What are the best DACs under $250 to pair with Chrome Audio for streaming audio via Wifi?
It seems as if I crawled out from under a rock after 20 years of listening to music through a CD player connected to a receiver and wired speakers. I've been experimenting with bluetooth and wifi for streaming and have decided I would like to 1) make the most out of what I already have and look to upgrade individual components rather than replacing everything at once, 2) go with a best of breed approach so that I don't lock myself into a particular vendor or product. The product space for wifi streaming is immature and - as someone who has had speakers for 40 years and a receiver for 20 - this seems to me not to be a time to make bets on any particular system.
Here's what I have right now:
1) NAD 712 receiver -- it works fine and from what I understand the core technology in amplifiers hasn't changed that much recently. Not ready to spend $500 or $1000 on an upgrade.
2) Genesis series 1 (or 10?) speakers -- 40 years old and people apparently still like them. They're not super hi end audio, but they work pretty well. Will consider an upgrade in the future.
3) Chromecast Audio -- just bought it last weekend. Does exactly what I want in enabling me to stream to my receiver and speakers above. Sound quality is ok, but it just failed an A/B test with Sonos this morning.
DACs I've tried so far:
Regarding Sonos, I got it a few weeks ago and will return it -- largely because it forces me to pay for Spotify premium if I want to stream through Spotify. Also because I don't seem to be able to multi-cast to my PC speakers. And because I think I'll get more money from a separate DAC.
I also tried the audioengine B1 -- it was fine, but I found bluetooth very limiting. Making everything an endpoint on one's home network and then using software to get them to interoperate seems to me to be the way to go.
So what do you recommend?
There are all kinds of DACs out there and lots of top ten lists that often dont' share many DACs in common. In theory I should get more for my money with a standalone DAC than a DAC/amp combo, but I'd welcome informed opinions. There are lots of products out there for < $100 -- unclear that they'll make much of a difference in sound quality. There are also quite a few in the $100 - $250 range.
I've listed a few I looked at this morning - what do you think about these or any others?
Schiit Mod -- multibit seems like the best bet for the Modi, but Schiit's reputation is spotty - http://www.schiit.com/products/modi-1
Grace Design Standard DAC -- doesn't appear to have an optical in so probably won't work with Chromecast Audio
Audioengine D1 -- comes with an amp, so not sure how much money goes into the DAC
JDS Lab OL DAC -- saw it somewhere as a recommendation for Chromecast, but review at The Master Switch is underwhelming
FiiO Q1 Mark II -- one of the top DACs recommended by Master Switch at any price, but even in their own review they write " FiiO's second version of its Q1 may not deliver a huge change in sound from your phone..." -- so then what's the point?