The awakening...

For the past 30 years or so I've considered myself a die-hard audiophile.
I've gone through similar phases and opinions like most of you probably have.
I've bought and sold many dozens (if not hundreds) of high end components and cables.
Audio research, Linn, audionote, ensemble, synergistic, Zu Audio, PS Audio, Yamamoto, modwright, REL, Klipsch, hafler, CJ, coincident, classe, anthem,  oppo, MIT, and many other brands I don't even remember. I've auditioned hundreds more...
I'm also an electronic technician so I had my share of experience with DIY.
I've gone from tubes and vinyl to digital and SS, and back around.
I've owned mini monitors and huge 6' Giants and everything in between.
I've heard the most minute differences in sound quality between cables and footers.
I've spent way too many dollars on fuses, tweaks and furniture.
I read reviews, and swore by specific brands.
I've put together systems which I was sure we're the best ever and defended my choices with a passion.

No more.

I'm sitting here right now in my (ex) music room, listening to a system that costs less than $350 total, and enjoying the music as I rarely did with my recent $30K one.
Does it sound as good and realistic as the $30K one? No it doesn't.
But it sounds damn good. It's musical, engaging, full bodied with a well established sound stage, good detail and tonality, well paced, and I'm having a blast!!!
I just don't care no more for the minute differences in sound quality.
There is no end to it.

I let go, and oh man it feels good to enjoy music without constantly analyzing and subconsciously looking for imperfection or thinking how much better it will sound with tweak X or cable Y or upgrade Z...
This tiny $350 system delivers 80% of the sound quality of the $30K one, and honestly probably better than many $5K ones out there. I mean it...
It doesn't make any sense no more!

I have no regrets ...
I've had a lot of fun and I met amazing people that I wouldn't have had I not been an audiophile.
I've experienced great uplifting monents and great disappointments.
I've laughed and cried, was blown away and frustrated... It was a great ride.

I am leaving this hobby behind and not looking back...
Damn it feels good.
I'll keep enjoying great music and HiFi sound, and will appreciate high quality equipment, but I won't be obsessed with it no more.
I still have a very nice system in my living room which is probably worth around $2K and will be more than I'll ever need going forward.
This amazing little $350 system is going to my office where I spend most of my week days and I'm excited about it...

I have woken up from the audiophile dream, and what has been seen can't be unseen.

Goodbye and thanks for the fish :-)

Since I know you are very curious, the $350 system consists of a Raspberry Pi as a streamer ($25) with an upgraded DAC ($60), an upgraded power supply ($50), a 20 watt Chinese digital power amplifier ($70), mini monitor speakers I bought as a kit ($100), DIY stands from leftover lumber ($20), and around $20 in cables...
I intentionally omit brand names, this post is not about recommending any specific item. It's about what amazing value you can get for ridiculously cheap these days in general.

I promise each and every one of you that if you were sitting in my seat right now, and I would have told you that you are listening to a $5K system, you would not have doubted it for a second. You are probably thinking that I'm crazy, but I am not. 
I've already tried this trick on a few very experienced audiophile friends this past week. :-)
975b16a8 72b8 414e 8f32 0b2723784387ami
I'm happy for you but I doubt if you'll feel like you do in the long term, unless you can really let go of that last 20% you say is missing. I'm speaking from my personal experience, having arrived at my present system which I wouldn't let go for the world.

It's been a long haul but at a fraction of what you've gone through but I'm at a loss being able to describe what I'm hearing now and the level of satisfaction it imparts. 

If you can continue in your present situation, good for you I say, and enjoy what you have. I'm too wrapped up in my own personal epiphany to downsize. 😄 Right now I'm just enjoying the music. 👍

All the best,

I’m not sure why you have to leave the hobby just because you’re leaving the high cost. I don’t think there is a dollar value that makes one an audiophile.

From one who is tight with money, at least as far as this hobby is concerned, I think it would be great fun to assemble a system that is gratifying and costs less than ’n’ amount of dollars where ’n’ is the goal that you set for yourself.

If you already have that with your $350 dollar system and no longer feel the need to be on the equipment treadmill then spend the rest of your time and money finding good music............which should be at least half of what it means to be an audiophile I would think.

Audiogon has a fairly active ’Music’ forum.

But in the end I agree with you. I’m happy with the core of my system and don’t see any value in trying to find a reason not to be.

Sorry, friend, but as I see it you are the very definition of "audiophile"!  You have spent many hours researching and assembling your computer, you likely spent considerable time researching your speakers, then you had to put them together.  You even built your stands!

I, on the other hand, bought my stuff new and only had to hook it up.  I cannot afford the time to DIY my stereo.  So I spend part of whatever leisure time I have listening to music rather than fiddling with my stereo.  So as much as I want to be considered an audiophile, I guess at best I should just consider myself a music listener, and leave the vaulted title of "audiophile" to dedicated enthusiasts such as yourself!

PS:  I'm sure your system sounds great.  Back when I was in Jr. High School I built my first Heathkit, and took some old 12" speakers out of an abandoned stereo cabinet and built some plywood enclosures.  Source was an old Wollensak reel-to-reel, with music captured from the aux outputs of friend's parents' stereos.  Total cost well under $100, and the thing sounded great!
When I got into all of this I thought I might replace the 'system' I have down at my cabin. An 80's era 25wpc Toshiba receiver, 90's era Bose 2.2 bookshelves and a low end CDP. Before I did that I optimized speaker position, installed larger gauge speaker cables and to be honest, what most audiophile would consider to be a crap system sounds okay to me and I'm leaving it alone and keeping my money.....for now.....
Ami I think that's great!I thought I was done with upgrades and was happy with my system as is....until I spent an afternoon listening to my brother's new turntable.Back at home again I couldn't stop thinking about what upgrades or tweaks were needed to enjoy that (more!) beautiful (more!)organic sound.Dammit!So here we go one last time,piecing together a couple of new things to get to the state of mind you have achieved:)
Being an audiophile is a state of mind.  If you flip the switch and turn it off, then you can then enjoy music on lesser quality systems.  At that point you can join 99.99% of the human population who can also enjoy music reproduced on lesser quality systems.  As an added plus, the musical enjoy is no less than those audiophiles listening on high priced systems.

I disagree with the OP regarding his assertion that he's getting 80% of much higher cost systems.  Realistically, without going over $500 he's probably only at 77.5%.  And yes, a $150 power cord could easily get him over the hump.
@ami, thanks for posting.

Really wonderful to read those words coming from an experienced audiophile.

"I let go, and oh man it feels good to enjoy music without constantly analyzing and subconsciously looking for imperfection or thinking how much better it will sound with tweak X or cable Y or upgrade Z..." 

Maybe that's the secret we're all looking for?

Thanks also for revealing the details of your $350 setup, you know us fellow audiophiles only too well. 

Perhaps we really are in a new golden age of audio? 
@ami - since you seem to be into DIY - perhaps one last project...

These cables will make your new system really soar to new levels of performance

I would start with the speaker cables - they provide the biggest bang for the buck and allow you to hear the improvements that follow
- then IC’s and then Power Cables

RE: Speaker and Power cables - You can adjust the gauge of the cables used for less power hungry components

I upgraded my Yamaha $300 mini system and they worked wonders

Cheers - Steve
Wow. If I didn't know you were referring to audio equipment, I would have thought you were writing your own eulogy. Yes you were/are an audiophile. You let the most important part of owning a hi end system elude you all these years. And that is enjoying the music. But at least you are enjoying it now!
Blown away and very impressed!
Exactly how I feel about big bucks on big systems and not really "enjoying the music"
Is it possible for you to provide me with your setup details..sans speakers...
Amp etc..where I can buy?
Thank you

Hi all and thanks for your thoughts!

You may be right, only time will tell... My living room system with Hypex Ncore monoblocks, Schiit BiFrost multibit, SoTM streamer, DIY Audionote clone preamp, and a Project TT probably provides >90% of my ex main system at 1/10 of the cost, and I really don’t miss a thing with it. The ability to truly and deeply enjoy a $350 system without focusing on its flaws is a revelation.

I am leaving the ’hobby’ as a ’hobby’, that doesn’t mean not enjoying music or great sounding systems anymore. A ’hobby’ is something I spend my free time on, and being an ’audiophile’ vs. a ’music-phile’ means spending time improving the audio experience. I’m done with that.
I see your point though, and agree that there is no X dollar amount, it’s the attitude...

You say "I couldn’t stop thinking about what upgrades or tweaks were needed to enjoy that (more!)" and you nailed it.
It’s the ’more’ part that I’m leaving behind... There is no end to ’More’!!
It’s also time for me to re-evaluate many other aspects of my life where ’more’ was important to me :-)

I agree with your phrasing. That’s the ’audiophile vs music-phile’ part that many of us confuse, I know I have, even though I tried to convinced myself differently. "Never underestimate the power of denial" ...

I believe we are - this is a completely new age. when I started getting into the hobby 30 years ago, the difference between a $300 system and a $3000 system was night and day, not 20%. There were very few cheap, really good sounding components. That is no longer the case.

I know what good cables can do to the sound, but I honestly don’t care no more. That’s ths shift in state of mind.
Yes - I can spend another $50 and make it sound better, than another $100 to improve some more... and more... and more... There is no end...
I decided to just stop.

You say " You let the most important part of owning a hi end system elude you all these years."
I didn’t think so. I told myself differently, and I really believed I was truly enjoying the music, which I really did in a sense.
But what I was missing all these years is that when you are in a state of mind of many audiophiles, vs. ’music-philes’, is that we listen critically.
Critique means "a detailed analysis and assessment".
This is true not only in finding or looking for flaws which we consider ’negative’, but the flip side of the same coin is the positive.
Even when I was truly enjoying a great system, I was subconsciously praising its merits: "It has a great soundstage, wow... so much detail I was missing... Man what a great vocal realism etc."
That is gone now.
The shift in state of mind is letting go of that, both for bad and for good.
Maybe it is just me that was blind, but knowing many audiophiles in person, being a member of an audiophile society, and just browsing these forums tells me a different story :-)

The specific brands don't really matter. at these price points there are many excellent products, and web reviews will help you.
Raising the budget to $500 or $1,000 may end up with a much better one...but this is the whole point :-)
I don't want this discussion to become 'but that amp is much better... those speakers will blow yours away... You must listen to these cables". That's not what it is all about.
I will say this:
1 - If you have the time, minimal tools, skills, and desire to do so, I highly recommend getting speakers as a kit from a reputable vendor. There are many of those. A $100 kit will be the equivalent of at least $500 off the shelf brand name speaker in terms of sound quality, and you get the bonus of the joy of making it yourself.
2 - For source, streaming with a Raspberry Pi and a decent DAC is hard to beat. Do get a decent power supply with it, and it doesn't have to be a linear one. there are some excellent "audio-grade" switching power supplies as well out.
3 - Many of the chinese amplifiers you can get online are very good. Read the forum reviews, and narrow your list to a few. You can't really go wrong with these prices, and most online shops have liberal return policies so you can easily try out a couple before you land on one that you like most.

Its very expensive owning high performance.  Porsche, Lambos Ferrari, etc cost very little compared to their selling price.....but they're so darn good at what they do, they can charge for that.
Welcome to the 21st century!  :-)
@stringreen :
Most cars serve a purpose - getting you from point A to point B with varying degrees of efficiency, luxury and performance.
Exotic performance cars (most Porsches excluded from this category) serve a completely different purpose.
They are for track driving, (although some do track driving on public roads) and a status symbol. I live in the SF bay area, and even here very few people drive Ferraris in traffic every day, especially not the ultra-high-performance ones.
This is not the same as high-end audio systems, which are all meant to reproduce music with high fidelity for better engagement of the listener.
I do agree that in both categories there is the curve of diminishing returns, only in recent years it has become way steeper than it ever was.
Same with cars BTW - what you buy today for $20K outperforms most cars costing $100K 20 years ago in almost every aspect.
@mapman : Yes indeed :-) I've been trapped in old conceptions, and getting free feels great!
@stringreen That analogy only goes so far. All the cars you list are exceptional and in the right hands can be real beasts. But you can have as much fun in a Miata if you know what you're doing. Especially on a race track where cars like that belong. I drive a lowly 350z on the race track 5 or 6 times a year. At the beginning of that first session I'm nervous, shakey, stomach in knots....then you get on track and it all goes away. Could I have more fun in a Porsche? Maybe. Maybe not. 

Point is, with cars you can have tons of fun doing what performance cars do with 1/10th or 1/100th the price of an exotic. And I think that is the point of the OP.’re right.... my brother had one and if you kept the rev’s high it was fun to drive....... It did have its down side though.....back-achs et al.  The user should always prioritize their values.
I’ve been there.

I was quite obsessive about high end audio through the 90’s and into the early 2000’s.

Then I got in to home theater. I didn’t totally leave 2 channel listening behind, but my brain has room for only one obsession at a time. In my high end obsession, I used to go to sleep dreaming about possible speaker amp combinations! Always wondering if I could get more than I had.

That obsessiveness transferred to the visual realm - joining the crowd in HT forums pouring over minutia regarding increasing picture quality in flat screens and projectors. I remember thinking at that point of how I no longer had high end audio taking up so much brain time, didn’t obsess about it anymore, and actually being somewhat thankful and at peace about it.

Well, then around 2015 for various reasons my passion for 2 channel started re-igniting again (I think it was the availability of speakers I’d always wanted to hear, now on the used market and affordable to me).Then like many I have become sucked in to the vinyl craze and upgraded to a high end turntable, and all the thought processes that takes.

So, now I’m somewhat high end audio obsessed again, and where I used to watch a movie, or part of a movie almost every night in my elaborate home theater room, now most of the time I elect to listen to my 2 channel system.

And now, ironically when I watch a movie with my family or friends, I note I’m no longer obsessing at all over all the things I did when putting together and tweaking my home theater - "is the clarity enough? The contrast as good as I can get it?" etc. And THAT feels nice to just not worry about.

But knowing myself I can’t see being ever both "totally in to my 2 channel system" AND "completely satisfied." That’s one reason why I own more than one pair of speakers, to have something to switch to when I get ansy. Know thyself is part of the game.

So, it’s all down to one’s nature. At any one time (though I have multiple interests) my passion is raging for some hobby in particular (used to be Martial Arts as well). I figure it’s good to have passions in life so what the heck.

The thought that came to my mind was - what if the OP's $30k system was not really that good? Just because something costs $$$ does not mean it is good. Not that the components were bad - just the combination (maybe?). The reason that I had this thought was because, during the numerous demos I had during my loudspeaker search, there were many systems that were $$$ systems compared to mine. Some were really good, while some did not sound as good.
But @ami, good to know that you are off the merry-go-round. I say you can do a ton of stuff with the money you have saved - like buy new music, have a nice vacation, etc. Enjoy!

I understand your point of view. I have spent a considerable amount of time w/ systems valued from $3000 to 150,000.  Sometimes, you get more for less indeed.  Awaiting your return to our hobby proper.

Happy Listening!
@prof : replacing one obsession with another is an old trick... I'm trying to see if I can be rid of obsessions, period :-) It ain't easy in our modern, consumption oriented society.
Someone mentioned using the money for something else.

To me that’s the thing. I consider myself to be financially fortunate. I have the ability to enjoy a number of hobbies at moderately high levels. I could certainly enjoy one hobby at really high levels but that’s not my style.

And so I think about a nice set of speakers. Say $4000-$8000. Certainly only midrange in this wacko world. But it would be an upgrade to what I have.

Then I think about last April. My wife and I went to Italy for a week for our 30th anniversary. We’re foodies and like nice hotels. It isn’t something we indulge that often but we pulled out the stops and stayed in nice hotels in Verona, Venice, Padua, Riva del Garda (Lido Palace!) and Parma. We ate well. I mean really well. All of which is to say that trip set us back maybe $8000.

So what I’m saying is that if I had the choice between that trip (which is now just a memory) and $8000 speakers I wouldn’t have to think for a second even if I didn’t have nice speakers already. I’d do the trip again.

So sure, if you can enjoy a $500 system and save 10 grand then heck yes, get out and enjoy other stuff! The type of money that audiophiles suggest is necessary to really enjoy music will buy lots and lots of gratification in other places and ways.

Edit: And not to get preachy or anything, but if we don't go nuts spending money on ourselves we can also afford to drop a buck or two for those in need.
Maybe, if I quit listening to live music, I..............NAH!
And this too shall pass
A wise man said to me one day:

” ya don’t see any uhauls going to heaven “

enjoy !

owning and driving a high performance automotive work of engineering art ain’t like talking or thinking about it....

My experiences almost exactly match the OP.

I’ve spent over 20 years in this madness and I bought and sold countless components easily exceeding over $250,000 total over that time. My current system retails for around $24,000.

That said, the only time in my life I’ve ever been brought to tears listening to music was through my iPod.

If had a time machine I would go back in time and talk to my younger self in his early twenties and tell him just get something decent and enjoy the music. Stop analyzing, critiquing, dissecting and fussing over soundstage, detail, warm and all that other crap. Stop listening FOR things and start listening TO music.

Just enjoy it and enjoy life. I’m scared that on my deathbed I will look back on my twenties and thirties and say oh crap, those were two decades of my life that I stopped living.
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Couple things. The actual equipment has precious little to do with it. There is no absolute sound.
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My second set of speakers were Klipsch Cornwalls salvaged from a movie theater, and so no veneer, just black paint. I drove them with a 5wpc car stereo/cassette player and they sounded great! But today my system is much better in every way, and still not expensive as a function of income; most certainly I would not go back. To each his own, but why not just keep the great system you once had...after all, it's already paid for.
I can see the beginning of an Audiophiles Anonymous forum.    
@tomic601 :
I hear you...
I can't afford a ferrari or a lamborghini, but I do own a 360HP Mercedes Benz AMG that does 0-60 in ~4 sec and will do over 160 MPH, and a motorcycle that is even faster than that.
Many things fall under the broad category of "talking about it and doing it ain't even close"
Track driving is one, dining at a 3 star Michelin restaurant is another, bungee Jumping, drugs, sex, etc.
I'm happy I've had my fair share of all of these.
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Thanks @michaelgreenaudio :-)

@mechans: You may be right, but I highly doubt it.
~15 years ago I had a different kind of awakening - I realized in a single instant that the meat and dairy I was happily eating causes unbelievable suffering to helpless sentient beings, damages my health, and contributes to the destruction of our planet. From that day on, I never consumed any animal product. Just the thought of eating a corpse makes me wretch, and I had my fair share of steaks before that.
I can't imagine any way that will ever change.

@condosound: Yes, it was paid for. but reality forced me to repurpose my dedicated music room, and my main system was not a good match for my much larger living room.
I used a flea power 1.5 WPC Yamamoto amp with Zu Druids.
I do like to rock the house occasionally, a task that my living room system with its 400 WPC Hypex NCore monoblocks is much more appropriate for. I put together the tiny $350 system for laughs, placed it in the same room that is about to be repurposed, and that actually triggered this realization for me.

@jafreeman: LOL... I'm in !!!
Good for you! It's all about the music, not the gear. If your satisfied with the sound you have, that's all that matters.

My current system is probably worth 15-20k  For all intensive purposes, I'm done. I figure my old ears can only hear so much improvement, which in a way is a blessing...
Obsessions are a way of life for a lot of us. Human's have an innate bent for addictions. Mine ranged from work, career, fast cars, racing motorcycles in the desert, judo, cycling (road bikes), gym-going, with the longest lasting being the audio hobby.  Now that I'm not just entering the glide path, but running out of runway, I find a lot of comfort in just tweaking the system and listening to beautiful music. 

To paraprase Paul Simon ... Still record collecting after all these years. 

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When my father in laws Fischer finally died I said let me take care of that. Got him some nice bookshelf speakers, 5-disc changer, integrated amp, speaker cables, interconnects, power cords and Cones for everything, all properly budgeted, grand total $1200. Then to make sure it all sounded good, and because it was all new and needed to burn-in, I borrowed some speaker stands and set it all up on one wall of my listening room.

So I know where the OP is coming from. Because this little system was captivating. Night after night as it was breaking in I found myself coming home a lot more excited to be listening to this than to my system! Of course when I did listen to my system it was no contest. Let's not get too carried away here. Honestly though it crossed my mind many times how happy I could be with just the little system.

Well, and the 911 I could then be driving. But that has nothing to do with it. Honest.
Looking back on this thread can give one a real sense of what is important in life, and what is not......Well said, OP.
I wish I could  regress from ultra high end to  start up standards.
i too spent more then a decent home on Audio,and owned a Audiostore for almost 10 years in the U.K before moving back to the states. I have personally 
found it exciting and challenging to find the gems in Audio the are very respectable that are within  reach of the average working  class.
the only  obsessive side I cannot quit is open8ng up electronics and Especially Loudspeakers and exposing all the average or less quality parts.
yes even from the top 4-5 brands . I  just upgraded my new speakers  - monitors
that went for  under $2k and spent 3/4 of the price in Top wiring and Xover parts.
The satisfaction  in the end results best speakers multiple times the money spent 
and even upgrades capacitors in theSubwoofer,with added results.
the most cost effective way to better your Audio system is to replace all your connections , the majority of Amps ,preamps, digital ,even turntables useGold overBrass connections ,which  are 4 x less conductive then Copper, and Silver.
there results are moneys very well spent . The difference in sound quality on several levels was increased for minimal cost.I saved on the labor doing it myself.
soldering is the hardest can buy a pretty good 80 wattsolder station for
under $100, buy good solder , rosen flux ,tip tinnier, Cardas, WBT, Johnson’s , Mundorf all at least 4% Silver content , watch a few Utube videos and practice 
and end your dependence on simple but costly - labor wise upgrades. 
@elizabeth This week, I spent $800 on a new platter. If I'd ten times that, I could go on that trip to Italy.
Congrats on your current endeavors but you will be back. 😀
@elizabeth "Today I spent $360 on two power cords."

Yes, but you've already confessed that you have a problem....and that's intended in good humor, Elizabeth.

From what you've said in other posts you seem to enjoy the chase. Nothing wrong with that if that's what works for you. And trust me, I get it. Been down that road with other hobbies. It has its own level of excitement and gratification.
@noromance Save your money and go! I'm a frugal guy and don't regret a penny I spent over there. Find places where they don't speak English and the menus aren't translated. 
ami - Check back in with us when this wears off . I have felt the same way many times . The next system is always around the corner :)^
I love this thread.  I have been interested in this hobby for 50 years and had to carefully budget to put together decent systems in the 2-3k range.  I have been the only one in my family to be interested, so tried not to shoot the family budget.  This last year I multi-purposed the guest bedroom into a listening room.  I had a very small budget similar to yours.  My reference for sound has been the 10-30k systems I listened to at audio salons and my long time attendance at live symphony concerts. I wanted a FR of 30-20k to get a realistic representation of a large orchestra and the bass on hip hop.  The 50wpc amp is new as I needed digital inputs for my flac files (most of the time I stream through Roon from my NAS).  It is a 2.1 system and all the speakers are used 21st century designs and were purchased very cheaply even though they were well regarded when new.  It is the best sounding system I have ever had and provides great satisfaction.
which DAC are you using? And what software are you running?
I built 2 DACs and one streamer. All Raspberry 3B+ based running Volumio.
DACs are:
- Hifiberry DAC + PRO

- Hifiberry DIGI Plus

I like ALLO BOSS a bit better than Hifiberry because it allows easier configuration (no soldering) for external linear power supply. I also build the 5V LSUs myself.


"Find places where they don't speak English and the menus aren't translated."
That should not be too hard in Italy although they did get better.
@elizabeth : Why settle for $180 power cables?
I have an as new Synergistic Research Element Tungsten 5' power cable for sale with an original MSRP of ~$1,700 + $400 for the upgraded Galileo MPC, PM me, I'll give you a great deal ;-)

@mr_m: I have the same feeling... This awakening is making me wonder what else I am doing wrong in my life, but I'm still in denial :-)
Cognitive biases are ruling over our intelligence...

@audioman58: I agree with you 100%. As an amateur electronic technician, I too like to peek inside and see what it's made of. I've seen the best and the worse...
The most pleasant surprise I ever had was opening up an Audio-GD DAC. Oh man... that thing is built like a tank combined with a cartier watch... Only the finest quality parts, and with amazing attention to detail. It also sounded like it.
My worst surprise - a high-end monoblock Tube amplifier by S****** (I am tempted to name them but I won't). Some of the high voltage components were held together by hot glue and double-sided tape, with pretty obvious cold solder points. I opened it up since one of the capacitors broke loose from the solder point during shipping!

@maplegrovemusic + @mmorrison55 -
Maybe, only time will tell :-) see my previous reply...

@pc997: I am using Volumio and a DAC very similar to the ones you mentioned. I did not go for a linear PSU, I've found an excellent switching one for $50. I really don't want this thread to become a brand dual, so let's leave brand names outside this discussion :-)
They are all names you are probably familiar with, I don't think I have found a secret holy grail or anything like that...
More to discover