With the explosion of many new DACs in the marketplace, it is impossible to comment on most of them from personal experience. The mag and online reviews are interesting and helpful, but only to a degree…and littered with a hefty dose of hyperbole stirred in to trigger reader skepticism.
as you pointed out, there are 8+ year old high-end units from new that are generally indistinguishable in actual real life user audio performance and satisfaction, compared to the latest (and expensive) new flavour of the month units.
sure, the PS AUDIO DIRECTSTREAM MK2 has exalted new bells and whistles technologies but at a rich new model price ….. BUT, and it’s a further big “BUT”, there isn’t much available “future focused “turbo hi-rez recordings yet.
An iconic quote rings true here in a cautionary take IMO,
“PRICE is what you pay, VALUE is what you get “ - WARREN BUFFETT.
My take: .
I distill hi-end DACs down to proven basic “need to have “ versus “nice to have” features The PS DAC is distinctly in the latter camp, just like 8K flat panel TVs,…. Illusory and fleeting bragging rights limited by negligible material available currently to enjoy, or showcase
NEED to have IMO for high-end units… focus on the tried and true design and build features that work on current recordings :Fuhgeddaboud trying to future-proof now in a warp-speed changing technology for bells and whistles
(1) - linear power supplies, either shielded internally or alternatively with an external unit.
This is a build and digital audio performance key step up that starts the differentiation between the contenders and the many pretenders. Before the drastic price increases and MSRP annual price increase compounding with the advent of COVID three years ago, it was roughly around the $3000+ pricepoint (and going north) that competing quality units started to incorporate this in their designs and builds.
(2) Good and accessible ( emphasis added ) technical support. This is a risky wildcard. I’ve anecdotally been told that sime can be a sh*tshow with a steep learning curve and frustration. Some are indeed fine ( eg BRYSTON )