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  1. #1

    Member Sales Rating: (11)

    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Spokane, Washington

    Question $500 upgrade worth it??

    I checked today how much it would cost me to upgrade my beloved California Audio Labs Alpha tube DAC.. it's the stock 18 bit DAC right now. To upgrade it to 24 bits 96kHz would run $500 + shipping.

    Kind of pricey i thought. While I do like the DAC a whole lot it seems steep just to bring it up to todays standards. I guess these now being outdated DAC's, parts are becoming scarce... only one shop services them and performs the upgrades anymore. RIP CAL 2002

    What do you all think, worthy upgrade or would I just be throwing money into something outdated. I know, I know for that same $500 i could find a better used DAC on audiogon or Epay. But could I get into a tube DAC for that amount?

    These originally sold for MSRP $1,495 about 10 yrs ago.. i think I paid $350. With the upgrade it would put me at $850 total investment.

    *oh yeah. this is hooked up to the SRS's in a two channel only rig. Not for the HT.
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    PolkFest 2012, who's going>?
    Vancouver, Canada Sept 30th, 2012 - Madonna concert

  2. #2

    Member Sales Rating: (8)

    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Fremont, California


    IMHO, nope. I believe the circuitry design contributes the most to the SQ. For example, my DX-16 DPA DAC sounds better than the dual 20 bits adcom. If I were to spend $500 out pocket to upgrade, I would sell the CAL + $500 to shop for a decent cd player such as a brand new Jolida JD-100. As a matter of facts, you can buy a used for $500 and still keep the CAL!!!!


  3. #3

    Member Sales Rating: (19)

    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    Is this upgrade simply changing out a chip? If so, the chip is only a few dollars. You could buy the chip yourself and pay someone to install it for you (or do it yourself).

    I upgraded the DAC in my CDP and it cost me about $50 max. It made a noticeable improvement in SQ. But for $500, you'd be royally screwed.
    HT/2-channel Rig: Sony 50 LCD TV; Toshiba HD-A2 DVD player; Emotiva LMC-1 pre/pro; Rogue Audio M-120 monoblocks (modded); Placette RVC; Emotiva LPA-1 amp; Bada HD-22 tube CDP (modded); VMPS Tower II SE (fronts); DIY Clearwave Dynamic 4CC (center); Wharfedale Opus Tri-Surrounds (rear); and VMPS 215 sub

    "God grooves with tubes."

  4. #4

    Member Sales Rating: (27)

    Join Date
    Mar 2003


    I could think of alot better things to throw 500 at...

    Like cable risers...spray for the air that makes it more fluid for sound to pass through... 20 dollar each isolation pads for my amp and so on...rare kitchen grease to go on the ends of the ICs to cause more conduction...Theater Research Speakers (THE WHOLE SET!!!)...

    Yeah, sounds like a rip off..

  5. #5

    Member Sales Rating: (2)

    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    Buy an air purifier. Otherwise, sound bounces off of dust particles in the air, creating distortion and poor staging.

  6. #6

    Member Sales Rating: (11)

    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Spokane, Washington


    they call this upgrade a "power boss" upgrade.. but yeah. basically all they do is swap out the chip.. seems expensive to me too. although what could account for the steep price is they don't make or support these things anymore. this is a 2nd party service center.. the only one i can find that will work on CAL stuff.

    If i had an Adcom.. i'd be as happy as pig rolling in mud. ha ha ha everyone works on Adcom's.
    Last edited by danger boy; 08-23-2006 at 02:59 PM.

  7. #7

    Member Sales Rating: (10)

    Join Date
    Jan 2003


    If you look around, $500 will get you a lot. I would put that $500 to something else.

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