Have DAC’s improved for Redbook CD playback?

So I’m contemplating getting a new DAC or DAC-pre. I own an Oppo BDP-83SE player, a Theta DS Pro Basic IIIA DAC and a Logitech Trandporter. I still use my DAC unit’s for Redbook playback.

Have DAC’s improved for Redbook CD playback?
I don’t know over what time period you’re asking, but in the last 20 years dac chips per say have not improved greatly since NOS dac chips like the TDA1541a Double Crown or BB-1704k.

Today manufacturers are doing everything they can to "get a leading edge" in technology - instead of focussing on music. Overall the dac chips gives very little to the complete sound. I would say the digital part in total would contribute no more than about 15% or so to the complete sound. The psu and analog stage, combined with pcb layout matters more.

So yes, dacs have progressed significantly in the last 20 years, but not because of breakthroughs in dac chip technology. That comes down mainly to better parts (eg: caps, chokes), boards, psu’s, improved manufacturing processes etc & the natural evolution of dac topologies over time.
Been checking out streaming sources and was thinking about a DAC for that purpose.  I currently own an ARC Ref CD-8, which uses a Burr-Brown PCM1792 chipset D/A converter.  As to the OP's question about whether redbook DACs have improved much, I found the following Stereophile ARC CD-9 review interesting. 


Notably, Fred Kaplan made the following introductory comment:  "Now entering its fourth decade, the Compact Disc player seems to have reached a stage of maturity where the best models within a given price range will sound pretty much alike."  

Some may agree; some may not.  At least from Kaplan's perspective, some of the redbook CD bells and whistles that ARC incorporated into the CD-9 didn't make a whole lot of difference.

Based on that review and comments elsewhere, if I wanted to stick to redbook CD, I am not sure how motivated I would be to pick up a used CD-9.  That said, Kaplan commented that the streaming DAC features of the CD-9 were pretty impressive and offered quite a bit of utility and flexibility.

As I mentioned above, I have been toying with the idea of using streaming digital music as another source.  If go that route, I may upgrade my CD-8 to a CD-9 for the DAC features only; not for expectations of quantum leaps of performance in the redbook CD side of the house.


OP, interesting question. 

IME, yes and no. It’s a very broad question, so the main answer is, “it depends”. ... on all the factors pointed out above - input and output stages, psi, DAC chip. 

I always used to assume products would evolve and evolve and get better, but I was wrong. Manufacturers (not high end like ARC, ETC) May advertise a NEW DAC chip, a new this or that. But often times, for every penny they put into the DAC to improve it, they will cut costs elsewhere in the DAC to increase profit margins. 
Two steps forward, one step back. 

But jitter control in commercial products has been improving, and probably one of the biggest recent tech improvements to improve SQ. 

i have a Bel Canto DAC 3.7 with external PSU. I can feed the DAC from a SimAudio CDP via SPDIF or feed the DAC via computer via BEL CANTO Ethernet Renderer. 

1. The sound from the CDP is very good, since the Sim is also an excellent transport. 
2. But the signal going from the Mac via the Renderer to the DAC is a different ballgame altogether. 

3. In other words, although the DAC 3.7 is excellent in and of itself, BUT it is the Renderer that takes the DAC to a whole new level in every way, but especially soundstage. 
4. So then Bel Canto took all their tech (Renderer, jitter control, DAC and Class D amps, etc) and put it all in one box for $15,000.

Bel Canto THEN  DCed the DAC 3.7 and the Renderer, because that combo is so good that is was slowing down the sales and hype of the BC “Black EX” - $15000 all in one unit.

So, does the BC Black EX offer a “better” DAC than the 3.7?
Most likely, but only marginally and for a much greater cost. 
Post removed 
sell off my digital front end for now.

Please PM me with a price for the Theta DS Pro Basic IIIA

Cheers George