DAC Reviews

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Steven Plaskin Posted: Oct 27, 2016 0 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 9 comments
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 30 comments
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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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Feb 18, 2016 16 comments
Trickle Down
John Atkinson praised the dCS Vivaldi stack (114,496) in his Measurements section of Michael Fremer's review; "Without any doubt, this was the best digital playback I have experienced." and "When I measured the company's earlier four-box system, the Scarlatti, in 2009, I concluded that it offered 'state-of-the-art measured performance.' The Vivaldi improves on the Scarlatti's performance in almost every way. Wow!" The dCS Rossini DAC inherits a number of things from the Vivaldi including the dCS Digital Processing Platform.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Feb 11, 2016 8 comments
Engineering Cred
Ed Meitner, the man behind EMM Labs, has some serious engineering credentials. These include a number of patents and a few decades' worth of product design and innovation including preampfification, amplification, and all things digital (like the Meitner Intelligent Digital Audio Translator (IDAT) digital processor from 1993). I owned and enjoyed the Museatex Meitner STR55 Stereo Amp back in the '90s when I was living the life of an IT guy by day and loft-living painter by night in NYC. I can still remember loving the ST55's design and sound, a nice change from the behemoths populating the floors of high-end shops like immovable metal heat generating odes to speaker design gone awry.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Dec 30, 2015 22 comments
The Ayre Acoustics Codex is the newest DAC to be released from this well known high end manufacturer located in Boulder, Colorado. Some might initially conclude that the Codex is a stripped-down version of the more expensive Ayre QB-9 DSD DAC, but they would be wrong. The Codex was derived from the design of the audio circuitry for the PonoPlayer that utilized Ayre’s best technology that would fit into a battery-operated device. But the Codex goes far beyond just being a DAC; it provides a first-class headphone amplifier that Ayre claims can drive most any headphone on the market. Also present is a front-panel volume control that operates in the digital domain and retains a full 24 bits of resolution (144 dB of dynamic range all the way down to an attenuation level of -60db).
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Dec 24, 2015 10 comments
Extreme NOS
The Metrum Acoustics Pavane is the company's flagship DAC. Like the recently reviewed and well loved Musette (see review), the Pavane relies on Metrum's own Transient R2R ladder DAC One modules to convert Ds to As. While the Musette uses two, the Pavane employs a total of eight DAC modules, four per channel. Unlike the Musette, the digital data feeding those DAC chips passes through the company's FPGA-resident "forward correction module". What's it correcting?
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Dec 17, 2015 3 comments
There's More Than One Way To Skin A DAC
PS Audio's new NuWave DSD DAC has taken some engineering cues from the company's much-loved DirectStream DAC (see review). While the NuWave does not house the same FPGA-based processing as found in its larger and more costly sibling, it does house a complex programmable logic device (CPLD), a device that sits between a programmable logic device (PAL) and a field programmable gate array (FPGA) in terms of complexity. The CPLD in the NuWave is tasked with one important job; take the incoming bits from the XMOS-based USB receiver and other digital inputs and pass it along to the 32-bit ESS Hyperstream DAC corrected; "discovers sample rate and format, reclocks all incoming data, reduces jitter, waveshapes data output to the DAC chip, and utilizes high speed/low gate count logic to reduce propagation delay for faster throughput". The CLPD accomplishes this in what the company calls "Native Mode" meaning there's no sample rate conversion employed. After the DAC, a passive filter is applied in the analog output stage.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Dec 10, 2015 9 comments
Getting A NOS DAC
Let's agree up front that many Non-Oversampling (NOS) DACs do not perform well under certain test parameters. Aperture effect, which amounts to less than linear frequency response at the extremes, and less than ideal jitter performance (as typically measured) being the more egregious problems, on paper. We have to ask ourselves, why would anyone bother making a NOS DAC? The answer is some people really enjoy the way they sound.