I think it depends on the quality of the associated equipment. “Revealing” may be an accurate descriptor of a given analog rig’s sound, but it falls short of being an objective standard that’s representative of a given price or performance level, and against which it makes sense to measure a comparable digital system.
I think of my VPI Prime 21+ and Shyla cartridge as “revealing,” but it’s certainly not in the same league as the equipment of some here who’ve spent in excess of $30k for 'table and cart. And I don’t dispute that the performance of those rigs far outstrips mine. But given the relative quality of my whole system, I find a DAC as modest as my DSD Jr is capable of keeping up quite well with the performance of my record playing equipment. Proportionally higher end systems would, I’m sure, require an equally higher end DAC.
My point is just that any practical answer to your question has to be system-dependent, and not answerable in a blanket way by saying, “you have to spend $X on a DAC to rival analog.” Unless you’re just “blue-skying” the subject in a cost-is-no-object context. If that’s the case, I have no personal experience on which to base an answer. Maybe the more well-heeled among us here can tackle it.
I’m saying that in my system, and in my listening room, the Jr is up to the task, at least to the extent that variable recording quality allows meaningful comparison. (Besides the fact that I have only a few recordings in both digital and analog format, the fact that recording quality is so hugely variable and vital to the quality of the sound, direct comparisons are often difficult.)
That’s not to say further DAC improvements aren’t possible for me. They absolutely are, even in the context of my system and room. It’s just that given those two parameters, I’ve reached (and probably already surpassed by a bit) the point of very diminishing returns in audible DAC improvements. Even the folks at PS Audio have suggested that I’d get a much bigger bang for my buck by upgrading amplification now (preamp and/or amps), rather than replacing the Jr with a DSD Mk II.
For context, that system (besides the pieces already mentioned) are M700s, a SGCD used as a preamp, the current PSA SACD transport, an Aurender N100H, a Channel Islands Audio PEQ1/MkII phono preamp, Magnepan .7s and a pair of REL T/7x subs. A fairly modest system, I freely admit, but that reinforces my point, I think, that the necessary quality level of a DAC that’s expected to compete with analog equipment will vary with the quality of everything else.
I have turntable and DAC sources. I have digital versions of probably 50% of my record library.
When I upgraded to the DirectStream DAC MK2, I felt there were way more tracks that sounded as good as my vinyl rig as opposed to the DSD MK1 where I found the vinyl version sounded better in most cases.
I upgraded my phono stage this week and now I’d say the pendulum has swung back in favour of vinyl.
I have a sort of arms race going on between digital and analog and it’s sending me broke
I’m pretty sure it would be possible for you to upgrade your digital chain so that it matches or exceeds your record playing system.
But then you could throw money at your record playing system and be back to the situation where analog is superior.
If what you are asking is when is analog and digital the same? The short is never. This is not a value judgement, but both sound so darn different in a revealing system that… there is no convergence. For me, I had a $1000 Benchmark DAC that was very good (kinda dead sounding but very accurate)… so there… $1000 for a DAC. I never heard a sub $1000 DAC that I thought was great… of course I never heard them all, but just taking a shot.