• Digital to Analog Converter

    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 08-03-2016 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 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
    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. ...
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