DAC Reviews

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Alex Halberstadt  |  Jul 10, 2018
The several months I’ve spent living with the DENAFRIPS Terminator have been nothing but consistent, feral fun.
Steven Plaskin  |  Apr 26, 2018
As an audio reviewer, there are times I find it necessary to pull back from over-analyzing the sound of a product and get back to the fundamentals that drew me into this hobby in the first place. Engaging musicality can often be lost to one that is focusing on specifics such as soundstage, bass, dynamics, and resolution. The Métronome Technologie C5+ DAC, a DAC designed and manufactured in France, is a high-end product that helped me get back to the audio place that all of us are ultimately seeking.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 08, 2018
On a lovely March evening, Herb Reichert, Alex Halberstadt, Stephen Mejias, and I met up at John DeVore's place for The Great DAC-Off!
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 01, 2018
Imagine your uncle Bob comes over unannounced and before he rings the bell, your doorbell rings. That's not right. That's not natural. Thankfully, the Stellar Gain Cell DAC/Preamp comes with your choice of three filters which, among other things, offer differences in ringing; Filter 1 is a Slow Roll-Off Linear Phase filter which offers the least amount of ringing. Filter 2 provides better high-frequency response but its Fast Roll-off Minimum Phase filter lets in some post-ringing. Filter 3 is Bob's your uncle.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Feb 15, 2018
I first reviewed a totaldac, the d1-Dual DAC, in September of 2014 wherein I said, "...you end up with a presentation that sounds so natural, so life-like, it leads you directly to the music being played with very little reminder that you are in fact listening through a hi-fi." In 2016, I gathered up the funds to buy a totaldac d1-six. Here's what I said about that, "...I am meaningfully delighted, over and over again." As we all know seven is bigger than six, which leads me to believe the d1-seven...
Michael Lavorgna  |  Feb 01, 2018
I reported on my positive impressions of the Prism Sound Callia DAC from RMAF and the the New York Audio Show which is unusual as I typically refrain from making comments on sound at shows. But the Callia intrigued me into it. If you look at the dates of those reports, you'll see it's taken some time to get a Callia here. It was worth the wait.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Jan 04, 2018
"It's her nose." Imagine reading a critical analysis of da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" and said analysis of the painting's enduring popularity was pinned on her nose. Ridiculous right? (the answer is yes, that's ridiculous). Imagine reading a review of a DAC and the critical analysis pinned its performance on the D/A chip. That's equally ridiculous.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Nov 16, 2017
Nothin' Bugs Me

To my way of thinking, if you want a DAC that offers USB, Optical, and Bluetooth inputs and you want it to sound good without deciding between it and a car, I have news for you.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Sep 21, 2017
Short & Sweet
As promised, I am here to talk about 2 other variations on the BACCH4Mac theme; using the included RME Babyface as DAC, and going USB out of the BACCh4Mac-housing Mac into my DAC. Please consider the review proper recommended since I will not be re-hashing the BACCH story.
Steven Plaskin  |  Sep 14, 2017
It's hard to believe that over three years has passed since I last reviewed a Wyred 4 Sound DAC. At that time, I found the DAC-2 DSDse to have "flawless function and performance that was a joy to experience." I now found myself very curious to see what E.J. Sarmento has come up with for today's computer audiophile. For those of you that aren't acquainted with E. J. Sarmento's California company, Wyred 4 Sound not only builds DACs, but offers power amps, preamps, integrated amps, music servers, along with cables and numerous accessories for the audiophile marketplace. The DAC-2v2 SE is Wyred 4 Sound's latest design that builds on their DAC-2v2 by adding many improvements to the basic design.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Jul 20, 2017
Opto-logic
It means light. Light is used to couple the digital to the analog boards instead of metal/wire so that electrical noise stays away from the analog circuitry where it can do all kinds of harm we can hear. The "A" in DAC stands for Analog which seems to go without saying but some people get stuck on the "D" making the false assumption that digital is "perfect". As perfect as free-range unicorns.
Alex Halberstadt  |  Jun 28, 2017
"If it measures good and sounds bad—it’s bad. If it measures bad and sounds good, you’ve measured the wrong thing." —Daniel R. von Recklinghausen, Chief Engineer, H.H. Scott.

The main thing I’ve learned after an adulthood of listening to recorded music is that we still don’t really understand what makes it fun. What I mean is the factors that make music reproduction emotionally engaging (as opposed to accurate sounding) remain, to a significant extent, a mystery. This is especially true of digital. Which makes sense—the phonograph disk has been around since Emile Berliner introduced it in 1889. Digital encoding arrived nearly a century later, and after three-decades-and-change we’re still getting our heads around how to make it sound like music.

Ola Björling  |  May 04, 2017
photo credits: Aqua Hifi unless otherwise noted

In my day job I interact with people holding PHD's in various tech fields, including audio. Any faith these folks have in my cognitive faculties has a tendency to ebb quickly when they find out I prefer music on vinyl, even if—and, perhaps, especially if—it's mastered digitally at 16/44.1. My response is to regurgitate a spiel on how music exists for the purpose of pleasure, and I simply tend to receive more of that through vinyl, measurements be damned. Depending on the degree of hostility I might also opt to say that signal to noise ratio is not a genre I care for, and try to change the topic.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 16, 2017
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.
Steven Plaskin  |  Feb 23, 2017
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.

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