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.


Defeeh I meant to add in my comment before posting that none of the dacs I’ve tried are in your budget of 2K , it’s good you are open to any of the audio trades dac topologies, borrow and borrow as many as you can and choose what sounds best to you in your own system .

VerdantAudio’s comments are true having experienced it myself with my own system having recently owned FPGA , dac chip and R2R dacs from the likes of AudioByte Vox , PS Audio , Rockna , Denafrips Terminator 2 , Holo Audio May  currently I am absolutely thrilled with a chip based dac from Merason .

Interesting, as I switched from a Pontus II to the Merason in my system, and really wanted to like it. I found to be pleasing, and particularly good with older, less than optimal recordings, but at the same time lacking in the details retrieved by high-quality R2R DACs. I auditioned an AQUA La Scala, found it to be clearly superior to the Merason, and now own one.

My point, however, is not that everyone would likely have the same result in their systems, but rather that system synergy is extremely important when assessing DACs. I could see the Merason being perfect for a system that leans to the clinical, and/or bright side, as it would likely smooth out some of the harshness. Etc.


You find it amusing that I heard some similar characteristics in the Merason that some reviewers have also mentioned?

I understand that you may have different impressions, but that was precisely the point of my post. Variables such as the related components matter.

DACs are fascinating.  All DACs present you with a tradeoff between detail and soundstage.  If you are looking for fine inner detail, great separation of strings, etc... be prepared to compromise in terms of soundstage.  If your priority is soundstage, be willing to compromise in terms of absolute detail.  

Couldn't agree more. IMO the soundstage is from the 2nd order harmonic distortion.

Same with amps. The Benchmark ABH2 and DAC3 won't give you soundstage but they will give you very high detail.

IMO, what is better is what our system needs to create balance with our preferences. Some call that synergy.

Pro Audio folks poke fun at us, but our goals are just different. Some AV folks also laugh at us, but trying to make music sound believable with only two channels ain't easy. ;-)