DAC Reviews

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Skylab  |  Nov 03, 2014  |  22 comments
My previous review here on InnerFidelity was a large black box with a forest of vacuum tubes rising up from its surface, and nary a digital function to be found. Almost diametrically opposed to that, the Oppo HA-1 ($1199) took up residence immediately thereafter in my review cue—gleaming silver, LCD display, remote control, and as modern an integrated DAC/Headphone amp as one could imagine. And yet at the risk of spoiling the surprise, or lack thereof, I will tell you that the Oppo is also outstanding, and represents somewhat of a bargain.
Dinny FitzPatrick  |  Apr 25, 2013  |  24 comments

In many ways, the Essence One confounded my sonic expectations. It was disappointing with the phones with which I thought it would mate perfectly and soared with the phones I thought would break its back. This, folks, is why we actually need to listen to this stuff.

Sam Tellig  |  Oct 09, 2008  |  1 comments
Most of this column is dedicated to two hi-fi products for the masses—not from Lvov, via Vladimir Lamm, of Lamm Industries; or from Leningrad, via Victor Khomenko, of Balanced Audio Technologies; nor from any other Soviet-born audio hero. (Neither Vladimir nor Victor is on the list of "Name of Russia" contenders for greatest Russian of all time.) Nor from any consumer audio company, but from the world of professional audio. An Iron Curtain almost separates the two.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 18, 2008  |  3 comments
In his July 2005 "The Fifth Element" column, John Marks enthusiastically wrote about the Benchmark Media Systems DAC1 D/A processor and headphone amplifier. Comparing its sound playing CDs with that of a three-times-more-expensive Marantz SA-14 SACD player, he concluded that the DAC 1's "Red Book" performance was at least as good as that of the Marantz, being "slightly more articulate in the musical line, and slightly more detailed in spatial nuances, particularly the localization of individual images in space, and in soundstage depth."
John Grandberg  |  Aug 27, 2012  |  13 comments

Focusrite, a pro-audio firm, calls this a "high-quality headphone interface with a difference"--the difference being their Virtual Reference Monitoring feature. They say it "emulates the experience of mixing in real rooms, with real speakers, using headphones." That's a big claim for a small device.

Let's see if it actually delivers.

Tyll Hertsens  |  Aug 14, 2013  |  6 comments

I'm sick of choosing between Velcro, Dual-Lock, and rubber bands to keep my portable gear in one lump. I'm pissed I can't easily get digital audio outputs from portable digital devices. I hate it when my portable amp picks up RF noise from my cell phone.

Convergence...why is it so damned hard.

jon iverson  |  Feb 23, 2011  |  1 comments
Art Dudley and others have covered the first products released by HRT, and now the company has added to its product line a Pro version of its Music Streamer, which sports balanced circuit design from tip to tail.

Housed in the same simple, functional, six-sided case of extruded aluminum as HRT's other products, the Pro is painted a bright blue to distinguish it from the Music Streamer II (red) and Music Streamer II+ (gray). At 5.6" it is also a tad longer than the others, and includes a single B-type USB 1.1 jack centered on one end, and two small, fully balanced TiniQ output jacks on the other. More about these special mini sockets later.

Skylab  |  Feb 12, 2014  |  6 comments

I was approached by MiniWatt to review their current USB DAC/AMP combo, the n4. I had not really heard much about this company before but they have had several previous products that were well received, including a very compact vacuum tube headphone amp. I hadn't reviewed an "inexpensive" product ($349 MSRP in this case) here on InnerFidelity for a while, so I decided to give it a try.

Sam Tellig  |  Aug 05, 2009  |  0 comments
Roy Hall has been Creek Audio's US importer for more than 20 years. Did you know that all Creek gear is now made in China? Just like Cambridge Audio, Quad, and many B&W models. Just like some US speaker brands, for which virtually all parts are made in China but are assembled, it's claimed, in the US. Three cheers for brands like LFD, Rega, Sugden, and Harbeth—all still made in the UK. For French marques made in France. For Italian products produced in Italy. Etc.
Skylab  |  Dec 10, 2012  |  12 comments

The MP-301 Mk 3 is a very good sounding amplifier for the money. It wears its tube topology on its sleeve, both physically and sonically. Love it for that, or pass. But if you think it's a good thing, then you get a LOT of product for your $300 here.

Steve Guttenberg  |  Oct 13, 2011  |  9 comments
I have to admit I didn't quite understand the logic of making an AC powered device for iPods, iPhones or iPads, so I asked NuForce's Jason Lim about the iDo's raison d'être. He explained it was designed for people who bring their Apple devices to work and want the best possible sound, but don't have access to music on their computers.

That sounds cool ...

John Grandberg  |  Mar 15, 2013  |  13 comments

Parasound hasn't released a DAC in nearly 2 decades. That streak is now broken thanks to their new Zdac. Was it worth the wait?

John Grandberg  |  Jun 30, 2015  |  4 comments

An updated version of the DAC I enjoyed so much a few years back—with several minor complaints addressed. What's not to like?

John Grandberg  |  Nov 14, 2017  |  8 comments
There's no shortage of choice for quality headphone amps. Whether your budget is $249 or $5,000, or somewhere in between, you should be able to find an amp that satisfies your requirements.

The same goes for D/A converters. The little Grace Design SDAC is killer at only $79 while high-end DACs routinely go for many thousands of dollars.

Preamps? Same story. As a more "traditional" hi-fi component, there's a seemingly endless supply of designs out there. A surprisingly large number of brands sport prices you might typically associate with a new luxury car. On the other end, Schiit's Saga does a bang-up job at $349.

Yes, there are more options than ever for building a system using separate components for each function. Yet things don't often go as well when using integrated devices.

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