To Jeff Fritz,
I read your interesting article about digital sources. It seems that I must put CD players to rest. I decided to buy a laptop, probably from Apple, although I hold in equal esteem Toshiba and Sony. Is the Apple the best choice for music?
I would prefer a DAC with volume control. I have read that the best preamplifier is no preamplifier. Unfortunately, the EMM Labs DAC2X does not have this advantage. I have on the top of my list the Weiss Medea+, the Esoteric D-02, and the more affordable Bricasti M1. I think that these models justify their prices because they are outstanding. Which of them would you choose? The goal is the ultimate neutrality and accuracy.
The decision you've made to ditch the CD player and the preamplifier is a real stereo-simplifying move, and one I would gladly make if I did not need a preamplifier for reviewing purposes. I really like this system model. To answer your first question first, I'd just get the Apple. It's not that you can’t get great sound from any good laptop, it's just that the Apple products work so well in so many ways that, why not? It's just a solid choice, and one that many audiophiles have happily adopted.
As for your DAC choice, there are clearly no losers on your list. I think any of them would make a fine addition to your system and provide just the type of neutral, accurate performance you crave. However, I would like to add another possible candidate to your list, and that's the Calyx Audio Femto. This model sells for $6850 and is excellent in every regard. It is built to the highest standard, is as accurate as any digital product I've heard, and has a terrific volume control that will allow you to configure your system just as you wish. In the time that I've used one I've grown to like it more and more. . . . Jeff Fritz