Expensive Dac to keep or cheaper and change overtime

Good evening all, I was wondering if people had thoughts about dacs and changing over time versus keeping an expensive unit that is upgraded.  I currently have a Gustard A22 that I do enjoy , I use I2s for SACD and USB for streaming (mainly Amazon) I have wondered about a PS Audio directstream mk2 that is said to be upgraded via new software which sounds good rather than the evolution of cheaper dacs.i have read that the previous PS Audio has been a model for 8 years which sounds reassuring. I use a Primaluna Evo 300i with Zu Audio Soul 6 , the Gustard  A22 with a Node (latest version) though that might change.,I have a PS Audio Power plant 12 , ZU Undertone Mk2 with cables by Zu and Nordost.  Any advice would be appreciated. 



Speculation? Hardly,

have I heard it ? Yes … nobody’s claiming that it’s not a good DAC,,

in a bakeoff against a dcS (model escapes me for the moment …) and the BRYSTON BDA3, all three were played in a $50k system, …my buddy and I thought all three were great . 

The point: there wasn’t a noticeable difference for us  between them .  Other than price. If I had to give a forced nod to guess at the best ( it would  be the dcS . The BRYSTON digital player source feeding it and the high-end amp , speakers, and cables together in system, seemed to be a big positive influencer and not just  the dac alone.

my only point is that most digital music is mastered  at 24/192 and below with a largest at even lower rez, a super rez capability is fine nice-to-have but not any driving differentiator for many for now,…

my take: until the future recordings get there in the unknown future, I’ll stick with high build superiority at a more competitive price for the tried and true for now. ..

As always with Audiophile, lots of variables that interact. My Bluesound Node 2i was a noticeable upgrade to my Peachtree Nova 300 and my Yamaha RX-A1070 internal dacs, but not better than the internal dac of my Arcam AVR30 or Anthem STR Integrated. I would say it is not far behind my MiniDSP SHD dac.  My SMSL M400 was a big improvement to the Node 2i. I then upgraded to the PSAudio DirectStream.  That was a slight improvement to the M400, but it was highly dependent on the rest of the system I had it married to. I would rank those two about equal in sound quality.  Customer service from PSAudio is stellar however. I had issues with my Bridge 2 and sent it in. Even though I bought the DAC used, they repaired the bridge for free on warranty, including return shipping. One thing lacking from the DirectStream and M400 was a headphone output, so last year I purchased a used Matrix Audio Element X. It is somewhat better acoustically than the DirectStream and the M400. It also has better capability as far as handling higher res and different data, and it is "fully" Roon ready. I have re-arranged components endlessly in different rooms, and in general, the amount I paid for the Directstream and MA Element were high prices for a small improvement to the M400, as far a sound capability. Both can get an input directly via my network, which M400 can not, so I keep the M400 in the system where I can feed it directly from my Roon Nucleus USB.  In the end, my experience is that you get what you pay for, depending on the features you need, and you pay increasingly high prices for ever smaller increases in sound quality. That said, I read about newer sub-$2,000 dacs that have great sound, and before long I will purchase some and see for myself.  My experience with the SMSL M400 proves to me that if you can live with some reduced features, you can get some very good sound at cheaper prices.  I guess a big variable is how long you can stick with one unit without getting the upgrade bug bite. ( I write with a big smile!)

@akg_ca At least you have listened to the PS Audio MKII DAC. I am tired of folks who make negative comments on gear they haven’t even listened to. In my first response I mentioned how good this DAC was with redbook CD ‘s. That is where the real value is with this DAC. You don’t need to purchase hirez files to get great value for your hard earned dollars. There is nothing more tried and true than redbook CD’s.


yep …. The largest chunk of my new digital inventory played Through my BRYSTON player into its stablemate BRYSTON DAC is now out purchased from HDTRACKS and PROSTUDIOMASTERS. . The lion’s share is redbook rez at 16/44 . I will buy the 24/96 if offered and intuitively go to the 24/192 if available,

intuitively, the higher the mastered resolution, there is an incremental improvement but it’s not jaw dropping.

i have a REGA ISIS VALVE cdp/ DAC with its own high end DAC that I can accces thru a USB input. For redbook CDs and XRCDs …it’s as good at a minimum as the PS , dcS and BRYSTON ,,,, and arguably better IMO. But it’s capped out at 16$ or 24/44.

Where the external BRYSTON DAC excels a BIT MORE is where the rez is higher and the REGA cant go there

All are good …there is a helluva slugfest between DACs at north of $3500and up that’s where the contenders start to pull away from the pretenders.

Why did I buy BRYSTON. It had that ethereal transparency and performance quotient that was every bit the equal of the dcS and PS in my system ( emphasis added ) and arguably a class leading build quality with all the go-to features at a cost savings to me

Some drive Fords,,,,some drive Chevys



Once the new ESS 9039 Pro chip DACs start being released by major manufacturers, that's the one to get.