2020 Editors' Choice: DACs $1,000 - $3,000

Equipment report
Categories:
Digital-to-analog converters
2020 Editors' Choice: DACs $1,000 - $3,000

Musical Surroundings Mydac II
$1200
The Musical Surroundings Mydac II offers a unique solution to the problem of accurate digital sound reproduction by augmenting its performance through mid- and upper-frequency equalization. The result is a DAC that sounds “less digital” and reproduces upper frequencies with less of a hard, amusical edge. The USB input is also not nearly as good as the Mydac II’s S/PDIF input in terms of overall sound quality. To hear the Mydac II’s true sonic potential with computer-based music files you will need to add a high-quality USB-to-SPDIF converter.

M2Tech Young MK2/MK3 MQA
$1499/$1599
This meticulously crafted two-unit server with external linear power supply can run Roon, Roon utilizing Squeezebox, or Squeezebox with your favorite UPnP software. From a sonic perspective it checks every audiophile box. Layering and dynamics are unrestricted no matter the musical genre, and vocals are velvety and luxurious, but never high viscosity. Rock is passionately reproduced with snap, punch, rhythm, and texture. It reproduces small- and large-scale dynamic shifts with ease. Piano’s difficult tonal complexities often challenge the best music servers, but they were just another day at the concert hall for the M2Tech. It easily belongs with components at or twice its price.

Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2
$1499
The Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2 delivers high-quality DAC and a very-well-thought-out preamplifier that can replace a separate preamp and DAC in an all-digital source system. The DAC-2’s obvious value and reasonable price makes it an enticing control center for either a high-end near-field desktop, or two-channel room-based system, or even in a multichannel system via its pass-through option. All the circuit boards can be upgraded to allow for some degree of future-proofing. And Wyred 4 Sound recently offered an upgrade for the DAC-2 to a DSDSE version that offers DSD capability along with improved PCM performance.

Chord Qutest
$1695
The Chord Qutest integrates the entire frequency spectrum in a holistic way that just sounds right—not too soft or hard, detailed without being harsh, and relaxed without being flaccid. With the Qutest, SS heard a certain “rightness” to the sound that he could live with happily for a long time. If you have a basic but flagship-level DAC that is more than ten years old, and you have been thinking about modernizing, SS would strongly recommend trying the Qutest before replacing your DAC with something with an additional zero at the end of its price tag.

Schiit Audio Yggdrasil
$2399
This barebones DAC (no networking, no DSD, no MQA, Spartan chassis) sounds spectacularly great. When playing PCM sources (the bread-and-butter source for most listeners) the Yggy competes with some really, really expensive DACs. Designed by industry legend Mike Moffat, the Yggy sounds very much like the famous Theta Digital DACs that Moffat designed in the 1980s and 1990s—but better. Like the Theta DACs of yore, the Yggy has a bold, assertive, vibrant, even vivid presentation. It’s a spectacular performer on an absolute level, an out-of-this world bargain, and was our choice for DAC of the Year in 2017.

PrimaLuna EVO 100
$2999
With sweet, accurate midrange sonics and sturdy construction that should last a long time, this mid-priced tube DAC has a stout tube-rectified power supply for each channel. While that’s unusual for a DAC, it assures dynamic range will be wide and dynamic shifts lightning fast. Perhaps the EVO 100 is missing the very deepest lows and highest highs, but there’s not much else to quibble about.