Outboard DACs

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Richard Holliss  |  Jan 13, 2015
Auralic will be a new name to many readers as only recently has this innovative brand become available to UK audiophiles. Based in Beijing, Auralic calls its Vega a ‘digital processor’. We’re more likely to call it a digital preamplifier, since it’s a DAC with a (digital) volume control and Class A preamp built in – not merely a high-current DAC output. There are no analogue inputs but neither are there any fixed-level line outs, so to use it simply as a DAC you connect XLR or RCA outputs to your amp and leave the gain set to max.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 13, 2015
Known originally for its professional studio speakers, Pioneer’s Technical Audio Devices brand is now firmly established in high-end consumer audio. Late last year, TAD announced the D1000 disc player/DAC and the DA1000 as a DAC-only alternative. Both offer the same DAC input options, but the DA1000 also includes a linear volume control, for direct connection to a power amp, and a separate headphone amplifier (fascia controlled for level). Both new models, says TAD, ‘integrate a newly developed, ultra-high accuracy master clock equivalent to that employed in the higher-level TAD D600’ [HFN May ’12].
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Nov 11, 2014
This is Chord’s first network player. What it has done, in effect, is to marry its top-of-the-range QBD76 HDSD DAC with StreamUnlimited’s Stream700 audio streaming client – an off-the-shelf hardware solution for network audio which includes a 3. 5in, 320x240 pixel colour display, supports up to 24-bit/192kHz FLAC or WAV files via wired Ethernet (24-bit/96kHz via a wireless connection), provides for internet radio and offers remote control via a smartphone app. There are just two rear inputs –a BNC socket for S/PDIF connection and, of course, the Ethernet socket – and just two pairs of phono and XLR outputs: one at fixed level and one a variable output, adjusted by an analogue volume control within the DSX1000, which allows for direct connection to a power amp.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Nov 11, 2014
Since reviewing T+A’s DAC 8 converter [HFN Oct ’12] it has become something of a reference for us. The same DAC architecture has been transplanted into this luxuriously built multi-function media player, the first of a new line of high-end pure audio components, dubbed ‘HV’ for High Voltage [see also p73]. The MP 3000 HV comprises a CD player, a UPnP network client for computer-sourced music streaming via Ethernet or WLAN, an internet radio incorporating thefamiliar vTuner platform, and an FM radio tuner with RDS. Naturally, since it has a high-end DAC at its core, it features an asynchronous USB input for ‘pushing-in’ audio data from computers, and it sports no fewer than six digital inputs at the rear to accommodate a plethora of digital sources as well.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Nov 07, 2014
Marantz’s NA-11S1 is similar in functionality to its more affordable stablemate, the NA7004 streamer, in the sense that it’s effectively a DAC that also offers media streaming via Ethernet. But this new high-end design introduces the latest ‘Marantz Music Mastering’ digital signal processing and the option to play Direct Stream Digital (DSD) from a computer via USB. In addition to its rather niche DSD functionality, the unit also plays PCM at up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution (digital input and format permitting), in WAV, WMA, MP3, MPEG-4, FLAC and ALAC flavours. This comes into the unit via optical (up to 96kHz), RJ-45 LAN (Ethernet) or USB Type A and B connections.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Nov 07, 2014
Welcome to a world of truly luxurious audio. As it costs as much as many hi-fi enthusiasts’ entire music systems, you’d be right to assume this MBL D-to-A converter aspires to being ‘up there’ with the best of them. . .
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Nov 07, 2014
Metrum Acoustics outboard DACs offer a specific appeal by implementing a no-frills approach to cosmetic design while cracking the DAC nut in a wholly bespoke fashion. The range, including this flagship HEX, eschews off-the shelf chipsets and are all non-oversampling [NOS] designs. Designer Cees Ruijtenberg was convinced higher audio performance could be achieved by using cutting-edge industrial application chipsets rather than traditional audio components. After much experimentation and listening, a suitable high-speed data acquisition chipset was identified that the company suggests handles 24-bit audio and sampling rates well in excess of the hi-fi standards.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Nov 07, 2014
This is a luxurious hi-fi DAC which sets out to cover all possible bases. It’s really designed to be a comprehensive processor for all digital sources, with almost every possible input/output option. And to complete the M6 DAC’s capabilities, Musical Fidelity has also included Bluetooth, which means that you can play music files wirelessly from any recent Bluetooth-enabled phone or other device, without involving your main home computer wireless network. Current Bluetooth devices use the APTX codec instead of the earlier SBC lossy compression, and this has perhaps encouraged hi-fi manufacturers to take it more seriously.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Nov 07, 2014
Audio Research’s first DAC to bear the ‘Reference’ name incorporates a network music player with access to internet radio stations, USB inputs for direct playback of files from memory sticks and HDDs, and a digital connection for iDevices. The Reference DAC is also an audiophile-grade vacuum tube preamplifier (albeit one with no analogue inputs). Its type B USB rear input socket – into which one can simply push digital data from a connected computer – provides an asynchronous interface that’s compatible with files up to ‘full HD’ 24-bit resolution and all sampling frequencies up to 192kHz. (Drivers are provided on a CD-ROM.
Ken Kessler and Paul Miller  |  Nov 30, 2011
Valve DACs are intrinsically anachronistic - Tim de Paravicini's new EAR-Yoshino DACute takes the retro attitude a stage further by sounding deliberately analogue

Hard to believe, I know, but the EAR-Yoshino 192 DACute Digital Audio Interface is the company’s first stand-alone D/A converter. The company has also produced CD players but, as main man Tim de Paravicini tells me, his previous experiences with digital mainly involved ‘bits of work for studios. ’ But it was this studio connection that led Tim to develop the 192 DACute.

Ed Selley  |  Nov 19, 2011
A new arrival from the US with superb measured performance. Bricasti’s M1 DAC invites comparison with the dCS Debussy [HFN Dec ’10]. Not merely because of its price and professional antecedents but because of a sterling performance on the test bench. Not unnecessarily large, it oozes the solidity you’d expect of a proper professional audio product – it’s constructed of aluminium alloy panels machined from solid before being anodised and the markings laser-etched.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 19, 2011
A simple but effective USB DAC solution. When circumventing a computer’s low quality internal audio processing and pushing out digital audio to an external DAC, there’s nothing more convenient to use than something like the USB-powered Streamer II+ from Californian company High Resolution Technologies (HRT). This is especially true when you consider that the unit boasts asynchronous USB inputs.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 19, 2011
New version of the V-DAC offers asynchronous USB and improved appearance. The V-DAC II replaces the company’s earlier V-DAC [HFN May ’09] and comes with a number of updates – as well as a £40 increase. Firstly, the new version replaces the black finish and quirky lettering of the V-DAC with brushed silver aluminium replete with more mature typography and inset grooves. The cigar-box-like dimensions remain the same and the casework feels solid and well made.
Paul Miller  |  Nov 19, 2011
Arcam returns to DAC's with a diminutive but well implemented design with the added benefit of wireless. Getting rid of all those computer cables can make wireless hi-fi seem like the next essential, especially if your life revolves around the laptop in your bag rather than a tower under the desk. Enter the Arcam rDAC, Wireless Version.
Paul Miller  |  Nov 19, 2011
A well priced Italian design with an impressive USB implementation.

Among cost-conscious hi-fi enthusiasts, Italy’s North Star Design company has a reputation for making cutting-edge digital audio products that sport sensible price tags. Its latest Essensio DAC is a new entry model in its portfolio that undercuts the price of its existing £1420 USB dac32 by dispensing with balanced outputs and AES/EBU (XLR) digital input sockets. Also missing is the RJ45 socket for I2S interfacing with North Star’s £1750 Model 192 MkII CD transport.

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