Where to invest the most in the "digital chain"?

Dear All,

I'd love to get everyone's opinions on where best to invest/invest the most, in the "digital chain".

Using my current "basic" system as an example I have very good Internet service into a very good router with the stock PSU on a dedicated power conditioner strip with an ifi AC iPurifier. From there I have Audioquest Pearl Cat6 to a Cisco 2960G with an upgraded Russ Andrews Power Cable. There follows another AQ Pearl Cat6 to an English Electronics 8Switch with an ifi iPowerX. From there I have the Chord C-Stream Ethernet to my ifi Zen Stream with a 15V ifi iPowerX. Then a Wireworld Chroma 8 cable to an ifi iPurifier3 into a Zen DAC v2 also with ifi iPowerX. The EE8, Stream and DAC benefit from a power-conditioner/surge protector and a pair of AC iPurifiers.

I've got a SotM iSO-CAT7 on order which I am intending to put between the EE 8Switch and the network transport with a dCBL-CAT7u into the network transport.

Phew, that was a lot of words!

My question is, and this applies to all systems as a generic question, where is it best to invest the most? Should the best Ethernet cables and/or switches and/or isolators be first in the chain (i.e. from the Internet source) or at the end of the chain (into the DAC/Music Streamer/Network Transport)? Similarly, where should the best power supplies be placed? Or does it all matter equally?

This is purely about the digital chain, I'm well aware that great speakers and a great AMP with good power and speaker cables make all the difference too!

I'm interested in opinions and I will of course experiment for myself.



This is the problem with an open forum like this. You are going to get lots of contradictory posts based on people with different values and limited experience. You have to look at each and make a judgement on the posters values and experience.

This can be very valuable or not, depending on your experience and ability to read between the lines. Examine the posters comments, their system shown under their UserID.

If you find this confusing. Go to professional reviews: Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, and HiFi+. Read Robert Harley’s book, The Complete Guide to High End Audio. With this foundation, it should be easier to separate the people who do not know what they are talking about or have vastly different values from you with those you should believe.

I have a Cary Audio DMS-500 that I love.  They have newer iterations now and there are plenty of professional reviews you could also read.  It is basically a high end DAC with the streamer built in.  It has a display such that you may enjoy seeing cover art or track times and is Roon certified and plays nice with Tidal & Qobuz.  I mostly stream from NAS drives via Jriver or Roon and it is super reliable as the technology is mature now.  Let us know what you decide.

@ghdprentice - absolutely, the beauty of forums is that you get many different opinions. Sometimes people with less experience can bring fresh insight to the table and folks with more experience might be a bit "stuck in their ways". So, it's all helpful context!

The wisdom of crowds here is to invest thousands of dollars into a streamer and DAC (combined or separate).

I've approached things from a network perspective and right now my system sounds superb with an optimised digital path and "budget" separates. So it's interesting to consider potential investments in better components to see how good this could be!

As always ... the system will play as its weakest component "plays", so everything should be in balance - DAC, streamer, power supply, treated ethernet, etc.