To Doug Schneider,
I've admired your balanced and careful reviews for a long time. I've got a two-channel setup with a pair of PSB Synchrony Ones being driven by an Anthem Integrated 225. There's also a DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 Dual Core doing room correction and acting as a DAC and preamp for now. However, the advantage of this device is you can do the room correction in the digital domain and then connect it to a superior DAC. I was wondering: What would be a good DAC for the Synchronys? As you've noted, the Synchronys sound very detailed and neutral, but can also be less forgiving of certain recordings compared to other speakers. I listen to quite a few film soundtracks including many for older movies. The recording quality often isn't great and the music tends to be inherently bright or dry. Ideally I'd prefer a DAC that is detailed, but one that would also make these recordings sound smoother. Two I have in mind are the NAD M51 and the Bryston BDA-2. Have you compared these two? I know the latter is probably more neutral and detailed, but the M51 is actually $500 cheaper in Australia compared to the US and has been described as having a more laid-back sound that might suit the Sychronys.
It's great to get e-mails from so far away. Based on what you described, the answer to your question is pretty easy: the NAD M51. While Bryston’s BDA-2 is an excellent DAC, it’s the kind of product that’s revealing of what’s on the recording and won’t pretty it up for you. On the other hand, from what S. Andrea Sundaram said in his positive review of the M51, it will make recordings more palatable to listen to. This is what he said near the end that best sums that up: “What the Masters M51 offers is a sound that’s smooth, laid-back, and always pleasant, no matter what you throw at it. Its slight favoring of the midrange imbues the sound with just a hint of extra warmth.” The fact that you can get it for $500 less over there than in the United States makes it all that much better. Need I say more? . . . Doug Schneider