Preamplifier/DAC Reviews

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Michael Lavorgna  |  Apr 24, 2014
The New Young DSD DAC
The original M2Tech Young DAC was very favorably reviewed by Jon Iverson in Stereophile (see review), "The M2Tech combo's performance had seduced me—where I usually return to the Benchmark once I've done my critical listening to any DAC I'm reviewing, this time I left the Young and Palmer in the system until the morning I had to ship them out. I didn't want to let them go." The Young DSD version adds a number of features to the original including a digital preamplifier with analog volume control, adjustable output level, true balanced output, USB 2.0 compatibility so no drivers are required for Mac users, and of course the ability to play back both 64x and 128x DSD, the latter available via USB.
Rafe Arnott  |  Jan 09, 2019
Struggle. We all have at least a couple in one form or another as we live our lives, be they verb or noun. My father taught me that while struggle in life was inevitable, it was about how we dealt with it that mattered the most. Regardless, there is struggle and it is real for many for us… and at many different budget levels. What struggle am I referring to you ask? The struggle for an end-game preamplifier of course.
Steven Plaskin  |  Apr 25, 2013
General Description of The Analog DAC
The Analog DAC is MSB Technology’s newest DAC model that was designed to offer audiophiles a DAC that is analog-like in sound quality, but without the limitations of dynamics and distortion. As it just so happens, The Analog DAC is the least expensive of the DACs offered by MSB Technology, but offers a number of features found in their more expensive models.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Sep 22, 2016
Brooklyn
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".
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 03, 2012
Pre-amplification
A number of readers asked a very relevant question after reading my initial review of the Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC—how about its preamplifier? And my response was—excellent question I will report back. In the mean time I received the Pass Labs INT-30A integrated amplifier on loan for just this purpose. The INT-30A allows you to essentially remove its buffered volume control from the circuit by simply turning the volume up to its maximum level (step 63). As Nelson Pass explained in Erick Lichte's excellent review of the INT-150A (which employs the same volume control as the INT-30A) in Stereophile, "First there is a selector switch, which is just relays, and then there's a buffer that drives the volume control. The output of that goes to the amp, and then you're done. There's not a lot there." While one needs to be careful A/B/C'ing (in this case) when dealing with a maximum level setting, this made for a very simple and effective means of comparing the Mytek's three preamplifier settings—Bypass, Analog, and Digital—with the Pass Labs INT-30A's. So on with the A,B,Cs of preamplification!
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 19, 2015
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  |  Aug 07, 2012
Catching the DSD Buzz
The Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC was unveiled at last year's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest right around the time of AudioStream's public launch. As we both approach our first birthday, it seems somehow appropriate that I'm finally taking a closer look and listen. Direct Stream Digital (DSD). There I said it. Most of the buzz at RMAF 2011 was the Mytek's ability to play back DSD natively and while this is truly buzz-worthy for a number of reasons, I'd say that's only about half the story.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Jun 04, 2015
Direct Digital Trickles Down (and Up)
NAD's C 510 inherits its impressive innards from the company's M2 Direct Digital Amp (see Stereophile's review) and M51 DAC (see Stereophile's review). All incoming digital data (up to 24/192 PCM), the C 510 does not offer any analog inputs, is converted to a pulse-width-modulation (PWM) signal at a sampling rate of 844kHz before being converted to analog. Volume control is also handled in the digital domain and the C 510's 35-bit architecture allows for transparency at any level, in theory. Here's more from NAD, "Due to the very high clock speed [108MHz] and mathematical precision of our reconstruction filters, the resulting audio signal is totally free of digital artifacts like ringing." I suppose the only question remaining is—does all this work to make digital sound less...digital?
Steven Plaskin  |  Jun 16, 2016
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  |  Jun 19, 2014
A Direct Stream
There was a lot of information surrounding the launch of PS Audio's DirectStream DAC. The company released a series of videos on YouTube (see videos) explaining some of the technology behind their new DAC, featuring the DAC's designer Ted Smith. There was also a white paper (see paper) that went into some detail regarding how the DirectStream handles DSD which is, according to them, unusual. Essentially what we're looking at and listening to is an FPGA-based D to A design as opposed to a chip-based solution that leaves DSD in its native 1-bit format. But that's not all.
Rafe Arnott  |  Sep 02, 2018
Separation anxiety. We’ve all suffered from it at some point in our lives.
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.
Rafe Arnott  |  Jun 11, 2018
Initial listening impressions of the PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell DAC/pre and Stellar Mono Blocks.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 03, 2012
Megahertz Tickles
The Invicta DAC is the first product from Resonessence Labs. The main man behind Resonnessence is Mark Mallinson, former Operations Director for ESS Technology and if you know about ESS Technology you'll know they make, among other things, the line of ESS Sabre DACs that you find inside a number of DACs from companies including Peachtree Audio, Weiss, Wavelength Audio, Wyred 4 Sound, Mytek Digital and many more. And now you can also find them inside the Resonessence Labs Invicta.
Steven Plaskin  |  Mar 03, 2015
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.

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