Has Digital Audio Tech Plateaued - Is It Safe To Come Out Now?


I’ve been focused on analog for the last couple years with only an occasional glance toward anything digital.
 I could be mistaken but does it seem like the onslaught of technologically NEW digital hardware  and media has stalled? We’re seeing a move back to DAC technology that was prevalent in the 80’s, some folks say it sounds better (R2R)?
People have always questioned whether or not higher sampling rates actually improve things, beyond a certain point, so do we need more bits and higher frequency sampling beyond the current state-of-the-art?
We’re seeing some companies incorporate 1950’s tube technology into 2020 hardware to try to make it sound.....dare I say it - less digital?
Streaming seems to have matured to the point that it is what it is. The big streaming services have a foothold, and I’m not hearing of any real pending innovation. In fact I read somewhere that MQA is no better than CD playback quality, hence we may not even be as developed as we think we are.
Server tech seems to have peaked - sure, there’ll be more storage, moderately better power supplies, slightly improved interfaces etc, but is there anything revolutionary on the horizon now that we’ve moved beyond the Mac Mini / PC hardware?

 I’m not saying there won’t be a continuous stream of new hardware, new gadgets, but is there any expectation that something new is likely to advance us beyond where we’re at WRT sound quality?
Please note the question marks in the above, I’m not stating this is the way it is, I’m asking those of you who are closer to it for your thoughts on where it’s all at.

The point being - is it safe to crawl out from under my pile of moldy album covers from the 70’s and invest into current digital, without the fear of needing to retool in a year or two?
Thoughts?


682fca9a ca04 4e9d 81eb 6cce9922b0d5rooze
@cal3713,
I'm in total agreement with your observations concerning 16/44 CD playback. I was heavily into analogue records/turntables for many years (Just believed it was superior sounding). I discovered that standard Redbook CD is capable of providing a competing excellent sound.

The limitation was not  the CD but subpar DAC/CD players. Once I addressed that I was good to go. CDs played  in high quality components and systems is absolutely satisfying and emotionally involving.  I can still easily appreciate and enjoy a well set up analogue system but I do not miss my former tables.

As you note, if effort is put into obtaining good quality 16/44 playback hardware  you can definitely be rewarded with fabulous music reproduction. I find both digital and analogue gratifying sources. 
Charles 
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How many of you have done a “blind” listening test with the same track(s) played from different sources?

Pre Covid three of us did such a test in a very good room. A fourth kindly was the DJ host. (Prior to listening he had got the volume levels set so one source wasn’t louder than the others. Volume was brought up from a tracks start so we would not know what was a record. Clever lad.) The TT was very good ($$$) as was the CD but the streaming components were mid line (a few K).

Guess what we all picked? Yup the new kid. It was more of a preference pick rather than a night a day difference. But still three sixty year old life long audio lovers all ticked the same box.

A year and a half later one of us only streams, one plays CD’s and streams and one spins records because that what we like to do. The TT guy is adding a streamer and announced he’s not going to be buying so more records.

So yes OP it’s more than safe. It’s a preference or not.




I'm living with a Sim Audio Moon 380D. It does not have the optional streaming interface and due to limitations with my internet connection, streaming isn't something I'm all that interested in. Certainly, a worthwhile step up in DAC performance would be nice, and/or a better server or combined unit (Ripper/Server/DAC).

@rooze, I used a 380DSD for ~5 years and really really liked it.  For no reason other than assuming newer DACs must sound better, I sold it and started shopping for a new DAC last year.   I tried the Bricasti M3 and although I liked it, I was disappointed by the sonic differences (it did some things better to my ear but I still preferred some traits of the 380) so I sold it and tried some other DACs (mostly much cheaper).   I was tempted to just find another used 380DSD when I found a used Mojo Audio Mystique V3 Balanced DAC (R2R NOS) and I found it to have a similar sound to the 380, just lots more of what I like, plus I think it has the bass and dynamic punch I heard from the M3 which was really good in that regard.   Streaming CD quality recordings through Roon from either my NAS or Tidal sound amazing to me with this DAC.  I paid ~2X for what I sold my 380DSD for, and for me it was well worth it.    Good luck with your search...
@ddafoe you beat me to it.  I was gonna recommend the Mojo Mystique EVO given the OP’s budget.  If the Mojo gets you to/near the level of enjoyment of your vinyl rig, who cares where digital does or doesn’t plateau?  You’ll still be a happy camper.  And if it also now finally allows you to enjoy the entire world of music at your fingertips through streaming, isn’t that worth taking the plunge?  It’s time.  Life’s too short.  Best of luck.