Brilliant, cheap DACs give mullet systems a new credibility

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?


My system is the reverse I suppose… possibly a monkfish?


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.


I would agree with the OP, Naim Linn no longer have a monopoly…

an audio quest Dragonfly Cobalt is quite a source…


Mmm…ok…Im just off to mullet over.


They had a monopoly?!

Ha ha well naim and Linn had figured out how to make very good sounding digital sources but at a price

Nowadays as I said a dragonfly cobalt is a mighty source but at a much lower price

I guess that’s just down to technological progress ?

More like walled gardens.


Could someone explain how a DAC is a source?
Its fed with a source, surely?
Otherwise a phono stage could be described as a source.


I thought it sounded like what it is, a minimized standard-chip with a cheap power-supply.

I think people are just amazed how it sounds given its limitations - not compared to an actual professional built NOS-DAC.

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This also raises the question “is Ketchup, a sauce or not?”

Maybe this needs a separate thread?


If we accept that anything in the digital domain shouldn’t make any difference (yes, I know, I know … ), then dac-as-source makes sense…

… otherwise, how far back in the chain do we go? The mic? The idea in the writers head?

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.


Ah. A rhetorical question then…

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.

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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.)



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Because its a major component of a digital source. In the same way we refer to a preamp and an amp as an amp, or a phono stage, stylus, arm and turntable as an analogue source

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Thankyou for all your views.

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Perhaps the safest definition is ‘the box that you plug into your amplifier’… :wink:

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