DAC Reviews

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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Mar 16, 2017 5 comments
R2R, NOS/Or Not
The discrete R2R HoloAudio Spring DAC offers two main operating modes; non-oversmapling (NOS) and a chip-based oversampler (AKM AK4137). You can switch between these modes of operation by simply pushing the front panel "OVER SAMPLING" button. This button offers 4 choices; "NOS" mode which bypasses that AKM chip, "OS Mode" where PCM and DSD are each upsampled to higher rates but remain PCM and DSD, "OS PCM" where all data is "oversampled to PCM", and "OS DSD" where all data is "oversampled to DSD". If you are anything like me, you'll leave the Spring DAC in "NOS" mode, avoiding that Asahi Kasei Microdevices chip like the plague.
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Steven Plaskin Posted: Feb 23, 2017 8 comments
When I recently heard that exaSound Audio Design had released a new model replacement for their e22 DAC, I immediately contacted George Klissarov, President of exaSound Audio Design, to see if I could get a review sample of the new e32 DAC for an AudioStream review. I was very enthusiastic about the e32’s predecessor when I reviewed the e22 in 2014. At that time, I found the e22 to be an excellent sounding DAC and one that did a first-class job playing DSD files. The e22 was built around the ES9018S Sabre32 reference DAC chip and utilized exaSound’s custom ASIO drivers that allowed native DSD256 support for both OSX and Windows.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Dec 29, 2016 30 comments
Skip The Bits
"Hey, you put DSD in my DAC! You put DAC in my DSD!" The buzz surrounding the T+A DAC 8 DSD is all about octuple-rate DSD; DSD512 (512 times that of CD)/22.5792 MHz. The idea being you use Signalyst's HQPlayer software to convert all of your music to DSD512 before sending it to the DAC 8 so that the latter's "True One Bit DSD Converter" can work its magic. Yea, magic.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Dec 01, 2016 11 comments
All-In-One With A Twist
The ELAC Discovery is a one-box solution for people looking to turn their digital music collection, streamed and stored, into analog while using Roon to control playback. The Discovery handles gapless playback and PCM resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz (WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, OGG, MP3, AAC) while offering two analog outputs + WiFi for multiroom(s) audio. Here's the twist: Discovery runs on Roon Essentials, which negates the need for a separate device running Roon Server/Core, and Roon Essentials is included in the Discovery's price.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Nov 17, 2016 15 comments
Pre-Made Pi
The sonic.build Sonic DAC is put together from individual products you can buy and DIY. Here's the shopping list:
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Nov 03, 2016 8 comments
In This Corner...
Weighing in at a fit 16 lbs. with 10 digital inputs and balanced outputs stands the Roon Ready and firmware upgrade-able Ayre QX-5 Tweeeenty! And in this corner, piles of stuff.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Oct 27, 2016 5 comments
Musica Pristina’s Virtuoso Network DAC is a Roon Ready DAC that takes advantage of Roon Lab’s RAAT (Roon Advanced Audio Transport) protocol technology for bit perfect network streaming over Ethernet and WiFi networks. RAAT supports “all relevant audio formats today and for the foreseeable future.” Musica Pristina is one of the earliest companies to support Roon’s RAAT with a DAC that utilizes this new network protocol.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Sep 22, 2016 10 comments
Brooklyn
The new Mytek Brooklyn DAC does not sport a slicked back undercut, big beard, skinny jeans, a plaid shirt, and tattoos. Wrong neighborhood. What this Brooklyn sports is a preamplifier, a DSD256- and MQA-capable DAC, two headphone jacks which can be paired with a 4 pin XLR to 2 1/4 inch jacks for balanced headphones, a freakin' phono input (MM/MC), and a sculpted aluminum front panel in black (for a touch of Brooklyn) or "frosty silver".
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Sep 01, 2016 17 comments
A DragonFly Tale
[Parental Advisory Warning] I had an email exchange with my friend Joe about music and movies, as is our wont, and asked—
Me "What are listening through?"
Joe "I have two pairs of Shure 580 in-ear headphones, which are very good headphones and also sit in the ear and cut out 90% of outside noise. About as fidelity as I get."
Me "I like those Shure in-ears too. So you plug them into your computer?"
Joe "Yeah, I just plug them into one Apple product or another."
At the time, I was rich in Dragonflys, having my original and the V.1 version. So I sent Joe the original. Here's the first email I received from Joe after the DragonFly landed at his place:
Subject: Damn!

Fuck Me! Dragonfly!

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Aug 18, 2016 5 comments
"Timing is everything." Tommy Shaw
The Ravenna IP technology allows for syncing of multiple audio devices over Ethernet using the Precision Time Protocol (PPT) achieving clock accuracy "in the sub-microsecond range". This comes in handy in recording studios where Merging Technologies got its start, and earned its reputation, back in 1990 in Chexbres, Switzerland. As we all know, timing is everything in home audio, too, so Merging Technologies (MT) imbued its NADAC with, among other things, the Ravenna IP technology.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Aug 04, 2016 5 comments
totaldac + Roon
If you've read my reviews of the totaldac d1-tube-mk2 DAC or the d1-dual DAC, you'll know they are among my Favorites. When I received an email from totaldac's Vincent Brient asking if I'd be interested in reviewing his new Roon Ready d1-integral-headphone music server/DAC, I responded, "Yes".
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jul 28, 2016 11 comments
Shhh, Don't Tell Anyone
Simaudio makes fine-sounding, well-made, and (very) reasonably-priced gear. I'm afraid if this word gets out, they'll wise up and at least quintuple their prices, making them more appealing, ya know...sexy, to a certain sect of audiophiles.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 23, 2016 33 comments
Junior
If you're looking for senior, that would be the PS Audio DirectStream (see review). Junior came into being with lots of senior's genes, of greatest import the FPGA-based digital processing engine developed by Ted Smith. The company then went about saving costs in less critical areas and Junior was born. The question on most people's minds may very well be—how far did Junior fall from the tree?
Steven Plaskin Posted: Jun 16, 2016 16 comments
Andreas Koch, Founder, CEO, and Engineer along with Bert Gerlach, Engineer have recently released the new Playback Designs Sonoma Series that includes the Syrah Server, Merlot DAC, and OpBox conversion kit for the Oppo103 Blu-ray Disc Player. Another component in the Sonoma series is also slated for release called the Pinot that is an Analog Digital Convertor. I’m sure a number of you have noticed that the Sonoma Series has named the products after fine wines. Andreas previously worked for Sony developing the first native DSD recorder and workstation. Sony’s chairman at that time felt that DSD’s potential and performance was similar to a good wine; hence the name Sonoma for the workstation. Andreas’ view of musical experiences and fine wine:
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Apr 21, 2016 10 comments
NAS/Music Server/Streamer/CD Ripper/DAC/Headphone Amp
I'm sure some will want more, but that's a lot of functionality fit inside one relatively small box. The Bluesound Vault 2 makes computer audio easy—a one box solution for all of your computer audio needs. No need to fret about which NAS to buy, what streamer, which DAC and headphone amp, and there's no need for a computer. You will need a tablet for remote control and a love of music to make it all work as intended.

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