To Jeff Fritz,
Just a fantastic premise and content with regard to acquiring your new system [“Jeff’s Getting a New Stereo System: Part One”]. I too am a retired audiophile (2005) also looking to get back into it with “self-imposed” budget restrictions. I think what you are doing is actually taking things to the next level, trying to find the best deals in audio. I would liken what you are doing to the [original Stereophile] review of the Audible Illusions Modulus 3A -- getting a preamp on par or better than a $40k preamp for only $1895. Also, this is like a sommelier, being able to recommend a great wine for half the price of others.
I am planning on doing the DAC-preamp-processor thing as well, and was going to purchase the Auralic Vega G2, but noticed in your most recent review that you are using the Hegel Music Systems HD30. Also, with regard to these processors, I wonder: is there one that is most easily upgradable as technology improves?
Thanks for the kind words about that series of articles. I really enjoyed writing each installment, especially considering that so many audiophiles, it turned out, were in the same boat as me: wanting something spectacular, and willing to pay good money for it, but not willing to spend the equivalent of a house.
Regarding your choice of DAC (with either full preamp functionality, or just digital-inputs only with integral volume control), there are some fantastic options available to you. The Hegel Music Systems HD30 ($4800) and Auralic Vega G2 ($5999) are still very competitive at their respective price points, but there are many more options. There are models from Benchmark Media Systems and Bryston that would fit the bill also, as examples. You’ll have to consider the features you want as you’re making your decision. For example, do you want streaming built in?)
As for upgradeable technology, I would not count on that. I’ve seen far too many products that were claimed to be “future proof” or some such term, but really weren’t. Buy something that has the features you want now and that you love the sound and ergonomics of, and enjoy it. I’ve found that worrying too much about what a product might or might not become in the future is not only fruitless, but can zap the enjoyment right out of the ownership experience. Good luck with your next stereo system and please let me know what you end up with. . . . Jeff Fritz