Why buy older digital gear?

I've seen a lot of Cal Audio gear for sale recently, most notably the Cal Delta and the Sigma dac. I recall these units where popular in the early 90's. Why spend $500-$600 on outdated technology? Is it because the selling price is much lower than the original retail price? I am certain that todays budget gear would surely outperform any of the older players? Am I wrong or are these components still worth a listen?
It's been my experience that the older Cal Audio Lab's DAC's still sound far more "musical" and "liquid" than some of the current 24 bit offerings. I'm not saying that they beat ALL of them, only that they can hold their own. This is especially true given the used prices that they are currently being offered at. Besides that, they can make a HUGE difference to someone that is running a "one box" SS player that has some mileage on it. As such, that "old junk" can still be one helluva "upgrade" for quite a few folks out there. Sean
........The "old" Pioneer PD 65 transport is still an excellent transport. I'b be more concerned about buying older DAC technology though. Cheers. Craig
Because it still reproduce very good sounding music. Old Cal Audio Tempest with 4x oversampling will surprise you with its pleasing sound, not associated with digital sound of that era. Or better yet, Linn Karik/Numerik combo, SFCD-1. I've been lucky to pick DPA 1028 DAC, circa 1984, and with my vintage Karik makes most 'analog' sound that i've heard from digital gear. I haven't listened SACD, or DVD-a yet, but those two formats aren't going anywere. Yet!
I have a krell 30i with no upgrades in one of my systems that I love listening to and its DAC is first rate for my 300 disc changer I also have hooked to it. I never think of it as old technology - just good sounding.
Listen to a Pioneer PD 65 again and see what you think.
...and because some brands still do old tech producing finest CD players such as BAT, Burmester, Cary.
Digital technology may have advanced as far as DAC chips go, but parts are still parts, and good parts and good design are still better than cheaper parts and a price point-compromised design. I'm sure many of the new sub $1000 players are great, but I bet a used CAl Audio, Muse, Theta, Goldmund, whatever...something that once cost $2500-$5000 new...is going to sound better than a $500 player with a current DAC chip. It may not have the resolution capability of the new DAC chips, but it should sound more natural, more transparent, have more bass, and smoother highs than a cheap player...all of the benefits that you normally get from a more expensive design and parts. I'm sure there are exceptions, but I bet most of the old hi-end CDPs and DACs that are selling for 1/10th - 1/3rd of their original retail are still a pretty decent upgrade for most people, and a good deal overall. They're certainly worth investigating if there are some in your budget range...especially in the $300-$700 range.
I got my first CDP in 1985. I haven't found these units to be very reliable and I am now on CDP #4--an inexpensive model recommended by many on this forum, now in a second system. All were in the $300-$500 range. Each generation brought a marked improvement in sound quality that made me listen to my CD collection with new interest. However, I recently purchased a used Anodyne ATAS DAC through Audiogon for about 1/4 its new price. The Audiogon blue book says this began production in 1992. Though my experience is somewhat limited because I don't audition a lot of gear, in my main system, this blew away the new CDP as well as my Sony DVP-S7700 and the stock ART DI/O I later hooked up to it. This purchase has given me a lot of listening enjoyment at modest cost.. If SACD and DVD-A don't catch on, I expect I will upgrade to today's state of the art in a few years at comparable discounts. If you are looking for good digital equipment at very reasonable prices, you should try to give some of this gear a listen.
The sound from all those older generation CDP/dac sound more natural, LP like and far more musical than the more modern machines. Most of the current machines are just too bright, too aggressive, uninvolving and produce very mechanical sound.... Live music(unampilifed) don't sound mechanical at all......... and they flow like liquid......
I still have a Meridian 263 bitstream dac and it sounds "less digital" than alot of newer technology I've heard.
I still find my circa 1985 dbx DX3 cdp to be better than the bulk of current big-name players. Looking at the boards in my dbx, its easy to note that it relies on built-up circuits with quality components and parts. These have been largely replaced with generic IC's on contemporary units.

Designers of the older gear had more opportunity to actually design the audio circuits, rather than assemble parts from what has become a largely commodity based electronics industry. I'm sure the DAC chips are better now, but I also think this does little good when combined with minimal analog circuits consisting of lowest-cost parts.

I would, however, be very careful about buying a used cdp because of the mechanical wear and alignment issues. Many, like my dbx, are now orphans with no parts available for the drive or laser head sections. Every time I hear a skip, I realize the unavoidable end grows nearer.
as a backup player. It is surprisingly good. It performs as well as a lot of today's big buck players. I hide it so people think it is the Wadia playing.
The original question was why spend $500-$600 on an old CDP that was high end 8-10 years ago, instead of buying a new technology unit in the same price range.
It seem to me that while the older high end models use outdated dacs, they still used very high quality analogue outputs. The new budget CD players might use current dacs, but they skimp on the other components to keep the price down.

Another advantage of older digital technology is the VERY STEEP fall off in price. I just bought a Classe' DAC1 for <25% of list. I have a CAL CL-10 changer driving it thru aes/ebu digital cable and the DAC drives a BAT pre operating in balanced mode. The sound is very smooth, musical, vibrant, dare I say analog like (my analog rigs, while not high end, NEVER sounded remotely this good). Don't get hooked on specs, go with the sound. While it is true that 10 year old digital might not be all that good a value, how about 2-3 year old? That's where I am putting my $, and I'm thrilled with the sound.
This is a very good D/A I am also using it with my old Karik and when I compared it to the Numerik it was no contest for the Alfa. Also have in mind that you can upgrade it for $450 so it will not be outdated. For less than $1000.00 you will be able to compete with anything up to $2500.
In the past week I sold my Sony 777ES for $1500 and replaced it with an Audio Research CDT-1 transport (paid $600, retail was about $2500) and an EAD 7000 Series III dac (paid $500, retail was $2500). The new old stuff sounds a lot better than the Sony. Improved dynamics and real bass is in my system once again. I chose the EAD over a loaded Theta Gen V that was priced at $950 versus retail of $5700. The old stuff at 20-30 cents on the dollar is the greatest bargain in high end. By the way, I purchased an Ortho Analog Reconstructor a few months ago for $350 on the 'Gon and it makes most redbook CD's sound like SACD. That is the main reason why I unloaded the Sony - super audio wasn't that super and there is still no software. Who needs it.
When first tried a Meridian 263 DAC with my Panasonic A-120 DVD player I stopped listening to sounds and gear and was pulled into music.

Much later after replacing my Meridian with a Monarchy upsampler paired with a MSB II DAC the sense of musicality was gone. Now I'm listening hi-fi again, not music.

Dying to get that MeridianĀ“s "musical rightness" again.

Differences are found among older equipment as well as in new stuff. A well executed older design offers long lasting satisfaction. Cost less also.
Well prices have gone way way up since this topic was started 8 years ago. I was just thinking about (ultra high prices) as I was scanning the CD players in Stereophile's 2011 Buyers Guide. My digital front end is aging and it may not last much longer. Looks like most top brand players are nearing $10,000 and some even cost more than a nice nice car. What are we supposed to do- cash out the 401K plan? Is demand for stand alone Cd players droping and people moving on to something else? I even notice my dealer is now just using low cost Chinese players in his show room, because who can afford to stock up on $10,000 players just to demo. What are we going to do if not dirty rich?
Prices have gone up, but the budget gear has narrowed the gap somewhat IMO. With that being said, a lot of people have the impression that new digital gear trounces old digital gear. Not in my experience. There's far more to digital gear than DAC chips. Power supplies and output stages are critical IMO. Just because a DAC has an ESS Sabre chip (or any other flavor of the month chip) doesn't make it a great DAC. Wallwart power supplies and op amps can't compete with beefy torriodal power supplies and discrete class A outputs. If the Musical Fidelity V-DAC and the Bryston BDA-1 had the exact same chip, do you honestly think they'd sound similar? No chance.

I sound like a broken record (or skipping iPod!), but my 16 year old Theta Cobalt 307 easily beat several current budget DACs in my system. Good power supplies and output stages aren't cheap and they don't get beat by the latest and greatest fad.
My CD player cost me $2000.00 some 20 years ago and still plays wonderful music. No malfunctions, ever (I hope I didn't just jinx myself). What would a new one of the same quality cost today, $4000.00? I read all the time how some of these new (expensive) units are always malfunctioning. I think I'll keep mine and maybe get a DAC for it (someday).
some older digital gear sounds better than anything made today, such as forsell components, the original zanden dac, some older wadia gear--the 2000 series, the cal aria, rhe cal tempest, etc. . obviously, ears and preference are the relevant variables regarding such an assertion .
It's interesting that you mention the CAL. I had a CAL Icon II from 1995-98 and I still remember how nice it sounded with my Apogee Stages. But now I'm attached to my EMM, which I think is pretty awesome.
Some of the old Cal stuff had tube output stages (I think the "alpha" dac, for example). Perhaps that is where the demand is?

My Cary 308T with tube output stage is "long in the tooth" now but has consistently trounced every player I've had in my home, sounding way more refined and musical.... until now...

I'm finding the Eastern Electric DAC - in tube mode - to be a match for the Cary 308T in terms of sheer beauty and musicality. (Even when it's fed Apple Lossless via Squeezebox Touch, presuming that the "wifi Gods" are shining on me :-)

hi art:

i too use the ess dac in tube mode, but i think the old forsell stuff, is more musical and more expensive.

i'd love to listen to the original tempest cd player again, but would be afraid to own it because of the difficulty of finding a replacement for the transport.