When is a DAC too old? Have they peaked for a while?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by aberyclark, May 10, 2012.

  1. aberyclark

    aberyclark Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    There seems to be new Dacs popping up quite a bit. Over on the CA board (computer audio), some members talk as if they upgrade their Dacs every year. Are we now at the point to where if you buy a good DAC now, will it be a keeper for the next 10 years? Or is the technology changing too fast?
  2. TommyTunes

    TommyTunes Forum Resident

    DAC's like computers have a 3 year lifespan until they are superceded. However there would be nothing to stop you from liking a DAC you like today in 5-10 years, just don't fool yourself into thinking it will be the equal of what would be then SOTA.
  3. phallumontis

    phallumontis Active Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    The old Rega Io DAC that came with the Jupiter CD player is still sought after for its excellent sound. That should tell you something.

    I'm really interested in the Schiit Bifrost DAC. They've built it to be future-proof. When meaningful upgrades to S/PDIF and USB decoding come along, they will take your old Bifrost and install the upgrades. Seems like a great idea to me. Very affordable, too.
  4. Duggeh

    Duggeh Active Member

    Location:
    Scotland
    I use a Sony DAS-R1 DAC. Circa 1987.

    I have no complaints about how good my 16/44 sounds.
  5. MacGyver

    MacGyver Well-Known Member


    big ditto here for the output stage of my PIONEER PD-91.

    it's specifications too are Circa 1987, if not slightly older still...
  6. jpelg

    jpelg Active Member

    Location:
    The Elm City
    D/A technology has gotten cheap. Output stages & power supplies still cost money.
  7. jh901

    jh901 Forum Resident

    If your DAC is over 10 years old then you are limiting the potential of your system.
  8. TONEPUB

    TONEPUB Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    Same reason I bought the dCS. Everything is either upgradeable via modules or software. Last player I'm buying.
  9. LeeS

    LeeS Tubes Rule

    Location:
    Atlanta
    +1 :agree:
  10. TONEPUB

    TONEPUB Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    Not really, the older levinson 39, 39.5 and 390's still sound really good.
  11. Matt Levy

    Matt Levy Active Member

    I still enjoy the excellent Dual Analog Devices AD1955 24bit D/A converter in my Cambridge Audio Azur 840C CD Player and can't see replacing it anytime soon, particularly for the amazing price I paid of $1200. The Azur has 2 digital inputs and I use the D/A converter to process my streaming audio library coming from the computer.

    Now I am upgrading my Logitech Squeezebox Touch with the Logitech Transporter, which also is supposed to have an excellent D/A converter built in (AKM AK4396 multibit sigma-delta D/A), but I do not know how it compares to the Azur's D/A converter. If anyone is familiar with either, please chime in.
  12. aberyclark

    aberyclark Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    I'm using the DAC in my Pioneer Elite receiver about 9 years old for atv and cable. I use analog outs from my elite 45a universal player (about same age), probably same DAC. I'd be curious what improvement I would hear with the bit frost or dac-it compared to my receiver.
  13. motorcitydave

    motorcitydave Enlightened Rogue

    Location:
    Las Vegas, NV, USA
    :cool:
  14. edb15

    edb15 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    new york
    No you're not.
  15. ElizabethH

    ElizabethH Forum Resident

    Location:
    SE Wisconsin,USA
    I use an Adcom DA700 with a powerline conditioner, and a tube buffer and find it is better than SACD IMO.
  16. corduroy

    corduroy Member

    Location:
    Pennsauken, NJ
    The main problem is that everyone seems to gush over the latest and greatest DAC chips when the power supply and output stage are far more important to the overall sound quality, IMO.
  17. LeeS

    LeeS Tubes Rule

    Location:
    Atlanta
    No they don't sound very good.
  18. motorcitydave

    motorcitydave Enlightened Rogue

    Location:
    Las Vegas, NV, USA
    Nothing Levinson sounds good, imo. I used to own the old stuff that many audiophiles covet. Hated it. Dull and muffled.
  19. triple

    triple Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Zagreb, Croatia
    With dac's it is pretty much like with football players - the one in fashion right now is automatically the best ever. I remember a few years ago Ronaldinho was praised as the best football player of all times, now nobody remembers him. That's because the new greatest player ever is at his peak - Lionel Messi.
  20. Linolad

    Linolad Well-Known Member

    Gentlemen I am interested to know on what this 10 year theory of yours is based on.
  21. Claude

    Claude Forum Resident

    Location:
    Luxembourg
    I don't agree.

    DACs and PCs (or mobile phones) can't be compared, since the performance of the latter is about speed, memory capacity and features, while that of a DAC is about sound quality.

    An older DAC might suffer from certain operational limitations (no USB connection, limited to 24/96 input or even lower), but his sound quality can still be competitive. Like an old computer sound card. Some of the most popular pro soundcards use rather old technology.

    A ten your old computer whose hardware has never been upgraded has very limited use today, but I'm still enjoying my Electrocompaniet ECD-1 from 2002 ($2000 list price, still available today), which sounds better than an Oppo BDP-95 for example. The only thing I'm missing is 24/192 input.

    The DAC sound is as much about the analogue stage (where there have been little technological improvements recently, as with amplifiers) than about the sound of the DAC chip itself. Many current DACs use chips which are several years old, and some high end DACs even use dedicated vintage chips that do not upsample for playback of 16/44 material, because the engineers think a bit-perfect approach sounds best.

    I'm waiting for a stereo DAC with DSD-over-HDMI input, so I can connect an Oppo to play SACDs. With this feature, a high end DAC would be good for many years to come.
  22. edb15

    edb15 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    new york
    Funnily enough I have this DAC in one of my systems and it is really fine sounding for the money.
  23. edb15

    edb15 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    new york
    Agree with those who say the analog stages and power supply are crucial. And note that many well regarded DACs (like the Benchmark) use DAC chips that are old by the 10 year standard. And that some of the best digital I've heard is from a Naim CDS (original) which uses a 1980s chip but a power amp level of power supply and tons of regulation.

    To me, a DAC is a preamp. The actual conversion is not terribly consequential--except if NOS methods are used. The analog circuits are what changes the character of the sound.
  24. triple

    triple Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Zagreb, Croatia
    NOS brigade would probably disagree with the general tone of this thread. However, there are hardly any supporters of this concept in this forum.

    Basically, if you went to a vegeterian forum, you would think that meat is murder. Depends who is asked, really.
  25. Claude

    Claude Forum Resident

    Location:
    Luxembourg
    What has changed is that there are now many more DACs available than ten years ago, and the demand is also higher, which makes the market much more competitive. Especially in the entry level field.

    So you might get a $400 DAC today which sounds as good a $1000 DAC ten years ago, but that's not necessary due to technological improvements, but to larger production volumes.