I got new speakers to my computer-desktop system, Dynaudio X14A which sounds awesome. But these speakers have those cool XLR input and my DAC only have a 3.5mm out (DragonFly Red). So obviously I am looking to buy a new DAC. Does a DAC exists that fulfill everything below:
My budget is $1000, but prefer cheaper than that
Suited for desktop (i.e. not to big and good looking)
XLR output, and balanced audio paths inside (else XLR isn’t that useful is it)
High quality USB input (asynchronous, shielded, etc)
High sample rate on PCM and DSD
Display on front that shows input, sample rate etc.
I will connect it directly to computer, so preferably it should be able to read Windows volume when running in exclusive mode (my current DAC does that). I have volume control on keyboard which makes that very convenient.
I’m not entirely sure about it meeting your Windows volume-control desires, but it seems like there’s a chance.
OTOH, you could just get this adapter and these cables and use them while you decide on a DAC. I do exactly this with a DragonFly Red and powered speakers with XLR inputs in my office. (The speakers aren’t as nice as your Dynaudio’s, and I’m fine with the DragonFly for my office audio.)
It’s just safer to use balanced when the computer, DAC and powered monitors are most likely on the same power circuit. I’ve spent far too much time trying to deal with computer noise when not using balanced cables to powered monitors.
Gustard X20U pro, can handle up to DSD256 with stock driver and any PCM format, shows sample rate on LCD has good USB input and balanced out, retail is, I believe $899 including shipping. I used the previous model for over a year and it is an excellent and very well made dac. You can find re-sellers on eBay. Do not use your windows volume control, that is awful. Gustard comes with small remote and use that to control its volume and make sure windows volume is set to 100.
Gustard might be an option. And I am not letting Windows do the volume for me (the DAC is in exclusive mode), but my DragonFly Red can check what the volume is set in windows and adjust the volume according, and it has a high quality digital volume adjustment. Its pretty convenient when used directly from Windows, and with maximal quality.
The Matrix also looks good, and very neat, so is the NuPrime (which is easier to get in Sweden).
I don’t really believe in the adapter solution though, I think for balanced to have real effect it has to be built into the DAC, with parallel audio paths that are opposite phase (or something similar).
Except none of the actives are really stand-alone. The KEF’s with a micorendu get up to $2900; You’re looking to add a $1000 DAC to your DynAudio’s. That Marantz amp with a pair of passive ELAC UB-5’s comes in around $1700. I’m trying to stay on top of what I want to buy when I move from an apartment into a house this fall.
I bought Dynaudio X14A for $1100 (got a good deal), the alternative for that money was for example Dynaudio Emit 10 with a small/weak amplifier, while my speakers has 4 50W bi-amped fine tuned amplifiers. Still, that Marantz DAC/amp with a pair of decent speakers was interesting.
Denafrips Ares R2R Ladder DAC supports 384 pcm plus 6 bit discrete resistor circuit does DSD256 native. Works out of the box with mRendu or SOtM. I am using balanced XLR outputs - they claim ‘true’ balanced - into a Hegel integrated amp. Excellent Xmos U208 USB input (better than holo spring). Small and low profile. $598 plus $50 shipping from vinshineaudio.com. What’s not to like? DSD512 would be nice I suppose but frankly the pcm OS sounds great - like really great. See early reviews on head-fi.org.
Edit: oh yeah, there are small leds which will tell you the sample rate and input on the front. I think this checks all of your boxes!
Yup, the TEAC UD-503 (or earlier UD-501) is ideal as a desktop DAC. But for $1000 on top of the $1100 that Magnus already has spent on a pair of Dynaudio X14A, he could have gotten a pair of KEF LS50 Wireless and been done with it, no external DAC nor redundant D/A/D/A conversions necessary.