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Outboard DACs

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Ed Selley  |  May 24, 2011  |  0 comments
Star qualities This new compact DAC/preamp from 'prosumer' digital clocking expert Antelope is better equipped than anything else says Jason Kennedy Antelope Audio is putting Bulgaria on the hi-fi audio map with a new cutting-edge DAC/preamp built for the Pro World. The Zodiac Plus is an innovative compact cube that has digital, analogue and USB inputs, a volume control on the outside and a 24-bit/192kHz convertor inside. But what separates it from the pack is the company’s expertise in digital clocking. Antelope’s Pro heritage also shows in the dual headphone sockets on the front panel and the full range of XLR sockets on the back.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 12, 2010  |  0 comments
DAC to the future Arcam, one of the pioneers of off-board DACs re-enters the market. Ed Selley finds out if the wait was worth it Over 20 years ago Arcam produced the Back Box standalone digital-to- analogue convertor. This was one of the first (for obvious reasons, the claim to exactly who was first is hotly contested) devices that could bypass the output of an existing CD player via an S/PDIF digital output and convert it to an analogue signal via a higher-quality output stage than the CD player had internally. Consequently, the Black Box was highly regarded and sold well.
 |  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 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.
Hi-Fi Choice  |  Nov 15, 2017  |  0 comments
When Chord’s first Hugo portable DAC/headphone amplifier was launched at CES in January 2014, I instantly knew it was special – it looked, sounded and worked like nothing else, and was so good that many bought it to use as their main domestic digital converter, rather than a mere travelling accessory. That’s not to say it was perfect. Enthusiastic early adopters soon got to know its foibles, but it sounded so superb that we learned to live with them. Much as I loved it, the original Hugo had some niggles.
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  |  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.
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  |  Feb 02, 2011  |  0 comments
Analogue appeal Richard Black discovers a neat little DAC from Furutech which doubles up as a phono stage and A/D convertor, too – enter the GT40 In last month’s Hi-Fi Choice (HFC 341), our Blind-listening Group Test concentrated on a variety of DACs, all of which accomplished hi-fi nirvana in their own unique way. But this month’s one-off review of the Furutech GT40 is something different again. Have a close look at the front panel and you’ll see mention of ‘phono’. That’s right, this DAC is also an ADC and a phono stage.
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.
Hi-Fi Choice  |  Sep 11, 2018  |  0 comments
It sometimes appears as though iFi Audio takes a rather scattershot approach to its product portfolio, with its nano and micro ranges offering almost a dozen portable DACs with similar designs and features. Every now and then, though, it comes up with a product that really stands out, such as the entry-level nano iDSD Black Label (HFC 433) that it launched at the end of 2017 for just £199. This year’s offering is the xDSD, which starts a new X-series of DACs, but it’s another impressive product with a £399 price tag that represents a challenge to the market-leading Chord Mojo (HFC 423). The xDSD immediately stands out from other iFi Audio products, with a more streamlined design that is well suited to portable use.
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
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 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.
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.

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