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?  
6f46e9d1 45ca 46fd 8370 73d2abece53bcaptbeaver
"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."
I run a Peachtree DAC iT, which is their older model.  Picked it up about 5 years ago and paid full-ticket of about $500.  Sounds awesome and you can find them on EBay for about $125 or so.  The newer iTx model does 192 khz whereas my older beast only does 96 khz.  But since I only use it for playing back Redbook grade files, it's fine for me.