DAC Reviews

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Michael Lavorgna  |  Feb 15, 2012
Getting High (definition) Without Wires
The Audioengine D2 DAC is one of a new and few breed of wireless DACs capable of sending, receiving, and playing high definition music up to 24-bit/96kHz. As a matter of fact, I know of no other wireless DAC that'll do the same, today. Of course there are loads of UPnP streamers out there that include wireless capabilities but I'm talking about just-a-DAC with 24/96 wireless capabilities built-in (i.e. no dongle needed). One basic difference is wireless DACs are file format agnostic whereas streamers are not. They're more picky. And most streamers piggyback on your existing wi-fi network whereas the D2 provides its own.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Feb 06, 2012
Confessions of a Happy Procrastinator
I’ll admit I dillied and dallied before writing this review. Part of the reason being the Rein Audio X-DAC doesn’t announce its presence in any overt way. Every time I went looking for it, I ended up just listening to and enjoying the music. And that’s all right by me.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Jan 24, 2012
The Weight
The Audioengine D1 DAC is the latest product from a company whose products I would describe as no nonsense in a hobby not exactly famous for no nonsense. I ran into Audioengine co-founders Brady Bargenquast and Dave Evans earlier this month at their booth in the South Hall of CES 2012 and when they asked what I thought about a certain DAC, I began to describe in standard audiophile-speak its sonic merits and demerits. I believe it was when the word "resolute" left my lips that I saw the most obvious signs of fatigue weigh down on them like the prospect of Sisyphus' boulder sitting once again at the bottom of that big-ass hill.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Jan 04, 2012
It’s Easy
As Sam Tellig said in his review of the Musical Fidelity V-DAC II in the January 2012 issue of Stereophile, there really shouldn’t be much uncertainty or confusion surrounding computer audio and high resolution downloads. Oh wait, here’s what Sam actually wrote, “There’s so much uncertainty and confusion surrounding computer audio and high-resolution downloads.” OK, we don't see eye to eye.

Sam also wonders/worries, “Which hi-rez format will win out? How do you store the downloads you’ve bought (Easy. Don’t buy them.) How do you access them? Will digital rights management (DRM) cramp your style, or data storage fees for cloud computing crumple your wallet?”

Michael Lavorgna  |  Dec 26, 2011
Code Name: M1 DAC-A (for Asynchronous)
The Musical Fidelity M1 DAC under review today is not the same Musical Fidelity M1 DAC that's been around since June/July 2010. This one is new and improved as of a November 2011 street date namely adding an Asynchronous USB input capable of handling 24-bit/96kHz data and adding $50 to its price tag (the old M1 DAC's adaptive USB input was limited to 16/48). There are also some minor changes to the choke-filtered power supply but for those users who skip the USB input, the M1 DAC is very nearly its old self. For those people looking for a 24/96 Async USB DAC, this M1 may as well be all new.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Dec 08, 2011
Green Means Go
The playGo USB is to my way of seeing a fine industrial design. It’s clearly not your typical black stamped-metal box with a slightly fancier façade kinda deal. Rather these things, the transmitter and receiver, have character. Made from DuPont’s Corian of kitchen counter fame, there’s one that’s round (the transmitter) and another that’s square with rounded edges (the receiver). Both sandwich an opening so you can see their LCDs glow to signify various operating modes; solid red (power is on but the devices do not see each other), solid green (power is on the devices see each other), pulsing green (music is playing) and pulsing red, green and blue (power is on and the units are in connecting mode). While you can defeat the LCD display, why would you want to especially this time of year. I actually like their cool warm glow and the amount of light they emit is not too much for me. Om.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Nov 18, 2011
I can remember the first time I saw a picture of the Bel Canto SET 40 power amplifier which employed a pair of 845 triode output tubes surrounded by some cool-ass Metropolis/Tesla/Frankenstein-looking tube cages and thinking—these guys are different. Fast forward to today which is a far cry from any of the futures envisioned by anyone even in 1990 when Bel Canto Design first opened its lab for business and we find a bevy of products housed in the same clothes regardless of function; switching power amplifiers, preamplifiers, DACs, a CD player, a CD transport, and an integrated amplifier. While the tubes have disappeared, the feeling that these guys are different remains.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Nov 14, 2011
Let's get the not so good technical news out of the way up front–the DAC 1 Wireless USB Digital-to-Analogue Converter transmits and receives at 16 bit/ 44kHz max. We're talking CD quality sound (actually potentially better since we're also talking about computer-based audio). The good news is the DAC 1 creates its own point-to-point 2.4 GHz wireless network meaning you don't need to have an existing wireless network to plug and play.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Nov 07, 2011
A true Asynchronous USB DAC using Wavelength's Streamlength software capable of handling 24 bit/96kHz for $550? Including cables?
Michael Lavorgna  |  Nov 02, 2011
This list has been replaced by this list.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Sep 27, 2011
J. Gordon Rankin is the Owner and Chief Scientist at Wavelength Audio. If you’re new to Wavelength Audio and you came to them through the usbdacs.com website, you may be surprised to learn that J. Gordon Rankin has been at this from way back before NOS stood for non-oversampling. Gordon has been designing and building Single-Ended Tube Amplifiers using NOS (new old stock) tubes since the early 1980s.
Jon Iverson  |  Feb 23, 2011
Art Dudley and others have covered the first products released by HRT, and now the company has added to its product line a Pro version of its Music Streamer, which sports balanced circuit design from tip to tail.

Housed in the same simple, functional, six-sided case of extruded aluminum as HRT's other products, the Pro is painted a bright blue to distinguish it from the Music Streamer II (red) and Music Streamer II+ (gray). At 5.6" it is also a tad longer than the others, and includes a single B-type USB 1.1 jack centered on one end, and two small, fully balanced TiniQ output jacks on the other. More about these special mini sockets later.

John Atkinson  |  Jun 14, 2010
I have built up a large collection of CDs since the medium's launch more than a quarter century ago, along with a modest number of SACDs and a small number of DVD-As. But I find these days that, unless I'm getting down to some serious listening and can give the music my uninterrupted attention, I use iTunes to feed computer files to my high-end rig (footnote 1). I've mostly been using the superb-sounding combination of dCS Puccini U-Clock and Puccini player/DAC that I reviewed last December to take a USB feed from a Mac mini, but I've also been using the Bel Canto USB Link 24/96 and Stello U2 USB-S/PDIF converters, particularly for headphone listening, when I use one of those two format converters with a Benchmark DAC1 D/A headphone amplifier.
Wes Phillips  |  Oct 16, 2009
These days, it seems you can't shake a stick without hitting a USB DAC, but Ayre's QB-9 ($2500) is something a little different. Ayre's marketing manager, Steve Silberman, was adamant: "The QB-9 isn't a computer peripheral. It makes computers real high-end music sources."
Art Dudley  |  Jun 23, 2009
While my enthusiasm for the long-discontinued Sony PlayStation 1 remains high (see the July 2008 Stereophile), I freely acknowledge that not every high-end audio enthusiast wants a CD player with an injection-molded chassis, a Robot Commando handset, and a remarkable lack of long-term reliability: Yes, the Sony sounds wonderful, but sound isn't everything.

Nor is an expensive high-end CD player the answer to everyone's needs. With world-class LP players available for a few thousand dollars and up, some hobbyists are, if anything, increasingly reluctant to spend that much or more on a medium they consider to be inherently inferior.

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