Old Digital vs New digital.

I'm younger, mid 20's. I have only really recently started to get interested in enhancing my music, to a truely high end level of sound. I purchased a NAD541i last year, which was connected to a SimAudio Intergrated. I was allowed to audition a Museatex Meilor Bitstream DAC. This DAC is based off a 1992 Meitner Design and was heavily modified by John Wright 6months ago. The core is still an 18 bit DAC. John recently wrote me an email with a bold statement that he'd put the DAC I currently have up against anything on the market for Redbook CD's.

I wondered though, how can a chipset that was orginally used in Meitner gear 10 years ago sound so good today? I realize that the NAD was a very entry level CDP, and I've only listened to single Box CDPS all under $3k in comparision, but this DAC along with a Moray James Cable still pulls ahead. How can this be? Are the majority of the redbook designers going down an ill path? Are they focusing on improving problems that no longer exist? Are they trying to fix something that isn't broken while forgetting to fix the real issues?

Since first coming to this site/forum I look at alot of systems. The ones that make me wanna hear them are all using older CDP's from Wadia, Sonic Frontiers and CAL audio. The people who seem to have come full circle, had the cash to play and learn and found that they can acheive superior digital playback by going back and finding that CDP that isn't the latest and greatest (Aside from the SACD/DVD audio superplayers like the Linn, EMM Labs, etc) To my amazements these systems also use an LP as a core playback source. I have a hard time understanding all of this, but it is interesting. I'm a firm believer in source first, that much I have learned, but I've also found that this quest might be misleading and you might be better going back to the future in your quest to solidify your digital frontend.
You can't go wrong with a Classe DAC-1 & Classe CDT-1 transport. A very, very good combination for a very reasonable price would be a Audio Alchemy DDS Pro transport coupled to Audio Alchemy DTI Pro 32 followed by a Camelot Uther Mk2 (or the Classe DAC-1). You could probably put something like that together for around 2K, but it's worth every penny.
You might also consider older Levinson digital. A piece like the #39 or #37Transport/360sDAC can be had for less than half of retail. These combos will probably equal if not outperform any multi disc player including the latest and greatest. They are very well built and hold their value. Of course how they fit with your current system would be open to your personal tastes.
I only mention this because of the post directly above, but this (and other research on "Cyberhome" in the digital and general asylums at Audioasylum) makes for interesting reading:


The player referred to, which I am currently using and became interested in after reading a recommendation on it from Moray James at Audioasylum, is the Cyberhome DVD 300, which sells for a whopping $38 at Walmart. I've done some minor tweaking to mine (changed the male plug to a Marinco 5266, changed the stock glass fuse to a ceramic, damped the chassis and transport, supported it with Herbie's Tenderfeet and had the entire player cryoed) but have not changed out caps, etc.

I only mention it because Moray James' (who apparently voices his digital cable with Meitner gear) cable is mentioned in the initial post to start the thread and the poster above recommends a combination previously in use by the poster I've outlined above at Audioasylum.
I wasn't suggesting to change my Museatex, I'm quite happy with it, I wouldn't change it for anything now. The person I bought this thing off listened to it against a SimAudio Nova, he was leaning towards the Museatex. My point was, how can older digital technology be better then supposed newer technology? Are designers at a lost for ways to improve digital? Perhaps they are focusing on the wrong issues, and addressing those that don't need to be addressed.
It has to do with the analog section of the D/A, IMHO. Using Ljshape10's example of the Classe DAC-1, this was a $4K DAC, which can be had used for less than $1K. I don't think there is a new DAC that lists for under $1K that can touch the DAC-1 sonically. Because you still have a $4K analog output stage. I think the higher quality componants in the analog output stage outweighs the latest in digital chips improvement.

I also don't think people are investing as much in digital equipment today as they were 5-10 years ago. Today people are re-discovering vinyl, or simply waiting for the newer Hi-Res formats (SACD/DVD-A)to get their acts together. The economy might have also helped to slow the digital rage. I see more and more audiophiles back to single box units. 5-10 years ago, everyone had digital seperates (don't forget the extra jitterbox too).

Digital isn't alone in this regard. Many feel the golden age for tuners was the late 70's into the early 80's. I also beleive that solid state amplification peaked in the late 80's to early 90's. I like the sound of a Levinson 23 better than the 300 or 400 series. I think the KSA-250 was the best sounding amp Krell ever built, and who can forget the S and SA series from Threshold?

It could be romanticism, or it could be that they don't build them like they used to.

Well, if I had to guess, i'd guess that it has a lot to do with the phase we are going thru of adding up-sampling. Its interesting to note that many who have go this path arn't as happy as they thought they would be, there has been a number of technical arguments against it, and interesting to note that some manufacturers make it defeatible. The only position I take is I haven't gone this path. My DAC's and CDP are all sans up-sampling.
IMO, it has a lot to do with the power supply and the analog section of the player or DA.
New is not always better than old.Much more to good design than bit rate and upsampling.Not all agree that upsamling is so fantastic anyway.A good design is a good design,period.I use a MLevinson 37/36s,good CDP.
The old Meitner designs were special, and still hold their own today. I don't know about the Bitsteam DAC, but the IDAT series used a novel digital filter algorithm that automatically calibrated itself and would apply a normal SINC filter for optimally flat frequency response if required, or would change to a linear interpolation filter if the source material is rich in transients. The result: a time-resolute filter with no ringing on transients (giving you the benefits of a non-OS design), but with no high frequency roll-off, aliasing distortion, or stair-step "jaggies" on sine waves (thus avoiding the weaknesses of non-OS designs). It really was a DAC ahead of its time, and apparently the IDAT algorithm became the basis for Meitner's design for DSD.
Agree with the above posts, newer is not always better.
A well executed design is the key, and will stand the test of time.
Power supplies and analogue sections are two critical considerations in digital (as with AC line treatment)
i have an IDAT and am still looking for someone with one.
the sound is magnificent.21 bit resolution,liquid smooth,but not as smooth as my old 103D cartridge.even the old wadia 9 i believe rate it better than the 27ix,from people that have owned both
I recently installed an IDAT in muy system and am very pleased. I was using a Philips DVD 963 as a stand alone player and it is now used as a transport. I use it with an entry level Monster digital cable. Versus the 963 the highs are now more extended, more detail and better soundstaging. I also have a modest system that I tried it in and the difference it made it on that is staggering. I now will be looking for another IDAT for that system.
Do try an inexpensive Music Hall or Project turntable. If you like Classical and Jazz, it's pretty easy to find well-cared-for vinyl. I did the upgrade path as well, and I believe you are right--the front end is the most important part. My problem was that I couldn't find a digital front end for under $4K that did music right for my tastes. I went SACD, then finally vinyl. It was the sound I was looking for. I live near a big city, (San Fransisco), so it's easy to find a lot of used records. Have fun, but I found upgrading slightly stressful. Any upgrades will enhance digital's shortcomings in a big way.
For those with Museatex dacs, try a Moray James digital cable. I just got mine yesterday and it is leagues ahead of the 6-7 other toslink and coax cables I've tried.

And, if you haven't already, get Jon Wright(of Museatex) to upgrade the dacs to 2005 standards. I have a Bitstream with the full mods including black gate power supply , etc. upgrades and it is sublime.

Jon Wright says that the fully upgraded BitStream and IDAT are so close in performance that the difference is a subtle matter of personal taste. He also fine tunes his upgrades using Moray James cables.