• Brian

    by Published on 06-30-2014 10:23 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,
    8. Headphones
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    The Oppo HA-1 is a harvester of many tricks, so many in fact that it is almost unfair to label it strictly a headphone amplifier as the acronym in the name suggests. It really stretches the boundaries of inputs, outputs and digital conversion all within a reasonable amount of desktop real estate.

    As with all things Oppo, attention to detail appears to be a top priority, even down to the packaging. In a market where the focus on sound quality can allow manufacturers to slip by with off-the-shelf interfaces and external design, the Oppo ship is watertight. In rare form for most HiFi equipment, the head amp includes a fully interactive graphical interface, complete with pretty icons for source selection. Connectivity is king with the HA-1. Nearly every single base is covered. In the rear you can find super DSD-friendly USB, single ended ins and outs, balanced XLR ins and outs, and one of each type of available digital input (including optical, coaxial and AES/EBU). To top it all off Oppo included both an in and out trigger and Bluetooth connectivity with aptX. An external remote is included, but in case you donít want another one lying around the house, Oppo even has a remote app for your perusing pleasure that connects via Bluetooth. ...
    by Published on 12-19-2013 09:57 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface


    The plot continues to thicken around USB-stick-sized micro DACs. The release of the AudioQuest Dragonfly and subsequently the Meridian Explorer pushed the burgeoning genre even further into the audiophile consciousness. The lowly (by audiophile standards) cost of entry beckons the question, how far is this game going to go? The answer from Audioengine is another step in the southern direction with their newest release called the D3 ($189).

    While Audioengine is perhaps know best for its affordable computer audio loudspeaker setups, its reasonably priced D1 DAC unit ($169) has not gone completely unnoticed among the budget computer audio faithful. The followup micro DAC here keeps the company on pace with current industry trends and further challenges the idea that high fidelity listening has to cost an arm and a leg. ...
    by Published on 09-20-2013 11:03 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Preamp,
    3. Headphones
    Article Preview

    As a follow up to the recently released Auralic VEGA Dac, designer Xuanqian Wang decided to give his Taurus balanced headphone amplifier a refresh with the newest MkII revision ($1,899). The new version employs the same silver minimalist stylings as the VEGA and allows for both single ended and balanced headphone connections. As an added bonus he chose to include a pair of SE and balanced outputs, so the Taurus MkII is free to take on pre amplifier responsibilities as well. I am a big fan of the VEGAs design and build. The entire unit felt well kempt and detail-oriented. Likewise the Taurus is solid from top to bottom. While the 3 legs its chassis rests upon is designed to reduce vibrations from entering the component, plugging cables in to the back turned out to be slightly more prone to tipping left or right than the conventional 4 leg setup. Minor quibbles aside, everything works as it should. The Taurus runs though the courses with the expected panache of the full high-end experience. Its relatively heavy weight convinces you its innards are chock full of lovely audiophile-oriented components. Indeed, the size is the same as the VEGA, which was a fine choice by Wang. The chassis still large enough to be taken seriously (especially for a solid state head amp), but not so big that it takes up two parking spaces on the precious real estate of your desktop. It even makes a fine visual pairing with the Macbook Air I reviewed it with. Similarities between the two are easy to spot, the finish bears a close resemblance to the recognizable laptop line and the footprint is almost exactly the same. ...
    by Published on 06-26-2013 12:46 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Headphones
    Article Preview

    A solid amplifier can make all the difference to a pair of top-flight headphones. When portability is not a concern, the elusive ďtop 10%Ē of performance has a firm launching pad to ramp up its well-polished delivery. The finest headphones available today are supremely complemented by proper amplification. Beauty begets more beauty in this case. Iím not just talking about raw watts to muscle high impedance cans around, but the grace, finesse, control and ultimately natural sounding reproduction that hopefully accompanies properly implemented R & D. The Luxman P-700u flagship headphone amplifier ($6k) offers all the versatility and sonic integrity you would expect from amplifier that costs 5x more than the headphones it would usually drive. ...
    by Published on 05-03-2013 10:19 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Headphones
    Article Preview

    ALO Audio along with a handful of other companies has been leading the charge on portable audio amplification. Their product lineup includes one of the largest and varied sections of both tube and solid-state portable headphone amplifiers. Sitting atop the mobile offerings is the ALO flagship Rx Mk3-b ($650). Offering both balanced and single-ended inputs and outputs, this battery-powered headphone amplifier is a reminder that head fi audio is slowly adapting the same principals as audiophile loudspeaker components. While close competitor Ray Samuels and budget brand Fiio provide even more illumination to the landscape, ALO pushes the performance (and price) of portable even further north with the Mk3 over previous amplifier-only incarnations. Even more recent than the Mk3, a new wave of amp+dac combinations is sweeping the countryside with the promise of everything you need for desktop listening in a compact package. This new arrangement however, doesnít allow for the versatility that accompanies the Mk3. As Iím sure you know if you are reading this review, that DAC technologies and improvements are moving at a much faster clip than the rest of HiFi audio, especially in the portable realm. For the purpose of this endeavor, I paired the Mk3 with a wide variety of sources in an attempt to deliver the fullest viewpoint of applications. On both the giving and receiving ends the Mk3 is quite a flexible device. ...
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