Are DAC's overpriced?

External DAC's are pretty expensive imho... BUT I don't know that much on how to choose one. I want mostly cd's in my small two channel system... I am rebuilding after selling my Logans and Mac amp to go back to "drivers"! The Logans wore me out with Maintenance.  Should I buy a new cd player or get a new DAC for my old player?  
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Not that you need to spend a fortune to achieve this. On the contrary, if you are smart and selective and take advice from the RIGHT people, you can get there on a budget. I think for an entire system, the threshold is probably $20K-$30K. Anything below that will tend to be mid-fi with 2-D presentation between the speakers IME.
Biggest load of nonsense.
i am still using a NAD D1050 which is now 5 years old. you can get these for about $450 and they sound terrific. the NAD will not playback MQA or DSD, but it will playback 24/192 and 16/44.1 on good Classical recordings can be spell binding. most POP recordings can not compete with a good Classical recording. but their are exceptions. have not heard anything much better in the last 5 years. if NAD had thought they could have produced something better in the intervening years considering their huge R&D budget i am sure they would have by now.  the golden age of digital is over.
"I think for an entire system, the threshold is probably $20K-$30K."
Steve N. Empirical Audio

  • The statement above is not true. Sure that a $20-$30,000 system could be very good. Not all have that kind of budget.
  • My system (which is sounding great), cost $8000. The DAC was new, but all other pieces were second hand.

Insert shameless plug for HiFiBerry (a Pi-based high res DAC) here: [       ]
I am a believer in high-end DAC's.  I was convinced to throw down some serious cash on an MSB Analog DAC with fancy power supply and volume control (as equipped, $12K+, new), which replaced my preamp as well (Plinius 12P).  I think that it was a good improvement over my already good DAC/streamer Naim NDX.  But as everything in audio, how big an improvement is dependent on so many factors, such as speakers, room, amplification, power, cabling, etc.  Highly revealing speakers will show more differences than rolled off "warm" ones, etc.  That's the irony of audio, I suppose.  The more expensive your components are, the more expensive they need to be to sound good.  So are DAC's overpriced?  It depends on your system. a $90K DAC in a $20K system . .. probably not a great match.  Then there is the unique language of reviewers:
"noticeably more presence" = 5% better
"makes you feel right there" = 5% better
"a big difference over my reference" = 10% better
"Blows away my reference ___" = 10-15% better
"to my ears, the most amazing ___ since the invention of the transistor" = 15% better.

A little off-topic, but just once I'd like to read an Absolute Sound or Stereophile review that instead of gushing superlatives says "this piece of equipment costs $20K and sounds no better than a $3000 one.  Buy it if you want, and it sounds good, but its just not worth the money."