Outboard DACs

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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
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
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
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 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 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  |  Jun 16, 2011  |  0 comments
Only way is Essex Rega’s first ever DAC, a £500 five-filter mini marvel, is here and Technical Consultant Richard Black has (five) stars in his eyes . . . It’s always hard to resist a sense of humour.
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  |  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.
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.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 26, 2010  |  0 comments
Digital demon A high-end DAC, the Stello DA100 Signature is intended for the audiophile who thought he had everything. Richard Black investigates Stello is a brand of April Music, a Korean manufacturer of distinctive audio electronics. The distinctiveness is felt not just in the looks, but also in the features: this is just about the only DAC we can think of with an I2S input. Matched – surprise, surprise – by a Stello CD transport, this is in fact an industry-standard interface, but is normally used within equipment (on circuit boards rather than between boxes).
Ed Selley  |  Oct 22, 2010  |  0 comments
The great transformer The valve-equipped Matrix DAC from Synthesis transforms ordinary CD players into extraordinary ones, says Jason Kennedy Sometimes a product comes along that manages to create a buzz without any fanfare whatsoever and the Synthesis DAC, from a relatively unknown Italian company, has done just that. In fact, Synthesis doesn’t even feature the Matrix DAC on its website, so full credit must go to UK distributor Audio Images, for this cunning bit of stealth marketing. Synthesis, not to be confused with Audio Synthesis of passive preamp fame, makes a system’s worth of electronics and speakers and finishes it in some very Italian colours. It’s clearly into the sound of valves, so it’s no surprise to see two pairs lying horizontally under a vent in the top of the unit, but how they fit the transformers into such a slim box is something of a mystery.

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