Digital Improving All the Time?

I hear it here all the time - digital technology is constantly improving…usually being told to someone afraid of buying something that will be obsolete soon. It is true that, with the advent of high-quality Asian products, prices on some excellent digital has come down to the point that one can buy a very nice dac for under 1k and an excellent one for 5k. But I don’t see that the technologies improved over the last 20 years. The Naim 555 and the Vekian and Wadias were astounding products built long ago. Even now, some of the best dacs from Audio Note and Jadis use old chips and the darling ladder dacs are even older technology. Ok, some use the FPGA thing, but that’s basically just a home-rolled chip, which does add a bit more flexibility to the architecture, but that’s about it, IMO. And yes, some companies like DCS and MSB built $100k dacs that I’m sure sound great, but other companies probably could have done the same thing 20 years ago by adding huge power supplies and stuffing them with the most expensive parts and construction quality possible. But they probably didn’t think anyone would buy them. And I’m not talking about streaming and such, because that is relatively young in its development. Streamers may well be improving, but I don’t see dacs as constantly improving, as is so often said. Good day.


Streaming is definitely evolving.  Usb and WiFi used to be audible comprises but no longer.  The resolving power of DACs are increasing as well, particularly their ability to play DSD.  Contrast this with analog, where the only thing that has gone upward are the prices required to buy antiquated, played out technology 

Yeah, I guess DSD could be considered an improvement, although I would question whether it’s really better than the best CD/SACD players of times gone by. And HD Tracks hi-res downloads have been around for a long time as well. I guess my post was aimed more at the actual architecture of the dac, which seems pretty stagnant, except for the price drops, which are quite remarkable. 

there are modular and upgradeable digital  products


Aqua hifi makes 100% upgradable dacs which can evolve as Aqua comes out with improved technologies.


the 432evo servers are also100% upgradable 


 So yes you can invest in State of the digital that will not become obsolete.


Dave and Troy

Audio intellect nj

us importers 432EVO music servers Aqua Hifi dealer

@chayro , it seems the digital technology is evolving into more than two channels instead of simply "better" two channels. If you have space for more speakers you might really enjoy immersive audio.

“This is a completely new way to create and experience music, freeing artists to be more expressive and experimental with their recordings,” said Todd Pendleton, Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President, Dolby Laboratories. “Dolby Atmos Music envelops the listener, bringing you inside the music and creating a visceral ‘wow.’”

“UMG and Dolby are fundamentally expanding how we experience music,” said Michael Frey, UMG’s President of Operations, Global Studios and Technologies. “Artists will be able to share their music directly as intended and created in the studio. Dolby Atmos Music give artists the power and creative freedom to express their story like never before.”

Dolby Atmos is integrated at UMG’s iconic studios, including: Capitol Records Studios in Hollywood, Abbey Road Studios in London, and Berry Hill Studios in Nashville. UMG labels around the world are all working on creating immersive music content in Dolby Atmos.


@kota1 - I guess you’re right. My post was primarily focused on the sound quality of 2-channel digital 20 years ago as opposed to today.  There is always something new being sold.

@chayro , I have an elaborate 9.2.7 immersive home theater AND a simplified two channel desktop system. The two channel system is simply a pair of Paradigm Shift A2 active speakers and a Paradigm PW Link streamer/preamp with ARC room correction. For two channel I love the "simplify" or "futurfi" approach.


I think better clocks and elimination of jitter has certainly improved over that time.  Also, the latest ladder DACs seem to be a notable advancement as well.  But, and to your point, some of the better DACs today employ older chips to achieve their sonic objectives so some is old and some is new.  

So, let’s say you have $2k to spend on a DAC. For SQ only, is it better to buy the latest and greatest new, or nearly new, OR buy something 5-10 years old that was originally $5-8k new?

This gets to the question of this thread—how much are DACs really evolving for the better?

@w123ale , I like this "big picture" on dacs by Thomas, he talks about "good enough" vs chasing incremental improvements. Check out the "high end" of the old days vs. "affordable" today:.:


DAC chipsets I think have hit the wall. Now improvement is coming in different segments of the chain, isolation, reduction of jitter, emi, rfi,. This is what the high dollar DACs do better than the lower end gear. 

I believe that digital in the past years has grown immensely. The coming of age streaming apps and super high speed internet including in mobile areas has made hi res available to all. Cheap DACs that can do most all. Never heard of 3 years ago.  DSD, DTS, MLP were all around 20 years ago but the dependence on disc sales and cheap ways to spin made them just for a few. And they were we all in 5.1 back then too.  But in surround sound that too was a small market. Having a media room is very common now.  So atmos music is now taking off since all the sound bars (yes many have only that) can handle it. Plus all others AVRs  

but I will still say there is a recent revival in QUALITY 2 channel after the last 15-20 years of overly compressed ear bud revolution. Cheap storage and high bandwidth has changed the landscape along with cheap hardware that can yield decent results for the masses.  

I for one love it. 

I have a modest 9.2.2 Klipsch Atmos system in my theater room that makes the soundtracks of my KDrama programming sound great. Lots of great music and much of the lyrics are in English. Janet Suhh, an American singer has found success in this genre.

Funny, when I want to listen to to two channel and a less immersive, but more pleasing 2.2 room.  Digital is the future and multichannel will dominate, but the improvement in technology will help us all.

“And I’m not talking about streaming and such, because that is relatively young in its development.”

This would be incorrect as i have been streaming over 10 years now. I bought my first streamer from Aurender in 2011. The market is now flooded with streamers and servers at all price points. As far as DAC goes, a high quality DAC from 10 years ago is just as relevant today. The newer DAC certainly improved in the areas of noise isolation, jitter, clocks, power supply and chips. And accept higher resolution upto DSD1024. 

The crystals especially temperature controlled over clocks the precision has just gotton much better, the-regulators too are much lower noise then even 3 years ago .

very low distortion resistors for the R2R ladders has gotton better also 

all these little things add up ,even super caps ,and FPGA units 

forstreaming the new Synergistic Research Ethernet hub truly  brings streaming to a new level much more analog and detailed even compared with say the uptone Audio Ether Regen hub which is great for $640, the Synergistic is retail $2k  my brother owns one and I have had in my system for a weekend ,I am buying one for sure, it truly takes your streaming to a new level ,very noticeable improvement.

So your call going from 16/44.1 to 24/192 + just a slight improvement. Now I am not necessarily talking about DSD but overall I can D/L or listen to music at MUCH higher resolution than CD and though SACD did offer a pretty good resolution and having to replace one's entire library was not acceptable, Especially when you consider the ease of streaming.

I also think that what some people have been complaining about 'Listening Fatigue' is nothing more that the fact that they never had such complete sound and now they just aren't used to it and are fighting. Fortunately, I grew up with LIVE music including some personal experiences in the public forum so I rather enjoy all of this great-sounding music.

@aewarren the Laser Prostate Center in Houston may be able help with that.  I can now chug  a couple of Big Gulps and open a pressure washing service.

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