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?


Agree with arafig, have spent the last month trying 2 new dacs that have been praised by reviewers at their price point. When comparing the two against my  yggy OG,  Gustard X20, chord 2qute, and a Bitwise Z (which is a vintage sigma delta) using every option available USB, DDC-coax, i2s, AES and streaming with switched optical isolation. I found at first listen difficult to say that any one of them is the clear winner with all music. They all do the expected and some are better at certain things. I like them all for different reasons with different music. The 25 year old Z puts me in the sound stage on some recordings but it is veiled and slow. I still listen to it occasionally and with the right music I am still wowed. I want to be transported to the venue and feel it, not just listen to a hyper detailed reproduction. One piece won't do that, it takes a system.  I had a very enjoyable system 50 years ago, the era might have contributed though, sex drugs and rock and roll.                  

"Significant" "Outstanding"  "Profound"

Maybe folks should look these terms up in the dictionary.  Differences YES. Important enough to spend money on? Personal but probably.

This I challenge: Even current chip based entry level the differences are barely discernable. About the same level or less than different filters. If one left the room and "reset" their ears for an hour, could you come back in and identify which was which with certainty?  I doubt it. 

Step up to the next tier. Same challenge.  If you can't absolutely every time with different music and different levels, then I propose the difference is not "profound". Valued, preferable, sure.   From my first Wolfson to the current entry, yes as the circa 2000 DAC had clear faults in sibilance and edginess. Those problems are surpassed even in $100 entry units. From there, we are splitting hairs. 

Too many You-Tube shills shoveling out superlatives that are parroted again and again because no one would watch if they said: " Yup, pretty nice. The end"

Transported to the venue?  First that has to be recorded which as far as I know has not been even closely achieved.  Magic electronics can't supply information that was not there to start with no matter how expensive your system is.  We can try to make it enjoyable.  Listen all day and not get fatigued.  Get excited by a big crescendo. Feel chill with some nice smooth Jazz.  Yea, we can do that. 

Joan Baez sounds pretty nice right now through the Qutest. Might like the "green" filter but I was warned they take a long time to burn in. Her voice can get ugly if there is a problem. 


WITHOUT PREJUDICE to the trsunsmi of posts affirming that different DACs performance are not clones of each other and certainly can be ranked and improved, I recently traded up from a BRYSTON BDA-2 DAC to a MOON 280D MIND2 DAC because they DO sound different.

It started as a direct bakeoff at my local high-end audio bricks and mortar dealer who sells BRYSTON , MOON (by SIMAUDIO) .and BLUESOUND NODE.product lines.

After two lengthy separate bakeoff visits in their showroom over 10-odd days to personally audition the three models with my BFF audiophile amigo in tow as a foil to compare notes; the dac audio rankings from our witnessed auditions results were clear, unambiguous and wholly consistent among the attendees.

in order:

(1) the MOON DAC was clearly the best of the three agreed by all four attendees.

(2);the BRYSTON DAC was a very fine performer indeed, but it was bested by the MOON in a graphic, clear and not insignificant manner as agreed to by all four attendees..

(3) both high-end dacs above simply crushed the BLUESOUND.NODE …. NOT EVEN CLOSE..


For you or anyone else  to capriciously assert we cannot differentiate the audio differences between the dacs -much less consistently- is frankly preposterous and a. grossly flawed assumption …full stop.

I then traded in my BRYSTON for the new MOON as a clear stepped-up performance upgrade.

I use a particular recording to compare components in my system: She's the One from Born to Run.

Once you get to know a particular recording - it's good areas and it's bad areas - it is easier to compare components for differences in sound.

I use this recording because it has particular good qualities and bad qualities and I know where they are, and I know how I would like them to sound.

If I were to try to compare DACS using random recordings I did not know well, I think it would be very difficult.