DAC's and DSLR's
Hi gang - was just thinking about a recent thread regarding "when is a DAC too old"...
My first thought was literally "the second you buy it" and then it occurred to me.
There are so many correlations that can be drawn between DAC's and DSLR's. The technology, marketing, capabilities and value.
Here's my perspective -
When the very first DSLR's were just coming on the market, I was an early adopter having been an amateur photog since I was about 9 (47 now) picked up an Agfa RD175 - It was (as you might have guessed) a 1.75MP sensor and a 131MB PCMCIA hard drive bolted onto a Minolta 35mm film camera.
It was revolutionary for its time for all out tech prowess but - lacked a screen, had a proprietary file format, the image quality was lame and retailed for about $10K.
Fast forward a year or two and Nikon comes out with the D1 - Based on the venerable F5 pro body. Good camera handling, but image quality still sucked and still super spendy.
Then came along the D100 a handful of months later - marketed to consumers - way less money, same image quality and much less crap to drag around. from there it was the D1X, D2x, D200, etc. etc. etc.
Soon after - Pretty much any camera body you could buy was SO refined that the only differentiating features were sensor size, pixel count, screen resolution, low light capabilities, HDR and a bunch of other blah blah blah....
Adoption drives innovation - $$ equals R&D
One thing that has remained however is that DSLR's are disposable - The real sustainable value was and always will be in photographic skills, optical quality of lenses, etc.
Same is true of DACs these days just as DSLRs
They are not good investments and never will be - there will be always the newest, latest greatest thing.
The fact that the latest DACs are differentiating with things like streaming, up sampling, OLED screens, preamps and volume controls, network apps, various inputs and so on says to me that there was a tipping point in the DAC evolution that peaked - the DAC's themselves had little room for improvement just like the DSLR evolution - hence all the gimmicky new features, apps and add-ons.
Listen - these are just decoders and have absolutely no control over the encoding process (lenses, lighting and artistic skills)
Sure there will be minor improvements, but the real innovation is largely in the rearview mirror where it will always remain and one should not expect from this point forward that there will suddenly be some "great new discovery" that will suddenly make digital music sound 1000% better than what we have today in digital - It's run its course.
As such, we can all expect to see new file formats (jpg vs raw), new bit rates (megapixels) and enhancements (DSD) but not much more.
For that reason, the $10K DAC of yesteryear will eventually be eclipsed by the next $9 lightning cable with embedded DAC/AMP and that's here to stay.
My advice? Invest money in better glass (Amps, speakers, pre's), visual perspective (listening skills), lighting (speakers and room) and don't think of these latest DAC's as end-all be-all investments. Money (and time) is better spent elsewhere.
Just saying, and sorry for the rant.
HAGWE guys and gals and enjoy your music.