• Digital Interface Converter

    by Published on 02-20-2014 06:40 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital Interface Converter,
    3. Digital to Analog Converter,
    4. S/PDIF (RCA) Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface,
    6. UPnP / DLNA

    T+A Elektroakustik is a company for which some Americans have yet to acquire a taste. Yet, T+A's product styling, build quality, and sound quality have won numerous awards throughout Europe. It took me awhile to really get what this company was doing and to acquire a taste for these German designs. At CEDIA 2013 I told the Dynaudio North America team, importers of T+A, that the styling of the T+A components was less than pleasing. Then I was shown a "custom integration" rack full of T+A components and things started to click. The look of this tall rack with several uniform looking components was quite nice. Since the CEDIA convention T+A components have entered my mind several times, especially when considering Ethernet streaming devices. T+A isn't new to the streaming audio market. The company's engineers have been perfecting its streaming platform for years and know quite a bit more about this technology than many companies. One of the first questions I ask before reviewing a streamer is, does the product support gapless playback at all sample rates? The response I received from T+A at RMAF was priceless. The answer, "Of course." I felt like gapless high resolution playback was an issue T+A conquered last century and the company was on to solving more complex issues. After acquiring a taste for T+A's styling and hearing about the company's impressive product engineering surrounding audio streamers, it was time for me to get the Music Player Balanced into my system and start listening. ...
    by Published on 08-22-2013 01:48 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital Interface Converter,
    3. Digital to Analog Converter,
    4. UPnP / DLNA
    Article Preview

    Pixel Magic's Lumin network music player is really something special. The Lumin simply works great, sounds great, and looks great. Every audio component should at least fall into the "it works" category. Unfortunately when network audio is involved most players have issues. Some network players can't handle gapless playback, others can't handle DSD playback, yet others can't handle files with larger than average embedded album art. The list of issues or deficiencies of network audio players could literally go on for several pages. A search of the Computer Audiophile forum, Linn forum, PS Audio forum, or even Google should give readers an idea of the headaches many users go through with network based audio solutions. Contrary to popular belief the network and player setup part is relatively easy. The hard part is running into issues such as lack of gapless playback and being powerless to fix the issue. Sometimes it's a hardware issue that no amount of firmware updating can fix. Other times firmware can resolve the issue but may cause an unforeseen issue with another aspect of playback. Network audio users know exactly what I'm writing about, whether they want to admit it is another story altogether. The Lumin suffers from none of the common network audio player ills. I streamed high res, low res, medium res, sky-high res, you-name-it res to the Lumin over my network and it simply worked. Gapless DSD? Check. Gapless 24 bit / 192 kHz? Check. No hiccups? Check. Lumin is without a doubt the most polished DLNA network player I've used to date. ...
    by Published on 04-30-2013 09:19 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital Interface Converter,
    3. S/PDIF (BNC) Interface,
    4. UPnP / DLNA
    Article Preview

    High end audio can be a polarizing hobby. Audiophiles like to select a product or technology and support it vigorously as if they have a large financial interest in its success. I was born an audiophile. I completely understand the desire for one's selection to be validated by the audiophile community. I also completely understand how unhealthy that desire for validation is and the neurosis it can cause. Audiophiles, myself included, must realize the products we select today will sound just as good in five years regardless of competing products, newer technologies, and others' opinions. One polarizing topic in computer audio is digital interfaces. Two digital interfaces that have strong vocal support from users are USB and Ethernet. Users of one technology frequently turn a blind eye to the merits of the other technology and won't even consider its use. Many users selected one technology a few years ago based on the information available at that time and refuse to update their own knowledge for any number of reasons. This leads to armchair engineer arguments based on half truths and old information. These discussions are a disservice to all readers. Based on my experience with both USB and Ethernet interfaces it's clear to me that both can sound excellent and both will have a strong presence in high end audio for the foreseeable future. One Ethernet interface that caught my attention a couple months ago is the UPnP AV 2.0 / DLNA compliant Simple Design Rendu Ethernet to S/PDIF Converter. Admittedly I was drawn in by the features and specs, notably its ability to play DSD, 24/192 PCM, and gapless audio streamed over Ethernet. I've since listened through the Rendu for countless hours and put it through a number of network audio tests. At first the Rendu was a bit picky and had some playback issues. Today using the newest firmware I'm happy to report the Rendu works very well and continues to sound very good. The Simple Design Rendu Ethernet to S/PDIF Converter is a product to watch in both two channel and whole house network audio. ...
    by Published on 04-09-2013 07:57 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital Interface Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. S/PDIF (BNC) Interface
    Article Preview

    Good USB to S/PDIF converters have been around for years, but the presence of great USB to S/PDIF converters is a fairly new phenomenon. The original Bel Canto USB Link was a good product when introduced in 2009. Since then new USB to S/PDIF converters seem to have hit the market every week. Several of these new converters offer the same or similar performance as products released years ago. In some cases the chassis have been upgraded to version 2.0 while the sound quality remains at version 1.0. A bump from 24 bit / 96 kHz to 24 bit / 192 kHz support by itself means nothing in terms of sound quality. In fact it can reduce sound quality because of the increased power draw and noise introduced by the high speed circuitry. The need for exemplary digital design has never been greater. The Bel Canto uLink USB to S/PDIF converter is a substantial step forward from previous Bel Canto converters and on par with some of the best converters available today. The uLink's unique features, great design, and great sound quality combined with its less than reference grade price point place it in a very sweet spot. It's far better than commodity converters and very close to reference quality converters. Computer audiophiles, without budget constraints, seeking the final 5% in sound quality may want to consider the Bel Canto REFLink and Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB. Everyone else, myself included, should seriously consider the Bel Canto uLink. ...
    by Published on 02-26-2013 05:00 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital Interface Converter,
    3. Digital to Analog Converter,
    4. USB Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (BNC) Interface,
    6. S/PDIF (RCA) Interface,
    7. AES/EBU Interface,
    8. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface

    The T+A DAC 8 has been in my audio system off and on for several months. There was something about this DAC that just didn’t sound right for much of this time period. I knew the DAC 8 was engineered very well with several user adjustable settings and DSP unique to the T+A brand, so I continued using the DAC in between reviews of other products. I had faith in the DAC 8 but admit at one point I even started writing an email to prep T+A for an unfavorable review. Roughly two weeks ago I decided it was time to fish or cut bait. I couldn’t hold up the review any longer. In my last ditch effort to squeeze better sound from the DAC 8 I re-read the user manual and discovered I wasn’t using the correct digital filter for my musical taste. This entire time I thought I’d set the DAC up to use its pure Bezier interpolator for better timing and dynamics. To my dismay I’d accidentally selected the Bezier interpolator with IIR filter that produces a highly analog sound similar to vinyl records. There’s nothing wrong with the Bezier interpolator with IIR filter but it was far from my expectations of accurate playback. Once I selected the pure Bezier interpolator all was right with the world. I’d found the magic I knew was inside the T+A DAC 8 and couldn’t have been happier. ...
    by Published on 02-10-2013 10:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital Interface Converter,
    3. Digital to Analog Converter,
    4. USB Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface

    At the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show Meridian very quietly and behind closed doors introduced a new pocket-sized USB DAC / headphone amplifier named the Meridian Explorer. I was very excited by the external and internal look of the Explorer. The extruded brushed aluminum enclosure and the six layer circuit board containing giant Nichicon caps, an XMOS L1 processor, and audiophile grade components throughout were extremely impressive. The specs were also superb. Notably the asynchronous USB input, support for all popular PCM sample rates up through 192 kHz, fixed and variable analog output, optical output, and digitally controlled analog volume attenuation. I declined the offer to listen through the Explorer in the Meridian suite because the conditions were less than good. The ambient noise, unfamiliar headphones, unfamiliar music, and limited time wouldn’t have helped me develop an accurate first impression. Thus I flew back to Minneapolis and awaited the Explorer’s arrival. My first impression of this $299 DAC’s sound quality in my system was excellent. Throughout the review period I compared the Explorer to a $249 competitor by listening through my Ultimate Ears 11 Pro, Etymotic ER4-P, and Sennheiser HD600 headphones. As each listening session passed I liked the sound of the Explorer even more. The Meridian Explorer has entered this market segment on top and is definitely the portable USB DAC to beat. ...
    Page 1 of 4 1234 LastLast