Thanks for those responses, much appreciated. We have the same discussions, often much more vigorously, over amplifiers, where on one side of the fence there is the argument that they are blunt instruments that are simply meant to take a signal at one voltage and output the same signal at another voltage. On the other side of the fence there are those, like you, who design on the basis of individual component performance and then sit and listen to the end result.
I am in the latter camp in respect of amplifiers. I currently use a Class A SET amp that lends itself to my tastes in music. Due to a slight lack of power needed to control my speakers properly, I am getting a more powerful pair of amplifiers modified with particular components for a particular presentation. Some would consider such an approach has no merit whatsoever, the amplifier has no right to colour or influence the music, but there is a important principle at stake.
The main issue is how much one really has to spend to get faithful music reproduction, and how can the consumer identify it. People may prefer a certain balance, and it may also be influenced by what they can actually hear. On the amplifier side, the Croft integrated amplifier is hugely popular over here and in the US, is a Stereophile award winner and doesn’t actually measure very well (http://www.stereophile.com/how-is-ted-coding-the-fpgaent/croft-acoustics-phono-integrated-integrated-amplifier-measurements_).
The problem with DACs is that they have a pretty simple task to carry out, converting a digital signal to an analogue one. Besides some surprising measurements, some of our members did a blind test of $100 and $2,000 DACs and couldn’t tell the difference.
Moreover, how many people listen to live unamplified sound on a regular basis and even have a valid reference point?
We have a fair number of UK manufacturers who do not go to UK consumer audio shows because they have no need. They have a full order book. They don’t even need to advertise. Some don’t even have a website. My speaker manufacturer only does the main UK show each year as a matter of customer goodwill. They have a full order book. This year they had on demonstration the speakers I happen to use, recently improved (they’ve been making them for 40 years), cost about $5,000. The source equipment was a laptop, a DAC and amplifier, total cost less than $1,000. Several commentators considered them best in show. It makes you wonder.
As I said earlier, I happily listen to my DAC Mk2 for hours on end, so thanks for that. My enquiry was aimed at understanding the principles behind its design, as well whether or not you have official test data.