5 Y/O dac technology is ancient
Check out PS Audio new DAC (MSRP- $995). Cullen and Underwood modifies them if you want it to take it to another level
"5 Y/O dac technology is ancient"
Yeah, but I know of some manufacturers that are still using the 'ancient' Burr Brown 1704 DAC in their new equipment. It is used in the Muse (4 of them in dual differential balanced mode). Steve Nugent at Empirical Audio uses them in his $6K Spoiler DAC.
I have the Accustic Arts Tube DAC and absolutely was stunned when I first heard it. You can get their now discontinued Mk. 3 version for around $2-2.5K. I am pretty sure that will be a big improvement over the 2003 DAC.
There is nothing wrong with an older dac. Zanden uses a dac chip from the late 80's early 90's in their $10k+ signature dac. Tubes are not new technology. If you like what you have and feel you need more drive to your amp than maybe a good used preamp might help. It would be a shame to upgrade your dac and then miss the magic you are now enjoying. I went down that road years ago and it took me years to get back to where I was.
I don't know about the particular units you are talking about, but it is wrong to assume that more recently designed DACs are superior to older models. All manufacturers are dependent on the chips that are available on the market. New generation of chips are often inferior in sound quality to older chips. The new chips serve more functions than the older chips or better serve other priorities. For example, new chips are optimized for much lower power consumption so that they can be used in portable devices; who really cares about sound quality? Some manufacturers have actually stocked up on vintage chips to use in their premium models (e.g., Naim).
Nickt: Thanks; I'll keep that in mind.
Stereo: I'm already using a preamp in the form of a Tact 2.2 XP. The Tact has an internal DAC that can be used to feed power amps directly, or I can feed an outboard DAC using its digital outputs. I'm also using the Tacts built in digital crossover, so I have to use the Tact volume control. I suppose I can connect a preamp in the chain before the main speaker power amps, but I would have to set the volume of the preamp at some fixed level since I am using the Tacts volume control. I would prefer not to do that however, and use a DAC that has a high enough output level.
Larryi: Yeah, I think that it what I'm realizing. I find it interesting that my 10 year old DAC (using the discontinued Burr Brown 1704 chips) sounds better to me than the much newer DAC (using AKM chips) built into the Tact unit.
My CD player, a Naim CD555, is a current, in-production model. It uses "vintage" 1704 chips. I don't know what the current price of this player (the dollar is dropping oh so fast), but last I looked it had a retail price around $30k; that is a pretty strong endorsement for this chip. I think I read somewhere that Charles Hansen of Ayre is a big admirer of this chip, even though he cannot get this chip for his own production.
Interesting; I just found out that Esoteric also uses them in their $14k X-01 CD Player. As I also mentioned earlier, Empirical uses them in their Spoiler DAC; this is a quote from their site: "PCM1704U-K D/A chips - some of the best-sounding D/A chips ever produced".
Interesting... It makes me think about keeping the DAC I have, but I would need an active preamp after the DAC, since the output voltage is too low. Do you know if a simple active line stage is sold for this purpose? I only need a single input and single output (probably with the ability to adjust output gain).
In '95 you were 98% CD & 2% LP. Sad indeed.
2008 Forget the CD or make it 2% CD & 98% LP and put the 2K or so into analog. =8^)
Now I'm 95% digital through a Sonos system, 5% through CD. No LP in my future; too fiddly and inconvenient for me.
A good active preamp will fix your issue. I use an Audio Mirror Pp1. I use LP and CD. There are some really great reasonably priced preamps that will solve your problem without changing the sound of the system you have. I have not heard the Tact, so I can't comment on how it would compare to the Audio Mirror preamps. An Audio Mirror T-61 preamp (no phono) will do the trick for you and used for under $600.00. If you don't like it, it will sell quickly.
Thanks for the info, Stereo. The funny thing is I'm awaiting delivery of Audio Mirror's SET 45 amps which are supposed to arrive tomorrow. I couldn't replace the Tact with another preamp, as I'm using the Tact for digital room correction and crossovers. All I can do is add an analog preamp like the T-61 after Tact and before the amps like this: CD Transport -> Tact -> Outboard DAC -> Active Preamp -> Amps.
I'm also looking more closely at the possibility of upgrading my outboard DAC for a higher voltage level which would eliminate the need for an active preamp. I've been noticing that there are several high end DAC manufactures that think the Burr Brown 1704 (which I have in my DAC) was the most musical DAC made (it first came out in 1998) and are still using it in their products. I do really like the sound of my DAC, but it does not currently provide enough output voltage, which was the original reason for this thread.
The 1704 is a very good dac chip. My favorite is the BB TDA1541A/S2. Zanden uses the same chip in their dac. I am in the process of finishing a TDA1541A dac kit. I am using in the mean time a NAD T585 which is really amazing me. It may be the best $500.00 I've ever spent on a player or any component.
Your gonna love those Audio Mirror amps! I was so close to getting them, but was afraid they wouldn't drive my speakers well enough so I went with 350 watt mono block class D amps.
"It may be the best $500.00 I've ever spent on a player or any component."
Isn't it great in the world of megabuck electronics when you find a sleeper?!?
"Your gonna love those Audio Mirror amps!"
I certainly hope so! I really wanted to try the SET route, but needed something that had more than just a few watts. How do like the class D stuff? I had thought about it, but decided to stick with tubes for now.
I had Ric at EVS build me a set of monos using UCD700 modules and a standard power supply. They sound great. They are so effortless and fast. I had the Pp1 sent back to Vlad at Audio Mirror and updated with a new volume pot and some black gate caps and the preamp and amps work great together. I was using an Onix xcd-99 cd player and just didn't like it. I got the T585 a few month ago and the system really sings now. The one other component that I thought was a no brainier was ProAc Response 1s. Those speakers with a sub where unbelievable.
My other suggestion for a new digital unit may be a Timbre dac. I think it is a TT-1. They were $4k years ago and about $600-700 used now. The reviews are really good and they go fast here.