Originally Posted by Uncle Erik
Finally, buy used. Get a DAC from a generation or two back that has fallen out of fashion. You'll save a lot.
Hear, hear - advances in audio are far from computer speed upgrades. They do happen, but it's not at warp speed and crappy music will always remain crappy.
In fact, I'm still awaiting the DAC that will be a significant upgrade to my CDs built in (and out-dated) DAC. Oh, and I say this not because my CD has such an awesome DAC, but rather that the differences have been more 'sideways' rather than forward and I may as well stick to my current one then. It's still miles away from my vinyl player which is my main source, so yeah - it would be good if DACs made a more significant difference. You do hear more and more of a difference between DACs with better amps (regardless if we're talking headphones or speakers), but for price/performance I easily agree with Uncle Erik's general argument. There is a point after which the exact DAC you go for simply becomes the choice you live with and then look to other sources for improvements in sound. I'd easily prefer a stand-alone DAC to the integrated one on my motherboard, but still... you get the point. It's a matter of where you personally perceive that you get most value for the money, and I guess myself and Erik are more conservative. I'd love to find myself a groundbreaking DAC that would offer significant gains, and suspect that time will come sooner or later (or if my DAC simply breaks so I have an excuse to check out the latest fashion statements).
Anyone that is extremely interested should always test out a ton of stuff for themselves, but even then it is sometimes hard to know if it is indeed only the performance that get's our interest and not attractive prices, shiny boxes, funky designs, pretty lights, etc. I see this equation as something similar to playing poker for stakes that are too big: when you can't afford to make mistakes, it's much easier to stay away from making decisions on anything but cold hard facts (or at least very high likelihoods). I do think you should go and listen to some DACs ranging from cheap to fairly expensive, if you have a store close to you that will let you test them on the same amp (or your amp ideally). Only once I know how far up there I personally need to go do I ever sit down and think "is it worth it?" (sorry - but there genuinely isn't a better answer to this question as we're all different in terms of preferences).
Edit: Oh, and I wonder why Schiit named a DAC after something that implies (roughly translated to English) "the long and shaky/uncertain road"? I named a project I was PM for at a large customer site to Bifrost, but they weren't overly thrilled once someone actually told them what it meant - particularly not as it was a fitting name for the project (and also why I named it so). Granted, it is also the rainbow and bridge to where the gods withdraw when the world comes to an end, but that is a bridge to a collapsing world which is void of all hope of a future.
Edited by Trasselkalle - 8/13/11 at 4:26am