DAC diminishing returns

Looking for some experienced input on the diminishing return as you go up the the DAC ladder. I mostly stream music and occasionally listen to CDs.  Currently, I’m using a Schiit Bifrost Multibit DAC.  It’s connected to my Naim Nait 5Si and that drives Zu Omen ii speakers. In my limited experience, I have not heard any substantial differences when changing DACs.  I’m considering a Denafrips Pontus DAC.  Does the significantly higher cost justify what might be a marginal increase in sound quality?  Is buying a more expensive DAC for better sound just splitting hairs, and making you feel better about your system?  Are different DACs just different coloration of the sound?

I don’t want to be duped into buying something I don’t really need. Thanks.


I've owned the following DACs over the years and have settled on liking the R2R sound overall vs the DS chip DACs.

  • Denafrips Venus II
  • Benchmark DAC3 B
  • Bryston BDA-3
  • Chord Qutest
  • Schiit Bifrost 2
  • Topping D90 MQA
  • Topping D30 Pro

I had the Bifrost 2 and am now running a Denafrips Venus II, yes the Venus sounds better in my setup but the Bifrost is an excellent value, the cost justification was worth it me but the law of diminishing marginal returns certainly applies. I am now upgrading to a Holo Audio May KTE and hope this will be the end game DAC for my system. I can't justify spending much more than that on a DAC relative to my other components. In your setup you will notice an improvement going to the Denafrips Pontus. You may want to try an Ares first for less money.

I don’t want to be duped into buying something I don’t really need.

This is a fascinating statement, in that the OP implies that if it improves the sound then it is a matter of "need."  It's amazing how us audio freaks have extended Need from food and shelter to fidelity upgrades. Our poor spouses.

Anyway, DACs do sound somewhat different - not as different as speakers but there are still differences.  I like to switch back and forth from my Schiit Gumby and my Mytek Liberty II.  Very different approaches.

No, there is no limit. Just what you’re willing to spend. Inversely, there is a point of actual returns. I have many dacs, and have tried them from all price points. I don’t believe under $1000 there is much difference and in many cases, the cheaper one will sound better. Beyond about $2000 it’s all going to sound better. I think the people asking about this just want to feel better about their purchase. Enjoy what you have. If it’s not your taste, get something else.

DACs do make a difference. I find the differences aren't all that subtle, but more subtle than different speakers or headphones.

I read nothing but good things about the Pontus. 

DACs and amps are about flavor....colorations. I personally enjoy them. Tube amps, tube DACs, R2R...good flavors for me. Give me the second harmonic, give me a slow filter, NOS...I like colorations that make the experience feel more real.  

If you want ultimate transparency then you can buy from Benchmark or even cheaper with something like Topping D90. Have it as the artists and sound engineers intended.

Almost all of us have issues with our rooms. Seeing a measurement of one's room is a gut check. If we put fully faithful equipment and speakers in our rooms, it will put a microscope on the flaws.

So what do most of us do? We buy speakers and equipment that flatters the sound instead of examining it. R2R is a good example. It is easier and more relaxing to listen to for music.