How to Surpass or Equal my Turn Table with Digital?

While I have had a “nice” audio system for 40-some years I am relatively new to high quality digital. For many, many years I’ve been of the mindset that around the house, outside or just knocking about my CDs ripped to FLAC and played via a few Sonos Connects along with my lesser speakers/systems were just fine. When I was serious about listening to music I’d go to my dedicated room in the basement and listen to Vinyl and tube gear (both SET and Push Pull amps depending on my mood).

I’m contemplating downsizing and simplifying…if possible. So far I’ve tried in my room a Sonos Connect, Oppo-203, HiFiBerry Dac + Pro and most recently picked up an Orchard Audio PecanPi. The PecanPi sounds really nice but the sound stage is no where as wide or as deep as vinyl rig. Everything but the source (TT vs DAC) is the same. I’ve done numerous comparisons with quality vinyl and High Rez digital files. The old school wax and diamond always wins out. I’m certain it is not me wanting to like Vinyl better. I’d actually like to find a reason to sell the table and all my LPs…if I can get the same experience with digital.

As part of my simply my life plan I’d like to buy one high quality DAC and be done with it. Hoping to not endlessly read, buy, try, sell, repeat. Also hooping you all can help me narrow it down to a few contenders. I’d say my budget is a few thousand USD. For sure under $5K.

I know every person and every system/room is different but for reference my vinyl set up is decent but not over the top, crazy expensive. I’ve had several tables, phono-preamps, cartridges and landed happily for the last 5+ years with:

  • Basis 1400 Table
  • Origin Live Silver MK 2 arm
  • Zu Audio modified Denon 103 (not the R the standard, I’ve tried them both) Moving Coil Cartridge
  • Lehmann Black Cube SE II Phono Stage

My room is treated with both absorption and diffusion. Speakers are on the 13 foot side of a 13’X16’X8’ room and due to other factors the speakers have to stay on the 13 foot side. I mostly listen to 60s and earlier Jazz, Alternative/Indy/Punk/New Wave, Some Classic Rock and Female Vocals.

Thanks in advance for any and all advice. What-cha-got in mind?

I’m sure you’ll get as many ideas as there are active posters for this! Since I think you’re also looking for a streamer (?), you might want to look at the Lumin T2 - it’s well reviewed, in your budget, the integration with Roon is bulletproof and lots of people enjoy the sound (I have its little brother, the D2). The firmware is also regularly and automatically updated in tandem with Roon SDK updates, which is a significant consideration if you’re looking to future-proof (in as much as that’s ever possible). Whatever takes your fancy I’d suggest that being able to trial it is key.


The Lumin T2 is an excellent and pretty much future proof recommendation (as future proof as digital can be).

The T2 includes a network streamer and a DAC - both are hi-end. You could use both also alone - if you would ever need that.

It also offers balanced and RCA analog outputs. You could even drive active loudspeakers with it, as it has a digital volume control (that you can also disable). The Lumin software (App) to play music from your library and/or integrate Tidal, Qobuz and Spotify is rock solid, well maintained and one of the better ones out there. The T2 can also acts as a perfectly behaving Roon endpoint.

Yes, there are tons of alternatives. But the T2 is a great place to understand what’s possible in one box and sets the bar high in terms of seemless integration, sound quality, software quality and ease of use.

My question is: where do you run your Roon core? For ease of use a Roon Nucleus with an internal SSD is a safe bet. If you hard wire the Nucleus to your network and also connect the Lumin via Ethernet you will have the biggest chance of avoiding any network issues.

This system will be able to create a high end digital experience. The rest is room (which seems you have sorted out already), tweaks (there are always tweaks), record mastering, and - always - volume :wink:


Thanks to both of you. Appreciate the detailed replies. Interesting that you mention the lumen T2 after lots of Internet searching that actually landed on my initial shortlist. After some more reading and searching and thinking… I get the feeling an R2R DAC might be to my liking. It’s hard after the old days of audio stores full of equipment not being around demo stuff.

My 15 year quest to find the vinyl setup that was right for me has been a blast. Right now I just want to wave a magic wand and have the answer reveled to me.

Noticed from Lumin T1 to T2 they changed chips. I gather it is the implementation of the chips, not the chips overall; any insight there?

R2R seems harder to get right but from my limited knowledge more analog-esque. I have a friend with a turntable arm cartridge combo that you could probably buy a small house for. While I appreciate the detail it is somewhat clinical, antiseptic, sterile. That has been my complaint about digital. The wow factor of hyper detail quickly turns to a lack of soul, guts or feeling.

If I were looking for single barrel Bourbon that varies from bottle to bottle but always amazing
versus skyy vodka what DAC would that be?

I should add balanced XLR connections are a must. I’ve got two way speakers with an active crossover everything after my phono stage is balanced. I would imagine if I found the right DAC/streamer I’d probably get rid of my preamp to minimize the number of components in the signal chain.

I don’t know much about R2R DACs and have never heard one, but if I were in the market I’d look at the Holo Audio May. It seems relatively unusual in getting both excellent subjective reviews and objective measurements.

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Not sure you need to go to the MAY, the Holo Spring level 3 is a very nice DAC.

I can certainly add my support for Lumin T2/XLR. This device was transformational to my system. Bulletproof Roon endpoint and fantastic sound. Native DSD512 and PCM384.The Lumin app is also pretty good if you ever need to use it.


Any feedback on Audial products? A guy I have similar tastes with has a Model S and says after many, many DACs he very happy with his. The most vinyl-like DAC he owned.

FWIW he says to his ears he has never heard a Saber DAC he can listen to for any length of time. I know everyone’s ears/room/equipment is different and you have to find what works for you.

I’m just trying to not go down the road of buy/try/sell repeat if I could at all avoid it.

The guy above it too far away for me to demo his.

I must need a shower or maybe I should be posting about how Roon is too expensive if I want some actual posts/discussions in my thread :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:. I’m surprised there are not more Turn Table gone decent DAC people around here.

My short list, purely based on reading and searching seems to be:

  • Denafrips Venus II
  • Holo Spring

The Terminator and May are just not in my budget.

Forgive my ignorance, as I’ve done my best to avoid a DAC for the last 15 years or so. Currently my OPPO, PecanPi and RPi4/HiFiberry all are self contained “streamers” as it the T2. Very convenient.

Should we expect that is the way things are going? Am I going to be disappointed in a year that I did not wait for companies like Holo/Denafrips to build an all in one-er?

I’ve read some about the advantages of everything in one box and I kind of see the point…although I’ve been a separates guy my whole life. Even in my 20s I did not own a receiver. Always a preamp and amp(s). I’m not really keen on having a laptop in my room. Tell me the sweet spot (raspberry pi vs. say Lumin U1) to get me where I want to be. How do you decide which connection you want to use if multiple one are available between network transport and the DAC?

Yeah, I sort of think it is. If you’re going to bundle the streamer and the DAC, why not go whole hog and make it an integrated streamer/DAC/amp? That would be more likely, I’d think.

Call me old school, but I can’t ever see having anything but a separate amp. SET, Push Pull, Solid State A/B/AB, stereo, mono-block. Don’t even get me started on 6SN7 tubes they are like ice cream so many flavors and all delicious.

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Another approach you could consider is to digitize your LPs. I’ve read reports that such files sound indistinguishable from the original vinyl playback.

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When I read your initial post I was under the impression that you wanted a single, simple but high-end solution. And to not go down the rabbit hole optimizing a digital audio chain. Therefore the Lumin recommendation.

I have nine (9!) boxes in my digital audio chain, including the router, which is also powered by a linear power supply:

router/switch + lpsu
etherregen + lpsu
network player
DDC + lpsu

Most of them are iterations on trying out several products, brands, set-ups. And I do not even start with the cables. You will find a 1000+ post thread on the DDC and the correct cabeling and power supply alone (Matrix SPDIF-2 to deliver I2S via HDMI from USB). And all the other possible tweaks. I guess you are aware that digital can be (or actually is) as complex (and therefore never perfect) as any turntable setup.

Personally I favour the concept of separates more, as I could e.g. swap my DAC without loosing all the optimized other components. I think that concept will never go away. There always was and will be a market for great integrated components. Ease-of-use and forget vs. fiddeling and optimizing. Both can sound excellent. It’s your choice.

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Thanks @Philipp_Schaefer. It probably can’t happen, but I’d gladly buy 9 things once to get to where I want to be. I’m trying to avoid buying 90 things in total and chucking 81 of them.

I’m at the point in my life where I want to listen to music, great music, not constantly swap things out. I’ve bought starter turn tables and entry level tube amps knowing I would buy another and another and another… I’m thinking there has to be (or should be) the equivalent to:

  • Do you have high efficiency horns, open baffles, power hungry Magneplanars?

  • Do you like the sound of tubes or solid state? - Tubes

  • Ok then do you like SET or Push Pull? - SET.

  • Do you like 45, 2A3 or 300B better? I don’t know. Ok, we will figure that out

  • Is your room on the lively or dead side?

  • Do you listen mostly to death metal or Muzak?

  • Given all that I think you should be looking at these 10 DACs not these other 10,000. You can cross these 500 off right away because they probably won’t fit your needs.

I was hoping this community could help me at least separate the chaff from the wheat and not say this is a good “XYZ” given the cost or it is a good place to start. I’m looking for the end game, if I need a bigger budget so be it.

The “best cartridge” won’t necessarily sound better than a lessor one if it is not mated to the right arm, plinth, phono stage, etc. Seems like there should be a pool of likely candidates or at least some back and forth as to which direction to go in. I know I’m unlikely to get it on the first try, but I want to at least start in the right general vicinity.

I’ve got separate power conditioners for my table and amps. I’ve got dedicated 20amp circuits for my room. I’ve got network switches optimized (supposedly) for audio/video. I can’t imagine I have to start back at square one from 2003 when I built the room. Not to mention all the incarnations since.

I’m 54 and pretty tech savvy (software developer by profession). Unfortunately, anyone I know in my area interested in music is a good bit older than me and firmly in the vinyl camp. They might have a universal disc player for SACDs but no real way to hear a quality digital set up. Seems like the technology by now should be mature enough to accomplish what I am after, if not, surely it would have been abandoned years back by serious music lovers. Roon has lit the fire under me to at least try and see if I can say goodbye to wax and diamonds. Maybe I’ll never get there, maybe I’ll learn to live with both.

Re-reading I noticed I did not answer your questions…sorry.

I’ve got cat-6/7 through out the house. NUC/Rock is in another area Gen 8 i7 with 16BG RAM (overkill but it is cheap) M.2 internal SSD for Roon, 4-Bay NAS in same location as NUC. 2 10TB drives RAID1, 1 SSD cache drive, 1 single 10TB drive. Every Roon endpoint is hard wired, nothing wireless. Most Roon endpoints are Sonos connects as in my original post connected to “other” systems. I don’t seem to have any serious Roon network/connectivity problems beyond the typical learning curve.

Everyone like pictures, right? Here is my equipment not in my listening room. NUC, NAS and 4K video distribution are there along with basement switch that feeds listening room, garage, outdoor speakers, etc.

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Digital is not nearly that complicated. There’s no moving parts. You need to choose good digital recordings (perhaps the hardest part), get a DAC which converts those to analog well (and there are hundreds of perfectly fine ones, it’s not 1982 any more), and use an amp which matches your speakers – which part you’ve already got.

Indeed it is, and it’s not even expensive any more. A Mytek Liberty is only $1000 for a DAC, and the Chi-Fi offerings like Topping are even less expensive, and just as good. A subscription to Tidal and/or Qobuz to sample various masters, and an excellent DAC like the $900 Topping D90 – that’s all you need to listen to great music.

But from all you’ve been saying (and from knowing software developers – lots of us are that as well), I think you’re still interested in the equipment game, too.


I’m trying to change…I really am. :grinning: No really…It’s always been that the hunt is as much fun as the kill. Now I’m just ready to eat.

Hard to believe in this day and age, but I live in a pretty remote area. No cable company, no DSL, no FioS. It is satellite Internet (which I dumped years ago) or 4G. The problem is data caps, not so much the speed…though the speed is lacking. Don’t want to derail my own thread but safe to say I have zero interest in streaming currently.

It might seem counter intuitive to not have a quality DAC all these years but I have been ripping all my CDs to FLAC for 10+ years. I’ve got quite an extensive digital library. I’m not new to serving up music (Turtle Beach Audiotron, Home brewed systems, Squeezebox, Sonos, etc.) They have always just been for casual listening around the house/garage/outside. If I wanted to be serious it was always vinyl in a remote location. Since dipping my toe in the Roon pool, I’ve amassed a good bit of High Rez FLAC files and DSD/DSF.

I’m in 100% agreement the #1 priority is finding the recording with the best mastering. I can’t tell you how many LPs (and CDs for that matter) I have more than 3 version of. I probably have 10 different version of Pet Sounds and close to that many of Brubeck’s Time Out.

I really think I have the content and infrastructure at least 90% down. Now I just need to pick the right serving of DAC of the large menu.

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Thanks for all the info, photos and explanations. It’s clear now that you are in that game for some time. Great, that means you are prepared for all what’s coming :wink:

Too bad, that you lack a proper connectivity. Having Roon serving you millions of connections and possibilities is just the most amazing thing. On the other hand you spare yourself from all the connectivity issues with Tidal and Qobuz.

You say it all comes down to the choice of a DAC. Let’s park that for a moment.

Bill_Janssen said “digital is not nearly that complicated”. This is 100% true, as vinyl - in the end - is a miracle of physics in itself. But at least it’s something you can somehow relate to: I can imagine super tiny masses being pushed around with hundred of g-forces, exciting a metal that induces electricity in a magnetic field (or the other way around), and pre-amps amplifying weakest signals by orders of magnitude - all most fascinating electrical and mechanical engineering. As someone can geek out on this, anyone can just stomp with its feet next to a turntable and will understand the principle pretty fast.

I think digital is very different. As a software guy you know that this is all abstract. Way to abstract for most people. (This is why it seems less complex - just connect and hit that play button - and it works (until it doesn’t ;-))

With our biological heritage we have nothing to relate to to make sense of digital (which - fun fact - in the end is all analog). Still we all must make sense of the world. And create our own truths, which just reflects our non-understanding of what really happens. This leads to end- and fruitless debates like “can a DAC / USB or network cable / network-player / switch sound different?”. Everyone will give you a different answer. So - don’t trust anyone. As always, only your ears will tell you the truth that matters. And even they have good and bad days.

Coming back to the DAC. There are so many out there, no one is an expert of all. So it’s just about the choices that are important to you.

If R2R sounds like a fascinating concept for you, go for that.

For me it was the unique DSD upsampling (and the personality of the guy that developed that DAC) that drove me to my DAC: a PS Audio Direct Stream. Which I can fully recommend. It actually might fit your ratings/tendencies above. But everyone here will recommend their DAC. So do not listen to me.

Now comes the “But”: For my ears and brain, in my room, with my system, it makes a difference, if there is a dedicated network player. For me, it makes a difference if there is an EtherRegen in there. And it actually made a very relevant difference, if that audiophile switch is powered by a linear power supply, that costs nearly double than the switch, or not. There are as many explanations out there, why all this is just bias and can’t be, as interesting theories, why and how these components/topologies might actually change something. What will happen is that you will create your own explanations, why things are as they are. And all your decisions will be driven by these beliefs. The fun begins, when an experience challenges a settled believe… What I want to say is: all these things mentioned above changed the sound (again, for me, subjective) with the same DAC in the system. A DAC is a central piece, but some might argue (as myself) that there is more to digital than “just” the DAC.

I fear this is of no help at all. And then written in bad english, which is not my mother tongue. But at least I recommended my DAC :wink:

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Absolutely! Love it.