Greatest Bits 2012

AudioStream's Greatest Bits 2012 represents every bit, bob, and bobble reviewed this year that has received our Greatest Bits award. I hope you enjoy this year's picks.

Digital to Analog Converters Class A

Resonessence Labs Invicta DAC, $3,995.00
The Resonessence Labs Invicta DAC rang most of my listening preferences bells & whistles like a champ. I found it neither too hot, nor too cold. "Which is to say if you're looking for a DAC (and preamp and dual headphone amp) to connect you to your music in a wonderfully transparent and engrossing way, I would point you to the Resonnessence Labs Invicta without reserve or hesitation." There, I said it again. Read the Full Review

Digital to Analog Converters Class B

Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC, $1,695.00
Don't let that DSD fool ya—the Stereo192-DSD DAC can have its way with regular old PCM and that way is all-natural 100% music. Give it some time to settle in and loosen up and the Mytek becomes an omnivorous music-loving machine. Includes digital and analog volume control, a host of inputs including Firewire, and did I mention it kills with DSD? Read the Full Review

Simple Design Sonore/exD DAC, $1,295.00
The Sonore/exD asynchronous USB DAC delivers two treats in one—rich, full and tasty PCM playback up to 24/192 and native DSD playback to die for (more or less). "I think the Sonore/exD DAC is a real winner." Read the Full Review

Wadia Digital 121Decoding Computer, $1,299.00
The Wadia 121Decoding Computer nearly had me at hello. Here's what I said in the review, "The 121 passed every test I threw at it with flying colors including the did-I-sing-along test (yes), the did-I-feel-sad test (yes), the ever-embarrassing to admit did-I-dance test (yes), and the most important of all the did-I-play test (Oh yea)." With a total of five inputs, single-ended and balanced outputs, and a headphone jack, Wadia has stuffed a lot of their engineering prowess into a nice package. Read the Full Review

Digital to Analog Converters Class C

AudioQuest Dragonfly, $249.00
The AudioQuest Dragonfly started a whole new category of DACs, namely the ultra-small form-factor. Capable of delivering up to 24/96 data via its asynchronous USB input, the very bright Dragonfly also offers software-controlled analog volume which makes it a perfect partner for powered desktop speakers while also an obvious choice as a portable player and headphone amp. The original Dragonfly has since been replaced and displaced from the active List by the Dragonfly v1.2. Read the Full Review

Asus Xonar Essence One MUSES Edition, $899.00 Offering 24/192 playback on all inputs including Asynchronous USB, Coax and Tosklink S/PDIF, single-ended and balanced outputs, and a very nice preamplifier and headphone amp, the MUSES is a budget-priced powerhouse. If you like your music served up mid-range rich and liquidy smooth, the Asus Xonar Essence One MUSES Edition may be for you. Read the Full Review

iFi iDAC, $299.00
The iFi iDAC and iUSBPower take their technology from Abbington Music Research's (AMR) pricier electronics and wraps them into small, affordable packages. The little iDAC is a mid-range rich, 24/192-capable tone monster and the iUSBPower makes it better. Read the Full Review

Integrated Amp/DACs Class B

Peachtree Audio Grand Integrated X-1 Amplifier, $4,499.00
The Grand Integrated packs a lot into its rugged aluminum-clad package including one heck of a punch. With 400 watts of power into 8 ohms and 600 into 4, a 24/192-capable DAC, Asynchronous USB and S/PDIF inputs, line level inputs, an optionally tube-buffered preamp, and a headphone amp, those looking for a one-box solution may have found their mate, "For those people looking to simplify without giving up on performance, I believe the folks at Peachtree have given you one difficult product to pass by." Read the Full Review

Network Players & Streamers Class B

Pioneer Elite N-50 Network Audio Player, $699.00
The Pioneer Elite N-50 offers a lot of features and performance for your hard-earned buck. The N-50 is a UPnP/DLNA Network Player so you can stream from your Network Attached Storage or Hard Drive via Ethernet or Wi-Fi or Airplay and it also includes an asynchronous USB DAC so you can connect your computer and stream away. "There's a world of music out there, waiting, and the Pioneer N-50 can bring it all back home". Read the Full Review

T+A MP 1260 R DAC/Network Client, $4,200.00
The T+A MP 1260 R is one solid performer and its user-selectable filters let you tailor the sound to your source and to your liking. Since I reivewed the T+A, the remote app has been finalized and I got to see it in action and its what I hoped it would be—fun and functional. "I find the T+A MR 1260 R's way with music rock solid and satisfying." Read the Full Review

Storage & Network Attached Storage (NAS) Class B

Synology DiskStation DS212, $300.00/diskless
The Synology DS212 is a 2-bay NAS that's very nicely built and very easy to use due to its excellent interface. The DS212 has been replaced by the DS213 which I would recommend even without an in-home audition. Read the Full Review

Desktop Speakers Class B

ADAM Professional Audio A3X, $329.00/each
My sneaking suspicion paid off. The ADAM ARTists 3's sound captivated me, especially their X-ART (eXtended Accelerating Ribbon Technology) tweeter but I felt the paired down functionality (and price) of the A3Xs would float my boat better. And they did. Just add DAC and you have a desktop that'll drive you to musical distraction. The ADAM A3Xs have joined my permanent collection and they entertain me daily. Read the Full Review

Desktop Speakers Class C

Audioengine 5+ (A5+) Premium Powered Speakers, $399.00/pair in Satin Black or Hi-Gloss White, $469.00/pair Solid Carbonized Bamboo
Four hundred bucks buys you a lot of musical enjoyment with the Audioengine 5+. Well made (I dig the Bamboo) and they come with everything you need to get going. You can always add a DAC at some point if you want to add to your musical enjoyment. Read the Full Review

PSB Alpha PS1 Powered Speaker, $299/pair
The PSB Alpha PS1 powered desktop speakers deliver some crisp, clear, and clean musical mojo. They sound fun and fit on their own and even better when you add your DAC-of-choice. Read the Full Review

Vanatoo Transparent One Powered Speakers, $549/pair
In a word—Fun! Read the Full Review

Cables & Accessories Class A

Synergistic Research Tranquility Base, $995.00 to $2,995.00
The Synergistic Research Tranquility Base has become an indispensable tool for reviewing DACs. The Tranquility Base improves the sound of computers and DACs placed on it in a natural and uncolored fashion. The Base also doubles as an isolation platform with its multiple layer design and the MIG feet supplied. See the Full Review

Cables & Accessories Class B

AudioQuest Cinnamon RJ/E (Ethernet) Cable, $69.00/.75m
The AudioQuest Ethernet cables are the cause of much controversy. But if we suspend disbelief long enough to listen, those people sending their precious music over Ethernet will hear sonic gains with the Cinnamon even if the reasons why that's the case are not readily apparent. Read the Full Review

Cables & Accessories Class C

iFi iUSBPower, $199.00
The iUSBPower can also improve the sound of other USB DACs, just how much will depend on the DAC in question but at $199 I'd say its worth a try. Read the Full Review