• Preamp

    by Published on 12-10-2014 10:17 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,
    8. Headphones
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    The wild world of DACs continues to expand with a new update from the pro-leaning company Grace Design. The m903 was released just 3 years previous but already it seems like a (product) lifetime ago. The newest bible-sized, DAC/headphone amplifier is called the m920 ďHigh Resolution Monitoring SystemĒ and still shares many of the same external design elements from its predecessor. The internals have had some renovating of course, and the price moved $100 north from $1,895 to $1,995. As of September of this year the m903 is permanently discontinued so older models arenít kept around for purchase like the Benchmark DAC 1 series or a previous generation iPad. ...
    by Published on 06-30-2014 11:23 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,
    8. Headphones
    Article Preview



    The Oppo HA-1 is a harvester of many tricks, so many in fact that it is almost unfair to label it strictly a headphone amplifier as the acronym in the name suggests. It really stretches the boundaries of inputs, outputs and digital conversion all within a reasonable amount of desktop real estate.

    As with all things Oppo, attention to detail appears to be a top priority, even down to the packaging. In a market where the focus on sound quality can allow manufacturers to slip by with off-the-shelf interfaces and external design, the Oppo ship is watertight. In rare form for most HiFi equipment, the head amp includes a fully interactive graphical interface, complete with pretty icons for source selection. Connectivity is king with the HA-1. Nearly every single base is covered. In the rear you can find super DSD-friendly USB, single ended ins and outs, balanced XLR ins and outs, and one of each type of available digital input (including optical, coaxial and AES/EBU). To top it all off Oppo included both an in and out trigger and Bluetooth connectivity with aptX. An external remote is included, but in case you donít want another one lying around the house, Oppo even has a remote app for your perusing pleasure that connects via Bluetooth. ...
    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 09-20-2013 12:03 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Preamp,
    3. Headphones
    Article Preview

    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 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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