Buy a $40,000 used DAC for $4,000 or a new one for the same amount?


The advancements in DAC technology make them one of this hobby's most perishable products. But ... what if you can buy a 10 year old DAC for $4,000 that initially cost $40,000? Is it a bargain or waste of money compared to a new DAC that is $4,000? I understand it depends on the specific model etc. But in general, has the technology gotten that much better? And how quickly will the new DAC become outdated? Is it like computers? Past their prime about 3-4 years so you plan to replace them regularly? Thanks for all comments
Ag insider logo xs@2xmcmanus
Maybe it would be good to include Amps and speakers in this new verses old discussion although they will have separate analysis and answers. 
It’s a shame the data is already messed up by the time the transport is through with it. 😛
100% new  
  
10 years ago high end DAC chips were barely meeting CD specs (96dB of free distortion), nowadays they are at 120dB or better.  
 
 Since distortion gets compounded, the distortion from the DAC gets increased when paired with the preamp, increased again with the amp, and increased again with the speakers.
mzkmxcv - Thanks for that clarification. Good advice. 

Any thoughts on amps/ pre-amps and speakers from you?

Anyone? 
@mcmanus  
 
If talking cream of the crop for their time, then the older gear (unless they look ugly).
The biggest issue with old DAC's is how they handle Redbook.

New DAC's are sooooo much better high resolution files hardly are necessary.  Older DACs need the high rez files to sound their best.

So, 10 years is on the border of the DAC revolution. I wouldn't go there.
I’m sorry, but 40k on a dac? That’s a down payment on a house 🙄. How much better can it possibly sound as opposed to a 1k dac made by a reputable manufacturer. To each his own I guess...if I had 40 k I’d spend it on speakers, but I don’t, and if I did there would surely be a divorce lol...edit, now that I read it more carefully...4k for a once 40k dac...still way too much, only my opinion. I spent like 500 on a dac and to my ears it sounds fine, but what do I know...I’m mostly an analog first  guy .. now 4k on a turntable, now we are talking 😁
“New DAC's are sooooo much better high resolution files hardly are necessary”

erik,  I beg to differ here. Either you haven’t heard a high resolution file or you simply find 16bit/44.1kHz files more than adequate. 

Depending on the original source master, the high resolution files 24bit/192kHz and above sounds better than their 16bit/44.1kHz counterparts. Not that 44.1kHz files sound bad, the high resolution files simply uncovers more subtle nuances, warmth, depth of field and air around instruments and musicians. Of course, all of these ‘audible’ subtleties are very much system dependent. 
I have 25 year old Wison Grans Slam Series 1 that I was offered 4k for (original cost over 50K). One twitter was shot and the smaller woofers had to be reconed. I decided to refurbish the speakers and the total cost was about $1500. The speakers sound like new and I have not heard better (though I am sure better speakers are out there). 
I wonder what 40K speakers he is referring to.
I see all of your posts are asking the same thing.  Just because a product retailed for $40K does not mean anything.  I have read where people say something is built like a tank.  All this means nothing until you understand design and what makes something sound good.  A heavy chassis does not mean built like a tank.

It comes down to the design and parts used.

the high resolution files simply uncovers more subtle nuances, warmth, depth of field and air around instruments and musicians.

This statement is simply not true at all.  Most high rez files do not have warmth compared to properly designed NOS DAC designs.  They may have more detail but in my experience give up the musical sound quality that NOS has.  But having a DHT DAC, I don't give up anything.

Happy Listening.
I would  rather have a 10 year old 40K DAC for 4K than a brand new 4K DAC.  It would be a leap of faith but my guess is the 40K unit even at 10 years old will still be better.  I recently compared in my home a 35K DAC setup with a 5K DAC setup and it's not even close, sorry to say but you are really missing a lot with the lower cost setup.  I didn't want it to be true but it's just magic with really nice gear like that. Guys can kid themselves all they want that there isn't a big difference but there is to my ear.  Maybe some people jump in a porsche and think it's not better than a toyota so those kind of products aren't made for those types.  
I’d take a T+A DAC8 DSD over the old DAC no question.  The majority of that $40k you paid for back then was R&D that’s been surpassed.
To be real, I bought a 3 year old $10,000 DAC for $5600 and I’m pretty sure nothing can touch it below and many $$$$$ above that.  The right model counts. 
$4000 for even a modern stereo DAC is way too much to pay.
You can get excellent professional equipment at that price point and below.But then some of you probably believe that professionals and those who make the equipment they use don't know what they're doing, never mind they're the ones making the recordings you listen to on your playback system.
I have the Audio Note DAC 5 which has the newest 6463 tube gain boards. I have tried close to a dozen new dacs and none of them except the Berkeley are in the same league as this magical unit based on VERY old school tech. It is so dynamic, textural, holographic, extended with a slightly cool balance. Sure it "only" does 96khz due to the input reciever chip which is upgrade-able but redbook and anything up to 96k is just so far ahead of the latest units I have heard it makes me wonder where the hell have things gone wrong with the advancement of technology.  This does NOT mean that any old school DAC will be a wonder child but at the same time it calls into question the difference between high tech specs vs implementation. 
The below listing  fit this thread pretty well.

https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lis9f852-balabo-bd-1-dac-24-192-new-da-converters



** FANTASTIC FINAL ESTATE SALE **

With the passing of chief designer Fumio Ohashi, we are handling the disposition of all remaining BAlabo inventory. A review of the warehouse has uncovered both new-in-the-box and demo units - available in 115 V and 230 V operation. This listing is for one, new unit, with a 90-day warranty. PowerCon power cord is included.

Worldwide service will be handled by PureAudio, LLC in the USA.

BAlabo’s BD-1 has been at the center many Best Sound awards at both CES and Newport shows including;

CES 2012 from Jonathan Valin at Absolute Sound and CES 2013 and from Greg Weaver at positive Feedback.

"...without question the best sounding system I had the pleasure of listening to at this year’s combined CES/T.H.E. Show was found in the Perfect 8/BAlabo room, in 29-222.


Interesting thread.  On the surface, DACs are nothing more than glorified computers, and yes indeed, why would one spend more than the price of a tricked out desktop for one?  Having dabbled in quite a few different DAC topologies, including NOS chips, DSD-upsampling affairs  and R2R tubed affairs, nothing really stood out.  None of it has the dynamic ease and elasticity of master tape or vinyl.  It is just not there, but that is not to say it won't suddenly get there next year with technology being what it is.  That aside, I would be inclined to score the vintage monster that was well executed rather than some more current sardine can filled with cheap circuit boards.  While I am not an engineer, my suspicion is that the devil is in the details with digital, and thinks like mechanical and electrical grounding and power filtration could be key.  The BAlabo does make an attempt at that while very few of the modern sardine cans seems to.  A friend of mine heard that dac at Mike Powell's and said it was extremely good.  Who knows.  Just my two cents.