Greatest Bits 2013

AudioStream's Greatest Bits 2013 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

Auralic Vega Digital Audio Processor, $3,500.00
To say that I was wowed by the Auralic Vega is an understatement. "Its ability to turn music reproduction into an engaging and thrilling musical experience is simply stunning. Offering up to DXD and 2x DSD playback, the AURALiC Vega has everything going for it that a DAC should and then some." Read the Full Review

Light Harmonic Da Vinci DAC, $20,000.00
Steve Plaskin wrote, "I feel that the Da Vinci represents a significant advancement in digital reproduction. Its strengths are easy to identify and a joy to listen to. Listening to the Da Vinci was addicting as it allowed me to enjoy music for hours on end without fatigue. Anyone looking for a world-class DAC, regardless of price, owes it to themselves to audition the Da Vinci." Read the Full Review

Luxman DA-06 DAC, $6,000.00
If you're looking for analog-like ease, you're looking in the right place. "Capable of handling up to 32/384kHz PCM and double rate DSD, the Luxman DA-06 is one luxury that pays off in musical enjoyment as rich as the contents of your music collection." Read the Full Review

Meitner MA-2, 11,000.00
The Meitner MA-2 is all that (and more), capable of playing back PCM and DSD that'll knock your music-loving socks off. "The Meitner MA-2 presents as complete and compelling a sound picture as I've heard, transforming digital data into a seemingly living, breathing, and utterly believable musical experience. Read the Full Review

MSB Technology The Analog DAC, $6,995.00 (as reviewed)
Steve Plaskin wrote, "For those of us that have enjoyed this hobby over many years, there are a few products that come along in one’s audiophile life that leave a lasting impression on the listener. The Analog DAC is one of those products. It not only reproduces music with excellent detail and focus, but is one of the most natural sounding DACs I have ever heard." Read the Full Review

SOtM sDP-1000 DAC and Pre-Amplifier, $2,900.00
The battery-powered SOtM sDP-1000 DAC and Pre-Amplifier can function as a full-function preamp along with a 32-bit/192kHz and DSD DAC. "More importantly, the sDP-1000's sonic performance is at once delicate, nuanced, and finely detailed with stunning low-level resolution offering a clear window onto your music." Read the Full Review

totaldac d1-Dual DAC, $12,100.00
The totaldac announced its presence with a sweet, clear voice from the get go and it just got better from there. "With PCM data, the totaldac d1-Dual DAC is one of the finest sounding DACs I've had the pleasure to live with. It is at once natural sounding, dynamically realistic, effortlessly fluid, tonally complex, and it portrays a very solid and life-like sound image for you to explore. Add to that an absolutely astounding sense of clarity and you have yourself one helluva impressive and above all else one helluva musical DAC." Read the Full Review

Digital to Analog Converters Class B

Benchmark Media Systems DAC2 HGC, $1,995.00
Don’t let its small size fool you. The DAC2 HGC is a full featured DAC with a highly adaptable preamp with excellent remote features. This asynchronous USB DAC is sonically neutral with support up to 192kHz and directly processed DSD by 4 ESS Sabre processors per channel. A headphone amp is included with enough power to drive most anything presented to it. One would have to spend considerably more to get higher performance at its $1995 price. Read the Full Review

Chord Electronics Chordette QuteHD (DSD) DAC, $1,795.00
The Chord's way with CD-quality 16/44.1 music was a real eye and ear opener, "lifting 16/44.1 performance to near-HD heights". Add DSD playback, up to 24/192 PCM via USB and 32/384kHz playback via Coax S/PDIF and you've got one lovely package. Read the Full Review

exaSound e20 Mk III DAC, $2,899.00
The exaSound e20 MK III scales new heights supporting up to 384kHz PCM and quad rate DSD (12.288 MHz). But "Forget about numbers. The exaSound e20 DAC makes some fine music with all of the music your likely to get a hold of." Read the Full Review

Resonessence Labs Concero HD Digital to Analog Converter, $850.00CA
The Concero HD is a resolution animal and delivers the goods whether we're talking PCM, DXD, or DSD all in a nice, sleek and small package. "With the addition of DSD and DXD playback, Resonessence Labs has made a good thing better." Read the Full Review

Teac UD-501 Dual-Monaural PCM/DSD USB Digital to Analog Converter, $849.00
The Teac UD-501 delivers PCM, DXD, and DSD and it does so, so musically, and it does so for $849. "For those looking for a DSD-capable DAC without the need for preamplifier functionality but with the need for addictively engaging music, the Teac UD-501 comes very highly recommended." Read the Full Review

Digital to Analog Converters Class C

AudioQuest Dragonfly v1.2, $149.00
"AudioQuest has managed to do something no other company has yet accomplished on AudioStream which is to swat their own product off our Greatest Bits list by delivering what strikes me as a more natural and all around simply better-sounding DAC with the Dragonfly v1.2 and they've done so for $100 less than the price of the original." Read the Full Review

Meridian Explorer USB DAC, $299.00
The Meridian Explorer USB DAC can handle up to 24/192 data and offers both fixed and variable headphone outputs. Small enough to fit in your pocket yet it packs one helluva musical punch. "I found the Explorer served music exceedingly well and very nicely balanced. This presentation means a focus on the music, which is exactly where we want to be." Read the Full Review

NAD D 1050, $499.00
"With a host of digital inputs including an asynchronous 24/192-capable USB port, a very nice sounding headphone amp, and single-ended and balanced outputs, the D 1050 wraps up a lot of functions into a visually and tactilely appealing package that also happens to be damn fun to listen to." Read the Full Review

Schiit Loki, $149.00
The Schiit Loki just plays DSD but if you convert all your PCM to DSD in your media player, you are flyin' high, way above the little Loki's price point. "So if you'd like to get into the DSD playback game, and its a really great-sounding game to get into, for $149, the Schiit Loki is your answer." Read the Full Review

USB-S/PDIF Converters Class B

Bel Canto uLink USB-S/PDIF Converter, $675.00
The uLink is Bel Canto 's middle USB-S/PDIF Converter in terms of price and I'll assume performance. If you need to connect to your non-USB DAC and want to play back up 24/192 files, the uLink comes highly recommended and is one smooth customer. Read the Full Review

Musical Fidelity V-Link192, $249.00
The Musical Fidelity V-Link192 is a no-brainer choice for people looking to play back up to 24/192 files through DACs that do not have a 24/192-capable USB input. "The V-Link192 provides the means of connecting to and enjoying the world of file-based playback for a relatively modest sum and it does so while handing off a clean and full-bodied sound to your DAC of choice". Read the Full Review

Network Players & Streamers Class A

Lumin Network Music Player, $7,200.00
If you're looking to remove your computer from the music playback chain with a device that will take your NAS or HDD-based music including PCM, DXD, and DSD and convert it into sweet sounding analog your hi-fi will gladly accept while controlling the entire process with an iPad app, the Lumin network player is one beautifully made chunk of aluminum goodness that will do just that. "I was nothing but impressed with the Lumin Network Player and it strikes me as a well-conceived and very well executed product." Read the Full Review

Media Servers Class B

SOtM sMS-1000U Music Server, $2,750.00
The SOtM Server was a clear step up in sound quality from my MacBook Pro and PC offering a "...more refined, detailed, and nuanced" presentation. "For those listeners not interested in futzing with their PC's internals in order to build an optimized server, the SOtM pre-packaged solution is a sound investment." Replaced by the newer SOtM sms-1000SQ Read the Full Review

Desktop Speakers Class A

Focal Professional Solo6 Be, $1,350.00/each
The Focal Solo6 Be are big, bold, and beautiful. Rated at 40Hz - 40kHz with a 150W rms, BASH® amp for the midbass/bass driver and a 100W rms class A/B amp for the treble, these bad boys max out at 113dB SPL (peak @ 1m). So yea, they work really well as nearfield desktop earth movers. If you can fit 'em and afford 'em, you'll want to try 'em. Read the Full Review

Desktop Speakers Class B

Focal Professional CMS 40, $425/each
The CMS 40s offered up a nice, clean, and clear full-bodied sound. "Combined with a very pleasant and natural-sounding amount of detail, resolution, and dynamic slam, the CMS 40s deliver your music so you can inspect it, enjoy it, or both." Read the Full Review

Cables & Accessories Class A

Audioquest Diamond USB Cable, $695.00/1.5m
The Audioquest Diamond is a detailed but smooth sounding USB cable that presents a large soundstage with excellent imaging. See the Full Review

SOtM tX-USBexp Audiophile PCIe to USB Audio Card, $350.00
Who needs one? I'd say anyone with a PC who wants to get the best out of their USB audio. That's who. "The SOtM card was able to pull more musical information out of my PC as compared to the internal USB port. Music was at once more concise, more textured, more tonally colored, and more resolute with a bigger sound picture that was much easier to follow individual instruments within. In other words, the SOtM PCIe to USB card is all good." See the Full Review

Synergistic Research USB Active SE Cable with Enigma Tuning Circuits, $595.00/1m; Upgrade Active Shield Power Supply-Galileo MPC $400.00
The Synergistic Research USB Active SE cable delivers a rich analog-like midrange with excellent detail top to bottom. The Enigma Tuning Circuits prove a means for fine tuning the cable to get the best sonic performance from your DAC. See the Full Review

Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB Cable, 599.95/1m
The Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB cable offers outstanding performance especially in its ability to render detail, dynamics and focus. The cable is fast sounding with excellent control of the bass. See the Full Review