• Digital to Analog Converter

    by Published on 01-29-2014 10:09 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface



    Over the last few years I've had the privilege of sharing presentation spaces at dealer events with Ayre's Alex Brinkman. Usually Alex talks a bit about Ayre Acoustics as a company followed by a specific product or two then hands the floor over to me for my presentation. Listening to Alex's presentation five to ten times per evening has enabled me to learn a lot about Ayre. In fact I could likely fill in for Alex at the next event if needed. One item that sticks in my mind is Ayre's policy of keeping products in the lineup for extended periods of time. For example the Ayre K-5xeMP preamplifier has been in production for twelve years. During those twelve years Ayre has continued to make advances in design and sound quality and offered these advances as upgrades to its customers. Many customers who purchased the original K-5 preamp have sent their components to the Ayre factory for upgrades and are now using a K-5xeMP identical to the current model on showroom floors. The Ayre QB-9 USB DAC was released in April 2009. The initial version of the DAC supported sample rates up through 96 kHz. In July 2010 Ayre offered its QB-9 customers the opportunity to upgrade the initial version to support 192 kHz for a nominal fee. This upgrade had no impact on sound quality so Ayre left the QB-9 name unchanged. In May 2013 Ayre released a major upgrade to the QB-9 and adjusted its name to QB-9 DSD. This upgrade was an overhaul that could have warranted a completely new product in Ayre's lineup. Sticking with its policy of upgradability Ayre has been upgrading QB-9 DACs to the QB-9 DSD version for $500, the same as the price difference between the new and old model. As the name changed to QB-9 DSD implies, the sound quality improvement to this DAC is well worth the price of the upgrade. The QB-9 DSD is a completely different DAC from the previous generation of the QB-9. Adding the letters DSD to the QB-9 name is a bit misleading because this upgrade is much more about everything else inside the DAC than it is about the ability to play DSD material. Ayre has elevated the QB-9 to arguably the best sounding USB only DAC in its price range. ...
    by Published on 01-05-2014 03:18 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. S/PDIF (BNC) Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface





    Confessions of a DSD-Aholic, by Ted Brady

    One aspect of being able to have review/demo units on oneís system for review (thank you Chris) is that there comes a time when you need to send them back. And although Iíve demoíd dozens of DACs over the years Iíve never really experienced the angst that a return could bring on. Until nowÖ

    I really miss the Chord QuteHD. There I said it; I was once a strong man of principle, and now reduced to a weak yearner of days gone by. In reality, I borrowed the Chord for WAY too long a period (as some of you who know me understand that this review is like 4 months late ☺) and I thank the NA distributor, Jay and Katherine Rein of Bluebird Music, for their patienceÖwhich ultimately I tested for too long of a period. I donít blame them at all. ☺ But I do miss that thing.

    OK, so why did I have the Chord for so long, and what is it about the thing that I miss? Well, this story ultimately began when I first discovered the DSD format back in September of 2011. ...
    by Published on 12-19-2013 10:57 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 11-21-2013 07:34 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. Preamp,
    5. Headphones
    Article Preview


    Meridian Audio is on a roll this year releasing the Explorer, Director, and now the Prime. All three are headphone amplifiers but the Prime is another league. In addition to asynchronous USB input for sample rates up through 24 bit / 192 kHz PCM like the Explorer and Director, the Prime can function as the center of both digital and analog audio systems. Featuring both digital and analog inputs that donít cross paths internally the Prime is much more of a foundation piece upon which to build a high quality audio system than solely a headphone amplifier as its name suggests. The build quality and the look of the Prime are terrific. The Prime exudes both a pride in craftsmanship from Meridian and no doubt a pride of ownership for the consumer. I envision the Prime quarterbacking many an office audio system in the near future driving both headphones and powered loudspeakers. The Prime is fairly small but it isnít portable. Listeners enjoying the Prime at work will likely want a matching unit for the house once they hear what Meridianís Analogue Spatial Processing if capable of delivering via the headphone outputs. Listening to plain in-the-head audio just doesnít cut it any longer. Whats more, add the Meridian Prime Power Supply to the mix and itís primetime for audio enthusiasts everywhere. ...
    by Published on 09-12-2013 05:17 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. Speakers,
    4. USB Interface,
    5. Preamp
    Article Preview

    Why do we listen to music? What motivates us to select a specific album or playlist? The answers to these questions may vary between all of us and even vary within us from day to day. I often listen to music and select certain albums because I've chosen to to write about music and equipment as a career. Recently I've been inspired to listen to music after watching videos emailed to me by friends. Three specific videos sparked me to listen to and enjoy more music in the last few weeks than I have in recent memory. One was an official music video, one was a poorly recorded public performance, and the other was an advertising campaign for a mobile phone. Three very different videos featuring very different music, yet the result the same. I delved into three artist's catalogs and did nothing but listen for hours on end. I cranked the volume when I felt like it, listened to deeps tracks that lead to deeper tracks, and listened to bootleg albums of concerts I attended. I was lost in my own little world where I wasn't concerned with writing about specifications and minute little details that the family Chihuahuas probably don't even hear. Analyzing this music with software in an attempt to learn about its provenance sounded about as fun as paying the IRS. Both of those activities couldn't have been further from my mind. I was busy rocking, bouncing, head bobbing, and feeling chills that only authentic experiences can evoke. ...
    by Published on 08-28-2013 01:44 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. S/PDIF (RCA) Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface,
    6. Preamp,
    7. Headphones
    Article Preview


    exaSound e28 8 Channel DSD DAC: Computer Audio Is Surrounded!
    Argh! A multichannel review? Seriously? Who likes multichannel? And file-based multichannel? Seriously? Who does file-based multichannel? Isnít surround sound for sci-fi spaceship flyovers and spooky foley effects in horror movies? And you call yourself an audiophile?

    Ok, so I got all that (tongue in cheek) out of the way. Those of you who have embraced computer audio and are content with two-channel soundstages, I implore you to read on. Maybe just one or two (thousand?) of you can discover the incredible potential of the realism and adventure, in the VAST catalog of hirez multichannel music that is becoming available to use, at your listening seat.

    When I first realized the potential of computer audio, when I first heard and experienced both the sonic improvements and the incredible convenience of remote-controlled file-based music playback, I was dreaming of the day when this paradigm would allow me to listen to ALL my music, both 2 channel and multichannel. I have a significant amount of time and energy invested into my multichannel music (not to be confused with movie setup) signal path, and am lucky to have dedicated equipment for both 2 channel and multichannel hirez listening. Itís not necessary to be this OC, but I am. ...
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