DAC improvements slowing down?

24/192 optical in
24/96 USB

It seems like those two figures would be the highest values most supposedly audiophiles need to have capable.

Beyond that how are DACs going to be a game changer? Most sources are regular CDs and streaming audio, no SACD for 99% of us supposedly audiophiles.

I read that people recommend using an external DAC as the technology is constantly improving but have we hit the point of diminishing returns or is there a good argument for using an External DAC still?
nowdays computer audio is the best way to get the highest resolution digital music. that's why people recommend external DAC with hi-rez capabilities.
No.DAC improvement moving faster than ever, Such as Asynchronous on all Inputs (ZDAC-V2) for $500 or Less. There are many more extremely good sounding DAC's out there now. It's best time to be a music lover to enjoy their sound. Once you find a DAC that makes you happy and you'll forget about all those so call tweaks and just enjoy all music.
People using External DAC to change the sound to their taste. Not better just different.
Just got a Metrum Hex dac and it is definitely the best dac I have heard. There are a lot of good dacs out there at all different price points nad they all perform really well. I think digital at this time is defitely the best it has ever been. We just need better source material. Too many crappy recordings are being made
"Beyond that how are DACs going to be a game changer?"

The same way phono cartridges have been for many years.

Until someday when digital is replaced. That could be a very long way off or never. I have no clue what would replace it. Holography like on Star Trek would be my guess (still digital but not just audio) for the ULTIMATE music simulation. I hope I live to see it. It will pretty much just continue to get better and better. Needs of teh fussiest audiophiles in terms of sound quality will become trivial problems to solve on the grand scale. BEcoming more that way already. Of course the most driven audiofiles will never be satisfied....
so what if your like me? Over sixty with a LARGE RECORD and CD collection who is not interested in yet another non worldwide standard of source and not interested in streaming?
How important is my Dac now just to listen to my regular and MFSL gold cd's?
Please give serious answers! thanks, azjake
Its not these technologies that will deliverthe best DACs, its clever design that reduces jitter, eliminates computer dependency and reduces noise and distortion. These are much more important than 192 versus 96 versus DSD.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
AZjake, If you are happy with the sound of your system, just enjoy your music and all the great new cds that continue to be released. You don't have to keep chasing the state of the art if you don't want to. You'll never catch it anyway.

If you feel that something is lacking in your system, a better Dac can make the cds you already own sound better, as can better speakers, amps etc.
There are so many threads here asking about the best DAC at different price points, but Steve N. always states the correct answer...jitter control is the most important factor in producing the best sound from a DAC.
Design elements such as good isolation from noise and vibration would also be found in a good DAC or CDP.

It's not the DAC chip that plays the most important part in the chain. So in the case of an external DAC, the different components become very important, such as a good transport or dedicated computer and software, and the right cable to carry the signal to the DAC where it will be reclocked.
Well stated Steve.
I see mentions of jitter. I believe most jitter on modern DACs is around 2ns and the BBC did studies that said people could not distinguish below 50ns of jitter. Can anyone tell me what jitter sounds like?
it's irritating, like the BBC.
better than PBS...
Low jitter is worth it. Many ways to achieve that these days for reasonable cost if done right. Has probably only gotten to that point in recent years, so older gear in general will tend to be more problematic.
Is low jitter like ultra-sonics? Something people can't here but makes things sound better?
Jitter is to digital sound much like focus is to digital photos.

No digital photo has perfect focus, but the percent of error can easily be so small with modern digital cameras that practically it does not matter.

Same with jitter in time dimension with digital sound. Below certain thresholds, practically the smearing of the sound that results will not be detected or matter. It is a form of distortion though, so it is never a good thing.

Thank you for the clarification. Your explanation matches my understanding. Based on studies done at the beginning of the development of digital sound reproduction jitter was studied and the threshold of jitter was determined. There are no modern DACs that have jitter beyond what people can hear, but yet there is lots of talk about it. So what makes one DAC sound different than another if it is not jitter?

BBC studies are worthless IMO. They need better system and trained listeners as well as good quality tracks. I doubt if they had any of these three.

I have made improvements in the jitter of my products on the order of 30psec P-P and easily heard the difference.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
How are your studies better than the BBC?
Like I said, they need a better system and trained listeners as well as good quality tracks. I doubt if they had any of these three. The results point to that.

Also, the nature of the jitter is important. If they are generating random jitter, then this is not at all like the jitter in real audio systems. It is usually correlated in some way.

Jitter has three attributes:
1) amplitude
2) frequency
3) distribution

All of these are important and not just one measurement. They all vary with each other.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I believe you are familiar with Dr. Kiryu's study jitter detection in humans. His findings were that even trained people could detect less jitter than what the BBC reported.


Where are the scientific studies published by any non-marketing organization showing jitter is detectable even in the sub 200ps range?

It doesn't because it can't be done. It is great to develop an ultra-low jitter device for a feat in engineering, but for sound benefits??? I suspect the dust on speaker drivers has a bigger distortion impact than modern day jitter.
Scvan - until you experience really low jitter, you will not understand. It is never low enough IME. I perform jitter demonstrations at nearly every trade show, as well as contrasting the sound of AIFF, ALAC and FLAC with wav files. Every single attendee hears the difference.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I think along the lines of what Mapman said, given my limited experience. My music coming from a PC, when I moved from a previous configuration to having an Audiophilleo in the chain there was a very noticeable improvement. I recently tried an exaSound e22 that has femto clock and it didn't sound better than the Audiophilleo plus Metrum Octave.

Obviously, several factors at play here, not simply jitter, but I was expecting a big impact from the femto clock. Just didn't happen for me.
Lew - I tried a Femtoclock and even designed a module for it with regulators etc. It didn't measure any better than my previous clock module. It may have lower jitter at 20MHz, but this is not important with audio.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I own a Schiit Bifrost - had it over a year now. It is 24/192 across all inputs

They just came out with an upgrade to the USB which blew my socks off - such a huge improvement.

Will things keep getting g better - I believe so if this latest upgrade is anything to go by.

The Gungnir is even better.

What will happen is the cost of the better technology will come down.

Come to think on it - I guess 30 years ago you could have asked the same about Turntables.

Turntable improvements/upgrades/tweaks are more prevalent now than at any time in the past.

Same thing will probably happen to DAC's.

One can live in hope :-)
Come to think on it - I guess 30 years ago you could have asked the same about Turntables.

Turntable improvements/upgrades/tweaks are more prevalent now than at any time in the past.

I'm not so sure about that... A SME arm, koetsu cart, and an old garrard 301 table would pretty much be a table that can take on many modern top line tables.

The improvement in sound quality will most likely not come from DAC chips. The chips will get smaller and more efficient, but who needs 1024khz/64bit sound, it probably won't happen. The conversion by the chip is pretty set science. However, having said that, improvements will come from the handling of the analog signal and amplification of it after the chip. The old PSU/CAP/linear amp discussion...
Scvan - I see your point, but all I have to do is think back to my first PC with it's 16k of ram and 10 Mbyte hard drive - who could possibly want more than that :-)

Once they get quatum computers on everyone's wrist our view of the "digital audio world" will change dramitically!

Just maybe not in my lifetime :-)


I suppose so, but I suspect the limit in sound will come from the speakers. The information being fed into the speakers will be much better than that coming from the electronics side.
The next big improvement in digital audio will come from really hi-end DSPs with software that will have potentially infinite band EQ's with both frequency, phase and SPL adjustment. That will be allowed because of the advances in computers. The DAC will just be part of that. In the future all music will be stored digitally (which is really is now).
are recent advances in jitter reduction really an improvement over my old genesis digital lens? (limited to 16/44)?