DAC Reviews

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Steven Plaskin Posted: Mar 26, 2015 10 comments
The Wavelength Audio Quotient DAC Module is a new upgrade for the Crimson High Speed USB DAC that has added DSD 64 / DSD 128 as well as support for PCM files up to 32/384 kHz. But the Quotient Q1 adds far more to the Crimson than just DSD and increased PCM sampling rate support. Gordon Rankin has gone back to the drawing board for this new DAC module resulting in a number of improvements for his flagship DAC.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Mar 19, 2015 22 comments
Manhattan
Mytek shook up the DSD DAC market with their Stereo192-DSD DAC back in 2011 at RMAF. At that time, there were just a handful of much more expensive DSD capable DACs and most people wondered if this DSD thing was going to catch on. It did. I favorably reviewed the Stereo192-DSD DAC (see review) which I still use daily. Mytek's new consumer offering is the Manhattan and it represents Mytek's "finest achievement" according to the company. Let's see.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Mar 05, 2015 5 comments
Out Of This Galaxy
Exo (out of this) + gal (galaxy). Exogal came to Earth in 2013, formed by four audio industry veterans, Jim Kinne, Larry Jacoby, Jeff Haagenstad, and Jan Larsen, "who worked for the some of the biggest names in the industry." From Exogal, "Jim Kinne is the technical heart and soul of Exogal. He’s a legendary audio engineer who’s produced countless award-winning products in his career, including the Wadia 27 decoding computer, Wadia 270 CD transport and the Wadia 790 PowerDAC, to name a few." Exogal currently has three products that include the Comet DAC, the Ion Digital Amplifier, and the Comet Upgraded Power Supply. Today we'll be probing the Comet DAC.
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Steven Plaskin Posted: Mar 03, 2015 7 comments
The Resonessence Labs INVICTA Mirus DAC represents the state-of-the-art offering from this Canadian company. The Mirus is closely related to the Invicta DAC that Michael Lavorgna reviewed in May 2013 (see review). Michael presented an excellent review that was quite thorough in describing the features of the Invicta. Since that time, a number of improvements have been added to the Invicta, including a new model called the Mirus. The XLR/RCA output specifications of the INVICTA Mirus outperform those of the standard Invicta. The headphone module is removed in the Mirus, and replaced with a second ESS Sabre DAC ES9018 for each channel. By combing 2 ESS Sabre ES9018 DACS in parallel per channel, a total of 8 ES9018 channels are available for each stereo output. Resonessence Labs has discovered that every time the Sabre DAC output channels are paralleled together performance improves. This feature results in a lowering of the noise and a decrease in THD compared to the Invicta. The dynamic range specification is also improved in the Mirus.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Feb 19, 2015 4 comments
I Like Bluetooth
Audioengine makes a number of well-priced products that deliver their fair share of musical enjoyment. I favorably reviewed their A5+ speakers (see review) and we own two pairs of their original A2 speakers. Under inspection today is their B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver which adds Bluetooth connectivity to any hi-fi while also offering an internal DAC as well as a Toslink output if you already own a DAC you enjoy. What's the point of Bluetooth? Fun.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 22, 2015 52 comments
I Bought It
I bought a Pono Player directly from their Kickstarter campaign. I did so, in part, to support the project, in part because I'm a fan of Neil Young who is behind Pono, and finally because Ayre designed the digital and analog innards responsible for how the Pono Player sounds and everything I've heard from Ayre, including their QB-9 DSD DAC (see review), has been eminently musical so to get some Ayre tech for the price of a Pono Player struck me as a steal of a deal.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Nov 13, 2014 9 comments
Korg
Korg views their DS-DAC-100 and AudioGate 3 software as a single product, a team that delivers up to double rate DSD natively as well as PCM resolutions to 24/192. You can elect to have the Audiogate software upsample everything you play through it or leave it set for bit perfect playback. The DS-DAC-100 also doubles as a headphone amp with its front-mounted 3/4" jack and associated volume control and I find it's Cheshire Cat smile shape to be a nice change from the ordinary.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Nov 06, 2014 13 comments
DSD512? PCM768?
The battery-powered iFi Micro iDSD DAC/Heapdhone amp is chock full of functionality. With the ability to play back up to DSD512 as well as PCM files with sample rates to 768kHz and double rate DXD through its dual-core Burr Brown DACs, I'd say the little micro is fairly future proof. Throw in a 8V @ 4000mW output for the headphone jack, and you've got yourself one fulsome package. But that's not all.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Oct 30, 2014 4 comments
Converto
Italy's Pathos Acoustics is known in part for their sumptuously designed hi-fi gear. While today's Converto is somewhat understated, there are enough aesthetic touches to keep it apart from the mainstream black box crowd. A two-tone aluminum chassis with an engraved top plate wrap itself around the business innards of a DAC and headphone amp with a fully balanced class A analog output stage.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Sep 25, 2014 2 comments
Cocktail Audio
Cocktail Audio is, to the best of my knowledge, a division of Novatron a Korean company specializing in the manufacture of "Multimedia Devices". I first came across the Cocktail Audio X30 at CES 2014 and I was intrigued by its all in oneness. The X30 incorporates a 50W digital amp, DAC, server, UPnP network player, and CD ripper all in one package. Just add speakers.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Sep 18, 2014 4 comments
Pro-Ject
Pro-Ject may be best known for their turntables, but they offer a dizzying array of products through their Box Designs line as well. From CD players to speakers and most everything in between, in multiple lines ranging from the E Line, C Line, S Line, DS Line, and RS Line (in ascending price order). Today's Stream Box is from the RS line, the top of the Pro-Ject digital heap.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Sep 11, 2014 5 comments
A Sound House
One could buy a complete system, end-to-end, from the house of Bryston Limited. From a source like the BDP-2 to any number of loudspeakers and everything in between. We've taken just the digital sliver, the BDP-2 and BDA-2, to put under our sonic scope. I've been hearing good things about the BDP since it was a 1, so I must admit to being especially excited to get my hands the BDP-2, what Bryston calls a "digital player", and we refer to as a network player. Bryston was kind enough to also send along their matching DAC for a twofer review.
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Steven Plaskin Posted: Sep 04, 2014 12 comments
exaSound Audio Design has managed to carve out a conspicuous place in the high end audiophile DAC market since beginning business less than 4 years ago. Michael Lavorgna reviewed the e20 MK III DAC for AudioStream (see review) and found it to do a fine job on PCM and native DSD playback. The e22 DAC is exaSound’s recently introduced flagship 2 channel DAC having improved on the design of the e20 MKIII to provide a superior level of sound quality. exaSound also builds an e28 DAC that can deliver from 2 to 8 channels of PCM and DSD.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Aug 12, 2014 13 comments
The Little Integrated Amplifier/DAC That Could
The Sony UDA-1 incorporates a 20W x 2 Class AB amplifier (into 4 ohms) and a 24/192 and single and double rate DSD capable DAC (Burr-Brown PCM1795) into a handsome black or silver aluminum covered chunky little chassis. 20 Watts isn't much power but if you have speakers that aren't very demanding, and my DeVore The Nines at 91db and 8 ohms aren't, you can get away with 20 Watts. As a matter of fact, the little UDA-1 from Sony drove The Nines to my sonic satisfaction. There are however some operational quirks you must contend with if you use a Mac to get the most of outta that DSD DAC.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Aug 05, 2014 45 comments
photo credit: Devialet

Luxury Goods
It's funny how in hi-fi some people look at beautifully made gear with scorn. As if that beauty were worse than secondary to its main purpose of playing music. As if beauty was misplaced, as if it was just plain wrong. Of course we're talking about personal taste and nothing more. I happen to appreciate the way things look (and feel) and this pertains to hi-fi as much as anything else. And I find the Devialet kit to exhibit this love of design both in terms of how it looks and feels and of course how it plays music.

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