Greatest Bits 2015

AudioStream's Greatest Bits 2015 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

Ayre Acoustics Codex, $1795.00
The Ayre Acoustics Codex was found to not only possess an excellent headphone amp that easily drove the AudioQuest NightHawks, but a very good sounding digital volume control that allowed this DAC to directly drive an amplifier. The Codex was found to have first-class sound quality that could serve as the basis of a fine high-end audio system. Steven Plaskin felt that the Codex’s sound quality was as good or as better than DACs costing far greater than the $1795 asking price. Read the Full Review.

Cary Audio DAC-200ts, $3,995.00
The Cary Audio DAC-200ts offers up a big, bold, and musically engaging sound. The DAC-200ts can handle PCM resolutions up to 32/384 and quad-rate DSD while acting as a digital preamp if you so desire. There's also an aptX Bluetooth input so you can invite friends and family in on the fun. "If you are considering a DAC in the $4k price range, you'd be wise to give the Cary Audio DAC-200ts as long a listen as you can afford." Read the Full Review

LampizatOr Lite 7 DSD DAC, (5,750.00
The LampizatOr Lite 7 is among the most natural and musically engaging DACs I've had the pleasure of listening through; "Music sounds natural, rich, and rewarding pulling you into your music for as long as time allows. The ability to tailor the Lite 7's sound to taste by rolling in your own triode's is simply icing on top of a very musical DAC." Read the Full Review.

Metrum Acoustics Pavane, $,4999.99
The Metrum Acoustics Pavane is the company's flagship DAC for a reason; it sounds like music. "Yes, the Pavane is a better sounding DAC as compared to the Musette. It gives you more weight, body, tonal richness, and a more natural sense of the space of the recording. Or to put it more plainly, it fleshes out your music more." Read the Full Review

Mytek Manhattan DAC, $5,495.00
The Mytek Manhattan delivers a lot of musical goodness. "The Manhattan is a very fine sounding DAC, preamplifier, and headphone amp that delivers as solid and real a sound image as I've heard. It also sounds very natural, inviting, and engaging while offering the ability to subtly tailor its sound to your liking through the use of upsampling, various filters, and digital and analog volume controls." See the Full Review

Resonessence Labs Invicta Mirus DAC, $4,550.00
The Resonessence Labs INVCTA Mirus is an exceptional sounding DAC that features support up to 24/384 kHz and DSD64/128 playback in both USB and built-in SD Card formats. The Mirus has some of the best galvanic isolation from computer noise and USB cable differences that I have experienced. It is physically a beautifully built DAC with sound to match. Read the Full Review

totaldac d1-tube-mk2 DAC, 9100euros excl VAT
"Listening through the totaldac late at night in the relative darkness, I can listen in to my music as deeply as I care to go. There is nothing in between it and me except my thought..." The d1-tube-mk2 DAC adds a pair of ECC82/12AU7 dual triodes in the output stage where the d1-dual DAC (below) employs a discrete class A transistor circuit. While I could easily live with either, I'd go tube-mk2. Read the Full Review

Wavelength Audiod Crimson / Quotient Q1 with Silver Transformers, $19,500.00 as reviewed
The Wavelength Audio Crimson, with its new Quotient DAC module board, has significantly raised the bar of performance for this tube output DAC. The midrange is glorious sounding with reduction of grain and digital artifacts compared to previous versions. The soundstage is second to none in its ability to float a wide and deep stage with wonderful resolution and detail retrieval. For those that own this DAC and are using the Denominator board, the Quotient Q1 will not only enhance the sound, but provide PCM support up to 32/384 kHz and DSD 64 / 128. Read the Full Review

Digital to Analog Converters Class B

Audeze Deckard, $699.00
Don’t let its price fool you—the Deckard delivers some mighty fine music making, especially through your favorite 'phones. " The Audeze Deckard Headphone amp/DAC made the experience of listening to music an experience to be savored and enjoyed." Read the Full Review

Exogal Comet DAC, $2,500.00
The Exogal Comet DAC is a hair away from Class A. "The Comet delivers more than its fair share of the musical message and is very capable of keeping you connected to your music over time. Highly recommended." Read the Full Review

LH Labs Geek Pulse Xfi, $2,399.00 + LPS4 $899.00
"I consider the Geek Pulse Xfi/LPS4 combo to be paired at the hip, a truly dynamic duo, so my recommendation includes both. If you like your music delivered cleanly, clearly, and precisely with a wonderful sense of the place of the recording, whether in-room or in-ear, think Geek." Read the Full Review

Metrum Acoustics Musette, $1399.99 The Musette is a non-oversamplng DAC (NOS) with a pair of Metrum-designed DACs inside that embue digits with music's spark of life. Impressive. "I also know some listeners simply like, love?, the NOS approach, in theory. Simple, direct, no nonsense. The Metrum Musette delivers this theory in music. Bravo!Read the Full Review

NAD C 510 Direct Digital Preamp DAC, $1,299.00
The NAD C 510 offers a pure, clean, and clear view into your music while double duty as a digital preamp. "For many listeners, you really can't ask for much more." Read the Full Review

PS Audio NuWave DSD DAC, $1,299.00
"The PS Audio NuWave DSD DAC offers the ability to play every common file format you can buy, exceptional build quality, and a way with your music that will leave you wanting more: Whether that's more time to listen or more music to listen to is up for grabs." Read the Full Review

Digital to Analog Converts Class C

Pono Player, $399.00
We don't have a proper category to put the Pono Player in since it is a portable digital audio player/headphone amp that can currently play back PCM resolutions up to 24/192 (DSD is on the way). When run balanced mode as a DAC connected to your hi-fi, Pono comes damn close to moving up to Class B. "If you are looking for a portable high res player that can do double duty in your hi-fi and deliver a very musical signal, especially when run in balanced mode, then absolutely consider the Pono Player. For $399, it strikes me as a steal of a deal." Read the Full Review

Integrated Amp/DACs Class B

April Music Aura Note Version 2, $2,750.00
Lovely inside and out, the Aura Note v2 also delivers a heavy helping of musical goodness."f CD playback is an important aspect of your listening lifestyle coupled with the ability to play file-based music up to 24/192 and you want the simplicity and convenience of a very good sounding one-box solution all wrapped up in a very attractive and beautifully built package, April Music's Aura Note v2 delivers on all counts." Read the Full Review

PS Audio Sprout, $499.00
The PS Audio Sprout looks good, sounds good, and it can deliver tunes from your LPs, from file-based sources via USB, and streaming via Bluetooth. "I say bravo Scott McGowan and PS Audio for delivering a well-designed, attractive, and good-sounding chunk of the hi-fi puzzle." Read the Full Review

Teac AI-301DA, $549.99
If you're looking for an all-in-one solution for amplification, 24/192 and DSD (5.6MHz) playback via USB, analog and S/PDIF inputs, Bluetooth, and a headphone amp, look at the Teac AI-301DA. "Just add speakers and you've got yourself a wonderfully musical making simple system. " Read the Full Review

Network Players & Streamers Class A

Bel Canto REFStream Asynchronous Ethernet Renderer, $2,495.00
The REFStream lit my musical fire. "Its way with music delivers a lovely sense of ease combined with great attention to detail all wrapped up in a nearly super-natural sense of space. Class A all the way." Read the Full Review

Media Servers Class A

Antipodes Reference Series DX Music Server, $6,500.00
The Antipodes DX Server served up music in a most infectious manner clearly bettering my MacBook Pro by leaps and bounds. "If you are looking to get the most out of your file-based playback including streaming from services like Tidal, I'd recommend putting the Antipodes DX on your A-list of servers to audition. " Read the Full Review

Antipodes DS Music Server, $2,700.00
Like its big brother, the Antipodes DS Server provides the foundation for a deeper musical experience by delivering a cleaner signal to your DAC of choice. "If having an in-built CD ripper and/or DAC to boot is part of your server wish list, the DS offers a very appealing package." Read the Full Review

Melco N1A, $1,999.00
I was wowed by the Melco's price/performance ration. "In my experience, its price-performance one-two punch makes it hard to beat." Read the Full Review

Media Servers Class B

SOtM sMS-1000SQ Music Server, $3,000.00 and SOtM sPS-1000 Audiophile Linear Power Supply $1,000.00
The SOtM sMS-1000SQ Music Server hands off a very musical signal to your DAC of choice. When coupled with the matching sMS-1000 LPS, the combo ups the musicality ante, "To sum up, the sMS-1000S/sPS-1000 combo delivers musical performance that easily surpasses my MacBook Pro running Roon." Read the Full Review

Desktop Speakers Class A

Dynaudio Excite X14A, $2,000.00/pair
The Dynaudio Excite X14A delivered some of the finest desktop sound I've yet experienced. "If you spend real time at your desk and you enjoy listening to music, lots of music, and you value the quality of its reproduction, the Dynaudio X14A's deliver as much of everything as I've heard from an active speaker." Read the Full Review

Dynaudio XEO 4, $2,100/pair, Xeo Hub $299.00
The Dynaudio Xeo 4's coupled with the Hub can accept up to 24/96 data via USB as well offering additional digital and analog inputs. They also sound room-fillingly wonderful. "The Xeo 4s strike me being very well suited, and in a league pretty much all their own, to people looking for a real wireless Hi-Fi solution that only asks you to provide a source." Read the Full Review

Desktop Speakers Class B

Audioengine HD6, $749.00/pair
I found the HD6's to be really easy to listen to and really easy to like. "While the Audioengine HD6's worked perfectly wonderfully on my desktop, if you're also going to ask your desktop speakers to do double-time in-room, the HD6's are bouncing out of their seat, waving their hand, and shouting 'Pick me!, Pick me!'" Read the Full Review

Cables & Accessories Class A

JCAT Reference USB Cable, $499 EUR
The JCAT Reference USB cable is one of the finest sounding USB cables I have evaluated. Its neutrality, speed, sound staging, and dynamic qualities are all first rate. A highly recommended cable for the computer audiophile. See the Full Review

Shunyata Research HYDRA TRITON v2, HYDRA TYPHON, HYDRA DPC-6 v2, and ΞTRON™ Σ SIGMA AC Cables, $26,225.00
Shunyata Research’s state-of-the-art power conditioning solutions and AC cables made a very significant difference in Steven Plaskin’s system. The sonic contribution from these components removed noise to such an extent, that instruments and voices were now reproduced with a considerable reduction in glare / hardness and greater transparency. These products are now Plaskin’s reference for AC power treatment. See the Full Review

Synergistic Research Grounding Block and High Definition Ground Cables, $595.00, High Definition Ground Cable $395.00/each
The Synergistic Research Grounding Block and High Definition Ground Cables are two accessories that can be used not only with Synergistic Research cables and products that utilize a ground connection, but with most any amp, preamp, DAC, computer, etc. These products not only decrease the noise floor, but enhance the soundstage and definition from top to bottom. The effect on my MacBook Pro was impressive and not subtle. See the Full Review

Cables & Accessories Class B

Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver, $189.00
This is really pretty simple —if you want to add Bluetooth capabilities to your hi-fi, get the Audioengine B1. Read the Full Review

AudioQuest Jitterbug USB Data & Power Noise Filter, $49.00
"Summing up, for $49 the AudioQuest JitterBug strikes me as a no-brainer choice for anyone looking to improve their experience of listening to music over USB." What he said. Read the Full Review

Shunyata Research Venom USB Cable, $125.00/.75m
The Shunyata Reserach Venom USB Cable is a top grade performer for a very reasonable price. I was very pleased with the over-all sound of this cable and had no issues playing files up to 352.8 kHz. The cable doesn't quite surpass the sonic performance of cables like the Audioquest Diamond and JCAT Reference USB, but I suspect that most users will be delighted using the Venom USB in their systems. Read the Full Review

UpTone Audio USB REGEN, $175.00
The USB REGEN REGENerates your USB signal, delivering a clean impedance matched signal to your DAC. What does that mean? It means the REGEN makes your USB-traveled music sound better. Read the Full Review