Please help, I need DAC to match my zmf vc and topping a90

Totally new to the world of hifi but I’m very invested in this after listening to a good setup at a local dealer.

So far I’ve got the Topping A90 and ordered the ZMF Vérité Closed. Now I need a good DAC to match, my budget is roughly 1KUSD. It needs to be balanced and Imaging and soundstage is very important to me.

If you have the time, please also include any recommendations to signal cables between DAC and the AMP as well as headphone cables of 15 feet so I can lay down in the couch.
How come I don’t find much of power cables? Don’t they have a big impact on the sound?

Thanks to all that reply :smiley:

I’m a little surprised that if you’ve already heard the Zmf connected to an A90 at the dealer, he hasn’t recommended a Dac.

Spontaneously I would look for a used Dentafrips Ares 2.
Topping E30 possibly as a start.
Or Schiit mobius.

The better Dac/amp would have tended to be the Questyle cma400i, Singxer Sda2 C or Rme adi 2 fs.

Power supply findest actually everywhere.

Maybe others have even better suggestions than mine,:wink:

I think the two most well regarded dacs in the $1k range around here are the Denafrips Ares 2 and the Schiit Bifrost 2.

I can’t claim to know much about the Ares personally, but I got the BF2 recently and it is pretty great. The soundstage and bass resolution are the two main things that stand out to me in my admittedly limited time with it.

I know plenty of people will be able to give you a more detailed description of what the bifrost does well, and also what the Ares also does well, but those are a pair of really good dacs to look into imo.

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Oh no that setup was focal elear, Lejonklou Giella amp and LINN AKURATE DS that he offered used for 5,5KUSD but I wasn’t sold on the headphones. Just meant that listening to a good audio setup for the first time in my life really made me anxious to get that for my self. Feeling of the music was unreal, first time I got overwhelmed by sound :smiley:

Yes thank you, the Ares II seems to be the one for me.

All right, I’ll read a few reviews and try to compare the Ares II with Schiit Bifrost 2. Thanks for your advice :+1:

What cans are you using?

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I vary what I use a lot of the time, but main headphones are my ZMF Atticus and Audioquest Nighthawk Carbons, I also tend to go between my Sundaras and hd650s depending on my mood too.

Oh wow that’s a good collection :grin:

Welcome to HFGF!

I think that @WaveTheory has experience with both the Bifrost 2 and Ares II - perhaps he may be able to offer some insight.

I am biased. I have a Bifrost 2 and believe it is an incredible DAC. I also have the Modius, and E30. The difference between $200 and less DACs compared to the Bifrost is huge but, if you were going in steps - the Modius would be my choice over the E30. The Modius just being a little more smoother, with wider staging and excellent timbre. I’d say it’s neutral ( - ) with a hint of “fun” character. The E30 is for me also a very nice DAC at the price point, it is neutral ( + ) hinting at a more analytical character. So it would come down to what you prefer.

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Thank you, much appreciated @Delta9K

Yes it seems they are both excellent DAC’s and I can’t wait to get a hold on one of them. The zmf leed time is 6 to 12 weeks so I’ve got some time to decide :smirk:

What’s your main pro and main con regarding your Bifrost 2?

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@Delta9K is correct. I have both the Bifrost 2 and Ares II on my desk right now. It’s too early for a full fledged comparison but I’ve listened to both enough to confidently say they are essentially technical equals that do different things just slightly better than the other and so it really comes down to signal chain and preference between the two. To say one is ‘better’ at a thing than the other also in no way means the other is bad at that thing, just that it is slightly better than the other at that thing. The BF2 has a richer, fuller sound with more bass slam and control and has slightly more natural timbre. The Ares II has wider and more coherent staging and - at least when it’s in NOS (non-oversampling) mode (which I recommend) - and comes across as more energetic/lively which can give the perception, although maybe not actual delivery, of more detail. It really comes down to which headphones and amp you’re using and what qualities of those things you want to draw out or de-emphasize just a little more.


Thank you @WaveTheory, it seems you as well point me in the direction of Ares II. The staging, detail and imaging are important for me when gaming.

My gear is the Topping A90 and ZMF Vérité Closed. I will upgrade the amp at some point, might be a tube when it’s time, but I think it should be fine for now.

If you’ve got an extra minute, would you please shine a light to your thoughts on cables?
I need USB and patch cables? (From DAC to AMP) and get confused some say its irrelevant, including Zeos? While others say the power cable should be your first upgrade…

I do not have any experience with any DAC in a similar or higher tier than the Bifrost 2 so that leaves me a disadvantage for any like-for-like comparisons. I also have no cons for the same reason. For it’s pro’s - over the other DAC’s I own and have l listened to, the bottom end reaches farther down giving more punch all the way through over-all. The mids are more “alive” with smooth full vocals, exciting guitars (electric and acoustical), and the highs are airy and detailed without “edginess”.

It is hard for me to describe technically, but the magic to my ears and what the Bifrost does better (not that the others do it poorly) is that instruments, vocals, the thud of the kick drums, solid snare beats and melodic toms along with crispy closed high-hat beets, piano, horns are all floating and dancing together in big air .

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Seems I cannot fail whichever I choose😁 Thank you @Delta9K

Ye’ah I think so. I’m waiting for @WaveTheory 's review when it goes live but, I have a sinking feeling that I know what DAC I will be getting to try next… :money_with_wings: RIP my wallet

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There will always be differences with the Dac’s.
As Wave said also the rest should fit in the end. Especially from the setup.
The Zmf requires a clean amplifier.
I personally have doubts, but try it.
If it is not enough you know what to do.
Because then the Dac and headphones are coherent it can only be one.

Regarding cables, just connect everything via balanced if possible.
If the Ares has only Rca then it is so.All too bad it will not be.
More important would be to drive the Zmf Balanced to be able to drive the performance of the A90.
Make sure that the cables are not necessarily straight from the hardware store.If you are shielded you would be on the safe side,if you have a lot of electronics in or around the house.

If you should mean power cables.
It is enough if it is solid copper that is shielded.
Since the Audioquest Nrg cable is already enough where for 70-80$ to have.
More I would not spend.
Make sure that the audio setup is plugged into a separate power strip and the other strip is for the pc stuff like pc itself,monitor ect…

In the end, they only remain to test and report, then one can help them further.

@Delta9K Haha no doubt this hobby will drain your $ if you don’t pace yourself. My initial budget was 1K😅

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I’m a little confused, did you actually get the amp and the ZMF Verite Closed yet? If you havent yet gotten the amp and you’re still waiting for the ZMF headphones, I’d point you to an all in one unit DAC/AMP. Save you space and money and there’s a few good ones around.

But if you’ve already purchased the amp and have the headphones and are looking to pull the trigger on a DAC then agree with what’s already been shared, the ARES II and the BF2 are well regarded in that $600 to $700 dollar range.

@Deleeh I chose the A90 because I thought it was very clean, even better than the THX tech. I guess I’m still able to return it. Its never been used either, so if you think I should please say so🙂

I’m I right thinking that your saying that both the Ares II and the BF2 are good choices to match ZMF VC?

Yes balanced has been a theme in the setup so far, so I’ll be sure to keep that in mind picking cables too. The Ares II has XLR at 4.4Vrms, 1250 Ω. Honestly don’t know if that’s a regular XLR or what, but it looks to be a 3 pin like the A90 has.

Thank you, I wouldn’t have thought about that. Will make sure to buy a separate power strip, and I’ll look into the Audioquest Nrg🙂

Will report after some testing when everything arrives, but zmf leadtime is 6 to 12 weeks so we’re maybe talking March…

I get nervous when people just bought a $500 unit but you seem ammenable to feedback. The A90 will be the bottleneck in this hypothetical BF2/Ares2 + A90 + Verite closed signal chain. The A90 is a measurement champ, but that’s what it does well. There are other amps in the price range that considerably outperform it in terms of pure sound quality. And that’s going to matter for you because the VC is a top-of-the-line headphone that will have more to give than the A90 can provide. In fairness, the BF2 and Ares II - quality products that they both are - will also bottleneck the VC, but not to the extent that the A90 will. The Vioelectric V281 was mentioned above. I think @Towa has one of those as well as the VC and can comment on that pairing. I’ll also drop @M0N’s name again because he was raised by a pack wild audio components. My honest recommendation right now is that either of the Ares/BF will do fine as a dac for awhile. I’d return the A90 and throw that money + some more at a better amp for the VC. But, as funds recover you’ll likely want to step up your DAC game too. Good luck with everything! I’m excited to hear what you think of the VC when it arrives. Many really love that headphone.


Well the Zmf you ordered needs power.
You can drive it but whether it is sufficient is something else again.
There helps only try.

Thx is again a bit different.that is clearly more clinical and different represented in the playback.
Everything else that is not Thx sounds more like music and is not so clinical.

I also think the Zmf is already perceptive enough, with a very good resolution, transparency.
And if you add a bit of musicality it won’t hurt it either.
But judge for yourself what it lacks in the end.
That is then also a matter of taste at the end of the day.:wink: