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    by Published on 02-12-2016 11:05 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. S/PDIF (RCA) Interface,
    5. AES/EBU Interface,
    6. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface,
    7. Preamp
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    Ask yourself a few questions: Would you rather have the photographs produced by Ansel Adams using an iPhone or the photographs produced by your great aunt Betty using the new Phase One XF 100MP, 100 megapixel camera system? Would you rather have a remaster of your favorite album done by the late Doug Sax using subpar equipment or the same remaster done by an armchair engineer using the best equipment money can buy? All parts and materials being equal, would you rather purchase an analog audio component designed by John Curl or an electrical engineer who has read "all" the books? If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably answer these questions with, "Ansel Adams, Doug Sax, and John Curl." This review has nothing to do with photography, remasters, or John Curl, but the questions above illustrate a point that’s relevant to the review (all reviews to be frank). The point? The most important part of product creation is the people creating the product. In many hobbies people look at the specifications of parts and bills of materials as the indicators of product quality and performance. Unfortunately this can lead down some unsatisfying and expensive roads. Specifically, selecting a digital to analog converter because it contains a specific DAC chip, a specific brand or type of power supply with great measurements on paper, or it supports the highest sample rates known to man, can lead to a quick product flip on Audiogon because the whole was equal to or less than the sum of the parts. A far better way to begin the component selection process is to research the companies or designers of the products in a specific category. Put your trust in people not parts, smarts not specifications, and intellectual property not possessions. I selected the products that are the subject of this review because all the audio stars aligned. I did my homework on the designers, then the company, then the product. Based on my research, everything looked good. I trusted that those involved could use the same physical components available to everybody else, but make the product as a whole much greater than the sum of its parts. If I was right, I’d be able to introduce many in the Computer Audiophile community to a great product, and so much more. ...
    by Published on 02-05-2016 02:31 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Bits & Bytes
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    It all started with an email on December 4, 2014. “Hi Chris, It is my great pleasure to provide details on Meridian’s breakthrough technology, MQA (Master Quality Authenticated). The press release is pasted below. And attached is a white paper …” That seems like forever ago. In the ensuing months MQA has been growing like a snowball rolling downhill. More manufacturers getting on board, more content partners signing up, and more chatter within Computer Audiophile community (among others). Based on objective site analytics, I can easily say that since CES 2016 the interest in MQA has grown immensely here on CA. Much of the talk since MQA’s first introduction has been speculative because only a relatively small number of people have actually heard MQA music. Even those who’ve heard it, have likely not heard it in their own audio systems. That was until Meridian officially released the MQA enabling firmware for its Explorer2, Prime, and select components (818v3,*808v6 and Special Edition Loudspeakers) Thursday February 4, 2016. I downloaded the firmware and updated my Explorer2 to v1717. It’s now MQA enabled and I have a DAC that decode and render this content through my own audio system in my own listening room. I’ve been waiting for this forever. I’ve heard MQA at shows plenty of times, but never in my own familiar environment. Now that the hardware was enabled for MQA playback, I needed some MQA music to play. Late afternoon I received an email with a link to download ten MQA FLAC files. Click, save, unzip, play, listen … MQA rules, it’s the best thing since sliced bread. If only it was that cut and dry. ...
    by Published on 01-29-2016 11:42 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. S/PDIF (BNC) Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (RCA) Interface,
    6. AES/EBU Interface,
    7. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface,
    8. UPnP / DLNA
    Article Preview



    My last experience with a Hegel component in my system was when I reviewed the HD12 DAC in February 2015. It was a nice DAC that has likely made many listeners very happy for $1,400. After the review I received an email from Hegel hinting that the company was working on something much better. Toward the end of 2015 Hegel Music Systems completed the design of what it considered a masterpiece. The company went all-in creating a new flagship DAC named the HD30. The improvement from the HD12 to the HD30 is both objectively and subjectively glorious. Designing its master clocks from the ground up and using such low noise components that the noise floor is near -150 dB, has paid off in spades. Hegel really nailed it with the HD30. ...
    by Published on 01-20-2016 10:38 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. The Music In Me
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    This time we start out in deep left field. For a brief period in the late 1960s, San Francisco had a gifted spiritual teacher with a devoted and growing following named Stephen Gaskin. The meetings became known as Monday Night Class, and I was lucky enough to have attended some of them. I’m not sure how it started, but I know where: Stephen’s writing class evolved into an informal series of talks at SF State, and the lounge or classroom they gave him was soon too small, so they moved him to a lecture hall, and then more people started showing up, necessitating a move to the Straight Theater on Haight Street. From there he moved with his followers in a 50-100 car/truck/bus caravan to Tennessee, where he resided until he died in 2014. His community there, known as The Farm, has become a center for spiritual advancement and midwifery. In fact, a friend of mine was pregnant and told me about the midwife she was talking to, and was amazed that I knew who Stephen was. Now you can, too: Stephen Gaskin - Wikipedia

    But now we’re done with Stephen Gaskin except for one thing: the souvenir I have from the day I met him.
    ...
    by Published on 01-14-2016 02:45 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. 2016 Consumer Electronics Show
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    CES 2016 is in the can. I spent much of the four days at the high-end exhibits in the Venetian and a bit of time with manufacturer's electing to display at the Mirage. I didn't get over to the main convention center this year because I had too many people to meet with on the last day of the show. I always enjoy going to the convention center to see the computer side of Computer Audiophile, but it just wasn't in the cards this year. Note to self: don't schedule meetings all day every day of the show. ...
    by Published on 12-30-2015 01:32 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Bits & Bytes
    Article Preview



    At the end of September Google released its Chromecast Audio device. The device is simply a WiFi connected digital to analog or digital to digital converter that supports Google's Cast protocol and streaming music directly from Spotify and other cast-enabled apps/services. The Chromecast Audio is distinguished from the original Chromecast and generation two Chromecast by its lack of HDMI output and lack of video support. I ordered a Chromecast Audio as soon as Google announced it, and of course opted for the fastest shipping method available at nearly the same price as the device itself. For $35 I was excited, as was the Computer Audiophile Community. I set my expectations low and hoped for the best. When the unit arrived I plugged it into my system for some straight forward testing. I wanted to know if the device passed the digital audio unaltered. After about three seconds I concluded the Chromecast Audio, in its current state, was a failure. All audio was converted to 48 kHz no matter what sample rate was sent to the device. I put the Chromecast Audio on the shelf and waited to see if Google cared to make firmware changes enabling audio to pass through unaltered. To my surprise, in December Google released a firmware update that not only enabled audio to pass through the Chromecast Audio unaltered, but also enabled support for sample rates up through 24 bit / 96 kHz. It was time to retest and hopefully write a little about the successes or failures. ...

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