How easily can you distinguish between different DACs?

When I read reviews or watch them on YouTube the reviewers talk about the vast differences between various DACs.  I haven't compared too many, but found the differences pretty subtle, at best.

Which got me into thinking:  Is my hearing ability really that bad?

Do you notice the differences as easily as folks make out?


I don't have really expensive DAC's, but what I do have are:

Bryston BDA2 Dedicated DAC

Internal DAC on my McIntosh C47 preamp

Internal DAC on my HEGEL H160 integrated

Topping D30 Pro Dedicated DAC

Internal DAC on my Bluesound player

When I have swapped my DAC's around, I really can't hear differences...The big differences for me are with speakers. Even the non-golden-ear listener that I am can hear big differences from transducers! I can only guess if I did a perfectly setup double-blind experiment with DAC's, I might be able to hear differences, but they would be ever so slight.

If you want cheap crap that will eventually fail then buy cheap crap. As some here with old ears say or no listening skills say. My post for the day. 


did you try the Wyred4Sound 10th anniversary DAC?

one of the reviewers put it up against his VPI turntable with a $5,000 Japanese cartridge and he said that the 10th anniversary DAC sounded every bit as analog, on that review I decided to purchase it, it comes with a 30-day trial period so I said what the heck and I totally agree it is one of the most analog sounding DACs I've had in my system, highly recommended not cheap though it's $4,500 US.

My same comment again - you have to learn what make sound do what it does.  Look at the designs and you can see resemblance in designs.  Then there are bigger differences like tubes, separate power supplies, etc.  Most of the DACs in the $1K to $3K price range are very similar in design.  Learning to hear the differences is great but if you have to struggle to go back and forth to hear them, IMO just stick with what you already have.  We tell people all the time, if you don't hear the differences within 30 seconds, then just return our product.

Happy Listening.   


comparing dacs is a step in system building. but for instance, having speakers and amps that are competent to reveal differences is a requirement to hear dac differences. or if you are using headphones, the quality of the headphones and amp.

most dacs are decent, although it’s hard to generalize. but beyond the concept of decent, many times there are differences, sometimes merely matters of taste, other times clear performance differences. sometimes the dacs are so close there are not apparent differences. you have to keep an open mind. and there is a learning curve to hearing differences.....that is a factor in doing compares. maybe you want some other ears to hear the compare too to get other perspectives? someone you trust with more experience?

so first things first; what is your system? i looked at your details and it only shows an interconnect. so hard to comment further.

personally i have done many dac compares, my last one compared the MSB Select II dac and Taiko Extreme server that i owned to the Wadax Reference dac and server. at the end of the direct compare, i sold the MSB and Extreme and bought the Wadax combo. the Wadax was clearly better based on my compare results.

it was a big effort. and i used my vinyl and tape as a reference. there were very significant differences and i had some listeners over to my home to witness the compare and help me with objective feedback, as it was a big deal and important to me. it took a few weeks to properly compare both dacs and both servers.

but the system and other references were an important part. and also comparing servers is an aspect of a dac compare. but it starts with having a system that can demonstrate differences.