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Given the fluid nature of DAC advancements I thought it easiest to just take the pulse of what's currently worth owning. Ultimately these are disposable devices even if you get an upgradeable model. Thus I don't see any point in chasing paradoxical revelations into the clouds so that I may pull them down and acclaim yet greater heights in the next device/cord/sound. What is good right now or is likely to be released soon enough to wait for? Closer to $100 than $20K and if I'm lucky DSD playback.

 

Thanks

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I was just coming back to edit my first post after realizing how vague it was in a few regards. A few months back I found a hybrid SACD buried in a box and remembered I'd always meant to explore how different the CD layer was from the SACD. That lead to discovering DSD and hi-res downloads of current and remastered music. Classical music that sounded worlds better than crappy mp3's but not very good on the cheap garage duty computer speakers I was using. So I did a little digging and bought some HiVi M10. Still portable enough to move around but definitely a large step up.

 

Now I'm starting to look at a DAC that would be a good match for them. The likelihood of making the jump upwards into balanced inputs and massive linear power supplies during the useful lifespan of a lower end DAC is slim. I'll buy a decent USB cable and some RCA's to get the best out of it but no miracles are expected. Instead I'm choosing to invest in good quality source material and enjoying life while I listen to it. Maybe at some point I'll commit to acoustically renovating the den and plunking down for some serious equipment. So DSD isn't a requirement so much as stability of the electronics and reasonable sound quality.

 

Am I wrong to think bifrost multibit is in an awkward position with the the modi multibit around. The latter being something I strongly considered just buying before making this thread. Is that really the right answer when something like a base level LH labs geek pulse can be had for around the same price new from someone who gave up waiting. I'm asking because I haven't actually tried anything and not because my opinion is already colored. Every setup is unique and I'm curious what else it out there I might not have discovered.

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Check out the Resonessence Concero HD DAC.

Auralic Aries G2, Ayre QX-5 Twenty, Ayre KX-5 Twenty, Ayre VX-5 Twenty, Revel Ultima Studio2, Iconoclast speaker cables & interconnects, RealTraps acoustic treatments, Sonore opticalModule (X2)

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Yeah, I thought about mentioning the Schiit Modi as an even cheaper alternative, but I have never heard one and so cannot reliably say anything about it. My Bifrost is a first-generation model that I have upgraded twice (Uber and then Multibit), and I have developed a deep fondness for its sound, especially after it was upgraded to Multibit.

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The Modi MB has the same DAC DNA as the Bitfrost but in a format that cannot be upgraded and uses an external VAC wall-wart.

 

I feel the same way as the OP in regards to the fast evolution of DAC's and how the price points and quality designs are converging. I am also curious as to what new models are due out for example, it seems the $300 Musical Fidelity V90 DAC is due for an update which I would be all over.

RIG:  MB Pro - Benchmark DAC3 L - LA4  AHB2 | Paradigm Sig S6 Cables:  Van Damme, Canare 4S11, Lifatec optical, Wireworld and IsoTek power

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Yeah, I thought about mentioning the Schiit Modi as an even cheaper alternative, but I have never heard one and so cannot reliably say anything about it. My Bifrost is a first-generation model that I have upgraded twice (Uber and then Multibit), and I have developed a deep fondness for its sound, especially after it was upgraded to Multibit.

 

What he said.

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Yeah, I thought about mentioning the Schiit Modi as an even cheaper alternative, but I have never heard one and so cannot reliably say anything about it. My Bifrost is a first-generation model that I have upgraded twice (Uber and then Multibit), and I have developed a deep fondness for its sound, especially after it was upgraded to Multibit.

 

 

Interesting, that surprises me in a world most electronics grow outdated within a year and lose all relevance within five. Only to end up in a landfill or hopefully a recycling facility. Which is a major reason I've also been looking at the used market for something that was recently replaced. However, there is a distinct allure to going new and having a pleasant and repeatable variable as my, and apparently your, tastes continue to evolve. Whichever avenue I pursue will no doubt produce large benefits over inboard audio. The juvenile in me has to wonder how they have avoided a Shiitake mushroom pun after 7 years. They have to be running out of hot Schiit takes by now. :)

 

I will definitely look at the Resonessence and any other suggestions that are kindly offered. As you can no doubt ascertain by my presence here, I'm teetering on the edge of getting some rugs and real equipment.

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Interesting, that surprises me in a world most electronics grow outdated within a year and lose all relevance within five. Only to end up in a landfill or hopefully a recycling facility. Which is a major reason I've also been looking at the used market for something that was recently replaced. However, there is a distinct allure to going new and having a pleasant and repeatable variable as my, and apparently your, tastes continue to evolve. Whichever avenue I pursue will no doubt produce large benefits over inboard audio. The juvenile in me has to wonder how they have avoided a Shiitake mushroom pun after 7 years. They have to be running out of hot Schiit takes by now. :)

 

I will definitely look at the Resonessence and any other suggestions that are kindly offered. As you can no doubt ascertain by my presence here, I'm teetering on the edge of getting some rugs and real equipment.

 

You're talking yourself out of a good sounding system. You need a lot more hands on experience. All these time limits you're coming up with may sound reasonable but they just don't mean anything. If you make a good selection, why can't it last for 10+ years?

 

Here's something to think about. CD playback that's done really well almost always outperforms entry to mid level high res. Its a mistake to think a higher format will always overcome a lesser format. But don't take my word for it. Do some listening and see for yourself.

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You're talking yourself out of a good sounding system. You need a lot more hands on experience. All these time limits you're coming up with may sound reasonable but they just don't mean anything. If you make a good selection, why can't it last for 10+ years?

 

Here's something to think about. CD playback that's done really well almost always outperforms entry to mid level high res. Its a mistake to think a higher format will always overcome a lesser format. But don't take my word for it. Do some listening and see for yourself.

 

I have to agree, if you invest in a high quality DAC, there is no reason that it won't last you for many years. I purchased an Ayre QB-9DSD in January 2014, and I have no intention of replacing it anytime soon. It still does everything it did when I bought it: sounds great with CD rips, handles sampling rates up to 192 KHz, and does DSD64 (I have no interest in anything higher). Of course you need to buy within your budget but don't limit yourself to low cost DAC's just because you think they are disposable, they really don't need to be.

Auralic Aries G2, Ayre QX-5 Twenty, Ayre KX-5 Twenty, Ayre VX-5 Twenty, Revel Ultima Studio2, Iconoclast speaker cables & interconnects, RealTraps acoustic treatments, Sonore opticalModule (X2)

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You're talking yourself out of a good sounding system. You need a lot more hands on experience. All these time limits you're coming up with may sound reasonable but they just don't mean anything. If you make a good selection, why can't it last for 10+ years?

 

Here's something to think about. CD playback that's done really well almost always outperforms entry to mid level high res. Its a mistake to think a higher format will always overcome a lesser format. But don't take my word for it. Do some listening and see for yourself.

 

As I noted above, DAC technology seems to me the most rapidly developing segment in computer audio. Far from the top end of it to be exact. No doubt a superior quality CD/SACD transport will continue to be so until it wears out. In fact their value will probably only increase with time. It is however very likely native support for DSD (and other formats, higher sample rates, etc.) and even more advanced circuitry are going to continue making large strides towards better sound quality in the digital realm (and phono). Do you think staid traditional minded buyers of high end audio equipment are driving that or some guy with three kids and two jobs plugging in his smart phone at the office? Much like with photography, consumer devices are soon to outpace the highest end equipment from not so many years ago. So I see a stepping stone more than being weighed down by one for X years.

 

 

I have to agree, if you invest in a high quality DAC, there is no reason that it won't last you for many years. I purchased an Ayre QB-9DSD in January 2014, and I have no intention of replacing it anytime soon. It still does everything it did when I bought it: sounds great with CD rips, handles sampling rates up to 192 KHz, and does DSD64 (I have no interest in anything higher). Of course you need to buy within your budget but don't limit yourself to low cost DAC's just because you think they are disposable, they really don't need to be.

 

In noting a sad fact about electronics in general it should have been apparent I plan to keep whatever I buy for some time. Something the size of a mimby can easily be accommodated wherever I move the M10. There is a truth about computers that as long as you are using the same programs to do the same things you only need to buy a new one every 20 years or so. I know people that still have a Pentium 4 in their home computer. As a consumer it isn't always wise to invest in something you plan to keep that long. There are ebbs and flows in manufacturing quality and meaningful technology. That P4 chip was a lot better investment than the first dual core AMD. I don't see myself holding onto any current DAC longer than a cell phone contract right now. This contradiction is why I'm seeking advice instead of harassing retailers.

 

Thank you both for your thoughtful replies and sitting through some muddled thinking. I stripped the audio driver out of my computer and reverted to a basic MS one because it portrayed sound as a conduit to top 40's tastes. Moser's Dvorak and Lalo Cello concertos sound awful but listenable now. At some point in the very near future I need to correct this.

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just to chime in on schiit options -- they are certainly great value for the level of investment.

 

* schiit modi multibit -- getting great feedback across the board -- $249

* schiit bifrost multibit -- very well made, very respected -- $599

 

only limitations are not balanced and don't support dsd.

 

if you're staying in the price point you mentioned, don't think you can go wrong with the modi multibit.

sources:  intel nuc8i7 (audiolinux, roon core) (server) | simaudio moon mind 2 (renderer)
headphone rig:  chord qutest > bryston bha-1 > audeze lcd-3
main rig:  chord dave > parasound jc5 > kef reference 1
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Gustard x20U $870 or non-usb input $799. DSD capable up to DSD128 out of the box with supplied driver and responds very well to simple modifications to further improve the sound. My now heavily modified Gustard can do DSD512 and can hang with just about any dac.

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Gustard x20U $870 or non-usb input $799. DSD capable up to DSD128 out of the box with supplied driver and responds very well to simple modifications to further improve the sound. My now heavily modified Gustard can do DSD512 and can hang with just about any dac.

 

What dac's have you put your Gustard next to? Also, when you made the comparisons, were they done in your system that you know really well, or someone elses?

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"No doubt a superior quality CD/SACD transport will continue to be so until it wears out."

 

I wasn't suggesting that you buy a CD/SACD player. I meant that if you do CD quality right (Either an actual CD or CD quality rip), it almost always sounds better than entry to mid level high res. That's one of the reasons SACD and DVD-A failed. People were playing high res music on equipment that was no where near as good as their Redbook players. I did it too. I went out and bought a cheap Sony 9000ES ($1500) to try SACD, and found out rather quickly that CD's played on my Wadia 861SE sounded way better than the same album on DSD.

 

"Do you think staid traditional minded buyers of high end audio equipment are driving that or some guy with three kids and two jobs plugging in his smart phone at the office?"

 

That's the problem. You don't have to sell high res to audiophiles, but you do need to sell it to everyone with iPods. The industry never did that, and that's why both SACD and DVD-A failed. There wasn't enough interest in the formats to keep supporting them.

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Well recently the T&A Dac 8 DSD, which is regarded by many as the best sounding dac at DSD512. That was in my system a very high resolving system and it was over 20 days not one quick session. The T&A was better but by a slim margin as one would expect at $4K vs. $870. It also went up against a EMM labs older 2 piece unit which supports DSD and the Gustard at DSD256 bettered it. This in my buddies system who I have done his set up for over 20 years and he has the same speakers as I. I have also compared it to my modest SME30mk2 turntable with $5K cartridge and it comes out very nicely there, both do some incredible things but at DSD512 the stage size and 3D spacing of the dac hard hard to resist, while the analog images are bigger closing the stage size down somewhat. Tonally the dac and the TT are equals with decay and sustains similar on both fronts.

 

Next week I fly to MN to install the T&A that was in my system in a $300k system that features a heavily modified Struder reel to reel whose owner has many tapes made directly from master tapes. So I will get a good handle on that relationship. Suffice it to say, the Gustard has has stood well against the competition. Marty from a thread on Whats best Form compared the stock Gustard with the Auralic vega and preferred the stock Gustard saying the Vega just didn't get the little details like the Gustard and the Yggi was also in that shootout and he said it was close to gustard but gave a slight nod to the Chinese dac. In fairness my Gustard is heavily modified to handle DSD512, but at stock it gets rave reviews and is very well made with dual 50 watts torroidal transformers, one each for the digital board and output boards, dual ESS 9018 dac chips and a output stage that is way better then its price would suggest. If one gets their hands on a newer ASIO driver the stock gustard can do DSD256. Yes value per $ is off the charts with this dac.

 

Get a good up sampling program, like HQPlayer, there are many others, and stream Tidal or your collection of CD's from a hard drive (HDD or SSD) and up sample away and grin ear to ear.

 

What dac's have you put your Gustard next to? Also, when you made the comparisons, were they done in your system that you know really well, or someone elses?
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Well recently the T&A Dac 8 DSD, which is regarded by many as the best sounding dac at DSD512. That was in my system a very high resolving system and it was over 20 days not one quick session. The T&A was better but by a slim margin as one would expect at $4K vs. $870. It also went up against a EMM labs older 2 piece unit which supports DSD and the Gustard at DSD256 bettered it. This in my buddies system who I have done his set up for over 20 years and he has the same speakers as I. I have also compared it to my modest SME30mk2 turntable with $5K cartridge and it comes out very nicely there, both do some incredible things but at DSD512 the stage size and 3D spacing of the dac hard hard to resist, while the analog images are bigger closing the stage size down somewhat. Tonally the dac and the TT are equals with decay and sustains similar on both fronts.

 

Next week I fly to MN to install the T&A that was in my system in a $300k system that features a heavily modified Struder reel to reel whose owner has many tapes made directly from master tapes. So I will get a good handle on that relationship. Suffice it to say, the Gustard has has stood well against the competition. Marty from a thread on Whats best Form compared the stock Gustard with the Auralic vega and preferred the stock Gustard saying the Vega just didn't get the little details like the Gustard and the Yggi was also in that shootout and he said it was close to gustard but gave a slight nod to the Chinese dac. In fairness my Gustard is heavily modified to handle DSD512, but at stock it gets rave reviews and is very well made with dual 50 watts torroidal transformers, one each for the digital board and output boards, dual ESS 9018 dac chips and a output stage that is way better then its price would suggest. If one gets their hands on a newer ASIO driver the stock gustard can do DSD256. Yes value per $ is off the charts with this dac.

 

Get a good up sampling program, like HQPlayer, there are many others, and stream Tidal or your collection of CD's from a hard drive (HDD or SSD) and up sample away and grin ear to ear.

 

I was curious because I'm about ready to buy a new dac. I'm going with a dCS this time and thought that maybe you compared it next to something like a Vivaldi. I need to switch brands because Wadia doesn't make anything at this level anymore.

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"No doubt a superior quality CD/SACD transport will continue to be so until it wears out."

 

I wasn't suggesting that you buy a CD/SACD player. I meant that if you do CD quality right (Either an actual CD or CD quality rip), it almost always sounds better than entry to mid level high res. That's one of the reasons SACD and DVD-A failed. People were playing high res music on equipment that was no where near as good as their Redbook players. I did it too. I went out and bought a cheap Sony 9000ES ($1500) to try SACD, and found out rather quickly that CD's played on my Wadia 861SE sounded way better than the same album on DSD.

 

DVD-A failed, SACD not so much. Especially if you look at the worldwide market. Your personal preferences from a sample size of one are diverting off subject here. I'd definitely like to explore DSD further if I had the equipment to do so without conversion to PCM. Physical media has its better points, but the ease of streaming or downloading has basically killed that market. With the end result being removing DAC's from the media player as the vital component.

 

Quadman, that is the type of device I knew must exist on the Asian market. Complete with expected avenues to dump 3x the asking price in upgrades into it. Could you outline your upgrade path and final price for everything? Go figure some guy in Hong Kong is selling them on ebay. The world economy nowadays!

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@rando several places to check out the shorts thread which has most of the details is this one EVS modified Gustard X20/Gustard X20 thread - Page 3 Start on page 3 post #22 and look at my posts. There I am modding my second Gustard, a friends who also jumped in and I am comparing it to my full level one mod. Ric Schultz came up with the mods and he offers to mod (Level 1) the gustard for $425. His level one Plus includes a oscillator clock (crystek 950) and custom regulator soldered next to the dac chips for +100. You can read about the steps involved in this tweak here Gustard X20 Mods the AC mods can be done for free by yourself they are easy and make a subtle but positive change to the sound. Damping caps is pretty easy and that can be done yourself. The quantum chips he talks about are also really nice, but most folks think it's crazy to apply a fancy ass sticker to a capacitor, dac chip, FPGA chip etc and improve sound. I have used them in 4 things now and I think they do make a positive difference. So without soldering you can do 1/2 of the level 0ne with relatively low cost. The diodes and clock require soldering skills and some knowledge. In this thread Marty compares the dac against 3 others, he has pretty good system DACs Galore and Expectation Bias. A lot of people are very happy with the stock Gustard it can upsample all PC music (cd's ripped to HDD, streaming music) with the appropriate up sampling program (HQ Player, my favorite, JRiver, foobar etc) to PCM 356 or DSD128 out of the box. It is very well built and pretty rugged as I have modded mine a lot and it just runs and runs. If you really want to go crazy read its 60 page plus thread over at head-fi, or the 20 plus page thread at audio circle.

 

I have compared it to some really good dacs and analog front ends and I can say I am very glad I made the purchase.

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[/color]DVD-A failed, SACD not so much. Especially if you look at the worldwide market. Your personal preferences from a sample size of one are diverting off subject here. I'd definitely like to explore DSD further if I had the equipment to do so without conversion to PCM. Physical media has its better points, but the ease of streaming or downloading has basically killed that market. With the end result being removing DAC's from the media player as the vital component.

 

SACD failed in 2007. You can look it up. Don't you remember, audiophiles all over the world were pissed because we waited years for the format, only to have Sony drop support for it. Failed SACD was the catalyst for the vinyl explosion that took place, and is still going on. DVD-A never really failed. It just never got started.

 

As for the rest of it, you should start by going back and reading my first post again. Every word still applies. SACD and DSD are the same thing. If you're hung up on the physical media thing, every time I say CD, pretend I said 16/44 file, and every time I say SACD, pretend I said DSD file. Its the same process, you're just using a different transport. I also know, in addition, that you can get DSD files in different resolutions. Anyway, that should put me back on topic.

 

Where you really went wrong is on my example. It wasn't meant to give you my personal opinion on one player. If you read it carefully, you'll see that I gave you an example of where many people went wrong on their first attempt with high res(remember, I said above CD=16/44, and SACD=DSD). I just said that I made the same mistake everyone else did. I've had many different players/dac's since, at all price ranges.

 

You need to spend your own money, and make your own mistakes. You asked for opinions, and what you do with them is up to you. I know my post has a negative tone, but I just tell it like I see it. From where I stand, it looks like you are not considering some very important factors. And that could lead to an expensive mistake.

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Thank you for taking the time to correct any misconceptions. I'm neither a glass half full or a half empty guy when the glass becomes redundant without impacting the fluid formerly contained in it. I only ask for a way to fully enjoy this fluid pouring seemingly out of nowhere and nothing.

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Thank you for taking the time to correct any misconceptions. I'm neither a glass half full or a half empty guy when the glass becomes redundant without impacting the fluid formerly contained in it. I only ask for a way to fully enjoy this fluid pouring seemingly out of nowhere and nothing.

 

I'm not saying you're wrong. It looks like you have a good grasp on the technical aspects of a dac. My point is that you're not looking at the whole dac. Just certain areas.

 

Up until this point, have you given any consideration to the analog section of the dac? Its just as important, and accounts for at least 50% of what you're hearing. For example, if you gave 5 different designers the same exact dac with only the digital components installed, and asked each of them to build the analog section, you would get 5 different sounding dacs. Depending on what was done to them, some of the dac's may sound similar and some of them could be very different from each other. That's why some of us insist you listen first. There's no other way to reliably compare differences.

 

If you know what you're doing, a lot can be done to future proof a dac. Here's Axiom05's comment again. Its a good dac to use as an example.

 

"I have to agree, if you invest in a high quality DAC, there is no reason that it won't last you for many years. I purchased an Ayre QB-9DSD in January 2014, and I have no intention of replacing it anytime soon. It still does everything it did when I bought it: sounds great with CD rips, handles sampling rates up to 192 KHz, and does DSD64 (I have no interest in anything higher)."

 

Its not about Ayre having a bunch of the latest features. The guy who designed the qb9 is extremely talented. He's combining a good digital section along with an analog section that most designers can only dream of. Its a complete package. And that's why some of us are saying you can keep a dac like this for much longer than you think. You get a component that does everything right. In my own system, I have a Wadia 861SE that has been out of production for about 10 years. I bought it in the late 90's as an 860. A few years later I sent it to Wadia and had it upgraded to an 861. A couple years later I had Wadia upgrade it to an 861SE. There's a lot of value buying components like this. Some digital components are like you say. Obsolete/Trow away, etc... But that doesn't have to be the case. When I put my Wadia next to newer dacs and CD players (It has digital inputs, so I can use it as a dac or cd player), it easily holds its own.

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I also agree. Buying a well designed, high quality DAC should provide many years of use. Some very old DAC's hold up very well against today's newest efforts. Granted, many of those older DAC's were very expensive ($10k or more). But honestly, far, far less money than you had to spend a number of years ago can buy you a superb DAC now.

 

As far as concerns about your new DAC becoming outdated, again, not so much has changed. DSD appeared, and I like it, but it's never truly entirely caught on. I2s connectivity seems unable to make any real headway. MQA is highly contested as to whether it even works well, and may also never become truly significant. Other than that, not much is different.

 

JC

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