Outboard DACs

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Hi-Fi Choice  |  Feb 25, 2016  |  0 comments
Norwegian brand Hegel has many years experience in implementing DAC technology, both within its highly regarded integrated amps and standalone digital converters. So the advent of a new ‘reference DAC’ has many eager to hear more. In an eraof DACs becoming smaller and more portable for a new generation of headphone users, it’s refreshing to see Hegel buck this trend and produce a full-width option that unashamedly seeks to put audio quality first. The Norwegian company is a big believer in making its products convenient and simple to use, and the HD30 can be considered a veritable ‘plug ‘n’ play’ hub of digital connectivity.
 |  Jan 23, 2015  |  0 comments
For this writer, one of the most disappointing things about digital audio – and especially CD’s 16/44. 1 specification where the problem seems most acute – is its timing. It just doesn’t quite seem to accurately reproduce all the nuances you hear in music when listening in real time. The major issue to my ears is that if you go to a jazz club to hear Randy Crawford sing, then come back home and play the CD the digital disc just doesn’t have the natural ebb and flow of the live concert.
 |  Jan 21, 2015  |  0 comments
There’s more to life than hi-fi you know, and indeed many consumers are beginning to think the less of it you have, the better. This is heretical stuff to those who grew up during the seventies and eighties, when we were taught that if it didn’t come in umpteen separate boxes, it simply couldn’t be any good. Now, though, suddenly there are all sorts of possibilities presenting themselves. The most obvious example of this is the DAC/preamp.
 |  Jan 19, 2015  |  0 comments
Look who’s back. And with a new range of dedicated separates aimed at bringing hi-res to the audiophile masses, it clearly means business. Given that Sony is the company that co-created CD’s original Red Book standard and put the ‘S’ in S/PDIF, it’s safe to assume that its new products will be based on a legacy of digital audio development. This new range is also sensibly streamlined, with a handful of carefully considered separates spread across distinct product categories.
Ed Selley  |  Jan 09, 2012  |  0 comments
Reference mini TEAC’s latest ‘Reference Series’ DAC is more than just a pretty box, says Richard Black, it’s also a ‘star’ performer TEAC has long managed to bridge the gap between mass-market and audiophile. Its mass-market products are exactly that (good, but mass-market), but its more refined offerings are often found in some of the fi nest systems. It may be guilty of over-using the word ‘reference’ in connection with hi-fi products, but the latest additions to the compact Reference range really do look as if they mean business, especially this new DAC. Hi-res Tenor The floodgates are well and truly open as regards hi-res USB DACs, so it’s no surprise that TEAC brings its expertise to the market.
Ed Selley  |  Jan 09, 2012  |  0 comments
No cables, no bother! NAD’s new £300 DAC connects both wirelessly and effortlessly. But, asks Richard Black, how does it fare against the competition? In recent years, wireless hi-fi has taken off in a big way, comfortably banishing bad memories of analogue wireless headphones of yore. With wi-fi , AirPlay, Bluetooth and various proprietary formats, we have plenty of choice in terms of sending digits from one place to another. Not all of these are entirely trivial to set up, though, and they aren’t all bit-perfect either: Bluetooth, for a start, so far only supports transmission of lossily coded data.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 30, 2011  |  0 comments
Precision audio? Deltec was one of the first to make a standalone DAC and now its back in the fray, Jason Kennedy finds out if its experience has paid off Back in the late eighties the idea of a separate digital-to-analogue convertor was a very new thing. Until then, the relatively young CD player market had, on the whole, been dominated by larger companies. Deltec Precision Audio (or DPA) was formed by Robert Watts and Adrian Walker to produce technologically advanced audio components, among which were pre and power amplifi ers as well as one of the first standalone DACs to hit the market, the DPA PDM1. This used surface-mount devices (SMD) in its circuit boards, had one of the first bitstream chipsets and came in a shiny dark grey case.
Hi-Fi Choice  |  Nov 07, 2011  |  0 comments
Perfect PC partner Pro-Ject’s £140 DAC Box is a no-brainer for anyone playing music from a computer, says HFC’s technical consultant Richard Black A long the way, Pro-Ject Audio has managed to get some quite impressive functions into small spaces in its Box Audio series of components. A DAC – even a three-input one – is not quite such a shoehorn feat and, indeed, this is by no means the smallest on the market. It’s stoutly made, with a steel sleeve over a steel tray which houses the electronics assemblies. The component count is low, with a DAC chip, an S/PDIF receiver and a USB receiver, plus a minimum of housekeeping parts and a handful of power supply components.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 27, 2011  |  0 comments
Lavry DA11 Pro from start to finish, but does the sound really match up to the internet buzz? Lavry is a pro-audio company which shows little (if indeed any) sign of interest in the audiophile world, but that doesn’t stop the audiophile world being interested in Lavry. The company’s DA10 DAC became something of a cult success (HFC 341) and the DA11 builds on that success by adding a couple more features. The most immediately useful of those for most Hi-Fi Choice readers, we suspect, will be the USB input. It’s actually good for 96kHz sampling, though it may not work that way straight out of the box and Lavry’s recommendations for computer set up are worth following.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 27, 2011  |  0 comments
Cyrus DAC X+ Plenty of inputs, but no USB – and is the sound starting to show its age, too? Cyrus currently offers two DACs, this and the DAC XP+ (the latter also includes a preamplifier). You might think this one has some preamp functionality, given the presence of what looks remarkably like a volume control on the front, but the rotary knob is actually used for set up functions, including the rather appealing option to name the inputs to something relevant. And if you hanker after a built-in preamp later, you can always return your DAC X+ to the Cyrus factory for an upgrade to XP+ status. Cyrus has always been good at this upgrade thing, of course.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 27, 2011  |  0 comments
Electrocompaniet PD-1 With or without the proprietary wireless link, this new addition to Electrocompaniet’s range has us wired! The only full-size hi-fi component in this group, the PD-1 has something even bigger to live up to in Electrocompaniet’s reputation. It’s a relatively new addition to the company’s range, part of the ‘Prelude’ series and as such is relatively modest. The specification is decent if not outstanding, with four digital inputs – two electrical and one optical S/PDIF plus USB. Oh, and RF.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 27, 2011  |  0 comments
M2Tech Young DAC Sample rates and word-lengths that you can’t even buy yet are great, but what about day-to-day sound? Every so often a hi-fi component comes along that really does stand out from the crowd. In this case, it’s a question of sample rate. We’ve seen plenty of DACs that can accept sample rates up to 192kHz via dedicated digital audio interfaces, and quite a few that can handle 96kHz via USB. Italian manufacturer M2Tech has expanded the envelope considerably, however, by offering USB-connected sample rates up to 384kHz and support for 32-bit digital words into the bargain.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 27, 2011  |  0 comments
Moon 300D Externally, this is Moon at its most typically unpretentious, but is there a dark side? here’s seldom much about Moon products that stands out a mile externally – which is not to deny them their smart and individual appearance. This particular member of the team has a largely typical specification, with two coaxial and one optical S/PDIF inputs and a USB socket, while analogue output is available both balanced and unbalanced. Differences are more apparent inside the unit, where Moon has carefully separated analogue and digital parts of the equation. A digital circuit board, largely populated with surface-mounted components, receives the digital input, applies digital filtering and converts it to analogue, forwarding the output to an analogue board beneath.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 27, 2011  |  0 comments
NuForce DAC9 Well equipped and smart in a retro science fiction kind of way – flexible too! This isn’t the only DAC in the group to include a headphone output, but it makes more of a point of it than most, and fair enough, adding as it does a dedicated volume control and both flavours of headphone jack, 6. 3mm (quarter-inch) and 3. 5mm. The latter, incidentally, also functions as an input, an optical digital input to be precise, in similar manner to some computer sound cards and portable audio devices.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 11, 2011  |  0 comments
Neo Matrix Richard Black discovers a small, inexpensive DAC from newcomer Matrix that offers much for the audiophile for very little outlay Diminutive DACs are very much the fl avour of the moment – just look at the widely varying models from Cambridge Audio, Arcam, Lavry, Benchmark and so on. Many of these are aimed fair and square at the computer audio world, with hi-fi -fl avour inputs (S/PDIF etc. ) almost an afterthought and indeed the idea of adding quality to computer audio via a USB digital audio interface is thoroughly sensible. This unit is no different.