Back in the early 1980s when CDs were launched the marketing phrase was "perfect sound forever". Advancements since then make that phrase seem somewhat humorous. I think the same could be said of today's state of the art looking back from the future and of course you need to consider ever evolving formats.
The OP actually gives a very good reason for not breaking the bank on a streamer/dac. If you spend $20K on the latest hot streamer, that may put a crimp in your ability to upgrade for a while. As he noted digital technology changes very fast, and they greatest innovations tend to trickle down fast as well. Todays innovation at $20K may be largely reproducible for a fraction of that price in a year or two
As your DAC is inside of your integrated amp, you won't be able to upgrade, unless Hegel introduces new firmware.
As DAC and streaming tech is moving at a rapid pace, I have no doubt that much of what is now 'state of the art' will be bypassed by newer tech.
That being said, you'd need to spend a bit more money to get a significantly 'better' DAC than what you now own.
I plumped for a Brinkmann Nyquist, and I find it to be quite capable- so much so, that I consider it my last purchase for quite a while.
There is no such thing as a forever component… well for me there may be… I’m 70. But, in general no. But on the other hand you can buy ahead. I am willing to bet that my Aurender W20SE will out perform the contemporary BlueSound for at least 20 years. My Aurender performs at the level of my great vinyl system. So, I get incredible performance now… that will likely last past the end of my life.
This has been proven to me over and over again since the 1980’s. You get an audiophile piece of equipment and it will outperform other stuff for a decade or more and lower end stuff for much longer. The quality of the design and materials in a high end piece of equipment just isn’t easily reproducible. With the movement away from globalization this gap is likely to get larger.
Forever of course not. Knock it out of the ballpark of course not. It’s digital 0s and 1s. Different …. Sure. Small differences from a .5k dac to a 5k dac. Not saying the differences aren’t there but knock your socks off I personally do not believe so unless the more expensive one is tubed and colored to hell.
I have 2 of the same DACs for my 2 systems. It is the Musetec 005 DAC. I am in the process of building out my second system and my dealer is strongly suggesting I get the Bricasti M12 preamp/DAC at $16K. I am considering it as a final system purchase. However, as I listened to the Musetec 005 on my office system, I was thinking what the heck am I trying to improve here?
So I am going with the 2 Musetec 005's and use Sonore OpticalRendu streaming. The Bricasti has Ethernet streaming so it reduces the box count but I think my streaming is better and the DAC likely just as good (maybe better).
BTW - I have 3 Sonore OpticalRendu's, 1 for headphone system, and 2 for office and Livingroom 2-channel. So maybe I do have a forever streamer.
Sends on your disposable income , in 5 years there maybe something
much better for less money , that being said if it’s built well and sounds verygood
no reason to keep buying. In Highend audio sometimes you may have to
spend 2x as much to gain 5%+ . Diminishing returns ,you can always get a little better if you have-the $$ to burn 🔥 !!
In my opinion, getting a quality setup now on the digital side is a worthwhile investment even if it might be surpassed in five years or whatever quoted timeline. Because one thing that is irrelevant is of time is having a setup you can enjoy. A component with good isolation, clean power supply, usability, etc will still be providing that same quality five years from now.
If a setup today makes you content for years to come, that’s what counts in my view in terms of making an investment.
No such thing really.
the PS Audio airLens looks quite interesting, however.
My DAC is my most expensive component, a PS Audio Directstream w/ streamer card. And I’m glad because streaming is more and more of my listening. It’s software-based, and they’ve issued a number of updates that are easy to make with just an SD card. But still … now they’re introducing a new version and will stop upgrades to the Directstream. So I suppose there’s no such thing as forever in digital. But I do think this source is so important that I’d still spend what it takes to get a great one.
At some stage, you're right that components may end being the last upgrade.
I'm working towards that myself. Have speakers, DDC, Dac, streamer, RCAs, power cables, digital cable, speaker cables sorted.
If no chance to upgrade LPS, external clock and amp, I'm fine with what I've got, and fine with the sound. Having been in this game for 46 years, I know I want to upgrade those as well.
Depends on how much longer one lives and how ambitious they are. I've experienced digital sound quality I thought I could live with for the long run, nothing I could complain about and superior to my pretty nice vinyl setup. But curiosity caught me which led to upgrading streamer and better sound yet. Never ceases to amaze how much information contained on relatively low res 16/44. Until we reach a point at which no more information can be obtained from 16/44 they'll be individuals seeking to extract and hear that information.
Future Proof and DAC generally do not go well together. That said people have mentioned DAC's like the PS Audio that via FPGA firmware are upgradeable for a number of years. At some point a manufacturer will need to make something new as they have to keep selling to stay in business. I would make sure to find out the upgrade path and it should allow 5-10 years of quality functionality.
In my opinion, DAC technology, like computers etc. is a moving target. Pick a time to hop on the train, and look forward to the future. I don’t think there is a “forever” in this area. Now, loudspeakers can be a different story in that many can find their “forever” speakers. I certainly have. Good luck with your search and enjoy the ride!
Woah, who said anything about future proofing. Definitely not.
But each technology goes through a number of stages. Introduction (remember the CD! Wow, quiet background… but wow, what terrible sound)… slow improvement, then rapid improvement at the high end, then slowing improvement at the high end, improvement of mid-level devices… then continuing improvements at all levels. something like that.
DAC have gotten pretty good. I think we are at the mid-level DACs improvement level. Streamers are behind. High end streamers are way ahead… but that will slowly change.
I just bought an Aurender N200. I love it, hopefully it will be supported for years to come. That unit was worth the price of admission. Sounds better with a good DAC than any transport / DAC I’ve had in the past that spins physical media. SACD and BluRay Audio sounded great on those machines but where do you find discs?
The N200 sounds awesome with Qobuz 24/96 and higher content and sounds better than any CD player I’ve had with Redbook.
Will it be forced into obsolescence? Hope not
Well... "forever" is a long time, but if it's awesome now it'll be awesome for a while... I think many of us can attest to still running on the internal dacs of cd players from ten or even twenty years ago; I know I do, and everybody including me likes the sound of my systems. Is there something "better"...? Eh, sure, I suppose... Will a great sounding dac now still sound great in fifteen years? Yes, unless something goes wrong with it. Might there be new formats, with new "effects" or whatever? Sure, but two-channel stereo will still be there, chugging along and sounding great.
But if you're worried about it (unless you have lots of money sloshing around and your house is all paid off, your cars and all your other debt it paid off and your retirement accounts and kids' educations and so on and so on are all maxed out), then don't spend thousands of dollars on a dac that might give you some small perceived "improvement" over a less expensive one, only to be chomping at the bit to throw another thousands away a few years from now. Find some frugal limit, get a good dac that sounds good with your system and to your aural preferences, and then enjoy the music. There are many many dacs just like many many amps and speakers and whatever else... one can obsess to the point of never being satisfied with anything because there's always something over the rainbow out there; or, one can make some solid selections and relax for a decade or two.
Or perhaps dacs can be "firmware updated" like operating systems... I dunno.
That said, I know what I say is my perspective. Only recently, now that I have some spare cash, have I felt any need or even desire to upgrade anything because I already have two systems that I like a lot. I doubt I'll do much dac shopping; what I have sounds great, and if I do get that Technics SU R 1000 amp with it's own version of dacness, or that Accuphase e-480 with an Accuphase modular dac unit, I think I'll be sitting more than "pretty good." I won't need any external dac; I'd rather play with speakers, if I'm not satisfied with my system's sound. I like good stuff that lasts, and it's been a good formula in stereoland and in-general-land.
I think good powered speakers are going make all components start to look like relics from the past. I’ve compared my Sonos internal dac to my mcintosh dac in the integrated to the Bryston bda 1 and it’s really hard for me to tell much of a difference. I second whoever mentioned isolation, power supply, and output stage as being very important. The work of converting digital to analog is about as start of art as it’s going to get IMO. There’s a great system out there for any budget.
A dac that makes beautiful music today will make beautiful music 10 years from now as long as it is built with quality parts. The simple truth is that many people who have invested in a better dac mostly switch for the sake of trying something new or a slightly different flavor.
Buy the best dac you can afford, pay special attention to build quality, and enjoy the music.
The length of "forever" is inversely proportional to how old you are. A great DAC bought now will still sound great 20 years from now, assuming the electronics and mechanical devices within it don’t age and change value or lose function over time.
Folks are at different points and places within this hobby. Let’s be more accepting and open...
A phone - Audioquest Cobalt (or equivalent) as streamer/DAC is not at all bad and an elegant solution for most who are listening to and enjoying their music.
Yeah the DAC we build. 30 pound separate power supply, 101D direct heated triode tubes, point-to-point wired, V-Capacitors, Audio Note resistors, Nichicon capacitors, AC filter chokes, R2R, etc. Probably not one DAC manufacturer uses any of the parts in their DAC. Reference sound that very few people have heard.
I would ask is there such a thing as a "forever" satisfied audiophile. I was watching a video on youtube about dacs by Thomas and he used the phrase "good enough". Although some dacs might provide more air, more bass, more this or that he described reaching a point that it doesn't matter because the sound you have now is so satisfying it is good enough. So in that case I say YES, there is a forever DAC and when you find it, just keep it.
I have always found plateaus that I am really happy with for seven to ten years. Where I have no interest in upgrading… I don’t want to screw up the synergy created between all my components. I read The Absolute Sound and Stereophile… etc. but have no desire to upgrade… just enjoy my system.
Then for no obvious reason I get interested in upgrading one piece… the one I perceive to be the biggest opportunity. I never do less than 2x or 3x investment so it makes a significant difference. But that triggers upgrading many or most components… then interconnects and power cords, then vibration. Then I am happy as a clam for another 7 - 10 years.
Clams are happy? Why is that?
That is purely a subjective question, it depends on user preference. Spend more you’ll get more. If one is satisfied with the sonics and/or $ spent then likely they will stop.
@ghdprentice , you find you groove, you know it could be "better" but there is always a risk it could be less enjoyable too. I found that once I got my room just right and upgraded my room correction software, my system was "good enough". Thanks to other members here I learned that to get a decent step up a better dac would be least $5K and I still don’t know if I would prefer it over what I have now, maybe it would be not as good a fit.
At my age I don’t think there is a forever DAC.
However as technological change is rapidly accelerating I would say
not. I would not rely on a DAC to rely on to give me the ongoing audio pleasure I would be happy with. Only my opinion, and it has been discussed on this forum many many times, layer you system by importance. Speakers, then the rest as you feel. My speakers will out last me and they were not cheap. Like cars, electronics will trickle down ( say from F1 or the best Merc or some such) the best will be affordable sooner than speaker technology. Only my opinion. :)
If I was you I’d buy a Gustard R26 on Amazon, and if it’s not a meaningful improvement return it and decide if you want to spend considerably more on something else or just stick with the DAC in the Hegel knowing you’ve got a really good thing. And, if sometime well down the road there’s a significant improvement in DACs you didn’t dump a truckload on antiquated technology. You’ll also obviously need a good digital cable, and I’d recommend the Acoustic Zen MC2 (they come up used occasionally, which is how I bought mine). Hope this helps, and best of luck.