Does the 'Buck' Start with the DAC?

Some members have expressed that the server / streaming front end is less important than the DAC.

I subscribe to the position that "Everything Matters"

As I consider front end choices, I'm trying to gauge if I should be leaning more heavily on a DAC versus a SOURCE (server / streamer).

Feedback and perspective from both camps, or any others, will be helpful. Thank you.

Please Note:  I'm not looking for validation of the position that "only the bits" matter... I accept that some believe this wholeheartedly... and that's okay by me. 
[Emphasis: "I have not heard...even two Music Servers that sound exactly the same."]

"So far, I have not heard a USB cable that sounds precisely the same as a direct Ethernet connection, or even two Music Servers that sound exactly the same. The trick is to identify what makes the music sound most convincing and involving, in other words, what will work synergistically in a given setup and choosing the cable accordingly."

- Christiaan Punter ( from his review of Pink Faun’s USB cable.
I am constantly optimizing @david_ten 😂😂

I am currently using a Triode Wire Labs Split Data & Power USB cable with surprisingly very good results. It beats some more expensive USB cables I have and have had. Eventually I will get a Shunyata Sigma USB. Also, a nice Audiogon member here recommended the Kimber Select HB cable that I would also like to try.
hey guys, i'm reposting a response i wrote on a thread about rockna wavelights. @david_ten suggested it might be valuable here. also, i want to add that diminishing returns is a reality, but "law of diminishing returns" is extremely misunderstood. as a mathematician i have my fair share of issues with economics but calling things laws when they are strictly subjective points is something that frustrates me but i can save that for another thread :) :

i currently have a rockna stack: wavedream signature se with wavedream net. it's a great combination in my system. i was running the rockna with a metrum ambre to start - so i could utilize roon with my laptop serving as the roon core. then i bought the rockna wavedream net on a bit of a whim but with some reservations. this was - again, in my system - a huge step forward. i was frankly stunned as i'm a computer guy and bits are bits...

the first that thing that stood out to me was how much bigger the soundstage became in all dimensions. after that initial "wow" wore off over some days and weeks i noticed that everything was just much better over all. the tone, texture, and all the other words used to describe play back that differs from merely listening to being captivated.

my rockna experience and the experiences of others with other servers has lead me to believe the server is even more important than the dac itself in that changes in servers are resulting in bigger sound differences than changes in dacs. am i saying buy a cheap dac and an amazing server? no, not necessarily (though i know of one user using a taiko extreme with a dragonfly - while they wait for their new dac and enjoying the sound). but for me, i'd take any dac budget and try to spend half to 75% on the server and the rest on the dac. i mention this because the terminator from everything i read (and it was high on my list before pulling the trigger on the rockna) may really benefit from a nice server as a source.

okay, now that i've gotten through that i'll get to the bad news: i haven't heard the wavelight and can't comment directly. however if it carries any of the tonal qualities of the wavedream net + wavedream signature se, i reckon it will sound great. rockna has a density to the sound that is just so palpable and it's able to flow so beautifully from one note to another. but everyone has different tastes so all i can do is share my opinion. for what it's worth i'm probably selling the wavedream net soon as i'd like to purchase a taiko extreme and really take the server experiment to it's illogical/logical extreme :). not meant as solicitation but just wanted to be honest about it. if you have any other questions about rockna, feel free to pm and i'll do my best to answer

Thanks for posting your feedback. I hope you were using i2s connection between the wavedream net and wavedream se DAC? I’ve heard through i2s the pair kicks into another level of audio bliss.

Personally, I would not sell wavedream net unless you get a chance to A/B with Taiko Extreme. I have no doubts that you will hear an uptick in performance with Taiko but only you can justify Taiko performance worth spending the extra $18K.

I am in everything matters camp, so I agree server (source) is just as important as your downline components....DAC, Preamp, Amp, cables and speakers.
i am actually connecting the rockna stack using a wireworld gold aes cable. i've always been a fan of aes and yeah ive heard all the arguments for using one vs. another but in my system i'm getting fantastic/best-i've-ever-heard sound. will i keep upgrading? hell yea! this is my hobby, there is no end goal, just keep trying stuff and if it's not better move it on out. i have my eye on a lampi pacific and maybe even new speakers but i found myself randomly in this server upgrade so should be interesting.

i will have a chance to a/b when the taiko arrives as i can return it back to my buddy. if i like it, i'll pay for it otherwise i'll give it back to my friend who ordered 3. i'll be running the taiko on usb but i reckon it will be an easy resale, if needed, given the waitlist for it. or if i like it more, i can sell the rockna and make some of that cost back. if anyone is interested in learning more feel free to pm me.