What price hi-fi?

This may start some debate I am hesitating over my next hi-fi purchase-a Bel Canto Dac1-even with the 10 day back guarantee-I can't audition cause I stay in the UK and have to buy from France... Having recently auditioned the new Arcam CD23 I wasn't convinced it did for me in terms of value for money. Ok only I can decide butI'd be interested to see others experiences-nerves before a big purchase,mistakes which have led to begging for refunds,wives who filed for divorce when receipts were found. Is there a value system outwith the obvious financial constraints that people use in upgrading or buying new equipment? Ben
Ben, I don't wish to enter a philosophical debate on the stratification of performance/value of audio gear. However, with regard to the Bel Canto DAC-1, I vote BUY IT! I own one (which replaced a Parasound DAC-2000 Ultra) and I couldn't be more pleased. It was definitely a worthwhile upgrade for me. :)
Every expensive purchase will cause some "buyers guilt", especially if you hear the "nagging", from the spouse or living-in girlfriend. "I can't believe you spent 1200, for CD player, what was wrong with your last CD player...Why do you need so many CD's?! You don't even listen the one you just bought...!!! Ohhh GOD!! Also when you buy something $$, you question: "..could i have bought BETTER unit. for same $$??" I say, if you already made your mind, and have funds, Buy it! If you don't? You'll regret it more! I am enjoying my Karik, and can hardly wait to get Numerik, and i am prepared to go "into the battle" but thgis time AFTER the purchase! Regards!
Ben, I hear you! Unfortunately I have come to the conclusion that NO there is no value system other that your own ears, your budget, what you have access to hear and finally your nerves if you don't have the opportunity to hear, but can afford based on the latest raves. To me digital upgrading is the hardest. I can find absolutely no concensus. I have heard nothing but raves concerning the Bel Canto and was hell bound and bent to get one until.....I called up a dealer who dealt in the MSB III unit to ask HIS impressions of the MSB compared to the Bel Canto if he had heard it. So what do you think happens next? Yes indeed he was quite familiar with the Bel Canto and noted it was better than the MSB III but not as good as PRODUCT X, he raved about Product X and told me it was the best DAC unit under 4K and it cost LESS than the Bel Canto! What to do. He gave me a 30 day trial period to boot. There was one caveat, the unit would take 100 hours to break in, "it is metallic sounding out of the box". Well indeed it was metallic sounding out of the box. I received the unit on the 8th of this month and until last night FINALLY the ringing in the high frequencies, especially piano that made it unlistenable to me, ceased. It is still under evaluation but does have certain unmistakable virtues. High resolution, low noise and incredible dynamics. If tonally it can prove itself, I will probably keep it and only wish I could have heard the Bel Canto to compare it to. If you wait a bit, like a week or so, I will reveal my final decision on this thread about Product X. If I don’t keep Product X, I am seriously thinking about going with an Assemblage Jitterbug on my Ultralink which I CAN live with quite happily and forget about this digital business for a while. Hope this helps! Will
The "value" system I try to use: 1. Try before you buy. If you can't, make sure there is a good resale market for what you are buying. Many times the interaction of other stuff in your system may not work with the new piece. 2. I try to get my wife and/or daughter to listen and tell me if they hear an improvement. If yes, then I know I am on to something. If they can't tell, then I re-think. 3. I talk to audiophile friends. Sometimes they can "talk me back off from the ledge, before I jump". If you have no friends, you're spending too much time on this stuff. 4. If you still like the sound of something, even after it has been superceded by something better (this will usually happen immediately after your home trial is over) or you then find it has been panned by the audio press, then it really is a good purchase. 5. You will never get it right all of the time. That is why there is a good market for used equipment. A sense of humor will help compensate for all of the money you will seem to have wasted. 6. I am always skeptical about equipment that requires a break in period of more than 24 hours. If you like a lush, warmer sound, try the Bel Canto dac. It does sound different than other dacs, so buying w/o a right of return is risky. The Bel Canto looks very unassuming. My wife never asked how much it cost.
Joe- You have nailed it for me. I can't imagine how a digital device especially has taken this long to break in. So far this unit has not really hit my hot button which isn't a good sign for ultimate enjoyment. Furthermore the Bel Canto sounds more like the sound I'm looking for in MY system. Thanks for you input Joe. Will
if ewe can't get a money-back guarantee w/at least a 30-day audition period - *don't buy it*! unless, of course, it's used, & ewe know that ewe can turn it around for a minimal loss. regarding break-in - if a unit needs an extended break-in - yust leave it on all the time! put your cd on *repeat* when ya go to bed, or aren't there actually listening... regards, doug
Ben, I share your concerns. I am using the DAC 1 with a DVD transport in my system, and I am very happy with it. Since you are neighbors...I dumped a Micromega Stage 4 for the DAC 1 / DVD combo, and it was an easy call. I don't think you can build any system without having really good front end, and this is a cheap as that gets, IMHO. This is one component that has been universally acclaimed, has a great warranty, and could easily be sold if you didn't like it. (See the reviews online at Soundstage and Planet HiFi. Also search the archived thoughts here on Audiogon discussions.) This is, as they say, a "no-brainer." I use a Creek 4330R in my sytem, by the way. Go for it, man. Charlie
Guys, Thanks for the advice and comments. I guess I feel a little greedy,I've did a lot of cost-effective upgrading with happy results all along the way-the occassional no-change or bad purchase (about $50 dollars of new tubes which sounded worse in my valve pre-amp-)means I've built a good (to my ears)system at a reasonable cost using older used but good equipment. It also means I've got the bug but it's built out of a love of music I buy a lot of CD's. The DAC-1 costs about $300 dollars more here in the UK to buy-as I said when listening to the new Arcam CD23 I could hear a performance a couple of notches up-I wasn't convinced it was worth £1100 ($1500)-the DAC-1 costs the same here. Since I use a DVD/dac set-up-the Bel Canto screams at me as does the almost universal good feedback it is getting..... Am I happy with my system? Of course. Would I like to buy/try the DAC-1 even though it means spending more than I should? Of course. Ben
Ben, I fear I wasn't clear about part of my post...I referenced my Creek 4330 as it is definitely what a lot of the folks on Audiogon would consider for their "bedroom system." It cost 1/3 of the DAC 1 / DVD combo so I'm not a big spender, obviously. My point was that I was not satisfied with my sound, after long term listening, until I had upgraded from a Micromega Minium, to a Stage 4, and finally to the DAC1. It was tempting to blame the amp as an "entry" level sound provider (which I guess it is) but the upgrade to the DAC 1 made a tremendous difference! Front end is the foundation of your sound, and we all have our own goals and budgets. I would also add that, to my ears, some of the Chesky 24/96 recordings are strikingly clean and you get a 'table like sound. Enjoy the music! Charlie