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(2018) Stereo Digital Source Components

Price: $26,000

Website: www.esoteric-usa.com

Howard said: Spend some time with the Esoteric Grandioso G1 master clock generator and you’ll likely never go back. It not only uncovers in recordings of music levels of detail, precision, and tonal richness previously unsuspected, it also reveals aspects of performances, including those of the recording venue itself, that are missed by less accurate digital pendulums.

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: If you’ve got the money to spend . . .

Price: AU$5990

Website: www.luminmusic.com

Barry said: Investing $6000 in a source component is a substantial commitment, however considering the simplicity and the level of performance the T1 delivers, in my opinion it’s one that is easily justified.

Read the SoundStage! Australia review.

The gist: Network playing made easy.

Price: $2399; Analog 2 upgrade for original Yggdrasil, $550

Website: www.schiit.com

Erich said: The Yggdrasil provided beautiful, musical sound even when fed challenging recordings from digital’s early days. Clear imaging, large and solid soundstaging, linear frequency response, and a particularly fabulous midrange all make the Schiit Yggdrasil an excellent DAC at any price.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Uncommon DAC architecture produces sound that belies the low price.

Price: $2399; Analog 2 upgrade for original Yggdrasil, $550

Website: www.schiit.com

Erich said: In its Analog 2 version, the Yggdrasil DAC marries affordability to exceptional sound quality courtesy a bespoke DAC architecture from one of hi-fi’s most pioneering digital designers.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Uncommon DAC architecture produces sound that belies the low price.

Price: $8000 (Ethernet module, $600; other modules, $400 each)

Website: www.waversa.com

Vade said: The Waversa Systems WDAC3 Mk.II is beautifully designed and built, and as jewel-like as any hi-fi component I’ve seen. It has many advanced operating features, and a front-panel display that can be read from the other side of a large room. I’d heard that using an Ethernet input for your DAC could sound much better than the ubiquitous USB input, and the WDAC3 proved that to be true. Through its Ethernet input in particular, the WDAC3 Mk.II sounded as good as it looks: spectacular. Its glitches were minor and easily fixed. Easily and strongly recommended.

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: Competitive with any under-$10k DAC today.

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