Greatest Bits 2016

AudioStream's Greatest Bits 2016 represents every bit, bob, and bobble reviewed this year that has received our Greatest Bits award. I hope you enjoy this year's picks.

Digital to Analog Converts Class A

dCS Rossini DAC & Rossini Clock ($23,999 & $7,499)
The Rossini is more than 24-bit/384kHz and DSD128 capable DAC as it adds a UPnP streamer and volume control to the mix. Of greater importance is its ability deliver all of music's textures, colors, and voice. "The dCS Rossini DAC and Clock are capable of exploding the listening experience into a fabulous psychedelic adventure constrained only by imagination and time." Read the Full Review

Merging Technologies NADAC, $10,500.00 (Stereo)
"The Merging Technologies NADAC is more than capable of delivering the sonic goods for near-endless hours of musical enjoyment. My guess is its appeal, and distinction, is even greater for multichannel users so I'll let Kal Rubinson close out my review, '...I found the NADAC Multichannel-8 flawless. It provided some of the best sound I have ever heard in my home.'" See the Full Review

Playback Designs Merlot DAC $6,500.00
The Playback Designs Sonoma Series consisting of the Syrah Server, Merlot DAC, and OpBox modification of the Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray disc player proved to be among the finest sounding systems Steven Plaskin has experienced. The Syrah Server was a snap to set up and worked flawlessly with the Merlot DAC that was controlled by JRemote (JRiver Media) iPad app or Android app. A wonderful sounding system that supports up to 24/384 kHz, DSD64, DSD128, and DSD256, especially for those that wish to avoid the hassle of setting up a computer. See the Full Review

PS Audio DirectStream Junior, $3,999.00
The DirectStream Junior is more than a DAC as it includes the company's Bridge II network card (soon to be Roon Ready) so you can stream directly from network attached storage to Junior via Ethernet. "If your taste in DACs runs toward smooth, natural, and musically engaging, you may very well find, as I did, that Junior has got the grown up goods." Read the Full Review

MOON by Simaudio Nēo 280D MiND, $2,200.00 (DAC-only version)
"As a $2200 DAC, the Nēo 280D, which I'm going to call "Alice", is at the top of my heap and reaches beyond its price-point bettering the Auralic Vega according to my ears. Seeing as I've never felt this way before, I'd call that sexy." Read the Full Review

T+A DAC 8 DSD, $3995.00
The T+A DAC 8 leapt onto my Favorite DAC list faster than most. "...the T+A grabbed me, shook me (well that was actually the music's domain), and didn't let go. Consider the DAC 8 highly recommended for a very long term audition of your music's guts and glory." Read the Full Review.

Digital to Analog Converts Class C

AudioQuest DragonFly Black ($99.00) and Red ($199.00)
"What I will say is given your system context, either DragonFly can make you very happy as they both fly way above their weight. The more resolving the associated gear and the more demanding the headphone, the more I'd bet on Red." Read the Full Review

Greatest Bits Network Players & Streamers Class A

Ayre Acoustics QX-5 Twenty Digital Hub, $8,950.00
"If you are on the lookout for a one-box solution for all of your digital needs and don't want to think about anything other than music, I'd recommend placing the Ayre QX-5 Twenty on your must-hear list." Read the Full Review

Musica Pristina Virtuoso Network DAC, $16,497.00
"The Virtuoso network DAC is a perfectionist product that focuses on musical performance. The Roon Ready feature of the Virtuoso network DAC ensures ease of setup and function with a first-class software and software remote control. The superb sound quality of the Virtuoso Network DAC places it in the special category of audiophile DACs that possess liquidity and a natural richness in the reproduction of music." Read the Full Review Playback Designs Syrah Server $6,500.00
The Playback Designs Sonoma Series consisting of the Syrah Server, Merlot DAC, and OpBox modification of the Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray disc player proved to be among the finest sounding systems Steven Plaskin has experienced. The Syrah Server was a snap to set up and worked flawlessly with the Merlot DAC that was controlled by JRemote (JRiver Media) iPad app or Android app. A wonderful sounding system that supports up to 24/384 kHz, DSD64, DSD128, and DSD256, especially for those that wish to avoid the hassle of setting up a computer. See the Full Review

Sonore microRendu, $640.00 w/o power supply
The Sonore microRendu captured my heart and ears. "If you own a USB DAC and want to play network-attached music through it, the Sonore microRendu is currently the best option I've come across—regardless of price."Read the Full Review

Sonore Signature Series Rendu, $2,895.00
The Sonore Signature Series Rendu is a no fuss, no muss network player that delivers sonic performance on par with any player I've reviewed. "I love, love, love the idea of getting my MacBook out of my hi-fi. The Sonore Signature Series Rendu offers up as good a case for doing so as I've encountered so far." Read the Full Review

totaldac d1-integral-headphone music server/DAC, 8400euros incl VAT
"Combining a totaldac with Roon/Tidal HiFi is not only wonderful in theory, it is wonderful in practice. For those looking for a one-box solution for serving their preamp or amp streaming music, the d1-integral-headphone music server/DAC is one very appealing product if you like your music served up with a heavy dose of humanity." Read the Full Review

Greatest Bits Network Players & Streamers Class B

ELAC Discovery Series DS-S101-G Music Server, $1,599.00
"If I was just starting out, I'd also be thinking—Wow, I can get the Discovery, attach a USB drive to it, plug it into my hi-fi, and play music." The Discovery may be all most music lovers need. Read the Full Review

Media Servers Class A

Fidelizer Nimitra Computer Audio Server, $1,395.00
The Fidelizer Nimitra Computer Audio Server is a low powered computer with parts chosen for optimum sound quality. It uses a modified Windows 10 Pro operating system that besides being Roon Ready, an HQPlayer NAA device, also has the JPlay Streamer. It employs the Asset Server software for the JPlay Streamer, both a UPnP software. This reviewer was pleased with Nimitra’s sound using Roon, but was most impressed with the sound of the JPlay Streamer. Read the Full Review

Cables & Accessories Class A

Shunyata Research Denali Series, D6000/T ($4,995), D6000/S ($3,995), D2000/T ($2,995)
The Shunyata Research Denali Series is one of the most impressive power conditioners that Steven Plaskin has yet experienced, Not only is it effective with low-current components, but does a spectacular job in conditioning high current amps. The 3 Denali models allow one to easily integrate a Denali into one’s system. See the Full Review

Synergistic Research Tranquility Base UEF, $2250.00, MIG 2.0 Isolation Footers with HFT Technology $249.00 for a set of 3 if purchased separately
Steve Plaskin felt Synergistic Research's goal of improvement to the performance of the Tranquility Base been achieved in their release of the Tranquility Base UEF. See the Full Review

Wireworld Starlight Cat8 Ethernet Cable, $210/1m
The Wireworld Starlight CAT8 Ethernet Cable was found to be an extremely detailed and dynamic sounding Ethernet cable. At $210 for a 1 meter length, it offers, what many would consider, state-of-the-art sound for a very reasonable price. See the Full Review

Wireworld Technology Platinum Starlight 7 USB 2.0 Cable, 700.00/1m
The Wireworld Platinum Starlight 7 is among the finest sounding USB cables I have had the opportunity to evaluate. This cable combines an up-front sound with superb reproduction of detail and dynamics. The Platinum Starlight 7 USB cable is the quietest USB cable I have heard in my system. See the Full Review

Cables & Accessories Class B

Highend-AudioPC AudiophileOptimizer, $129.00
Steven Plaskin found that the AudiophileOptimzier made a significant improvement in the sound of his Windows 10 Pro music system. The ability to fine tune the sound of his system was another feature that was found to be very useful. See the Full Review

iFi Audio micro - iUSB 3.0, $129.00
The micro-iUSB3.0 is iFi Audio's "total USB solution" that was found to outperform their previous efforts when compared to the iUSB and the iPurifer. Also improved was the iPower AC/DC power supply. Steven Plaskin found the iUSB3.0 to make a significant improvement in the sound of his Analog DAC especially when the supplied USB 3.0 cable was upgraded. See the Full Review

Intona Technology USB 2.0 High-Speed Isolator, $348.00
The Intona USB 2.0 High-Speed Isolator was very effective in isolating computer noise with galvanic isolation. The High-Speed Isolator also repacketizes and provides clean power to the USB DAC. The Industrial version was evaluated and found to make a positive impact on the sonics of Steven Plaskin’s MSB Technology Analog DAC. Read the Full Review

UpTone Audio UltraCap LPS-1, $395.00
My choice to power my microRendu. "While there are any number of other options out there including those from HDPlex, SOtM, Jamco, and a host of others with more on the way as we saw at RMAF, I did not compare and contrast the UltraCap LPS-1 with any similarly-priced supplies. Why? Because I like and respect John Swenson, even though we've never met, and I went with the hunch that his UltraCap LPS-1 would deliver the goods. It does." Read the Full Review

Wyred 4 Sound Recovery USB Reclocker, $249.00
Steve Plaskin wrote, "At $199.00, the Wyred 4 Sound Recovery USB Reclocker offers excellent performance at a very reasonable price." Read the Full Review