Better DAC

I recently bought a Dragonfly Cobalt Dongle DAC, which I use to play my headphones connected to my iPhone and Macbook Air. The DAC does make a noticeable difference to the sound quality.

I have now connected my Macbook Air and cobalt DAC to my NAC 282 preamp, to stream music. Understandably, the sound quality is nowhere near as good as my Naim CD player or TT.

How could I make it sound better? I would imagine a more competent DAC would improve things. Any suggestions?

What headphones? Are they the limiting factor?


Sorry, I should have explained more clearly. I want to stream music from the Mac to my PMC speakers, via pre-amp and amp.


Is the MB your only digital source?

It might help to post details of your system in your profile or put them in your opening post. Advice on a suitable DAC might depend, for example, on what CD player you are using.


Budget about £1000. The MB is my only digital source.

2nd hand Qutest?


I will add my system to my profile. My CD player is the CD5Si.

Sorry, I thought you were content with the Cobalt for headphone use.

The cobalt sounds great when playing through headphones from my iphone and Mac, but not through my Naim system.

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I used the Qutest for quite a while with 82, and 252. Excellent product I thought, so good I had three of them for a while on different systems, all fed by Bluesound Node. I have no experience of streaming via Mac though.

The Qutest looks interesting. Do you have one?

I did have years ago, it was very good although a little clinical sounding at times. Very flexible unit.

I would normally recommend a 2nd hand NDac but that does not have the USB input you need for your MB.


I would like to buy an NDX2, but the 6k asking price puts me off. I only listen to streamed music to expand my musical knowledge and then purchase CDs or vinyl, which is my preferred choice for critical listening.
Streaming from my computer doesn’t sound that bad, although a better DAC should improve things.

You could consider a budget streamer instead of using your laptop.

Advantage of app control. Plenty to choose from.

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Which model would you recomend?

For £1000 I would get a secondhand Naim DAC and a suitable USB-s/pdif interface such as the Audiophilleo, Gustard, M2 Tech, Berkeley etc…


The Bluesound Node is a bit of a budget default streamer and has a DAC built in. The streamer and operating system are very good but the DAC is a just bit average. Stick it with an NDac or Chord DAC and it really is a very good front end.


I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll take a look around and see if I can find one. Thanks.

Just joining in…

Options might include

  1. Use Chord Qutest, new or pre-loved, to suit your budget. Est. GBP £ 800 - 1200
  2. Adding a pre-loved nDAC. (Albeit, the way Richard suggests above). Est GBP £ 900-1200. Plus suitable USB-s/pdif interface.
  3. The Naim ND5 XS2, as a stand alone streamer. MRRP GBP £ 2500. Maybe pre-loved at c. GBP £1800

Depending on budget

Good luck