Weiss MAN301DAC Music Archive Network Player Page 2

The Integrita Music Server (NAS)
The Integrita is a NAS device running Twonky Media Server with 5 SATA-II "Professional AV discs, designed for 24/7 use". The Integrita is configured in a RAID 6 array which essentially means it provides fault tolerance for up to two drive failures. Since the unit I had for review came preconfigured with a total of 10TB of storage (6TB usable storage), I did not have to set up any user accounts or permissions but that's basically all you have to do to get started. Well that and copy your music into the Music directory. The Integrita web-based control panel is very easy to use and adding users and directories is simply a matter of clicking "Add" and typing names.

During the listening, I played back some of the same music from the Integrita NAS and my Western Digital MyBook NAS and I would be hard pressed to offer any meaningful description of sonic differences. The way I see it, the Integrita's main appeal relates to its ease of use, form factor (it looks like an audio component), RAID Level 6 format which protects against two drive failures, coupled with its single purpose design. While the Integrita does add to the cost of similarly outfitted regular old NAS devices (you can buy a 5-bay diskless Synology NAS for about $750 and you can get 5x 3TB drives for around $135/each), whether or not this premium is worth it is up to the buyer.

If I had to pick one word to describe the sound of the Weiss MAN301DAC, it would be clean. There's an unmistakable clarity to the presentation that suggests you are hearing what the recording holds without any editorializing or fluff. Music sounds crisp, clear, and precise. Unvarnished if you will. Let me be quick to add that I never had any sense of fatigue or edginess during my extended listening sessions so please do not interpret crisp and clean as being an offhand way of suggesting something negative. On the contrary, I view this aspect of the 301's presentation as a plus.

While I've heard more air or atmosphere in and around instruments, the sonic picture portrayed by the MAN301 was believably solid. Bass is tight and well defined and that's actually another descriptor I'd add to the list of overall sonic traits of the MAN301DAC—it sounds tight and muscular as opposed to soft and billowy like the Teac UD-501 (see review). Upper frequencies are very well delineated and things that should sound hot, do. Instrumental timbres are given a nice broad range but something like the MSB Technology Analog DAC (see review) provides a broader tonal palette and more organic sound overall. The MAN301DAC by comparison leans more toward the clinical and resolute side of the sonic coin. As I mentioned earlier, I did notice a slight softening of the overall sonic picture when using my Pass to handle volume control and this softening was to my ears a preferable change.

The MAN301 can, as of a recent firmware upgrade, play back DSD files however the software converts DSD to PCM prior to playback. I asked Daniel Weiss about this:

The advantage of this method over a native DSD D/A Converter is that the filter which is necessary to get rid of the RF noise is done in the digital domain, i.e. it can be implemented with linear phase filters for minimum sonic penalties. In the native DSD DAC that filter is in the analog domain with the phase problems we all know.
Listening to DSD music did not necessarily suggest there were any negative aspects to this conversion but there was not as great a distinction or difference between PCM and DSD as I've heard from other players like the Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC (see review). There also wasn't that same sense of extreme 3-dimensional space that other DACs like the Meitner MA-2 (see review) offers but there was a very nice sense of fine-grained resolution.

Summing It All Up
There are two kinds of people in computer audio (well there's really a lot more but bear with me)—those who enjoy messing with a computer and those who don't. I view the Weiss MAN301DAC as mainly appealing to the latter type. Someone looking for a pre-packaged solution that works well, is easy to use, and offers good sonic performance. One question for that kind of buyer is, should they go with the MAN301 DAC version or the server-only and roll their own DAC? While the answer to that question lies in the listening, I personally enjoy having the ability to change DACs as technology changes while keeping my music storage and serving as stable as possible. But there's no arguing over the appeal of a one-box preamp/music server/network player/CD player/ripper/DAC solution and the Weiss MAN301DAC makes a strong case for itself in every respect.

Of equal importance, the Weiss iPad app is a pleasure to use, very easy to learn, and very flexible in terms of playback and search options. Add in the ability to rip your CDs and stream from Internet radio sources and you've got yourself one commanding view of the musical world at your fingertips.

Associated Equipment

Also on hand and in use during the Weiss MAN301DAC review: MSB Technology The Analog DAC, Meitner MA-2