• AES/EBU Interface

    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
    Article Preview



    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 06-03-2016 12:40 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. S/PDIF (BNC) Interface,
    4. AES/EBU Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface
    Article Preview



    In September 2014 I reviewed the original Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series digital to analog converter. I began that review by saying,

    "Rarely do I hear a component that's truly a game changer, a component that's so good I can't stop listening through it, and a component that's so good it renders much of the competition irrelevant. I can't remember, off the top of my head, the last time I heard such a component. That is, before the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series arrived. The Alpha DAC RS, every bit a true game changer, blew me away from the first listen in my system. Since its arrival I've listened to more complete albums and heard more new sounds from old albums than any time in my life."

    Looking back at that review I am reminded of the impact the Reference Series had on my enjoyment of this hobby. It's crazy how one can get used to the new normal and easily forget about life before a significant event or change in one's life. I guess that's just part of being human. It actually keeps us sane in the face of tragic events, but it also dulls the enthusiasm for that new car smell with each subsequent ride. I've lived with the Alpha DAC Reference Series for almost two years and in that time I've simply become accustomed to the quality of sound it can reproduce. I know that statement may sound crazy, but it's true. My new normal, or reference as it may be called, is one of the best products available in HiFi. Call me jaded or any number of adjectives that describe this first-world problem and that's OK. I get it. But, I also haven't completely forgot my roots. There was a day back around sixth grade when my new Technics receiver and sixty-four dollar Kenwood loudspeakers totally blew away my Toshiba boombox and changed my life forever. Perhaps it's these adjustments to new things in life that partly motivates engineers to improve their products. The thrill of listening to a component that brings one that much closer to the real thing, can't be denied. ...
    by Published on 02-12-2016 10:05 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
    Article Preview



    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 01-29-2016 10:42 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 11-03-2015 02:51 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
    Article Preview



    Late last night I was about to conduct a final listening session with the Schiit Audio Yggdrasil DAC. I planned to finish writing this review after listening to one, maybe two albums. After all, I really didn't need to listen to the DAC for another minute, let alone another couple of hours. I already spent quite a bit of time with the Yggdrasil, but I just had to give it one more listen. I turned out the lights and turned up the volume on a Constellation Audio preamplifier. A track or two into the first album and I knew my plan for the evening was moot. I was not going to be able to stop listening and start writing. The sound was so good and the experience so enveloping, that I couldn't stop listening until the cause of my head bobbing switched from incredible music to incredible sleepiness. Hours after the listening session began, I had to call it a night and get some rest. I was eager to write, but I was in no condition to concentrate and collect coherent thoughts. This is the kind of component the Yggdrasil is, one that can suck the listener in and alter one's plans for the evening. I've enjoyed the Yggdrasil so much since I took delivery of the unit that I can say it's unequivocally one of the best DACs at reproducing acoustic music I've ever heard. Of course this DAC is fabulous at amplified / electric music as well, but there is something about its ability to convey realism when reproducing acoustic instruments that is remarkably alluring. In my experience, sound quality of this caliber comes at a price that most of us simply can't afford. We read the reviews of ultra high-end products as aspirational buyers who may one day get lucky enough to find a gem on the used market for well below the original price. Many audio enthusiasts know what I'm about to say, but those who are unfamiliar with the Yggdrasil, and Schiit Audio in general, should stop skimming this review and pay close attention. The aforementioned sound quality of the Yggdrasil, Schiit Audio's top-of-the-line digital to analog converter, can be had for $2,299 USD. That's a new-in-box component with a fifteen day return policy and a five year warranty, for less than the cost of sales tax on many items in this wonderful yet sometimes crazy world of high end audio. Come along as I share my extraordinary experience with the Schiit Audio Yggdrasil digital to analog converter. ...
    by Published on 09-14-2015 12:01 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. S/PDIF (RCA) Interface,
    4. AES/EBU Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface
    Article Preview



    My love affair with Ed Meitner designed products began a bit over four years ago when I received a review sample of the Meitner Audio MA-1 DAC in the Summer of 2011. After living with the MA-1 for a couple months I wrote, “The MA-1 was one of the most enjoyable products I've reviewed in recent memory (link).” One year later Ed’s team stepped me up to the major leagues by sending me the emm Labs DAC2X for review. The DAC2X contributed greatly to one heck of a Summer listening to my HiFi. At that time I concluded it was, “Unequivocally the best DAC I've heard in my system (link).” In the years between that review and today, emm Labs has been hard at work making the DAC2X even better. In fact, at recent trade shows Shahin from emm Labs has implored me to send my DAC2X back to the factory in Calgary so the team could updated it to current production specs. He suggested the updates Ed had been working on were incredible. Of course a representative of any company is going to tell a member of the press that the newest product is not-to-be missed. Thus, I held on to my appropriate amount of skepticism as I sent the DAC2X across the Canadian border for updates. After a few weeks I received two packages from emm Labs. The newest version of the DAC2X arrived with its brother, the PRE2-SE preamplifier. Keep in mind that the DAC2X has a fixed analog output and requires a preamplifier between it and the power amps. I enthusiastically placed the new emm pair in my system with Pass Labs XA160.5 monoblock amplifiers and TAD CR1 loudspeakers, all connected via Wire World Platinum Eclipse / Starlight 7 cables. What I heard emanating from my speakers was nothing short of fantastic. Shahin from emm Labs was correct in using the adjective incredible to describe Ed Meitner’s ingenious updates to the DAC2X. ...
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