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What's A Good Number to Invest in a DAC?

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  • What's A Good Number to Invest in a DAC?

    I thought Christian's comment in the Biggest Bang for the Buck thread was very interesting so decided to spin it off into its own thread. I never ever thought of digital in quite this fashion. Not that I normally spend time thinking about digital.

    Hard to say on components.....D/A. You can get 90% of the very best in digital sound for under $6,000.
    What does everyone think? Is that a reasonable figure for a DAC? More? Less?
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
    ________________________________________

    -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
    -Goldmund Telos 300 stereo amp
    -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
    -Doshi EVO and Goldmund PH3.8 phonostage
    -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
    -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
    -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga Mk. 2, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
    -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
    -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 6, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
    -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz 3 racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA OHIO Class 2.1+ platforms.

  • #2
    These-- Aqua--no not silly song

    Soc

    Comment


    • #3
      I would put the starting point of diminishing returns for a high-end DAC at $4-5k.

      Comment


      • #4
        There's quite a range of prices on the DACs on the market.
        The 500+ DACs with DSD start at $99 (a DAC kit) and go all the way up to a base price of $125k (MSB Technologies Theater Master).

        Many choices....

        http://www.nativedsd.com/database

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Bruce B View Post
          I would put the starting point of diminishing returns for a high-end DAC at $4-5k.
          Bruce, what current DAC's would you recommend in the $4-5K range?
          Speakers/Amps: Genesis G2.2 Jr with Powered Servo-Sub Bass, Genesis GR1440 Mono Amps, 5,000 watts total power
          Preamp: SMc Audio VRE-1C Preamp (fully balanced inputs and output)
          Analog 1: VPI Signature 21 Belt-Drive Turntable w/ 10” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Windfeld Ti Phono Cartridge driving Lehmann Silver Cube Phono Preamp
          Analog 2: VPI HW-40 Direct-Drive Turntable w/ 12” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Anna Diamond Phono Cartridge driving Genesis Gold Phono Preamp
          Analog 3: Studer A810 R2R tape w/ Bridge Console. Using built-in tape preamp
          Digital: Lumin Network Player with Lumin NAS
          Cables: Genesis Advanced Technologies/Absolute Fidelity Interface Interconnects, Speaker, Phono and Power
          A/C Power: Extensive System Upgrades, Sub-panel w/hard-wired power cables, and IsoTek Super Titan Passive Power Conditioning for Amplifiers
          Accessories: Custom Acrylic Equipment Stands, Klaudio Ultrasonic RCM

          Comment


          • #6
            It seems like this is a tough price area.

            I'm not really interested in dac's but they seem to be made up from a few pieces. The front end interface to receive the incoming digital stream, the dac chip or r2r dac design, software including filters and then the power supply design for digital and analog and the analog output. Money would seem to be well spent on the power supply and analog output stage and that is where several high price designs are differentiated. Few dacs have a descrite analog output stage, most opt for opamp designs. I'm glad I'm into the analog side of replay. My Ayre C5xs MP seems to keep chugging along.

            I have an audioquest dragonfly for my laptop and it's impressive for the price. I would not spend $5k on a dac unless I was all into digital.

            Comment


            • #7
              With technology moving as fast as it is, the "DAC of the month" flavor places this type of component as the fastest depreciating item in one's system - I think.

              There are quite a few nice DACs in the <$10K price point - Bricasti, PS Audio, MSB to name a few. I personally moved to a simpler digital front end by purchasing a Lumin S-1 several years ago. It has been a terrific player - easy to use and it sounds better than my ARC DAC8 and Esoteric K-05 CD/SACD.

              If i were to go higher than $10K (not planning to do), I would draw the line at $20K with maybe the Berkeley Ref 2, Lampi, or several others in this range.

              By the way, I have been trying to sell the ARC DAC8 for 2 years with no takers - even at a ridiculous low price.

              Comment


              • #8
                But used Myles get more for the money. Find a chipless dsd dac and a must for you to hear it in your setup. A tough requiement. You are someone who has analog for a lifetime and has great analog that last dac you need is one that sounds purely digital enough to fatigue you over time.
                as a side note the dac you are considering to buy should sound well on headphones too. Some sound good with speakers or headphones but not both. To upfront in presentation can be a bad thing for headphones.
                Also some pretty good dacs do both and have a headphone amp as well.

                I do feel used is es is a great way to get a bigger bang for buck.
                analog stuff.
                otari mtr 10 2 track 1/4 made new by soren
                otari mtr 10 2 track 1/4 1/2 combo made new by soren
                sota sapphire used eminent tech ver 2 arm
                new sota nova table has magnetic levitation platter and full speed control and latest motor same arm as above
                thorens td124 sme ver 2 arm
                thorens td125 sme ver 2 arm
                kenwood direct drive sme ver 2 arm
                phono preamp Ml no 25 all re capped
                speakers cust infinity IRS V , new caps and LPS , magnets etc.
                mark levivson pre no 26 amps no 33
                digital three cust servers , win ser 2016 , AO
                Dacs lampi various

                Comment


                • #9
                  I recently reviewed the PS Audio DSJ DAC and it retails for $4K. It is software upgradable which is cool because it won't go obsolete as soon as you get it out of the box. It was a marked improvement over my Mytek Stereo 192 which I still think sounds really good with DSD. The big advantage for me is that the DSJ converts PCM to 10x DSD and makes it sound listenable.

                  Back to Myles OP. Based on my time with the DSJ, I would say $4K can get you in the door of the 90% crowd, but I'm not sure if we have to segregate whether we mean for DSD or PCM. Of course people that spent north of $90K for a DAC will never want to accept that you are getting 90% of their DAC SQ for a fraction of the price. It's the nature of being in the "uber" crowd.
                  Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 tape deck, Ampex 350 repros, Roon Nucleus Plus server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6 pre, ARC Ref 75 amp, JBL 4345 speakers, and Def Tech Ref subs.

                  Comment


                  • Johnny Vinyl
                    Johnny Vinyl commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Damn...$90K to listen to a $25 CD.

                  • mep
                    mep commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Yep, and it will be obsolete in no time. So that means if you want to stay in the "uber" club, you will have to sell your $90k DAC and hope that you can get somewhere close to $45k for your obsolete DAC and then cough up another $45k-$50k so you can maintain your status in the "uber" club when the next "uber" DAC is released. Meanwhile back at the ranch, you're still listening to digital...

                • #10
                  I had put in some of my posts the crossover point - there is a point where costs of dac + streamer crossover to getting a good analog set up + LPs. Then there is a crossover point where you can get tape deck + tapes (albeit s/w is limited). Know your crossover points.

                  I have compared my big 7 to two Esoteric K01s, one K01x, a Trinity, my GG to Esoteric K01s, Aries Cerat, Nagra HD. Al rainbow has a 50k MSB stack and prefers his Big 7 (which he upgraded to GG I think). Many shifts from Playback Design, Berkeley, none the other way reported, one guy in Singapore reported a trade-in of Vivaldi for Lampi, and I could go on. Also try the Aqua Formula as suggested by Mike.

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    Glad you said it I for one feel like your view. but feared hatred for saying how we feel. Lol. I own two lampi dacs
                    one just back is a head dac the other is a straight up dac both golden gates inside with out the cases also two types of caps
                    one is mundorf the other is deuland. a lampi is one brand anyone should try even if to hear how it plays and has many sides in playing.
                    analog stuff.
                    otari mtr 10 2 track 1/4 made new by soren
                    otari mtr 10 2 track 1/4 1/2 combo made new by soren
                    sota sapphire used eminent tech ver 2 arm
                    new sota nova table has magnetic levitation platter and full speed control and latest motor same arm as above
                    thorens td124 sme ver 2 arm
                    thorens td125 sme ver 2 arm
                    kenwood direct drive sme ver 2 arm
                    phono preamp Ml no 25 all re capped
                    speakers cust infinity IRS V , new caps and LPS , magnets etc.
                    mark levivson pre no 26 amps no 33
                    digital three cust servers , win ser 2016 , AO
                    Dacs lampi various

                    Comment


                    • #12
                      Let's not knock a ultra high end dac till you have heard one. Msb dacs do trade in of all
                      models above the analog
                      and for those who have the means to want a select model
                      they also do a trade in but it's not really a trade in they update yours in various ways. For me I jut like much more my lampi and use my msb as a server / preamp. Preamp always as my lampi dacs are single ended it converts to bal and volume control as well.
                      While yes I feel you can spend a lot less to obtain great souud there are those who buy not buy sound alone
                      looks , status and so on. Last time I was at innovated audio they had the msb setup with dagastino and Wilson alexia
                      now purely from this standpoint what dac or amp does one who buys a multi hundred k system lol.

                      Just sayen
                      Now for us of less es means a lampi hahahajajhas
                      analog stuff.
                      otari mtr 10 2 track 1/4 made new by soren
                      otari mtr 10 2 track 1/4 1/2 combo made new by soren
                      sota sapphire used eminent tech ver 2 arm
                      new sota nova table has magnetic levitation platter and full speed control and latest motor same arm as above
                      thorens td124 sme ver 2 arm
                      thorens td125 sme ver 2 arm
                      kenwood direct drive sme ver 2 arm
                      phono preamp Ml no 25 all re capped
                      speakers cust infinity IRS V , new caps and LPS , magnets etc.
                      mark levivson pre no 26 amps no 33
                      digital three cust servers , win ser 2016 , AO
                      Dacs lampi various

                      Comment


                      • #13
                        Lampi => Tenor 75 OTL (pre not required) => into speaker that Tenor 75 can drive, including that Wilson, I think, will kill that combo. Tenor 75 available used market dirt cheap. Just don't blow up, please.

                        Comment


                        • #14
                          I'm not knocking an ultra high end DAC, Al. I'm just stating the reality of how quickly they become obsolete in the never ending pursuit to make digital more 'perfect.'
                          Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 tape deck, Ampex 350 repros, Roon Nucleus Plus server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6 pre, ARC Ref 75 amp, JBL 4345 speakers, and Def Tech Ref subs.

                          Comment


                          • #15
                            Originally posted by bonzo75 View Post
                            Lampi => Tenor 75 OTL (pre not required) => into speaker that Tenor 75 can drive, including that Wilson, I think, will kill that combo. Tenor 75 available used market dirt cheap. Just don't blow up, please.
                            Tenor 75 ? Is that a preamp ?
                            analog stuff.
                            otari mtr 10 2 track 1/4 made new by soren
                            otari mtr 10 2 track 1/4 1/2 combo made new by soren
                            sota sapphire used eminent tech ver 2 arm
                            new sota nova table has magnetic levitation platter and full speed control and latest motor same arm as above
                            thorens td124 sme ver 2 arm
                            thorens td125 sme ver 2 arm
                            kenwood direct drive sme ver 2 arm
                            phono preamp Ml no 25 all re capped
                            speakers cust infinity IRS V , new caps and LPS , magnets etc.
                            mark levivson pre no 26 amps no 33
                            digital three cust servers , win ser 2016 , AO
                            Dacs lampi various

                            Comment


                            • bonzo75
                              bonzo75 commented
                              Editing a comment
                              No, just the Lampi of power amps. Mike L owned it. It was an OTL that was legendary, look up Tenor Audio. They had 175 and 350w hybrids, the latter at over 100k, but the hybrids were not in the OTL league, apparently - I have heard all 3 in different systems, but compared Tenor 75 directly to Spectral and Airtight 211. I haven't had such a WOW movement on amplifier quality jump ever. LOVE. Mike owned it for many years, they had blow up issues back then. Mike since has moved to a 160k Dartzeel, but Tenor goes dirt cheap, below 10k when available, though you have to pick up one with protective circuit to sort out the blow issues which can take your tweeter with it. It has a great built in VC.
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