There are a plethora of cheap, but amazing, DACs available achieving levels of performance that are truly outstanding.
I have one of these cheap DACs (and preamp) which compared very favorably with my previous very expensively assembled equipment. My system is already a bit of a mullet, with the speakers costing more than everything else combined, but I would confidently take this even further and add some “next level” speakers to the mix.
So my question, is the mullet system about to make a comeback?
Never went away and I’d argue it’s the majority of systems. People who have such systems love their speakers or their source or whatever and tend to find contentment over a long period. People who have much more balanced systems tend to find irritatingly small things wrong with them; reasons to try something new/upgrade etc. They live in a permanent state of slight dissatisfaction. Who wants that?
If the DAC performs then it’s not really a mullet.
A mullet or monkfish isn’t about price, it’s about performance. If the source is just not in the same league as what follows, it is a mullet regardless of the price of that source.
The only problem is of course, no one with a mullet thinks they have a mullet. Unless they knowingly are stopping off at quick and dirty source land on they way to balanced town, then whether something is a mullet or not is often a matter of hindsight.
In other words, a mullet is always bad. If it is not bad, then it’s not really a mullet.
We go back to the first component in the hifi system. The DAC is just a converter, nothing more and is not the first component. Its accepted surely that the TT streamer cassette deck etc is the source. What’s it got to do with a mic? The mic isn’t in the hifi system.
I was just exploring how dac-as-source might be a sensible definition, rather than simply adopting the conventional boundaries. I dislike the idea that (say) an ethernet cable is part of the hifi system, but accept that many disagree.
A CD player includes a DAC.
A streamer includes a DAC
The DAC is the critical part producing the analogue audio that is then amplified - that is why commonly people refer to DAC as source, but more correctly part of the source
With vinyl there’s the TT, arm and cartridge - which is the source?
(As for phono stage, that is part of the amplification - indeed it has often been incorporated as part of a preamp - so quite unlike a DAC.)