Have DACs and CD players reached the end of development?

02gf74

Wammer
Wammer
Feb 9, 2013
39
18
23
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
My first CD player was a Sony bought in the 19990s, so would have been 2nd generation. It was replaced by a Marantz CD 63se, whcih I have but don't use and I have since then I have a Cyrus DAD3 that I use as a DAC, Audiolab 8000 DCM and DAC, Mucical Fidelity KW25 transport and DAC and a number of DACs ranging from the £ 6 boxes off eBay to Cyrus Dacmaster, Cyrus DAX, Musicial Fidelity M1 an M6.

Now the point here is that with the last 4 DACs listed, I am not hearing a significant difference, they vary in the number of bits, upsampling and so forth.

I remember with the Sony it sounded harsh so became hard to listen too; also the £ 6 boxes are not as nice sounding.

So my question is has DAC development matured to the a point where they are sound the same?
 
  • Like
Reactions: lowendall

tuga

. . .
Wammer
Aug 17, 2007
14,334
6,999
173
Oxen's ford, UK
AKA
Ricardo
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
Audible differences between accuracy-driven DACs are not extremelly obvious but they do exist, I guess mostly due to the upsampling and filtering algorithms but also power supply and analogue stage design.
If you opt for 'alternative/unusual' designs you get more substantial differences in presentation.

This was Stereophile's John Atkinson in 2016:

Measuring the T+A DAC 8 DSD, I was reminded of something David Rich, erstwhile reviewer for The Audio Critic, wrote at the beginning of this century: "Eventually all we'll be doing is writing about the sounds of digital filters."
 

garn63

Wammer Plus
Wammer Plus
Mar 3, 2020
12,280
18,696
198
www.avfc.co.uk
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
Think that some R2R Dacs have improved using FPGA technology. Am using an 'older style' Dac that uses 8 TDA 1543. I like this chip for its 'realistic' sound & after previously using single/dual types, find it to be more to my liking. Of course implementation, power supply etc are important criteria that can make/break the end result.
Ime incremental gains can be expensive with Dacs, but buying a good s/h one thats a few yrs old can provide vfm. If it sounded good 5 yrs ago it will still sound good today. Horses for courses.
 
  • Like
Reactions: eddie-baby

02gf74

Wammer
Wammer
Feb 9, 2013
39
18
23
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
It may be that my hearing isn't up to scratch, but I do have to admit I struggle hearing differences. I have good enough hearing given my age but it is differences in for example DACs I can't seem to notice.

A while back I built a small relay box that allowed switching between 2 pairs of interconnects for a side by side time-wise comparison. I ran my home made pair of Maplins (remember them? ) OFC cable, cost ~ £ 6 vs Van den Hul first, cost ~ £ 150 and whilst I willed myself to hear a difference, it was so subtle that I can say I did not notice it.
 
  • Like
Reactions: lowendall

Phyztech

Newbie
Wammer
Oct 19, 2023
65
57
18
HiFi Trade?
  1. Yes
Now the point here is that with the last 4 DACs listed, I am not hearing a significant difference, they vary in the number of bits, upsampling and so forth.
Big dac difference often comes into play when you triple the price, not double. Besides, dac is really a hub of cables and power supply, the sound hugely depends on what you put in and out.
 
  • Like
Reactions: foxglove and bigrod

lowendall

Wammer
Wammer
Feb 14, 2009
1,345
273
113
Scotland
AKA
happy enough
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
It may be that my hearing isn't up to scratch, but I do have to admit I struggle hearing differences. I have good enough hearing given my age but it is differences in for example DACs I can't seem to notice.

A while back I built a small relay box that allowed switching between 2 pairs of interconnects for a side by side time-wise comparison. I ran my home made pair of Maplins (remember them? ) OFC cable, cost ~ £ 6 vs Van den Hul first, cost ~ £ 150 and whilst I willed myself to hear a difference, it was so subtle that I can say I did not notice it.
yes i sort of have ended up hear as well, with a lot of the stuff, i do how ever quiet lke the little light weight balsa wood shelf i have from mr r andrews, had it a long time, , but i am sure i could do with out it, but wires yes, been there , payed quiet handsomely for some lost my shirt moving them on , cursed my stupidity a little, happile cheap old wires going fine for apeakers, i find the crappy production etc, of cds are much much more of a issue, some are terrible, really,, but there you go ,. still likw my little spinny silver disks, 16 bit 44 k, can sound rther goos when the recording is good and the mastering is also , .
 

lowendall

Wammer
Wammer
Feb 14, 2009
1,345
273
113
Scotland
AKA
happy enough
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
My first CD player was a Sony bought in the 19990s, so would have been 2nd generation. It was replaced by a Marantz CD 63se, whcih I have but don't use and I have since then I have a Cyrus DAD3 that I use as a DAC, Audiolab 8000 DCM and DAC, Mucical Fidelity KW25 transport and DAC and a number of DACs ranging from the £ 6 boxes off eBay to Cyrus Dacmaster, Cyrus DAX, Musicial Fidelity M1 an M6.

Now the point here is that with the last 4 DACs listed, I am not hearing a significant difference, they vary in the number of bits, upsampling and so forth.

I remember with the Sony it sounded harsh so became hard to listen too; also the £ 6 boxes are not as nice sounding.

So my question is has DAC development matured to the a point where they are sound the same?
I cannot be the only person wondering what the various DACs are ,cheap as well ??
 

on the rocks

Newbie
Wammer
Dec 13, 2020
124
92
33
Sheffield
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
I sometimes wonder about this. Sooner or later (sooner if my MF A5 tuner packs up) I will go down the streamer route and will need a DAC as my Musical Fidelity A5 CD player doesn’t have a digital input. How much will I need to budget for to match or exceed the SQ of my A5 CD, which has been significantly improved by a JS Audio stage 1 upgrade?
 

MartinC

Wammer
Wammer
Jul 29, 2005
9,828
6,148
158
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
My first CD player was a Sony bought in the 19990s, so would have been 2nd generation. It was replaced by a Marantz CD 63se, whcih I have but don't use and I have since then I have a Cyrus DAD3 that I use as a DAC, Audiolab 8000 DCM and DAC, Mucical Fidelity KW25 transport and DAC and a number of DACs ranging from the £ 6 boxes off eBay to Cyrus Dacmaster, Cyrus DAX, Musicial Fidelity M1 an M6.

Am I right all your DACs are ballpark 20+ years old? Then yes, I definitely think you could find improvement from more modern offerings.

You need to hear one/some to make up your own mind though.
 
  • Like
Reactions: tuga

MartinC

Wammer
Wammer
Jul 29, 2005
9,828
6,148
158
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
As this is the tech corner I thought I'd just have a quick look for the technical specifications of the Cyrus DAD3 and helpfully found them here:

https://www.cyrusaudio.com/products/dad3/

As an example, THD (total harmonic distortion) is quoted as <0.008% whereas the equivalent for my DAC (from 2021) is 0.00009% (1000 times smaller). Data from here:

https://shenzhenaudio.com/products/...rts-mqa-decoding-dsd512-bluetooth-5-0-decoder

(And proper measured data here FWIW: https://goldensound.audio/2021/12/2...dBFS Balanced Out:,reducing vol by 1dB anyway.)

Neither specify a frequency to be fair but it's fairly standard to be at 1 kHz so they probably both are. Choosing DACs based soley on measured performance is not wise but just sharing this as evidence of development not having ceased.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ray Vardy and tuga

bencat

Amplifier Destroyer
Wammer Plus
Feb 6, 2010
10,309
8,115
208
Liverpool
AKA
Andrew
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
As someone who uses a very old DAC I am on the side of saying that new is not always musically better . Lots of current DAC units now play a game of measurement too trumps showing better SINAD figures than everyone else . Sadly great measurements do not always make a great DAC . My choice is unusual in that it is not based on any current or even old school chip but a real in house design . I loved what this design does from the first time I heard it in an Arcam CD player and when the chance came to buy the cheapo models from yesteryear I could not resist . I was lucky my memory was not wrong they sound wonderful and the best I have heard in my system . Yes there will be better out there but in all likelihood they will be pretty costly and way more than I have to spend now , lottery wins excluded .
 

MVJ

Wammer Plus
Wammer Plus
Apr 9, 2020
20,457
42,379
198
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
I had an Arcam Delta 270 Andrew it saw off several 2 box players in it's day even an Arcam dac did'nt improve it to my ears.

I can't remember the type of chip it had but it was unique to Arcam as I recall.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Andy Stephenson

bencat

Amplifier Destroyer
Wammer Plus
Feb 6, 2010
10,309
8,115
208
Liverpool
AKA
Andrew
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
Steve the Arcam player I heard was the Arcam Alpha 9 and was the one and only player that had a dCS ring DAC fitted . I was blown away by how good this player sounded but could not afford one at the time and somehow never got round to buying a use one . My dCS pairing is very old now and they were the alleged cheap items in the range . Still say they sound better than anything I have heard to date so they are staying were they are .
 
  • Like
Reactions: MVJ

MVJ

Wammer Plus
Wammer Plus
Apr 9, 2020
20,457
42,379
198
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
Steve the Arcam player I heard was the Arcam Alpha 9 and was the one and only player that had a dCS ring DAC fitted . I was blown away by how good this player sounded but could not afford one at the time and somehow never got round to buying a use one . My dCS pairing is very old now and they were the alleged cheap items in the range . Still say they sound better than anything I have heard to date so they are staying were they are .
I think it was something like a 'Burr Brown Dual Ring Dac' But don't quote me🫣
 

on the rocks

Newbie
Wammer
Dec 13, 2020
124
92
33
Sheffield
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
Having had JS Audio upgrade my MF A5 CD player I’m of the opinion that the analogue output stage can influence SQ as least as much as the DAC’s chipset
 
  • Like
Reactions: MVJ

bencat

Amplifier Destroyer
Wammer Plus
Feb 6, 2010
10,309
8,115
208
Liverpool
AKA
Andrew
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
Quite agree that that the overall power supply circuit and the chip used and its implementation all contribute to the final sound .dCS seem to know very well what they are doing and the level of build quality is really top class . Some find the music they produce boring and flat . I find it natural and realistic which may well be the same thing . it suits my ears and system but may well not be ideal for others .
 

Nestor Turton

Nestor Turton
Wammer
Jan 30, 2019
1,852
3,514
148
Nowhere in Particular
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
If anything the trend towards FPGAs should enable digital replay designers to come up with more diverse players. Simply converting digital to analogue is trivial, but creating useful digital sound processing might involve interpolation techniques, reference voltages and other considerations. It is here the diversification comes in to play.

For me both Chord and Linn have done a pretty good job and I doubt I'll have any need to change my digital components assuming they don't break. I think loudspeakers provide the biggest challenge.
 

Forum statistics

Threads
113,444
Messages
2,451,263
Members
70,783
Latest member
reg66

Today's Birthdays

Latest Articles