Wisdom of buying high priced digital gear (given new advancements underway)

Wanted to ask for thoughts from others on the forum who have been playing with digital front ends longer than I... I only recently dove into streamed hi res music given the Covid shut-in...(although I am climbing the learning curve pretty fast)

I have been an avid trader/tester of good used hifi gear for many years now, a cost effective way of auditioning and understanding high end pieces in my own system, my own home.  Not for publication or posted reviews, just for my enjoyment and improving my own rig.  Buy smart on the front end, can usually get all or most of your money back when you sell, so it is a fairly low cost trial and ownership experience.

As I am fairly new to the world of stand-alone streamers and DACs, as well as combo units like a Hegel amp with onboard DAC, my question is whether it is wise to buy some of the more expensive high end streamers and DACs, say in the 3-4-5 grand (and up) range.

For instance, a Bluesound Node 2i is a capable digital bit-source (weak internal DAC noted) at only $500, so I question the benefit of buying a $2-3-4k unit from Innuos, Brooklyn, Auralic etc etc?  But if I do, just to try them, I am concerned there will be newer units out in the future, and these used units may take significant value hits.

Same thought for high end DACs... there are so many DACs out there, from high-value units like Chord, Schitt, RME for around a grand (or even less) -- what is the downside risk of climbing the curve of diminishing returns to get, say, for example, a Denafrips Terminator or PS Audio DS or Chord Dave for $4-5-6 grand used?  

I guess what I am really asking is what is the relative stability of the technology, product development, and the trickle down effect in the streamer and DAC markets, and does this materially affect the loss of value for the higher priced units more so than with old school analog gear.  This is something I feel I pretty well understand for speakers, preamps, turntables, the like...but not so much for the digital stuff, especially as streaming is really developing fast on the high end scene in recent years...

Thoughts welcome.  Thanks in advance.
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What is "high priced"?  In the context of a $500 Node 2i, then perhaps my $2K TEAC NT-505 is "high priced".  In the context of my vinyl playback system and most of the other components in my system, it's a bargain.

The NT-505 was a noticeable improvement over my Node 2 / Auralic Vega DAC combination.  So spending more can get you more.  Would a $10K DAC sound that much better than my $2K DAC?  I would expect there to be a little more resolution and detail, but how much more? 

The difference between $500 and $2000 is not that much to me, but the difference between $2000 and $10000 is.

The NT-505 is pretty much a closed system - streamer and DAC, no upgrades other than adding an external master clock and whatever firmware upgrades come out for it.  There's no digital out, so if some must have feature comes out, I have no way to connect it with an external DAC that has that magic feature.

I don't feel stuck at all, I'm not sure what new feature is going to come out that is going to make me feel like I have to replace what I have.  I trade components out of my system on a somewhat frequent basis, but I can see this piece staying for a long time.  

I had a friend over last night and until recently he owned a $13K Lumin X1 and overall has a much more expensive system (one of the best I've ever heard).  After listening for a bit, he asked me to write down the name of the NT-505 so he could do some research on it.  I don't think he thought the NT-505 was better, but it was clear that after living with a top of the line DAC like the X1 he was impressed by the sound quality of my much less expensive DAC.  

My favorite DAC, the MHDT Labs Orchid, doesn't do MQA, DSD, or Roon, and only outputs at 16 bits.  All of which mean nothing to me, because I enjoy listening to it, which is what matters the most.  To me.

ayre codex... workin’ on it! thanks!


re the node 2i, yep, i have it... good streamer, poor dac, good interface, but really can’t complain for the $


i pretty much agree with your definition of expensive... i am lucky to be able to afford most audio equipment, short of the insane megabuck pieces. losing a couple hundred bucks on a piece is no problem, when its over a grand or more on a single piece, i think carefully

i also agree on your notion that it is all about how good it sounds, could care less about MQA or high res in and of themselves, but since they have a lot attention through marketing if nothing else, i have checked them out to see what they have to offer... and in doing so, the original posted question has come to mind

streaming services are in flux, wifi bandwidth and usage is in flux, chip companies and hifi equipment makers big and small keep working on new stuff, for better or worse, from an audiophile sound quality perspective

Has anyone tried using a Schitt Modi Multibit DAC with their Node 2i?  If so, would you provide your opinion of the improvement, if any, of using this external Schitt R2R DAC over the Bluesound Node 2i's internal DAC?
New advancements are always underway. Denying a purchase because something new/better will be coming out can induce paralysis (deer in headlights). The same thing occurs with photographers: they delay purchasing new cameras out of concern that a better model will come out after they bought the latest camera. But they miss the enjoyment and quality pictures they could be taking NOW. 
As noted it is a good idea to pick a company that offers solid software upgrades. For example: Linn came out with new versions of thier Space Optimization technology which is a major option and cost nothing for owners of Linn DSM boxes...

your point is well taken but the intent of my original post is to define a price point where purchasing modern digital gear makes sense (for normal people who value money and have competing priorities for spending of it) to get very good quality and minimizing the risk of 'wasting' money as things move on

i have come to the conclusion that about $1000 for a streamer (used) and $1500-1800 (used) max are the cut off points for me... i have tried several highly regarded streamers and dacs more expensive than these levels now, and i have formed my opinion of where the sweet spots are in their value curves - just my opinion, using my system, my ears, my sense of the value of money


don’t know about modi - it is schiit’s bottom dac... i tried a bifrost mb it was ok but somewhat sibilant, sold it, currently have a gumby in house, it is nicer for sure. warmer, clearer, less sibilant all at the same time than the bifrost as i remember it

if you want a really inexpensive dac to beat the pants off the internal node 2i dac i suggest a chord mojo... some ergonomic differences to be navigated but the sound is absolutely superb for how inexpensive that cute lil thing is