• The Computer Audiophile

    by Published on 09-14-2016 02:25 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital Interface Converter,
    3. Music Servers,
    4. Wireless,
    5. Music Hub / Controller,
    6. USB Interface,
    7. UPnP / DLNA,
    8. RoonReady
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    O Canada ... Computer Audiophile readers have heard plenty about Canada lately. Starting with the terrific Peachtree Audio nova150, made in Canada, followed by the wonderful Bryston BDA-3, made in Canada, and now the exaSound PlayPoint, also designed and manufactured in Canada. As my mom used to say, while I was playing hockey against great Canadian teams as a kid, "There must be something in the water up there." Anyway, Canada's exaSound Audio Design is a company that's dedicated to solid engineering and leading edge technology. exaSound has lead the pack with many "world's first" implementations, such as a multi-channel asynchronous USB to I2S interface capable of supporting multichannel DXD at 352.8kHz/32bit, a USB to I2S interface supporting 2-channel DSD64, DSD128, DSD256, DSD512 and PCM 384kHz/32bit, an 8-channel DXD 384kHz/32bit consumer-oriented DAC, a high-end DACs (both two-channel and multi-channel) capable of achieving DSD256 playback at sampling rate of 11.2896 MHz and 12.288 MHz. Keep in mind that a few of these innovations date back to 2011, when many manufacturers were still trying to support 24 bit / 192 kHz audio, and thought DSD was only something obtainable from a physical SACD disc. The exaSound PlayPoint doesn't feature any world's first features, but it's still way ahead of much of the competition. In fact, I'm willing to bet that the exaSound team would have been the first to offer a RoonReady product if only they had access to the software. I remember talking to George from exaSound, who was extremely eager to get going on a Roon implementation, long before most companies had even heard of Roon. Needless to say, the PlayPoint supports the latest and greatest features and is an excellent companion to the current lineup of exaSound DACs. ...
    by Published on 09-01-2016 10:14 PM
    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
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    Shopping for HiFi components can be tricky. It's always wise to consider the company from which one is purchasing, in addition to the quality of the products. The best HiFi in the world quickly turns to the worst Hifi in the world, if it malfunctions and one can't get it serviced. Unfortunately, it seems there are many questionable companies popping up to offer digital HiFi products. Some of them have left customers high and dry. As Chris Rock said at the 1997 MTV VMAs when talking about pop stars in the music industry, "Here today, gone today." It's not quite that bad in HiFi, but nonetheless, nobody likes to throw away hard earned money. On the other end of the spectrum is Canada's Bryston Limited. Bryston was founded in 1962 and makes some of the most robust products in the industry. The company prides itself on making all its components in Canada, and offering a 20 year warranty for analog products and a 5 year warranty for digital products. In addition, everyone at Bryston I've ever talked to has been a straight-shooter and very down to earth. There's no such thing as snake oil in the Bryston repertoire. When offered the opportunity to review a component from a company such as Bryston, I jump at the chance. I see part of my job as reviewing good components and another part as giving my word that the company behind the component is equally as good. In this case, I am unequivocal that Bryston ltd. is a pillar of the HiFi community, and its new BDA-3 DAC is ranked very high on my list of go-to components. The BDA-3 has more inputs and features than any normal enthusiast will ever need, and when it comes to music reproduction, it sets the new standard in the Bryston line-up. Against the competition, the BDA-3 performs equal to or better than many DACs I've heard in my system and in other systems. Needless to say, I've had a great time listening to the BDA-3 throughout this review period. It doesn't get much better than spending my time listening to my favorite music through a great component such as the Bryston BDA-3. ...
    by Published on 08-18-2016 07:34 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. S/PDIF (RCA) Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface,
    6. Preamp
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    I've been a fan of Peachtree Audio ever since I saw the team demonstrate its products using an AppleTV as a source, way back before the HiFi industry realized someone moved its cheese. Peachtree Audio introduced products with USB inputs long before most of the industry realized it was possible to connect a computer-based product to a "real" audio system. This was around the time when a notorious New York City audio dealer would kick people out of his store for bringing in iPods to use as a source. It's funny how life works, that dealer's business is now a shadow of its former self and computer audio is taking over the world of HiFi. After Peachtree Audio's meteoric rise and success all over the world, the company had a a few growing pains that one could expect from any small company growing at record speed. During this roughly 2-year transitional period, Peachtree turned out a few products to make sure the company stayed healthy; all the while working on the line they always wanted to do. In the Spring of 2016 the company re-launched, with co-founder David Solomon back on-board, as Peachtree Audio 2.0, during an event at Stereo Exchange in NYC. The Peachtree team was at the event to let people know what was in store with Peachtree 2.0. This wasn't a smoke and mirrors type of HiFi event, rather it was a brass tacks type of event. Peachtree Audio had undergone some big changes, during Solomon's absence, in how it designs and builds its products, and the company wanted everyone to know. In fact, there was a big sense of pride visible in the Peachtree team because of what it had accomplished with its new products. The main attraction at the NYC event was the nova150 integrated amplifier. Since listening to the nova150 in NYC in March 2016, I've been waiting for my review sample to arrive. The nova150 sounded great at the event and looked fantastic with its gloss ebony mocha finish. But, there's no substitute to hearing a component in one's own system and spending serious time playing gigabytes of familiar music. After spending the last week listening to the nova150 for hours on end, I can say without a doubt that Peachtree Audio 2.0 is much more than just a number. Compared to previous Peachtree products, the new nova150 is in a different class. A different class of design, and more importantly a different class of sound quality. ...
    by Published on 08-11-2016 03:42 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Bits & Bytes
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    In the summer of 1991 Pearl Jam's album Ten was released and it changed my life. Since then, Pearl Jam has been my favorite band. I've seen them play around the country many times. Each Pearl Jam show features a new setlist created by singer Eddie Vedder on the day of the show. To more experienced concert goers, who attended shows in the 1960s and 1970s, this type of setlist is nothing new. But, for younger music aficionados like myself, a new setlist at every concert is something special. My first concert was a Motley Crue show at the long gone Met Center here in Minnesota on March 06, 1990 (here's my ticket stub). Motley Crue played virtually the same 17 songs two nights earlier in Omaha as they did in Minnesota and three nights later in Madison, Wisconsin. Over the years I've seen more band's with fixed setlist than I've seen those who mix it up on a nightly basis. Anyway, when Pearl Jam announced it would be playing Boston's Fenway Park this summer, I immediately logged into my Pearl Jam fan club account and entered the drawing to purchase tickets. Weeks later I was notified that my name had been drawn for two tickets to the August 05, 2016 show. Flights were booked, hotel reservations were made, and as Pearl Jam sang in the song Corduroy, the waiting drove me mad. ...
    by Published on 08-03-2016 01:22 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. Headphones
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    Four years ago I crowned the original AudioQuest DragonFly 1.0 Computer Audiophile's Product of the Year for 2012. The original $250 "Fly" beat out the $15,500 EMM Labs DAC2X for this honor. In the years since the DragonFly's introduction, countless clones, copies, and derivative designs hit the market. But, AudioQuest clearly invented this category of products and it's the original DragonFly to which all similar products have been compared. While other companies were figuring out how to build a better DragonFly through endless money raising campaigns and support for the highest sample rates known to man, AudioQuest was hard at work reinventing the Fly. AudioQuest had already identified a drawback to its original DragonFly design, but the technology to resolve the issue simply didn't exist. What does a smart company do when the technology it needs doesn't exist? The company creates what it needs and beats the competition to market while the competition is doubling down on outdated designs. Using new technology AudioQuest improved and expanded the DragonFly family. The new products deserved so much more than a simple numerical model number increase, that AudioQuest named them the DragonFly Black and DragonFly Red. Due to AudioQuest's solid industry vision and the removal of the iPhone 7 3.5mm headphone jack, the new DragonFly Black and DragonFly Red are positioned perfectly to fill a giant void for high end devices facilitating better quality mobile playback. If history is the best predictor of the future, I have no doubt we'll see an endless supply of cheap and expensive copycats attempting to quickly recreate what AudioQuest has developed over the last several years. However, as the saying goes (and if you're anything like me), why get an imitation when you can have the original? ...
    by Published on 07-28-2016 12:49 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Bits & Bytes
    Article Preview



    While the prices of many HiFi goods continue to go up, the prices of high tech goods continue to go down. In addition to prices going down, high tech goods almost always increase performance and features while decreasing in size for this reduced price. I wish the HiFi world was like the high tech world in this respect, but I completely understand the nature of building something by hand at the highest quality in low quantity versus building something for the lowest price at incredibly high volume in parts of the world where labor is extremely inexpensive. That may be a discussion for a different day because today is about the convergence of HiFi and high tech.

    I've always recommended that people start by purchasing the least expensive products and move up the ladder until they are satisfied. It simply makes sense. Some people know they will only be satisfied with the best and possibly most expensive options while others feel rewarded by finding a the best value. Neither way is right, it's all about choice.

    Before we get started with this cool new product, I want to address a misconception that some people have with CA covering items like a $7.99 audio endpoint. I've been told by some manufacturers that I shouldn't write about this stuff, it's too DIY and DIY'ers don't spend money, and that it isn't HiFi enough and that they don't like the direction of CA. I believe that type of small-minded thinking is what old-school HiFi is all about and it's something that old-school HiFi must get over if it wants to succeed in the future. CA isn't a DIY site, but we feature cool products when we seen them. Plus, these articles do wonders for bringing in a new audience to the CA community and HiFi in general. CA has a huge contingent of readers in Silicon Valley (and Australia, G'day mates) who love music, are a bit geeky, have technical aptitude, have disposable income, and would likely never have heard of most of our favorite HiFi brands without content like this that bridges the gap. Furthermore, when people purchase $7.99 audio endpoints, they need DACs to make music. Purchase five of these inexpensive endpoints for different rooms, and one will need five DACs. The money saved on endpoints can also be spent on other items such as software, music, amps, cables, loudspeakers, etc... I could go on, but I don't want to derail an otherwise cool product introduction with my rant about why products like this are good for HiFi. Either one believes it or not. The world is changing. ...
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