old vs new DAC designs and sound differences

Hello fellow Audiogoners, there are alot of DACs around. After having listened to various DACs, I come to the conclusion that differences between DACs are not dramatic. Some relatively old DACs, like the Accuphase DC-91 or the Wadia 9 can still compete with the best of the current DACs. So age (with regard to design) doesn't matter much (1). There is actually no real difference between non-oversampling, filterless designs and the over and upsampling designs with the most difficult and sophisticated algorithms (2). A good sounding DAC, whether it is old, new, non oversampling or over and upsampling remains a good sounding DAC. Differences between loudspeakers are much bigger. Even differences between power amps are more significant than between two well designed DACs (3). So there is no reason at all to replace your albeit old but still good sounding DAC. I know I'll keep my oldskool Accuphase.
I know I'll keep my oldskool Audio Logic M-34 too !!
DAzzdax, I agree that new doesnot mean better or that any specific design( upsampling,non-upsampling,tube,ss) is superior sonicly compared to other well designed DACS. However, my experience with DACS is they can sound very different, as much as amps, pre-amps, etc., and their has been quite an evolution towards better sound in digital front ends in the last 5 years compared with older DACS. It's personnal taste and synergy with your system, but their are real differences with the more current DACS that can raise the level of enjoyment in a system.
My Wadia 1000 x64 has been with me for 15 years and still creams any players and all the DACs I've heard (which isn't ALL the DACs) including Levinson, newer Wadias, Goldmund, and Sony. Haven't heard Meitner, Accuphase or Audio Logic.

I did improve its sound audibly by using the balanced outputs, and upgrading the glass digital cable and the power cord.
i agree...the difference in sound is so minimal that the reason it seems new dacs are sold is so the retailer doesnt lose his franchise with the newer sounding dacs
while the digital output technology has greatly improved the analogue one started to degrade.
the bank of grate parts started to deplete and being discontinued along with greater desire for profit in todays digital players or DACs.
No plans to give up my Theta Gen Va balanced any time in the foreseeable future.
Good to hear that because I just purchased the Monarchy-22a and an Adcom GDA-600 to see which one I'll keep. Anyone have experienced with these ?
Comparisons to my Muse Model 2 Plus keep coming up short too. I think that design comes from around 99'. Haven't compared it to everything out there though. Not even close. Still, keeps me grin'en!

I dont agree. Having modded about 12 different DAC's from the early Meridians to the Benchmark, I have found that not only the DAC chips, but the upsampling chips have gotten a LOT better in recent years. You just need to hear the right DAC chip in a well-executed implementation. It's the difference between a detailed sound and a lush, beautiful lifelike sound that is not only unfatigueing, but actually captivating, approaching vinyl quality. The rest of your system must be up to the task though...
Well, there are so many factors that affect the sound of a DAC beside the dac chips, such as the jitter reduction circuit, clock, power supply, and output stage. Even if there has been tremendous progress in Digital to Analog Conversion over the last 5 years, I think well designed no cost object older DACs can outperform newer ones that are cutting corners with less expensive parts in the power supply, OP amps etc. However, I don't think there much comparison between older and newer dacs cut from the same cloth of cost/budget restraints; Benchmarc Dac1 or Bel Canto Dac II of today have no competition from the past generation of the $1000 price tag.
Interesting conversation. I have a 90's vintage CJ DA/3 DAC. Should I consider upgrading this or can this even be upgraded? I bought it with the thought of using it with some sort of multi disc player as my 2nd CDP. But as of now it's in the box awaiting its fate while I ponder. Thanks, Dave
Arni - I agree, the design and parts quality makes the DAC, as well as the chips. However I have found that cost is not neccessarily the best metric. I have found numerous strange and questionable designs, particularly in the digital areas of extremely expensive DAC's from smaller companies, which I will not name here. It's really hard to know who to trust to do a decent design. Ralph Dodson, who had a long career designing digital electronics for military/aerospace applications, has experience with digital design.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio