DAC Reviews

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Steven Plaskin  |  Mar 26, 2015
The Wavelength Audio Quotient DAC Module is a new upgrade for the Crimson High Speed USB DAC that has added DSD 64 / DSD 128 as well as support for PCM files up to 32/384 kHz. But the Quotient Q1 adds far more to the Crimson than just DSD and increased PCM sampling rate support. Gordon Rankin has gone back to the drawing board for this new DAC module resulting in a number of improvements for his flagship DAC.
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  |  Mar 05, 2015
Out Of This Galaxy
Exo (out of this) + gal (galaxy). Exogal came to Earth in 2013, formed by four audio industry veterans, Jim Kinne, Larry Jacoby, Jeff Haagenstad, and Jan Larsen, "who worked for the some of the biggest names in the industry." From Exogal, "Jim Kinne is the technical heart and soul of Exogal. He’s a legendary audio engineer who’s produced countless award-winning products in his career, including the Wadia 27 decoding computer, Wadia 270 CD transport and the Wadia 790 PowerDAC, to name a few." Exogal currently has three products that include the Comet DAC, the Ion Digital Amplifier, and the Comet Upgraded Power Supply. Today we'll be probing the Comet DAC.
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.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Feb 19, 2015
I Like Bluetooth
Audioengine makes a number of well-priced products that deliver their fair share of musical enjoyment. I favorably reviewed their A5+ speakers (see review) and we own two pairs of their original A2 speakers. Under inspection today is their B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver which adds Bluetooth connectivity to any hi-fi while also offering an internal DAC as well as a Toslink output if you already own a DAC you enjoy. What's the point of Bluetooth? Fun.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Nov 13, 2014
Korg
Korg views their DS-DAC-100 and AudioGate 3 software as a single product, a team that delivers up to double rate DSD natively as well as PCM resolutions to 24/192. You can elect to have the Audiogate software upsample everything you play through it or leave it set for bit perfect playback. The DS-DAC-100 also doubles as a headphone amp with its front-mounted 3/4" jack and associated volume control and I find it's Cheshire Cat smile shape to be a nice change from the ordinary.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 30, 2014
Converto
Italy's Pathos Acoustics is known in part for their sumptuously designed hi-fi gear. While today's Converto is somewhat understated, there are enough aesthetic touches to keep it apart from the mainstream black box crowd. A two-tone aluminum chassis with an engraved top plate wrap itself around the business innards of a DAC and headphone amp with a fully balanced class A analog output stage.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Sep 11, 2014
A Sound House
One could buy a complete system, end-to-end, from the house of Bryston Limited. From a source like the BDP-2 to any number of loudspeakers and everything in between. We've taken just the digital sliver, the BDP-2 and BDA-2, to put under our sonic scope. I've been hearing good things about the BDP since it was a 1, so I must admit to being especially excited to get my hands the BDP-2, what Bryston calls a "digital player", and we refer to as a network player. Bryston was kind enough to also send along their matching DAC for a twofer review.
Steven Plaskin  |  Sep 04, 2014
exaSound Audio Design has managed to carve out a conspicuous place in the high end audiophile DAC market since beginning business less than 4 years ago. Michael Lavorgna reviewed the e20 MK III DAC for AudioStream (see review) and found it to do a fine job on PCM and native DSD playback. The e22 DAC is exaSound’s recently introduced flagship 2 channel DAC having improved on the design of the e20 MKIII to provide a superior level of sound quality. exaSound also builds an e28 DAC that can deliver from 2 to 8 channels of PCM and DSD.
Steven Plaskin  |  Jul 03, 2014
Over the years, I have owned several Esoteric SACD players. I have always been impressed with the exceptional build quality and massive VRDS disc drives. The D-02 Dual Mono D/A Converter, second from the top in the Esoteric lineup, has an accompanying P-02 SACD transport with the VRDS-NEO drive mechanism. Being a computer audiophile, I have moved away from disc drives and have embraced a computer transport. Certainly, there are plusses and minuses to each type of transport, but for me, the ability to access my very large library with a remote control is essential. Esoteric has not been evading the use of computer transports, but does offer an Asynchronous USB Class 2.0 input for the D-02 DAC.
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.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Jun 03, 2014
6 Sawbucks
Think of the places and ways you can spend $60. The possibilities are limitless and in hi-fi, six Hamilton's doesn't typically buy you much. Even in the virtual cable isle, you'd have to move way down to the "Budget" section to find anything in this price range. Today we'll be listening to a DAC, of all things, that'll run you sixty bucks. Bam!
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 27, 2014
The Objective DAC
Once upon a time, there was a guy who went by the name of NwAvGuy (Northwest Audio Video Guy). I don't know much else about him except what I've learned from reading his blog (see nwavguy.blogspot.com) which you'll see hasn't been updated since May 9, 2012. As far as I know, no one knows the true identity of NwAvGuy or why he chose to disappear from the scene at the height of fame, having just released his statement ODAC. Perhaps Sherwood Forest needed him back.
Steven Plaskin  |  May 20, 2014
Michael Lavorgna did an in-depth job reviewing Vincent Brient’s Totaldac d1-dual DAC (see review) and his Totaldac d1-server (see review) for AudioStream last September and December. Michael not only found the Totaldac d1-dual DAC to be one of the finest DACs he has experienced, but was very impressed with the clarity and abundant musical qualities of this DAC.
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.

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