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Will computer audio greatness "trickle down?"


sdolezalek

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In reading some of the recent reviews on the BADA DAC Reference Series, the Lampizator 7 or even some of the other companies designing their own FPGA's (like Chord for the Hugo), it appears that the combination of software advancements (like Audirvana and HQ Player, or even Dirac) with this new state of the art hardware is finally leading us to a point where the best digital systems do everything the best analog ones do (and perhaps more) and may be able to do so even with redbook resolution source material. So notwithstanding the early doomsday predictions about iTunes and digital audio -- the best may yet be to come...

 

On the software side this goodness is being made available to us at fairly reasonable prices. On the hardware side, however, most of this goodness still lives at north of $10K, particularly if you include USB converters, power supplies, etc.

 

For those of you with an "educated guess," how much of that greatness can trickle down to $1-2,000 systems (say, within the next few years) and how much of it will always require hardware components that just fundamentally cost that much?

Synology NAS>i7-6700/32GB/NVIDIA QUADRO P4000 Win10>Qobuz+Tidal>Roon>HQPlayer>DSD512> Fiber Switch>Ultrarendu (NAA)>Holo Audio May KTE DAC> Bryston SP3 pre>Levinson No. 432 amps>Magnepan (MG20.1x2, CCR and MMC2x6)

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Well one of your examples has already "trickled down"...

 

Chord started with their £5k QBD76 DAC and that "trickled down" into the Qute HD.

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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While the Lampi L7 is an L7 because of the highend hard to source expensive parts it is made from, the design concept is trickled down into the Amber which is less than $2k.

Analog: Koetsu Rosewood > VPI Aries 3 w/SDS > EAR 834P > EAR 834L: Audiodesk cleaner

Digital Fun: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (JRMC) SOtM USB > Lynx Hilo > EAR 834L

Digital Serious: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (HQPlayer) Ethernet > SMS-100 NAA > Lampi DSD L4 G5 > EAR 834L

Digital Disc: Oppo BDP 95 > EAR 834L

Output: EAR 834L > Xilica XP4080 DSP > Odessey Stratos Mono Extreme > Legacy Aeris

Phones: EAR 834L > Little Dot Mk ii > Senheiser HD 800

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Well one of your examples has already "trickled down"...

 

Chord started with their £5k QBD76 DAC and that "trickled down" into the Qute HD.

 

Eloise: I knew I could count on you to force me to be more precise in my question. Almost everything in the greater computer world does trickle down and there is no question that many of the $500-$1,000 DACs available today are far better than what was available at that price point even three years ago. I was specifically trying to focus on those pieces of hardware that others here have described as "lifting that last veil..." "Cymbals that shimmer with just the right amount of sparkle and decay. Voices even when grouped resonate in their own separate space..." These pieces of hardware seem to have created a separation between themselves and the crowd and lifted the possible in computer audio to a new level (I can't say that for sure as I haven't heard them myself). But those are the ones, where I'm curious how much of that is a better chip/firmware/design implementation that can trickle down and how much of it is a choice of materials and workmanship that can get cheaper, but not massively so.

Synology NAS>i7-6700/32GB/NVIDIA QUADRO P4000 Win10>Qobuz+Tidal>Roon>HQPlayer>DSD512> Fiber Switch>Ultrarendu (NAA)>Holo Audio May KTE DAC> Bryston SP3 pre>Levinson No. 432 amps>Magnepan (MG20.1x2, CCR and MMC2x6)

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While the Lampi L7 is an L7 because of the highend hard to source expensive parts it is made from, the design concept is trickled down into the Amber which is less than $2k.

 

Yes, but from reading the L7 review here, although the Amber is very good, it roughly equates to the L4 or maybe the L5. Of course that itself is a trickle down, but it does imply that there are some "high end hard to source parts" that do hold those last few percentage points of sound nirvana.

Synology NAS>i7-6700/32GB/NVIDIA QUADRO P4000 Win10>Qobuz+Tidal>Roon>HQPlayer>DSD512> Fiber Switch>Ultrarendu (NAA)>Holo Audio May KTE DAC> Bryston SP3 pre>Levinson No. 432 amps>Magnepan (MG20.1x2, CCR and MMC2x6)

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I would just be happy if the techno nerds at Apple, would not destroy my DAC with every upgrade. It is just as easy to kill a $30K DAC as a sub $1K DAC. Same result, no sound!

In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake ~ Sayre's Law

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I would guess that the sub $1000 market will always be about equivalent to the top end 3-5 years ago, and the $1000-$2000 market about 2-3 years behind the leading edge. Just a guess though, and there will always be exceptions.

 

Yours,

-Paul

 

Paul: Given that you come from the computing world, I'm envisioning the DAC world to be somewhat like the PC world -- a quick progression through the original Pentium series chips and then a gradual flattening as the incremental benefit conveyed by quad core i7 processors and more than 12GB of RAM becomes less obvious to the average user. Similarly, I view the current Burr Brown (4-DAC Chip; 8-Channel; 16-Signals) or the SABRE32 Reference ES9018 as the equivalent of the mid-range pentiums, with some of the new FPGA's exploring new directions for chip capabilities, but perhaps beginning to flatten the performance curve over the next 3-5 years.

 

Of course, the other part of this question is whether we simply failed to understand just how large a part the digital-to-analog conversion played in the quality of what we were hearing. We often think of other electronics and speakers as "taking away as little as possible" from a great input signal; but perhaps what most of us stated with was far below optimal and we are just now beginning to see just how good that starting analog signal can be at the end of a great D-to-A process.

Synology NAS>i7-6700/32GB/NVIDIA QUADRO P4000 Win10>Qobuz+Tidal>Roon>HQPlayer>DSD512> Fiber Switch>Ultrarendu (NAA)>Holo Audio May KTE DAC> Bryston SP3 pre>Levinson No. 432 amps>Magnepan (MG20.1x2, CCR and MMC2x6)

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Paul: Given that you come from the computing world, I'm envisioning the DAC world to be somewhat like the PC world -- a quick progression through the original Pentium series chips and then a gradual flattening as the incremental benefit conveyed by quad core i7 processors and more than 12GB of RAM becomes less obvious to the average user. Similarly, I view the current Burr Brown (4-DAC Chip; 8-Channel; 16-Signals) or the SABRE32 Reference ES9018 as the equivalent of the mid-range pentiums, with some of the new FPGA's exploring new directions for chip capabilities, but perhaps beginning to flatten the performance curve over the next 3-5 years.

 

Of course, the other part of this question is whether we simply failed to understand just how large a part the digital-to-analog conversion played in the quality of what we were hearing. We often think of other electronics and speakers as "taking away as little as possible" from a great input signal; but perhaps what most of us stated with was far below optimal and we are just now beginning to see just how good that starting analog signal can be at the end of a great D-to-A process.

 

I coud not agree with you more - you seem to have gotten a really good hande on it. Perhaps FPGAs might be the equvalent of server processors, like Power and Xeons?

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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I coud not agree with you more - you seem to have gotten a really good hande on it. Perhaps FPGAs might be the equvalent of server processors, like Power and Xeons?

 

There is obviously some "secret sauce" intellectual property buried in that FPGA programming, not unlike what Damien has accomplished in his fiddling with the sound of Audirvana or Miska with HQ Player. It may take a while for the rest of the industry to come up to speed or enough of us could purchase licenses to their software and units of expensive hardware to bring prices down. It is why I really like what AMR/iFi have done because it really begins to bring state of the art to the affordable level but still show what gains can be made by using better grade components.

Synology NAS>i7-6700/32GB/NVIDIA QUADRO P4000 Win10>Qobuz+Tidal>Roon>HQPlayer>DSD512> Fiber Switch>Ultrarendu (NAA)>Holo Audio May KTE DAC> Bryston SP3 pre>Levinson No. 432 amps>Magnepan (MG20.1x2, CCR and MMC2x6)

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And hopefully soon we can get to a point where a file, any format, is fed directly to that DAC in the cleanest, easiest way. Without bungling around with computer hardware, USB cleaning solutions, converters, OS tweaking, OS upgrade breakages, playback software kludges, etc.

 

File-to-DAC, where nothing upstream matters.

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And hopefully soon we can get to a point where a file, any format, is fed directly to that DAC in the cleanest, easiest way. Without bungling around with computer hardware, USB cleaning solutions, converters, OS tweaking, OS upgrade breakages, playback software kludges, etc.

 

File-to-DAC, where nothing upstream matters.

 

Now that would be progress!

 

For many audiophiles, the learning curve for computer audio is far too steep. They would love to see "turnkey" systems capable of delivering excellent SQ without having to enter a foreign world or spending a small fortune. I know dealers who bemoan the fact that they uncomfortably had to learn more about computers than they ever cared to, in order to sell today's digital gear.

"Relax, it's only hi-fi. There's never been a hi-fi emergency." - Roy Hall

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - William Bruce Cameron

 

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The pain of modernization, remember back in the day when your car was repaired by a "mechanic"? Times they are a changin'

Analog: Koetsu Rosewood > VPI Aries 3 w/SDS > EAR 834P > EAR 834L: Audiodesk cleaner

Digital Fun: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (JRMC) SOtM USB > Lynx Hilo > EAR 834L

Digital Serious: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (HQPlayer) Ethernet > SMS-100 NAA > Lampi DSD L4 G5 > EAR 834L

Digital Disc: Oppo BDP 95 > EAR 834L

Output: EAR 834L > Xilica XP4080 DSP > Odessey Stratos Mono Extreme > Legacy Aeris

Phones: EAR 834L > Little Dot Mk ii > Senheiser HD 800

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Now that would be progress!

 

For many audiophiles, the learning curve for computer audio is far too steep. They would love to see "turnkey" systems capable of delivering excellent SQ without having to enter a foreign world or spending a small fortune. I know dealers who bemoan the fact that they uncomfortably had to learn more about computers than they ever cared to, in order to sell today's digital gear.

 

To Alan and the OP,

 

An old and dear friend is getting married (he lasted until he was 60!) and the engagement party was held at the home of his wife, which was in the country. I discovered she had a real passion for music, with a very large CD collection, however, her CD player was broken and she hadn't got around to replacing it. I asked my mate whether she would like a new music system that would sound fantastic as a wedding present. All I needed was an old computer - either a MAC or PC. He said she would love it.

 

As it turns out she had an old MAC pro laptop and as I was travelling I had my usual small bag of tricks with me, which included a hard drive full of lossless red book and hi-rez, a Dragonfly v1.2 and a 3.5mm to 2 x RCA cable. iTunes was already installed so I simply selected the HD as her source, scanned the links across, purchased and installed Audirvana + (with iTunes as the database) and selected the dragonfly as her DAC.

 

I connected the dragon fly to the AUX on her 20 year old NAD amp, which was also hooked up to a tuner, and was driving a pair of vintage AR speakers. In less than an hour the dinner party turned into a dance party. We had a great night as she had a ball searching through my playlists and the sound was fantastic, with everyone commenting how clear it was with little or no distortion even at the highest volumes.

 

My wife and I stayed the night and the next day I purchased a new 1TB HD for her, named it MUSIC, cleared the old iTune links and selected it as her source. I dowloaded the latest version of iTunes, changed some settings including having CDs ripped automatically to AIFF on insertion (with error correction). With both of us nursing hang overs I then showed her how to make smart playlists using "groupings" with legends such as chill out, rock, party, cruising etc.

 

I ripped a couple of her CDS and showed her how the songs showed up in her playlists and explained the logic of Audirvana sitting on top of iTunes. The whole thing only took another couple of hours to set up and explain. The cost to me was about US$300, however, the value to her was much much more than that.

 

This was about a month ago and she has since employed her young son to rip all her CDs for extra pocket money. Neither have needed to ask for help .... she is absolutely thrilled to have her music again.... that to me is the trickle down effect. ... the joy of being able to add real value to people's lives with minimum cost.

LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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As it turns out she had an old MAC pro laptop and as I was travelling I had my usual small bag of tricks with me, which included a hard drive full of lossless red book and hi-rez, a Dragonfly v1.2 and a 3.5mm to 2 x RCA cable. iTunes was already installed so I simply selected the HD as her source, scanned the links across, purchased and installed Audirvana + (with iTunes as the database) and selected the dragonfly as her DAC.

 

I connected the dragon fly to the AUX on her 20 year old NAD amp, which was also hooked up to a tuner, and was driving a pair of vintage AR speakers. In less than an hour the dinner party turned into a dance party. We had a great night as she had a ball searching through my playlists and the sound was fantastic, with everyone commenting how clear it was with little or no distortion even at the highest volumes.

 

Ajax

 

You definitely qualify as a "turnkey" system with excellent SQ. :)

 

I won't embarrass myself by telling you how long I spent trying to get home network up and running before I called my nephew, who works for Cisco. One lengthy long distance telephone call and I was in business. In my defense I will add that it wasn't the simplest configuration because it involved a router to router setup.

"Relax, it's only hi-fi. There's never been a hi-fi emergency." - Roy Hall

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - William Bruce Cameron

 

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Ajax, sounds like your friend is a lucky man - to be marrying someone who loves music; and to have you as a friend.

 

Re the topic at hand: I believe Miska says his DSC1 provides the best sound he has yet heard. The bill of materials is available on the Signalyst website. Wonder what we're talking about for a ballpark cost there?

 

Also, I'm curious about the SQ of the Schiit Yggdrasil (SHARC processor) in the low $2000 range, planned to be available 1Q 2015.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> iFi NEO iDSD DAC -> Apollon Audio 1ET400A Mini (Purifi based) -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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To get a perspective on trickle down, I found an 11 year old copy of TAS (Dec/Jan 2004) which had their Golden Ear picks. Here are the top digital picks:

 

Burmester Reference CD System 969 CD Player ($27K) and 970 upsampling DAC ($30K)

dCS Elgar DAC ($15K) and Purcell Upsampler ($8K)

EMMLabs DAC6e SACD Converter/Modified Phillips 1000 SACD Transport ($11.5K)

Goldmund Eidos 380 DVD/CD Transport and Mimesis 20 Millennium Series DAC ($65K)

Krell KPS 25sc preamp/CD player ($25K)

Linn CD12 CD Player ($20K)

Meridian 800 CD/DVD -Audio Player ($20K)

Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista SACD Player ($6500)

Weiss Medea Processor /CEC Transport ($13K)

 

My guess is, in the hi end digital world, that there is little or no trickle down, 10 years later. The target has been moving up a lot in the last decade and the technologies which were au courant in 2004 are regime ancien today. And prices (except for dCS) reflect that. Those of you who owned any of these may want to comment.

 

Larry

Analog-VPIClas3,3DArm,LyraSkala+MiyajimaZeromono,Herron VTPH2APhono,2AmpexATR-102+MerrillTridentMaster TapePreamp

Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacificMicrosonicsModel2; Dig Play-Lampi Horizon, mch NADAC, Roon-HQPlayer,Oppo105

Electronics-DoshiPre,CJ MET1mchPre,Cary2A3monoamps; Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR

Other-2x512EngineerMarutaniSymmetrical Power+Cables Music-1.8KR2Rtapes,1.5KCD's,500SACDs,50+TBripped files

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To get a perspective on trickle down, I found an 11 year old copy of TAS (Dec/Jan 2004) which had their Golden Ear picks. Here are the top digital picks:

 

Burmester Reference CD System 969 CD Player ($27K) and 970 upsampling DAC ($30K)

dCS Elgar DAC ($15K) and Purcell Upsampler ($8K)

EMMLabs DAC6e SACD Converter/Modified Phillips 1000 SACD Transport ($11.5K)

Goldmund Eidos 380 DVD/CD Transport and Mimesis 20 Millennium Series DAC ($65K)

Krell KPS 25sc preamp/CD player ($25K)

Linn CD12 CD Player ($20K)

Meridian 800 CD/DVD -Audio Player ($20K)

Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista SACD Player ($6500)

Weiss Medea Processor /CEC Transport ($13K)

 

My guess is, in the hi end digital world, that there is little or no trickle down, 10 years later. The target has been moving up a lot in the last decade and the technologies which were au courant in 2004 are regime ancien today. And prices (except for dCS) reflect that. Those of you who owned any of these may want to comment.

 

Larry

 

The question here would be, how much do you have to spend today to equal the performance of those 10 old products. I would guess $2k today could equal the performance of several of those units. Though that's not exactly trickle down it does show overall advancements that are better for the consumers.

Analog: Koetsu Rosewood > VPI Aries 3 w/SDS > EAR 834P > EAR 834L: Audiodesk cleaner

Digital Fun: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (JRMC) SOtM USB > Lynx Hilo > EAR 834L

Digital Serious: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (HQPlayer) Ethernet > SMS-100 NAA > Lampi DSD L4 G5 > EAR 834L

Digital Disc: Oppo BDP 95 > EAR 834L

Output: EAR 834L > Xilica XP4080 DSP > Odessey Stratos Mono Extreme > Legacy Aeris

Phones: EAR 834L > Little Dot Mk ii > Senheiser HD 800

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Actually, its the exact opposite. Great computer audio has trickled up. The basics were invented by Bell Labs to lower the cost of the largest audio mass market, telephones. All the "great" computer audio wouldn't exist without the low margin, high volume semiconductor industry. As for the "magic" of "great computer audio", I doubt its magic. Its just the sort of thing that anyone in the field could do and is easily reverse engineered. The proof of that is the papacy of patents that come from the high end companies.

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Great Question!

 

I just bought a Rocki for $49.95 that will "Spotify Connect" all my existing hifi gear (in the same way you might hook up a Sonos ZP90 zone player)

 

Is that what you men by "Trickle down"?

New simplified setup: STEREO- Primary listening Area: Cullen Circuits Mod ZP90> Benchmark DAC1>RotelRKB250 Power amp>KEF Q Series. Secondary listening areas: 1/ QNAP 119P II(running MinimServer)>UPnP>Linn Majik DSI>Linn Majik 140's. 2/ (Source awaiting)>Invicta DAC>RotelRKB2100 Power amp>Rega's. Tertiary multiroom areas: Same QNAP>SMB>Sonos>Various. MULTICHANNEL- MacMini>A+(Standalone mode)>Exasound e28 >5.1 analog out>Yamaha Avantage Receiver>Pre-outs>Linn Chakra power amps>Linn Katan front and sides. Linn Trikan Centre. Velodyne SPL1000 Ultra

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The question here would be, how much do you have to spend today to equal the performance of those 10 old products. I would guess $2k today could equal the performance of several of those units. Though that's not exactly trickle down it does show overall advancements that are better for the consumers.

 

A good example for me is Oppo. The company didn't exist 10 years ago, and currently, I would be hard pressed to buy anything but an Oppo (for around $1K) if I wanted a new SACD player (which also plays CD's, DVDs, blu-rays, streams the internet, and cooks pasta al dente). So the technology improvements at a lower price may well come from out of the blue and not from any company that is currently around.

 

Larry

Analog-VPIClas3,3DArm,LyraSkala+MiyajimaZeromono,Herron VTPH2APhono,2AmpexATR-102+MerrillTridentMaster TapePreamp

Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacificMicrosonicsModel2; Dig Play-Lampi Horizon, mch NADAC, Roon-HQPlayer,Oppo105

Electronics-DoshiPre,CJ MET1mchPre,Cary2A3monoamps; Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR

Other-2x512EngineerMarutaniSymmetrical Power+Cables Music-1.8KR2Rtapes,1.5KCD's,500SACDs,50+TBripped files

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The question here would be, how much do you have to spend today to equal the performance of those 10 old products. I would guess $2k today could equal the performance of several of those units. Though that's not exactly trickle down it does show overall advancements that are better for the consumers.

 

I would agree with you that you could today spend about $2,000 to get the sonic equal of a number of those 10-year-old products. I wouldn't expect that with loudspeakers or amplifiers (where we may be approaching limits to improvement), but it feels as though we have been on the steep part of the learning curve where digital to analog conversion is involved. Maybe today's $30k digital products are also approaching the limit of what can be done; but I hope it takes less than a decade for that sound quality to trickle down to the $2k level.

Synology NAS>i7-6700/32GB/NVIDIA QUADRO P4000 Win10>Qobuz+Tidal>Roon>HQPlayer>DSD512> Fiber Switch>Ultrarendu (NAA)>Holo Audio May KTE DAC> Bryston SP3 pre>Levinson No. 432 amps>Magnepan (MG20.1x2, CCR and MMC2x6)

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I would agree with you that you could today spend about $2,000 to get the sonic equal of a number of those 10-year-old products. I wouldn't expect that with loudspeakers or amplifiers (where we may be approaching limits to improvement), but it feels as though we have been on the steep part of the learning curve where digital to analog conversion is involved. Maybe today's $30k digital products are also approaching the limit of what can be done; but I hope it takes less than a decade for that sound quality to trickle down to the $2k level.

 

+1

 

A couple of recent examples of the trickle down effect that has resulted in state of the art technology with outstanding sound quality at affordable prices:

 

Benchmark DAC 2 HGC ..... $2k

Benchmark Power Amp AHB2 ..... $3K

 

just add speakers

 

Products - Benchmark Media Systems, Inc.

 

 

Devialet Ensemble = Devialet 120 (Streamer, DAC, PRE/POWERAMP, SAM, upgrade path) + ATOHM Speakers + stands.... $8-$9k

 

 

I'm sure CA contributors can list many more.

 

Obviously we all have a different take on what is affordable and what represents good value, however, IMO these two systems produce sound quality that would please (satisfy?) even the most discerning audiophiles.

 

i.e. today we can comfortably purchase complete audiophile quality systems for under $10k that would have cost around $30k only 10 years ago and way out of the reach of the average person. Add on inflation (CPI) and today's digital hi fidelity is costing more like a quarter of the price of the previous state of the art analogue systems.

 

In my example above in this thread I only spent $300 to replace the whole "front end" of my friend's system, which resulted in a tremendous upgrade in sound quality and convenience. (I also set up the free "Remote" on her iPhone, which just blew her away).

 

I'm extremely optimistic about the future of our hobby because IMO the hype generated by Pono and Tidal etc. (and the continual increase in bandwidth) is re-educating joe six pack about the benefits of lossless and the need for good quality digital processing equipment. This in turn will increase volumes for our audiophile manufactures resulting in even less expensive equipment for us.

LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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...the trickle down effect ... has resulted in state of the art technology with outstanding sound quality at affordable prices:

 

I'm extremely optimistic about the future of our hobby because IMO the hype generated by Pono and Tidal etc. (and the continual increase in bandwidth) is re-educating joe six pack about the benefits of lossless and the need for good quality digital processing equipment. This in turn will increase volumes for our audiophile manufactures resulting in even less expensive equipment for us.

 

There is no doubt that we can now get "outstanding sound at reasonable prices." My favorite example of that is the iFi IDSD Nano now at $189.00 for a great little DSD DAC that outdoes my $15K Lexicon in that department. But it also seems as though we may be just a few years from getting "jaw dropping, better than I've ever heard before" sound quality in the $2-3k range for DACs.

Synology NAS>i7-6700/32GB/NVIDIA QUADRO P4000 Win10>Qobuz+Tidal>Roon>HQPlayer>DSD512> Fiber Switch>Ultrarendu (NAA)>Holo Audio May KTE DAC> Bryston SP3 pre>Levinson No. 432 amps>Magnepan (MG20.1x2, CCR and MMC2x6)

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There is no doubt that we can now get "outstanding sound at reasonable prices." My favorite example of that is the iFi IDSD Nano now at $189.00 for a great little DSD DAC that outdoes my $15K Lexicon in that department. But it also seems as though we may be just a few years from getting "jaw dropping, better than I've ever heard before" sound quality in the $2-3k range for DACs.

 

I get grief from this in some audiophile corners, but I am expecting that kind of sound soon in the $500-$1000 range of DACs. Maybe less.

 

I just do not buy off on a high quallity DAC needing to cost in the same range as a small car anymore. In fact, I think the prices of most of the audiophile DACs in the astronomical price range are artificially inflated. Way overinflated actually. My benchmark for that is the $189 iFi Nano. That is one tough little standard to beat. That also raises my suspicions that a lot of the reviews that claim this or that $800 Dac, or this or that $1400 Dac sound better is possibly based more on price than acoustics. :/

 

This isn't to say they are not better, but the automatic assumption they are is probably unjustified.

 

I know, that is a very outlier opinion, almost worthy of being proclaimed undying truth on the gasbag forums...

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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