Preamplifier/DAC Reviews

Sort By: Post Date | Title | Publish Date
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, " 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...
Steven Plaskin  |  Feb 14, 2018
The Empirical Audio Overdrive SX Ethernet DAC/Pre represents Steve Nugent's most current thinking on DAC design. Steve, chief designer and owner of Empirical Audio, has been building Empirical Audio DACs since 2009. His engineering background and experience in digital design have served him well having come up with many original creations and unique approaches in DAC design. The Overdrive SX builds on the basic design of his Overdrive SE, a DAC I reviewed for AudioStream back in 2014.
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.
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.
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.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Dec 29, 2016
Skip The Bits
"Hey, you put DSD in my DAC! You put DAC in my DSD!" The buzz surrounding the T+A DAC 8 DSD is all about octuple-rate DSD; DSD512 (512 times that of CD)/22.5792 MHz. The idea being you use Signalyst's HQPlayer software to convert all of your music to DSD512 before sending it to the DAC 8 so that the latter's "True One Bit DSD Converter" can work its magic. Yea, magic.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Nov 03, 2016
In This Corner...
Weighing in at a fit 16 lbs. with 10 digital inputs and balanced outputs stands the Roon Ready and firmware upgrade-able Ayre QX-5 Tweeeenty! And in this corner, piles of stuff.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Sep 22, 2016
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".
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  |  Feb 18, 2016
Trickle Down
John Atkinson praised the dCS Vivaldi stack (114,496) in his Measurements section of Michael Fremer's review; "Without any doubt, this was the best digital playback I have experienced." and "When I measured the company's earlier four-box system, the Scarlatti, in 2009, I concluded that it offered 'state-of-the-art measured performance.' The Vivaldi improves on the Scarlatti's performance in almost every way. Wow!" The dCS Rossini DAC inherits a number of things from the Vivaldi including the dCS Digital Processing Platform.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Jul 09, 2015
Cary Audio, Raleigh, NC
I can still remember visiting audio retailer Audio Nexus in Summit, NJ back in the '90s and seeing the lovely Cary CAD-300SEI integrated amp which was at the time outside of my comfort price zone. I was heavily into exploring single-ended tube amps and ended up with my first love, the Sun Audio SV-300BE followed by many a Fi amp (I still own the prototype Fi 45), and finally landing very comfortably in the land of Shindo, albeit outside the SET camp. To say that Cary Audio represents an important part of our hi-fi history is to state the obvious and to say that I was looking forward to spending time with their latest DAC would be an understatement.
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
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 19, 2015
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.