No such thing as a future proof DAC...

I've been fooled in the past by digital gear manufacturers claiming their DAC or digital gear is future proof. Case in point was the Cambridge Audio CD2 player back in the 1980s that had replaceable boards for the DAC chip. Great CDP at the time but never was really upgradeable. Now, I keep on hearing about new DACs that are future proof (eg, BiFrost DAC). The only DAC that I know that has a long history for being upgradeable is may be the MSB DACs, but they can cost an arm and a leg. May be dCs, but again mucho expensive. Do you believe in the hype? Doesn't seem to be in the manufacturers interest to offer a truly upgradeable digital gear when a new version can be offered after a year that requires you to buy a new unit.
I am perfectly happy with my Adcom GDA700 Dac which is getting kind of old. And in the DAC world is positively ancient.
Works fine and I am completely happy with it.
Buying the flavor of the day DAC with no real differece between them is a fools quest.
Good luck on you NEXT DAC
Here is maybe a non-typical scenerio: I have upgraded my USB converter for 3 generations and my DAC for 3 generations. Upgrades can use modules for clocks, computer interfaces and voltage regulators. The problem is that inevitably everyone wants something that affects the baseboard eventually and then the older versions cannot be upgraded. Its the users demanding new technologies that usually drives this. If one built a really simple motherboard with virtually nothing on it, then maybe it could last 4 generations. However, this would cost more due to more modules and high-performance connectors.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
hi elizabeth:

are you suggesting that many current production dacs sound the same ??

if so, where is your evidence.

i have never heard two dacs sound the same. there are so many variables that it is counter intuitive to expect dacs to sound the same. would you not agree that a tubed dac should sound different than a solid state dac ?

my favorite digital source is an audionote cd2.
Nearly any "flavor of the day" DACs available now will wipe the floor with older models in terms of definition and soundstage, especially when the newer 32 bit dacs are compared to the older 24 bit.
Douglas, better definition and soundstage in newer DACs may be true but most newer DACs seem to miss the mark when it comes to naturalness of timbre, pace and rhythm, and smoother sound compared to the older ladder DAC chips and some NOS designs. I dunno but I don't think newer necessarily sound better IMO.

But getting back to upgradeable DACs, most seem like marketing ploy. Some take too much of an advantage by offering too frequent upgrades you would think the designer has no clue.
When I bought my Mac G4 I was assured that it was "Future Proof" as you could easily change the boards. When I wanted to upgrade it a couple of years ago I found that it was either impossible or totally impractical depending on who I talked with and it would not be as good as the Mac Mini no matter what I did to it. I would take ANY claim of "Future Proof" with a block of salt.
I've been fooled in the past by digital gear manufacturers claiming their DAC or digital gear is future proof.

If the digital player or DAC has been designed adopting modular configuration, it sure is future proof.

Best wishes,
Alex Peychev
The 'future proof' DAC stands right behind the 'future proof' media streamer.
anyone who tells you a piece of electronics is future proof either (a) believes they are psychic or (b) as a smart manufacturer has hedged their bet with a trade in program. I deal with product life cycles... 3 years is about as far as anyone can predict in a technology field

128 bit word, 384khz/32 bit audio stream DAC's anyone?
Future proofing DAC's, or virtually any electronic device, would be difficult because of the rapid change in technology and materials.

However, there are manufacturers who future-proof their equipment through excellent upgrade service, such as MUSE, who will still upgrade any of their disc players to either of their two current top models. They will also upgrade any of their other previous amps, preamps, and DAC models to the highest level before production of the item was discontinued. Unfortunately, they do not have a DAC in their current line-up as I suspect Kevin has been spending his time on the HRT line for now.
Dracule1, I did not include in my definition of the better sound characteristics of the newer generation of DACs a description of their timbral qualities because they do vary widely, and imo this seems to be vastly influenced by the ancillary equipment. i.e. cables have much more influence over the tonal sound of a DAC than many realize.

However, that in no way suggests that I consider the older DACs superior in that regard. I have owned and compared directly older Parasound, Denon, Adcom etc. players to the newer DACs/Players and I would not place any of them tonally over the EE Minimax DAC Plus (reviewed), one of the "flavor of the month" DACs. My experience has been that the newer generation of DACs is superior in every respect, ceding no sonic qualities to the previous. Or, to be consistent with my statement about system influence, the newer generation of DACs within systems I find to have more tonal "correctness" and appeal than older ones.
"most newer DACs seem to miss the mark when it comes to naturalness of timbre, pace and rhythm, and smoother sound compared to the older ladder DAC chips and some NOS designs."

Absolutely agree. Its due to the digital filtering. If one could use a modern D/A converter, but eliminate the digital filtering, you would have the best of both worlds: resolution and smoothness. Its possible.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I agree, there really isn't with the exception of MSB Labs. I bought their Link DAC years ago and upgraded it a couple of times before finally selling it. They are top company to deal with, but their current products are pretty pricey. Great company though.
I think we shouldn't forget about the source feeding these future proof DACs with xxxBit / xxxKhz capable components. We should also not forget the limitations of human hearing when considering the next purchase of said DAC.

Seeing that the record companies and artists are just now starting to re-release their past albums in 24bit/96/192khz format sourced from master tapes of the same quality or less I think the picture starts to become more clear how far you really NEED to go.

We humans are a silly species. Here we are 10-20 years in the future of the release date of most of our favorite albums and we strive to create/attain 32/64bit DACs with triple digit processing capabilities that are far beyond the capabilities of the original equipment used to capture the event in the first place.

In my opinion the main problem with using these increasingly more intelligent brains (ie..DAC's) is that they tend to highlight the shortcomings of the chain of components used to capture these original events. This is of course assuming were are not talking about a modern day recording that was captured with a modern day DAC. At least in that case we could next focus our attention on figuring out how to upgrade a humans hearing capabilities to REALLY enjoy this level of equipment.
DACs are about as future proof as computers.

If you want something future proof, buy a turntable.
"Future Proof" is simply marketing. As others have already pointed out, simply being able to replace a board doesn't mean there's going to be one made to do it.

And yes, there are big differences in DACs, age being a consideration, along with implementation before and after it (probably the most important and least talked about because its not as sexy as whats the best DAC chipset and how many bits: its like the old horsepower wars with cars-those ratings were quite misleading but it made for great copy and people fell for it by the truckload, and still do).
Steve N. You bring up an interesting point about built in digital filtering in modern DAC chips. Do you think digital filtering is bad all together? I believe the Zanden DAC relies solely on analogue filtering. MSB on the other hand has separate 32 (64?) bit digital filtering because their DAC "chip" is not a chip but discrete resistors. Seems like digital filtering is something that can be more easily upgradeable or future proof if the filter is separate from the DAC chip.