I've been fortunate enough to have a HiFi shop to let me listen to a few Dac's before I purchase them. And I'd like to post my non-biased review on the 3.
1st up; Cary Dac100t
Great Dac! Very refined, liquid sound! This is a tube dac, with 2)6922 output tubes. The music flows effortlessly, with a great soundstage. There's a magic with this dac. It just sounds so lifelike. Clear defining highs, with liquid smooth mids, and seamless, crisp Bass! The music easily surpasses my Rega Cd player in overall sound quality. This was the 1st Dac I tried, and figured I couldn't get much better than this. It just portrays the music the way I think it should sound! It has all the detail, but doesn't scream in your face, when turning up the db's! Just pure tubey goodness all around, without getting lazy at the bottom! The one thing I could complain about was the brightness of the lights on the front of the dac! They were so bright, that I had to put a piece of cardboard in front to enjoy the music! THAT BRIGHT! This Dac was listed @ $3000. So I wanted to try a couple others out, but I loved the sound! I ran this with balanced outputs, and a Kimber USB cable, of my computer using ITunes. And next,,,,,,,
Read lots of reviews on this dac, and they were very positive. $2000, Decided to give it a whirl. Was a little disappointed in this dac. The mids were good, and the highs good also, not great, but good. The bottom end was where I got stuck in the mud! A little boomy, muddy sounding. I honestly disliked the lows enough so, I didn't give this a listen for more than 3 hours. This was a demo unit/lots of hours on it. The overall presentation was average to my ears. As a matter of fact, I would say I may prefer my old DacMagic+ over this dac, @ 1400 less! Just didn't blow my skirt up!
The solid state version of Cary's new Dac lineup. This is listed @ $2500, and I was really curious to hear the difference between the 2! This is a nice Dac, and if I hadn't already heard it's tube sibling, I probly would have kept it! Refined all the way through, High's, mids, lows. A little more punch, or maybe a more forward presentation than the tubed version. Just a honest sound, no coloration. A great Dac for someone looking for nuetral sound! Dynamic, fast, and true.
But I knew I was gonna pick the Dac100t the 1st time I heard it!(as well as my wife knew also! She said it was the most expensive, so I was gonna get it:-)
1 problem, how the hell am I gonna work around those halogen lights on the front! 4 blue lights! So bright, its distracting! No BS!
Well after a few weeks gone by, my buddy at Sound World called with some good news! Cary was listening to their customers, and fixed the extremely bright lights! Yahtzee! Neesless to say, I've been enjoying my new Dac100t for a couple weeks now! Sublime sound! If ur interested in a mid/highfi Dac, Give the Cary a try I don't think u'll be disappointed!