• Digital Interface Converter

    by Published on 08-31-2014 03:50 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital Interface Converter,
    3. Wireless,
    4. S/PDIF (RCA) Interface,
    5. AES/EBU Interface,
    6. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface,
    7. UPnP / DLNA

    The Auralic Aries is perhaps the most talked about HiFi product in recent memory. The Computer Audiophile Community is probably more responsible for this chatter than most other outlets combined. It only makes sense that we would talk about, and hype, the Aries as the product is right up our alley. An Ethernet to digital audio interface, software driven and upgradeable, and an ambitious iOS application are items for which some computer audiophiles live. The Aries includes all three. I've had the Aries in my system since early July and it's time to deliver an update to the CA Community. In the early beta days I had my share of issues with the Aries and Lightning DS iOS application. I've used the Aries in combination with several UPnP servers, UPnP control points, and DACs since its arrival. Over the last few weeks the system has become increasingly stable and enjoyable to use for all my local and lossless streaming music needs. ...
    by Published on 06-06-2014 10:31 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital Interface Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. UPnP / DLNA
    Article Preview



    Have a good USB DAC? Check. Want to turn it into a networked device without changing one item on the DAC? Check.

    Over the last couple years I increasingly wanted a specific product that didn't exist. I wanted an ultra simple device with Ethernet input and USB audio output. This seems like such an obvious product that should have been available since the day the first USB DACs hit the market. Especially because so many of the network addressable DACs have big problems with file types, compression schemes, gapless playback, etc… Plus, if the sound of a specific USB DAC is what the listeners want, but they also want the functionality of a networked DAC, they should be able to bridge the gap. This isn't rocket science and this isn't the 1980s. Tiny ARM based Linux compatible single board computers are everywhere. It's time for the Internet of Things and running on this IoT are millions of tiny devices that can be used to create a simple Ethernet in and USB audio out device. As The O'Jays, The Kinks, and Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings said, Give the People What They Want. Thus, the SOtM sMS-100 Mini Server was created. We finally have a physically simple device that converts network audio streams into USB audio streams for playback on nearly any popular USB DAC. ...
    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. ...
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