Are "vintage" DACs worthwhile, or is this a tech that does not age well?

Discussion in 'DACs' started by jmkeuning, Jun 27, 2018.

  1. jmkeuning

    jmkeuning New Member

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    I'm looking to sell a piece of equipment (valhalla 2) that I just do not use and I am getting offers to trade for older DACs - either a California audio labs sigma II 16/44 or a Theta dspro progeny. The press on these from when they were new is pretty interesting, but I'm thinking that the technology in them has only been improved, and at much lower price points. Is that correct thinking?

    My current DACs are a Schitt Modi 2 and a Starting Point Systems DAC 3 (this is from ebay - TDA1543 + Reclocker).

    My audio systems are: hifiberry optical out to the above-mentioned DAC3,then Adcom GFP-750 pre-amp, GFA 535 amp, and ADS L810 speakers.

    Does anyone have any input about the suitability/benefit of either of these old DACs in my system?

    (The modi2 is in a stack with magni2 going to JBL LSR305 speakers. Source on that is Squeezebox touch optical out.)

    Thanks for any advice you can give!
     

     

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  2. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

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    987
    I think these were meh DACs even in their days, overall I wouldn't bother with early Delta-Sigma designs.
     
  3. Decibel_116

    Decibel_116 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Some of the older R-2R DACs are pretty awesome. I have an Aragon D2A that I use to play 16/44 FLAC files and CDs on that sounds amazing. I use a Schiit Eitr to convert the USB out on my laptop to a coaxial SPDIF signal input on the Aragon. The D2A uses Burr Brown PCM58 18 bit converters. Of course it won't play HiRes files directly, but it is a night and day difference to all the newer DACs I have tried in my system. I also have the next iteration, the Aragon D2A2 which has HDCD capability and uses 20 bit Burr Brown PCM63 DACs. Both use all discrete analog circuitry running Class A mode.
     
  4. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

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    987
    Yeah, find an Adcom GDA-600, PCM63 20 bit multibit DAC, fairly common and inexpensive, it will stack up nicely with your Adcom gear.
     
  5. BillWojo

    BillWojo AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I'm just using Red book my self so I'm good with an older DAC as long as it's a really good one. My current favorite is a Parasound D/AC1000, very similar to the Adcom GDA-600 using the same PCM63P chips. Being as your invested in Adcom gear, it's a no brainer.
    The PCM63P chip is a R2R ladder design. It's supposed to be out dated technology but lo and behold, look what the new rage in DAC's is today. A lot of the major players in this field are now building R2R ladder DAC's but doing it the hard way. The great chips of the past are long out of production and it's not economical to bring them back. The resistor ladders in the old chips were laser trimmed to a very precise value during manufacture. Today they try and hand match up SMD resistors to get close to the precision that the old chips met. Very costly to do that.
    So find your self an older Adcom and enjoy.

    BillWojo
     
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  6. WobblySam

    WobblySam Well-Known Member

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    The old dac vs new dac issue has been beaten to death here, usually with most of the Google PhDs favoring the new dacs. A good R2R dac from the 90's can provide an excellent experience with CD rips. CAL dacs such as the Alpha or a Counterpoint Da-10 are fine options. But, as always it comes down to what you like. Don't be afraid to try an older dac, it might surprise you.
     
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  7. rwartner

    rwartner Super Member

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    Digital to analog and analog to digital computer boards have been around for a long time. Just saying this is not new technology.
     
  8. bimasta

    bimasta Super Member

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    I'm like Mr Wojo — Redbook only. I got an Adcom GDA-700 at GW for $7 and it changed my digital life. I had very good CDPs, but none even remotely compared.

    I have a theory — Redbook prevailed for well over a decade while they fought over the new protocols. As with Vinyl, where carts/arms/TTs got better and better, those "old" DACs followed the came curve of improvement. To borrow a phrase, my Adcom was made in the "Golden Age" of 16/44.1.

    I've had newer multi-standard and DVD players that handle CDs, but SQ is mediocre. It seems like 16/44 capability was just an afterthought — it had to be there, but no one really cared — much like the Phono stage of a new Home Theater amp: anyone who still plays vinyl is either so old they can't hear the difference anymore, or so young they never knew the difference.
     
  9. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

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  10. awillia6

    awillia6 Super Member

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    Devastating.
     
  11. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

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    987
    I don't see a big drama, 20-bit DAC is a 20-bit DAC, but it is really hard to justify spending that much on a DAC when similarly or better performing vintage DACs can be had at a fraction of the cost.
     

     

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  12. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

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    My take is that old is not necessarily worse than new in this case.

    The difference to me is the chipset that is used. They do sound different depending on the maker, IMHO.
     
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  13. restorer-john

    restorer-john Addicted Member

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    I had heated arguments back when Bitstream (philips) came out in 1990. I kept my Burr Brown ladder based D/A TOTL CD players.

    I still have them.

    Older D/A converters can be phenomenal value and often offer a build quality that is infinitely superior to the latest flavour-of-the-month D/A-in-a-can and often considerably better performance than modern offerings.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
  14. Decibel_116

    Decibel_116 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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  15. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

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    To be fair, the ASR measurements put things into proper perspective but they don't necessarily mean the Yggdrasil is a bad sounding DAC. They show that despite what Schiit propaganda says it doesn't break any new ground, but is it horrible? No. Probably not a DAC you want to use for hi-res material, but for redbook it is very likely good enough (if you stay away from RCA outputs that is :) ).
     
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  16. awillia6

    awillia6 Super Member

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    And a real bargain, to boot!
     

     

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  17. restorer-john

    restorer-john Addicted Member

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    Yes, it IS horrible. And yes, it breaks new ground on how much you can charge for a faulty product. Amir has tested three of them on two different APs.

    Technically, it's a piece of garbage with a tested performance like that. The first generation CD players in 1983 outperformed it on THD alone.
     
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  18. runnin'

    runnin' Super Member

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    The ASR guy is a crank that doesn't quite know what he's doing. Of course Schiit haters like GVL will find plenty to like about ASR, but one has to take a few steps back and look at the big picture of the market place.

    Mike Moffat, one of the founders of Schiit, started making TOTL DACs almost 3 decades ago. He knows what sounds good and can bring it to market for a fraction of what the establishment charges. This is a good thing, don't overthink it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
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  19. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

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    987
    THD is as advertised at least. I think the price is in the ballpark for the amount of US-manufactured hardware you get these days, the performance is meh but I wouldn't call it garbage.

    While I generally despise Schiit fanboy-ism and their fecal references I feel somewhat sympathetic to Schiit folks in this case. They've made an attempt to recreate that vintage DAC architecture using technology available today. Well oops, multibit chips optimized for audio are not around anymore so you get what you get, but hey they've done something more than sticking to chip manufacturer recommended implementations. But they could definitely do it better. There should be no reason to doubt ASR measurements, the guy is clearly up to the task and has the right gear.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
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  20. Decibel_116

    Decibel_116 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    In my mind, there's nothing to "overthink". It is highly overpriced for the performance level and seems to not get some of the basics correct. That line frequency bleeding through should absolutely not be there in an "end game" DAC. No fuzz on that. I don't care how it "sounds". The engineer in me will not get past that.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
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