If I was to try my hand at trendspotting, I'd have to say there were two opposing poles attacking audiophile's soft middle at this year's CES—DSD and Lifestyle. Most DACs either included DSD-capabilities or their representatives were saying its on the way. The Lifestyle influence was seen in a number of ways but can be summed up by simplification and form factor/style (here the Wadia Intuition 01 is an obvious standout). There were many multi-purpose devices incorporating network players with integrated amps, DACs with amps, disc spinners with USB inputs, preamps with streamers, and more. I also see the inclusion of the very promising Apt X Bluetooth functionality as a huge boon to get the non-audiophile playing their tunes through the hi-fi which is the best way I know of to show people why we spend so much time and energy on hi-fi. Hint: its the music and the quality of its playback and that's a lifestyle I'm proud to be a part of.
Wadia has broken the mold and ventured somewhere new while incorporating the best their old. The Intuition 01 (projected $7,500 - $8,000) rolls up a 350W/channel Class D+ amp, 32-bit AD/DA digital preamp with a 1.5MHz sampling frequency, 32/384 and DSD-capable USB DAC, 6 additional digital inputs (1 Toslink, 2 Wdialink/I2S, 2 Coax S/PDIF, 1 AES/EBU), Wadia's Delta-SigMaster 1.536MHz upsampling algorithm, and 2 analog RCA inputs for a nearly fully functional and sleek one-not-a-box solution.
The new Musical Fidelity M6 Series Reference DAC ($2,999) is one a few new Musical Fidelity devices that offers Bluetooth Apt X/48kHz technology that allows streaming from any Bluetooth-enabled device at rates up to 16/48kHz. This is very cool because a) most people have music on their phones, and b) its a snap to get that music to the M6. I had the music on my iPhone playing within a minute. And the M6 upsamples this incoming data to 24/192. The M6 also includes regular wired connections including USB, S/PDIF and AES/EBU. There are 2 RCA and 1 XLR outputs along with 3 Coax, Toslink, and AES/EBU.
Pro-Ject was showing oodles of goods geared for the computer audio listener. Pictured above (clockwise from left): DAC Box DS ($549), Amp Box DS mono ($499), Tube Box DS ($699), Pre Box DS ($499), Amp Box DS mono ($499), and Amp Box DS ($499). The DAC Box DS can accomodate up to 24/192 data through its asynchronous USB input. There are also 1 Toslink and 1 Coax S/PDIF input and 1 pair of RCA outputs.
The Vienna Acoustics diminutive (10.5x8.3x3.5“) Berg passive speakers ($700/each) would make for a stylish desktop. The Berg's come in silver or piano black and can hang on the wall or with the optional stands ($50/each) stand on your desktop.
Primare's I32 integrated amp and PRE32 preamplifier can come equipped with their MM30 multimedia upgrade module ($1,999) that turns the given device into a 24/192-capable DAC/network player. This is the case with the I32 Integrated Amplifier ($2,999) pictured above (on top). The I32 puts out 120W/channel and includes 2 pairs of XLR and 3 pairs of RCA inputs. The network option adds Ethernet, Wi-Fi, USB, 3 Toslink and 1 Coax S/PDIF input.
The Phasure NOS1 ($4,500) is a non-oversampling 100% filterless DAC that uses 8 PCM1704U-K Burr Brown (Texas Instruments) multibit 24 bit D/A converter chips and was shown with their XXHighend Software Player ($100). The NOS1 can handle up to 32-bit/768KHz data and you can upsample to this rate by using the Windows version of the XXHighend Software Player (MAC is currently limited to 32/384 input). There's really a lot more to read about this DAC/Player combo so I encourage you to click that link.
The CH Precision Digital to Analog Controller ($32,975) functions as a DAC and preamplifier and includes 2 S/PDIF inputs that support up to 24/192 data, and 1 CH-Link for use with the matching CH D1 CD/SACD player that supports up to 32/768kHz and native DSD. There are optional boards to add functionality including asynchronous USB (up to 24/192), analog in, and Network (supports up to 24/192).
The Qualia & Company Indigo USB DAC ($35,000) from Qualia is new to me so let me quote from their brochure:
What does Qualia & Company stand for?
It is the suggestion of a luxurious lifestyle, a product that has an elegant feel but is functional and pleasing to the eye.
The luxurious Indigo USB DAC uses the ESS Sabre 9012 DAC and offers 1 Coax S/PDIF input, 1 Toslink, and 1 USB and can handle up to 24/192 via Coax and USB and 24/96 via Toslink. Outputs are pairs of XLRs and RCAs.
Naim was showing their new DAC-V1 ($2,300) that can also function as a preamplifier and headphone amp. The DAC-V1 has 5 S/PDIF inputs and an asynchronous USB input all capable of up to 24/192 playback. The USB input ups the ante to 384kHz.
The new Hegel H300 ($5,500) is a 250W/channel integrated amp with a 24/192-capable DAC built in. There are 5 digital inputs (2 Coax S/PDIF, 2 Toslink, 1 asynchronous USB), XLR and RCA analog inputs, and an RCA preamp out and Coax /S/PDIF out.
Also on display and in use in the On A Higher Note room was the Luxman DA-06 USB-DSD DAC ($5,990). The DA-06 can handle up to 24/192 though its AES and S/PDIF inputs, and up to 128x DSD via USB and there are user-selectable filters for both PCM and DSD.
Stereophile's Stephen Mejias and On A Higher Note's Philip O'Hanlon shown enrapt by the Luxman DA200 ($2,790) DAC/Preamp/Headphone amp, Luxman M-200 Stereo Amplifier ($2,790), and Eclipse powered desktop speakers. The DA200 includes two line level analog inputs, two S/PDIF digital inputs (24/192), and a dedicated 24-bit/96kHz USB input.
The new Music Culture Technology MC1010 Music Server ($4,995) offers up to 32/384 PCM playback and DSD using DoP v1. Based on the VortexBox engine, compatible file formats include AIFF, WAV, FLAC, ALAC, MP3, "and other popular formats without DRM" and includes standard digital inputs and outputs. Also comes with the SOtM USB output card and SATA noise filters. Playback control is handled with a free app from Katoemba for Android and iOS devices or through a web-based app. Includes 2TBs of storage, an Ethernet port for connecting to your NAS, and a front USB port for USB storage devices. There's also an optional DAC board that adds RCA and XLR outputs.
The DSPeaker AntiMode 2.0 ($1,099) loudspeaker optimization system is a DAC/Preamp/DSP device that offers an asynchronous USB and Toslink inputs, RCA and XLR inputs, and RCA, XLR, and Toslink outputs. There are a number of sound optimization options including a house curve design tool, linear-phase full spectrum tilt, and several parametric EQs as well as fully customized options. The DSPeaker Anit-Mode 2.0 can also function as a tone control offering a Loudness option, and bass and HF settings in 1dB steps. And the included remote control allows you to control volume as well as EQ settings.