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What actually is the difference between a cheap transparant DAC (like the ODAC) and a expensive one?
For some, price. circuitry, more resolution, more features.
and what kind of features?
Different and multiple extra inputs (analog/digital) , ADC sections, more outputs (digital and/or analog, balanced outputs) , built-in preamp and/or headphone amps, multiple headphone sockets, different reconstruction filters, upsampling options, tube sections blah drone etc
Don't forget fancy case designs and elaborately crafted marketing literature!
Most transducers are not really good enough to reveal the faults of DAC in the first place.
Also human ears' limitations play a big role for this case.
After owning DACs from $150. (used) to $6000 (new), the only difference—other than more zeros on the price, and the mumbo-jumbo the manufacturers and fan-boys love to spout—very, very little. Connectability (inputs, outputs) may differ but hardly worth the money when other solutions are readily available. Just my 2-cents worth. OK? Now, let’s take on that other pink elephant: overpriced CD transports!
I can't even imagine any DAC cost over $100. I used to design DAC chips when I was younger. The DAC cannot be made with an all discrete design. Not only is it expensive, the quality is not competitive to a integrated design. All DAC manufacturers build their equipment by buying chips from semiconductor vendors from 50 cents to $2. The total BOM and R&D cost is comparatively low compared to R&D expense of the actual DAC chips. So, the only difference is the add-ons like power supply, power amplifier. knobs and LEDs on the front panel. I do my DAC shopping by finding out what DAC chip is being used, read the data sheet and then find the lowest price.
And in terms of chip architecture...any preferences these days?
I've heard a few different DAPs out there with a variety of DAC chips...seems like the Sabre ES9018 is a popular variety, but what difference does this really make?
I've heard DAPs with the ES9018 and a Wolfson side-by-side, and I can't really tell if the differences in my listening came from the DAC or the onboard amplifier of the DAPs. Which would typically play more of a role?
Designing DAC chips sounds like quite the career, btw!
One is ordinary and the other employs magic pixie dust.
I knew it - pixie dust is expensive as hell these days...should have bought more in the 80s.
It's not expensive if you happen to know a pixie.
Yes, but do remember: Knowing pixie for the dust=legal, sleeping with pixie for the dust=incarceration.
Ah! But WHAT A WAY TO GO!
NO! I'm not going back there for that again! I don't care how much they give me, I will not be taken advantage of!
On another note..........DAC chips?
Those were the days...