SSI 2012

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Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 23, 2012
Another North American product premier, the Atoll Electronique DAC200 (CA$2,400) offers up to 24-bit/192kHz from each hardwired input including 1 AES/EBU, 5 S/PDIF (2 Coax and 3 Toslink), and 1 Asynchronous USB. There's also an included USB wireless dongle offering up to 16/44.1 CD-quality input. The output side is equally well-endowed with 2 S/PDIF (Coax and Toslink), a pair of RCAs and a pair of XLRs. The DAC200 also incorporates a digital volume control if you'd like to forego a preamp.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 23, 2012
Yet another North American premier, the Lector Digicode S-192 DAC ($6,500) was sitting all dark and handsome in the Audio Arts room. Capable of 24-bit/192kHz playback on each of its five inputs that include 3 S/PDIF (Toslink, RCA and BNC), AES/EBU, and asynchronous USB. There's also a Word Clock input and the outputs include a pair of RCAs, balanced XLRs, and S/PDIF BNC. I hope you can at least make out that faint blue glow because behind it sit a pair of ECC-81/12AT7 vacuum tubes used in the output stage. That little brother to its left (our right) is the external power supply.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 27, 2012
Montréal dealer Audio Occasion was showing the Simaudio Moon 180 MiND ($1,250) and Moon 380D DAC ($3,900 + $600 for variable analog outputs). For those of you who missed my CES 2012 report, you won't notice that all I've done is cut 'n paste this next bit - The MiND (Moon Intelligent Network Device) is a UPnP renderer that suports wired (Ethernet 24-bit/192kHz) and 802.11 b/g/n wireless networking (16-bit/48kHz). It's DNLA 1.5 compatible (meaning it's not DLNA Certified but it may become so in the future), vTuner Radio ready, multi-Zone capable, it supports playlists and gapless playback and it controls all of this with custom Simaudio media server software that'll run on an iPhone, iTouch, iPad or Android device. There are S/PDIF (Coax and TosLink) and AES/EBU digital outputs to connect to your DAC of choice. File formats supported include Wave, FLAC, AIF, AAC, ALAC, MP3 (vbr/cbr), WMA-9, and OGG Vorbis.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 27, 2012
Montreal dealer Audioville offered up Chord's latest Red Reference Mk III CD Player ($26,000) which adds asynchronous USB to its XLR and Toslink inputs. The Chord stack with its distinctive styling consisting of the CPA 8000 Reference Preamplifier ($45,000) and SPM5000 Mk II amplifier ($25,000) driving the KEF Blade speakers ($30,000/pair) looked like it all could have come off of the set of the forthcoming Prometheus Alien prequel film. This was one room where to my ears excessive volume levels had me abort any notion of extended listening.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 27, 2012
In the Avatar Acoustics room, the AMR Digital Processor-777 ($4,995) mixes new and old by offering various digital algorithm filters/listening modes including "Organic, MP Listen, Apodising 808, and Traditional" coupled with tube stages one dedicated to the S/PDIF input that uses a single NOS 6H11P "high-speed valve operating into the 100MHz region" and a pair of NOS 6H1n-EV dual triodes in the analog output stage. There are a host of inputs including 2 x XLR/BNC, 2 x RCA/Toslink and a 24/192 Asynchronous USB and a pair of RCA and XLR outputs and a "Direct-Coupled/Buffered Analogue Volume Control" so you can skip the preamp if you're a digital source kinda gal (or guy).
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 22, 2012
Tim Murison of BitPerfect

If you don't already know (but you should), BitPerfect ($4.99) is an add-on application for iTunes that makes it sound better. BitPerfect also adds some very useful and practical features including automatic sample rate switching, gapless playback, memory playback and integer mode to name just a few. And it does all of that for under five bucks.

Perhaps the most interesting thing we learned in the BitPerfect room at SSI 2012 is the new beta version of BitPerfect ($TBD available "in a few months") sounds a lot better than the existing version. And I'd go as far as saying it sounds a hell of a lot better as it makes your music sound more compelling. More like the kind of musical presentation that you can dive into and get lost within without getting distracted by the fact that you're listening to recorded music through a bunch of stuff.

But from a certain perspective there's bigger news to this news and that's only half of the story.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 25, 2012
I had to go back to the Bricasti room because I forgot to note what converter they were using to connect their laptop from USB to S/PDIF since the M1 DAC as reviewed in Stereophile (twice) did not have a USB input. Well, it does now.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 27, 2012
The CEntrance Audiophile Desktop ($2,000) is meant to be just that—a complete package that even comes delivered in its own protective carry case so you can carry it with you wherever you go (if you so desire). The package consists of a pair of 'MasterClass 2504' passive speakers and the DACmini PX which is a Preamp/Class-D amp/DAC combo that delivers 25W/ch while the DAC can handle 24/192 from the S/PDIF (Coax and Toslink) and 24/96 via USB. There's also a front-mounted 1/4-inch headphone jack and analog input/output.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 26, 2012
All eyes were on Steve Silberman of Audioquest as he demonstrated how to levitate

I was fortunate to be able to sit in on the the Audioquest-sponsored event, "Computer Audio Demystified and Computer Audio Setup for Apple" presented buy Steve Silberman of Audioquest and Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio. This presentation was geared towards people who've taken a bite of Apple and are, of course, curious and hungry for more information about computer audio.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 26, 2012
Jim Hilleges of J River makes the power point

Fortune smiled upon me once again when I made it just in the nick of time to hear J River CEO Jim Hilleges final presentation on Sunday which covered "Computer Audio Demystified for Windows OS and J-River". This was also Jim's third presentation and it took place on Sunday afternoon just an hour before the end of the show and dangerously close to Jim's return home flight-time. So while there was only time for a few questions after Jim's informative presentation, I managed to sneak one in which related to a point he had touched on in his talk.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 26, 2012
Montreal-based hi-fi dealer Coup de Foudre had a number of rooms at SSI 2012 and in the Joseph Audio room they were featuring the Wavelength Brick USB DAC v3 ($1,750). In a twist on tradition, Jeff Joseph who has become renown for his diagonal room setup had his speakers straight but rotated the room 90 degrees.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 26, 2012
In the CdF/Tone Imports/DeVore Fidelity room, the Acoustic Plan DigiMaster USB DAC ($4,750) sat there looking bountifully blue. Capable of 24/192 playback on all inputs including in-house developed asynchronous USB, I2S, and S/PDIF (Coax and Toslink), the DigiMaster also hosts a tube output stage and performs no up or over-sampling. Sitting next door is the matching DriveMaster transport ($4,750).
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 26, 2012
In the CdF/Wilson Audio/VTL Audio room, the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Series 2 ($4,995) sat under their Alpha USB DAC ($5,095). The Series 2 DAC features 24/192 playback via AES/EBU, S/PDIF - BNC, Toslink, and "BADA encrypted RJ-45" which I'll have to look into to see what that's all about. The Alpha USB DAC offers up to 24/192 playback via its asynchronous USB input and includes AES/EBU and S/PDIF BNC inputs. A MacBook Air running Pure Music handled to musical selections which included a number of recordings from Peter Mc Grath of Wilson Audio which share the common quality of sounding simply wonderful.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 23, 2012
The Devialet D-Premier ($16,500) is not new but what is new about it is an integrated Wi-Fi board capable of 24-bit/192kHz transfer according to the Devialet representative I spoke to. But wait, what is the Devialet D-Premier and how the heck are they getting 24/192 over Wi-Fi? I can answer the latter but I'll have to defer the former to Devialet (although I plan to go back tomorrow and see if I can spend some more time on this very subject).
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 23, 2012
The T+A DAC 8 ($TBD but "under $3,000") is making its North American debut at SSI 2012 but in a silent way as it was on silent display. Capable of delivering 24-bit/192kHz on all inputs that include 4 RCA S/PDIF, 1 Toslink, 1 BNC, 1 AES/EBU, 1 Asynchronous USB, and for T+A system owners the "Control Link". Outputs include balanced and single-ended RCAs as well as RCA S/PDIF. The DAC 8 can also act as a preamp as it includes an analog volume control. There's also 4 digital and 2 analog filters so you can shape the sound to your liking. Did I mention there's also a front-mounted headphone jack? And...

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