The sound quality from DACs - is it all the same?

I've been talking to my cousin brother about sound quality. He is a self-proclaimed expert audiophile. He says that Audio Science Review has all of the answers I will need regarding audio products.

In particular, he says an inexpensive DAC from any Chinese company will do better than the expensive stuff. He says fancy audio gear is a waste of money because the data is already bit-perfect.  All DAC chips sound the same. Am I being mislead? 

He also said that any DAC over $400 is a waste of money. Convincing marketing is at play here, he says.

He currently owns a Topping L30 headphone amplifier and D30 Pro DAC. He uses Sennheiser HD 569 headphones to listen to music.  I'm not sure what to think of them. I will report my findings after listening one day! (likely soon, once I get some free time)

- Jack 




do not be lazy ! until you experience it yourself, you won't know... audio is an industry of deceit (you need to check everything)... why do you need the opinion of people you don't know? - go to the store and ask to turn on several DACs


It's a valid question and I'm a little disappointed to see such hostility and defensiveness expressed in some of the responses.

It's a fact that DACs use different components, especially processing chips, but is it also a fact that any of us can actually hear these differences?

Can anyone routinely identify a $100 DAC from a $10,000 one if both were hidden from sight?

Well, can they?

Can anyone?


As for ASR, instead of being grateful for all the all of the brilliant work Amir is doing in sharing his valuable knowledge with us and shedding some much needed light in areas that were previously obscured, again many of us seem to be adopting a defensive mindset in the face of what is perceived as a threat.

A threat to what?

Knowledge or vested self interests?

I have a vintage Linn system: LP12/Basik LVX, AT95SA, Lingo 1, Akurate Kontrol, AV5125/Aktiv Keilidh LS300s. Digital is Mac Mini M1 running Roon Core, Qobuz and Apple Music, fed through an iFi Zen Signature V2 DAC. The $300 DAC may be a limiting factor, but I find the system to be dynamic, lifelike, non-fatiguing and very enjoyable. I still listen to FM radio through an Arcam T61, so sources are different in discrete ways. Would I like to test a $10,000+ streamer/DAC? Sure. Would it make my listening life better? Not sure. The endless agon-y of the upward spiral of improvement will never yield perfection, just as any live performance may not excite us like the last one. I tell my clients that I am an "imperfect perfectionist". Usually that means I know when to stop, that my work will not improve beyond a certain point. The same can applied to this pursuit of "imperfect" perfection.