’m using the Topping A50. i dont have any sound preference

In that case, personally I would suggest you upgrade your amp first actually as imo that’s going to be the bigger bottleneck in the system here than the dac

What do you recommend for a amp upgrade? also DAC upgrade?

So I would say in this price range you have a fair amount of options. I like the 800s and auteur with the hagerman tuba if you wanted something neutral yet pretty engaging (although the stock tubes are a bit mid centric so you could always change those later), that goes very well with a bifrost 2 dac.

If you wanted something warmer, a bit more body, and something slightly more relaxed, the feliks echo is pretty great imo, that is pretty nice with a bifrost 2.

If you wanted something solid state that’s warmer and thicker but pretty energetic, impactful, and fun, the monolith liquid platinum is a very nice choice, that goes pretty well with the denafrips ares ii.

Looking in the used space if you could get your hands on something like a ray samules raptor (for something more energetic but neutral) or auralic taurus mk2 (warmer smooth) those would be very solid choices imo.

Going up a bit more in price if you could land something like a lta mz2 with the lps+ power supply would be a pretty good pick if you wanted a mix of solid state and tube performance, that would go nicely with a holo cyan dac

I would first address the amp, and then focus on the dac down the line

From my experience all of these pair very well with the 800s and auteur, and also decently well with the verite too (but later on you might want to go even higher with the verite to get the most out of it)

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I would like to do both. im having issues with my m500. How’s the Bifrost 2 compared to the Ares 2?

What about a solid state amp without tubes? budget under 1000$?

So the bifrost 2 is a bit smoother, more relaxed, a slight bit wider, a bit more forgiving, and more tonally accurate, whereas the ares ii is a bit smaller stage but more depth, more forward, a bit more punchy, perhaps slightly more resolving but only by a tad. Both are pretty great, I think it comes down to preference and also what amps you have

Darn, both the zmf and senns really do well on tubes lol (and also just because it has a tube doesn’t mean it’s going to be inherently more colored or sloppy or less refined than a solid state amp). For solid state, I already mentioned the auralic taurus mk2 and monolith liquid platinum* (although this does have tubes it’s a hybrid amp and is mostly solid state), another pretty solid option is a rupert neve rnhp although you might loose a bit of punch on the auteur with it compared to the other aformentioned amps, but still very nice.

Stuff right above the price range would be more like a headamp gsx mini if you wanted something a bit more neutral bright but still pretty engaging and not harsh, very resolving, pairs very nicely with a holo cyan. The violectric v280/281 is very nice for something neutral smooth, with a bit of extra warmth and larger stage, that would go well with a soekris dac1421 or 1541.

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I was thinking about a tube amp, but if i was to get one i wanted a full tube. not a hybrid. isnt the Tuba and LP hybrids? But the one i was thinking of was a Tor Roger. How is that against the Felix amp?

The liquid plat is a hybrid but the tuba is a full tube amp

It’s a solid amp, nothing to write home about sound wise, it’s kinda a warmer fun amp, but didn’t do anything that really impressed me when I got a brief listen. It was more forward than the feliks but sounded a bit less refined, but the feliks was more colored

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I want a amp with the most tube sound to it. which amp does that the best?

I mean define tube sound, imo the best tube amps I’ve heard are amps that you can’t even tell they have tubes in them, they just sound organic and correct. Generally people associate tube sound as something overly enriched, sloppy, slow, unclean and just different, but personally I would value something more that sounds natural and organic while having a bit of what makes tubes special. There is a distinct difference between something like a darkvoice and a tuba, it’s surprising how different they are, the darkvoice might give you the impression of something different but really all not great in reality, a tuba for example (or other aforementioned amps) will really give you a taste of what a good tube amp can do imo


ok thanks for your help


despite what some You tube reviewers say once you start moving up in amp quality, tubes don’t really have a sound, they do provide some character that you can usually identify, but the big bloated sloppy sound of amps like the dark voice really don’t exist.

Generally Tube amps get referred to as “wet” or “dry”, dry referring to something with a leaner sound.
If you are driving High impedance headphones you can go with OTL amps (Bottle Head Crack and Speedball, or the Felix stuff), they tend to convey more of what Z refers to as “tubey”, which is usually a richer sound in the midrange, slightly boosted bass and sometimes rolled off treble.

The Tuba is a really good tube amp for it’s price, but it’s on the dryer side, especially with the stock tubes.


@billwhite7294 if you are willing to build it or have someone build it for you, the bottlehead crack + speedball is a very colored and fun amp yet pretty refined, that is worth a listen for sure if you wanted something very fun

Yes, getting something like a bifrost 2 helps with this imo as it gives a bit more tonal richness and body, while keeping things clean.

Swapping to tubes like these are very good picks for the tuba later on and they won’t break the bank if you wanted to make the tuba a bit more full bodied and a bit less mid centric



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Ok so which of the amps we’ve discussed has a wet sound? i like a fuller sound. i dont like too much treble but i dont want something that sounds muffled or veiled either

The feliks would be more on the wet side of things, as would the bhc + sb. The tor would most likely fit in there as well. In this range you could also try and find a woo wa6 2nd gen which is a more wet energetic sound, or perhaps try and find a decware zen triode otl (CSP3) (sometimes you can find these sub 1k)

I would say really none of the mentioned tube amps are what I would call muffled so you should be safe there