My foray into digital music from PC arrived in the form of a Halide DAC HD. I bought it over the web from Moon Audio, and received a black Friday discount of 20%. Not bad. Shipping took 2 weeks. No additional cables or power supplies needed. The DAC runs from USB power.
This is a very sturdy piece of kit, unpacking it with a very beefy USB cable portion to the black box, and then the DAC unit, and then the stereo RCA cables. Serious Stuff. Installation is painless, although it must use a USB2.0 port as my USB 3.0 combi port did not like this (HP Pavillion laptop). Music server is JRIVER MC 18, Direct Audio mode. (now if I could get GIZMO running as a remote from my Android phone, it would really be a perfect setup).
First notes: If you plug new kit into an input you haven't been using in your Amp, let it burn in a bit. I'm using a Roksan K2 integrated. I compared a selection of FLAC files taken from my own CDs, comparing to the CD played in my Rega Apollo. Simply by flipping the source, I can easily A/B the devices when starting the same track on both simultaneously.
My first objective and thesis of this test: The Laptop should serve via the DAC a redbook CD file at the same quality level as the CD on the Rega Apollo. This is totally satisfied. It is not exactly the same, different, but so subtle. I actually made a mistake and played uncompressed MP3 files on the laptop a bit, and they were very close also, just a bit rolled off on the highs. Bass, was very good and warm on both devices.
I will follow up with pics and more tests. As I am testing CD Player:DAC, I am not terribly interested in higher resolution formats but assume it will just be more of the same good results. Other notes, running streaming radio through the DAC is very, very good also. My end goal is to move all CDs to a NAS storage solution and drop a dedicated notebook to serve.
Roksan Kandy K2 Integrated
Rega Apollo CD Player
Audio Refinement Complete Tuner
Totem Staaf speakers, Totem speaker cables.