• Preamp

    by Published on 11-21-2013 06:34 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. Preamp,
    5. Headphones
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    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 09-20-2013 11:03 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Preamp,
    3. Headphones
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    As a follow up to the recently released Auralic VEGA Dac, designer Xuanqian Wang decided to give his Taurus balanced headphone amplifier a refresh with the newest MkII revision ($1,899). The new version employs the same silver minimalist stylings as the VEGA and allows for both single ended and balanced headphone connections. As an added bonus he chose to include a pair of SE and balanced outputs, so the Taurus MkII is free to take on pre amplifier responsibilities as well. I am a big fan of the VEGAs design and build. The entire unit felt well kempt and detail-oriented. Likewise the Taurus is solid from top to bottom. While the 3 legs its chassis rests upon is designed to reduce vibrations from entering the component, plugging cables in to the back turned out to be slightly more prone to tipping left or right than the conventional 4 leg setup. Minor quibbles aside, everything works as it should. The Taurus runs though the courses with the expected panache of the full high-end experience. Its relatively heavy weight convinces you its innards are chock full of lovely audiophile-oriented components. Indeed, the size is the same as the VEGA, which was a fine choice by Wang. The chassis still large enough to be taken seriously (especially for a solid state head amp), but not so big that it takes up two parking spaces on the precious real estate of your desktop. It even makes a fine visual pairing with the Macbook Air I reviewed it with. Similarities between the two are easy to spot, the finish bears a close resemblance to the recognizable laptop line and the footprint is almost exactly the same. ...
    by Published on 09-12-2013 04:17 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. Speakers,
    4. USB Interface,
    5. Preamp
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    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 12:44 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
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    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. ...
    by Published on 06-13-2013 11:44 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. UPnP / DLNA,
    4. Preamp
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    At times things get a little complex here at Computer Audiophile. Maybe thatís the nature of both computer enthusiasts and audiophiles. The mentality that version 2.0 must be better than version 1.0 and the more work it takes the better the payoff can be seen throughout this wonderful hobby. Thereís nothing wrong with exploring computer audio and taking it to the extreme in an effort to improve oneís music listening experience. In fact I encourage this every day as a way to take computer audio as a whole to the next level. However, complexity can take the fun out of almost anything. Countless times Iíve run into a computer issue and spent thirty minutes tracking down the cause. Meanwhile my friends listening to vinyl have already flipped the record over to Side B and started thinking about their next album to play. In the spirit of simplicity and enthusiasm for just listening to music I set out to use the Linn Akurate DSM network audio player as if I was brand new to this hobby. I wanted to forget about my enterprise Cisco based network with several UPnP / DLNA servers, control points, and renderers. Thus, I installed the Synology Media Server software on my Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive, used my iPad to control playback with Linnís Kinsky app, and streamed music directly to the Akurate DSM. The experience left me pleasantly satisfied and wondering if I still needed my unusually complicated network audio configuration. This simple setup enabled me to listen to more music through the Akurate DSM and forget about how each packet was speeding through my switches and Ethernet cables. While listening I thoroughly enjoyed the very good sound quality put out by the Akurate DSM. A NAS, iPad, and Linn Akurate DSM is a very compelling package for those seeking high quality sound and simple network based audio. ...
    by Published on 01-22-2013 02:04 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. Music Servers,
    4. Preamp
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    The MAN301 is an ambitious attempt by Weiss Engineering to create a music server capable of numerous digital and analog configurations and a totally unique user experience through its own custom iPad application. I applaud Weiss Engineeringís ambition and willingness to chart its own course in music server design rather than follow the herd. The MAN301ís ability to pull music from an unlimited amount of storage via Ethernet is great for music aficionados with gigantic multi-terabyte music collections. Weissí inclusion of its award winning DAC inside the MAN301 is also terrific for audiophiles looking to combine feature sets or reduce the number of boxes in their listening environments. In typical Weiss fashion the MAN301 features coarse analog and fine digital volume control, audio routing from digital in to digital out, digital in to analog out, Ethernet in to analog out, and many other configurations on several interfaces like RCA, XLR, S/PDIF, USB, and FireWire. As expected the Daniel Weiss designed audio features of the MAN301 are top notch. However the custom iPad application and music server functionality need a bit more fine tuning to make the product a competitor with the best solutions available. Fortunately in the several months since I received the MAN301 I updated its software a few times and was very pleased by the progress Weiss Engineering has made toward better features and improved functionality of existing features. Overall the Weiss Engineering MAN301 sounds very good and its functionality will only improve with time. ...
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