Looking for New DAC suggestions under US$500

Hello Rooners. I’m in the quest for a new DAC within my budget (U$500). I now own an ODROID-C2 with their HiFi shield 2 + Brio-R amp + Dali Zensor 7 columns. It sound just fine, but doesn’t quite move me like when I use a better dac in the same system (tried an Auralic once from a friend of mine and I did hear differences). I will be ONE day in NY and a few in Toronto, so I have a very narrow window to get the DAC, but no time or place to try it until getting back to Argentina, so although buying second hand may be good $ wise, it may be risky in terms of assurance that it works fine (although buying new has proven to fail sometimes also).
My requirements/comments are:
-Toslink input
-USB input
-Power supply with dual voltage (110V/220V) preferably, so I don’t have to use a transformer or buy another PS or LPS specific for 220V/50Hz.
-MQA/DSD: I have never heard material in those formats, so I can’t really know if I like them or not. Some of the devices I will list offer decoding some doesn’t. I did read a lot about MQA and how it works and don’t see any real benefit other that money for the creators and big labels.
-I guess I can still use the ODROID with Dietpi to act as a USB bridge (or get the ALLO USBbridge if suggested) so no need for other pieces of hardware. I prefer to use Wifi over ethernet, the router is not near, but the signal level is great.


  1. there any limitation regarding decoding of DSD or MQA by using the ODROID as a bridge or the bridge had nothing to do with the decoding capabilities?
  2. How can I be sure it will work the the ODROID or USB bridge? Maybe something like what Schiit describes as UAC2 compliant.

I have sort of “narrow” my search to this ones, which cover my inputs needs. The ones in italics are those that I read good reviews about, but I want your input:
Schiit MODI multibit - U$250.00
Schiit Multifrost (multibit + 200) - U$400.00
Bluesound NODE 2 - U$500.00 (roon ready I believe, but trouble when using MQA with roon)
TEAC UD-501-B - U$500.00 (on ebay, refurbished, needs transformer)
TEAC UD-301 - U$315.00 (on ebay, refurbished, needs transformer)
Benchmark DAC1 - U$495.00 (on ebay, needs transformer I think)
Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital - U$400.00
Pro-Ject Box S2+ - 250.00
Cambridge audio DacMagic 100 - U$200.00
Cambridge audio - DACMagic Plus - 350.00
Musical Fidelity V90 - U$300.00
Music Hall DAC15.2 - U$200.00

Sorry for the long post, but my trip is in may and I don’t know when I will be able to get another audio gear overseas where prices ando offers are much better than in my country.

Regards and thank you for reading and writing

I tweaked the topic a little so it might attract some more traffic :smiley:

I can’t offer too much advice for the DAC but if you’re expecting to support high bitrates with DSD etc wifi connection might be your limiting factor with RPI as an endpoint as it’s not known for great wifi throughput.

I have the ProJect Pre-Box Digital S2 (what a horrible name, by the way), and it works great. Does MQA, DSD256, is USB powered so no need for LPS, just connect to your Roon endpoint of choice.
Sound is OK so far, but I haven’t done A/B testing with other DACs just yet.

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Does shipping or import charges make the prices in Argentina more expensive? Is Massdrop or AliExpress an option? They both have the Topping D50 for around 200 usd right now which meets all of your requirements and seems to measure very well for the price.

I have a Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital on the way and many people here seem to like theirs, out of your current list that would be my choice.

I’d spend the extra $100 and get a Schiit Bitfrost Multibit if you’re thinking about a Modi.

The Cambridge Audio DAC Magic Plus is a nice DAC and used to be around $600…recent price reduction to $350.

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Importing on my own is almost out of the question. There is a limit of 100USD per year for door to door services (like ebay using DHL or something like that). What most people do is to use grabr.io services, but it adds like 20% on the price, that’s why I want to take advantage of this trip.
I read the whole thread on the pre box S2 device. Everyone seems to like it, there are a few complaining about problems at the end and they had to send it for RMA, hopefully it’s a small fraction.

I can’t comment on all of those DACs, but auditioning some (or some with the same or similar chipsets) I’d say from experience that those Dali’s would benefit from something better than $500. The difference between a $50 RPi hat and a “polished” $500 DAC is mostly presentation: retail pricing, marketing, nice packaging and a branded case etc.

A Chord 2Qute is is now end of life and you may get one new at a bargain price. This will do wonders with the Dali Zensor 7s. Alternatively, add the Chord Mojo to your list.

I can highly recommend Arcam irDac iI it can be used as a dac, preamp and has a dedicated headphone amp section. Has toslink, coax and usb outputs.

The arcam looks nice and reviews favour it also I think. What bothers me a little is that I don’t use headphones at home, so I’m not looking in particular for a headphone output, although most if not all the devices I listed, have a headphones jack. The arcam also has bluetooth which I don’t use either, so I in my mind I am “paying” for two features that I don’t use nor plan to use in the future. But I came here looking for personal experiences, so thank you for your input.

Well regarded inexpensive DACs not on your list:
iFi-several models under $500
Emotiva-makes a very good DAC, I think it is $399 (could be wrong, but it isn’t high priced)