• Digital to Analog Converter

    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 03-25-2016 09:08 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. Headphones
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    For those not familiar with Woo Audio’s offerings, the USA-based company has been making high performance loudspeaker and headphone amplifiers for several years out of New York. Owner Jack Woo has successfully piloted the company and built a substantial reputation for quality-made tube stage amplifiers. While the full product rundown includes loudspeaker implementations, most of Woo’s foothold in the marketplace comes directly from its large, perfectly incremental headphone amplifier product line. From their entry level single-ended OTL WA3 amp ($599) to the behemoth WA234 monoblocks ($15,900) Jack and the team have a little bit of something for everyone interested in analog listening. Keeping up with the times requires a bit more than just creating price touch points across a scale. The newest version of the WA7 Fireflies firmly addresses these changes in technology while also tapping into that elusive harmony which happens when the digital and analog realms collide. The two-part package starts at a cool $999 for the WA7 with a solid-state power supply by itself, with the WA7 tube power block costing an additional $749. Bundled together however, you will be able to save a little bit of scratch as the full tube package purchased at the same time will cost a mere $1,599. ...
    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
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    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 09-28-2015 10:32 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. Speakers,
    4. Wireless,
    5. USB Interface,
    6. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface,
    7. UPnP / DLNA
    Article Preview



    When audiophiles or those in the pro music industry think of Yamaha loudspeakers, the first thing that comes to mind is, arguably the most important speaker of all time, the Yamaha NS10. A little known fact about the NS10 is that it started as a consumer HiFi product before moving to the pro market exclusively. The NS10 was involved in so many of our favorite recordings that it's nearly impossible to mention them all. It's probably easier for someone to create a list of recordings in which the NS10 was not involved in some fashion. Love them or hate them, the Yamaha NS10 has played a significant role in everyone's music listening experience for decades. Fast forward almost fifteen years after the NS10 was discontinued (2001) and Yamaha continues to manufacture a wide range of consumer and professional audio components. Over the years the company has changed and improved performance through its massive global R&D organization, but one thing remains constant, Yamaha's iconic bright white bass/mid driver cone in its loudspeakers. The Yamaha NX-N500 active loudspeakers that I've had connected to my 27" iMac 5K for the last month can't be mistaken for anything but a Yamaha product. In fact these speakers exude a sense of music history, a confidence, a je ne sais quoi all their own. These speakers aren't the highest of HiFi or the flashiest of audio jewelry, but they are distinctly Yamaha. The NX-N500 delivers exactly what Yamaha customers have come to expect over the company's 120 year history. Solid products with good sound and commensurate build quality. In addition, the NX-N500 delivers features commonly associated with niche high-end components such as XMOS asynchronous USB, PCM and DSD support up through the highest sample rates, and gapless DLNA playback at 24/192 via wired Ethernet or WiFi. This is just the beginning of all the supported features of the Yamaha NX-N500. These all-in-one active loudspeakers should easily satisfy 99.9% of music enthusiasts. ...
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