• USB Interface

    by Published on 04-28-2016 07:27 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital Interface Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. UPnP / DLNA,
    5. RoonReady
    Article Preview



    In mid 2014 I received a call from Sonore's Jesus R. He wanted to discuss an idea. Jesus and his team had decided they needed to move the needle, in a huge way, with respect to computer audio playback. They had built, sold, and supported custom high end music servers for years, but were ready to innovate beyond this somewhat traditional approach. Jesus told me they wanted to design and build both the hardware and software for a tiny microcomputer the size of a credit card, that had a single purpose, to reproduce the best sound quality possible. Then he semi-jokingly asked me if I knew anyone with really deep pockets who'd like to bankroll the endeavor. At the end of our lengthy conversation I concluded that this was another great idea that would never come to fruition because it was simply cost prohibitive for a boutique manufacturer.

    Fast forward to summer 2015, when I received an email from Jesus with the subject, code name = Toaster. The first two sentences said, "For your eyes only. The small board goes on top of the larger board and it's to scale if you want to print it." Attached was the schematic for prototype units numbered 1, 2, and 3 that were already being made as I read the email. I was pleasantly surprised to say the least. Jesus and his team had successfully pulled off the initial hardware design phase of a project I never thought would see the light of day.

    Seeing a product brought to life from its infancy was pretty cool, at least for me. Readers putting two and two together are probably asking what happened from mid 2014 to mid 2015 to the end of April 2016. As anyone with knowledge of hardware design, prototyping, software development and testing, and sourcing components can tell you, there are more trials and tribulations involved in bringing a high precision product to market than Joe Sixpack could ever imagine. But, that's an interesting story for another time. Today, April 28, 2016 marks the launch of the highly anticipated custom designed Sonore microRendu, a purpose-built audiophile microcomputer designed to unprecedentedly process USB audio. ...
    by Published on 03-25-2016 09:08 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. Headphones
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    For those not familiar with Woo Audio’s offerings, the USA-based company has been making high performance loudspeaker and headphone amplifiers for several years out of New York. Owner Jack Woo has successfully piloted the company and built a substantial reputation for quality-made tube stage amplifiers. While the full product rundown includes loudspeaker implementations, most of Woo’s foothold in the marketplace comes directly from its large, perfectly incremental headphone amplifier product line. From their entry level single-ended OTL WA3 amp ($599) to the behemoth WA234 monoblocks ($15,900) Jack and the team have a little bit of something for everyone interested in analog listening. Keeping up with the times requires a bit more than just creating price touch points across a scale. The newest version of the WA7 Fireflies firmly addresses these changes in technology while also tapping into that elusive harmony which happens when the digital and analog realms collide. The two-part package starts at a cool $999 for the WA7 with a solid-state power supply by itself, with the WA7 tube power block costing an additional $749. Bundled together however, you will be able to save a little bit of scratch as the full tube package purchased at the same time will cost a mere $1,599. ...
    by Published on 02-12-2016 11:05 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
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    Ask yourself a few questions: Would you rather have the photographs produced by Ansel Adams using an iPhone or the photographs produced by your great aunt Betty using the new Phase One XF 100MP, 100 megapixel camera system? Would you rather have a remaster of your favorite album done by the late Doug Sax using subpar equipment or the same remaster done by an armchair engineer using the best equipment money can buy? All parts and materials being equal, would you rather purchase an analog audio component designed by John Curl or an electrical engineer who has read "all" the books? If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably answer these questions with, "Ansel Adams, Doug Sax, and John Curl." This review has nothing to do with photography, remasters, or John Curl, but the questions above illustrate a point that’s relevant to the review (all reviews to be frank). The point? The most important part of product creation is the people creating the product. In many hobbies people look at the specifications of parts and bills of materials as the indicators of product quality and performance. Unfortunately this can lead down some unsatisfying and expensive roads. Specifically, selecting a digital to analog converter because it contains a specific DAC chip, a specific brand or type of power supply with great measurements on paper, or it supports the highest sample rates known to man, can lead to a quick product flip on Audiogon because the whole was equal to or less than the sum of the parts. A far better way to begin the component selection process is to research the companies or designers of the products in a specific category. Put your trust in people not parts, smarts not specifications, and intellectual property not possessions. I selected the products that are the subject of this review because all the audio stars aligned. I did my homework on the designers, then the company, then the product. Based on my research, everything looked good. I trusted that those involved could use the same physical components available to everybody else, but make the product as a whole much greater than the sum of its parts. If I was right, I’d be able to introduce many in the Computer Audiophile community to a great product, and so much more. ...
    by Published on 01-29-2016 11:42 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. S/PDIF (BNC) Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (RCA) Interface,
    6. AES/EBU Interface,
    7. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface,
    8. UPnP / DLNA
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    My last experience with a Hegel component in my system was when I reviewed the HD12 DAC in February 2015. It was a nice DAC that has likely made many listeners very happy for $1,400. After the review I received an email from Hegel hinting that the company was working on something much better. Toward the end of 2015 Hegel Music Systems completed the design of what it considered a masterpiece. The company went all-in creating a new flagship DAC named the HD30. The improvement from the HD12 to the HD30 is both objectively and subjectively glorious. Designing its master clocks from the ground up and using such low noise components that the noise floor is near -150 dB, has paid off in spades. Hegel really nailed it with the HD30. ...
    by Published on 11-25-2015 10:49 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital Interface Converter,
    3. Wireless,
    4. USB Interface,
    5. UPnP / DLNA
    Article Preview



    The exaSound Playpoint Stereo/Multichannel Streamer (Jack of All Trades, Master of at Least Four!)

    When the computer audiophile world began to embrace the onset of ethernet-based music streamers, it was slowly becoming clear that not all DACs could seamlessly take part in this (general use) computer-less setup. As DAC manufacturers pushed for better and better integration with computers, some of them went as far as creating specific drivers to take advantage of direct handshaking with such higher resolution formats as raw DSD (as opposed to getting one's DSD packed in a PCM carrier, aka DoP). This integration often had sonic payoffs, but made plug-n-play Linux UPnP streamers, looking for common drivers in the USB Audio Class 2 category (aka UAC2) too pedestrian to be able to talk to these DACs. And although some of this has changed over the past couple of years (Linux code lines now embrace some native DAC drivers of various manufacturers, above and beyond UAC2) some DACs still would rather interface more closely with proprietary drivers. One such DAC manufacturer that has espoused this direct driver philosophy is exaSound. ...
    by Published on 11-03-2015 03:51 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. S/PDIF (BNC) Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (RCA) Interface,
    6. AES/EBU Interface,
    7. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface
    Article Preview



    Late last night I was about to conduct a final listening session with the Schiit Audio Yggdrasil DAC. I planned to finish writing this review after listening to one, maybe two albums. After all, I really didn't need to listen to the DAC for another minute, let alone another couple of hours. I already spent quite a bit of time with the Yggdrasil, but I just had to give it one more listen. I turned out the lights and turned up the volume on a Constellation Audio preamplifier. A track or two into the first album and I knew my plan for the evening was moot. I was not going to be able to stop listening and start writing. The sound was so good and the experience so enveloping, that I couldn't stop listening until the cause of my head bobbing switched from incredible music to incredible sleepiness. Hours after the listening session began, I had to call it a night and get some rest. I was eager to write, but I was in no condition to concentrate and collect coherent thoughts. This is the kind of component the Yggdrasil is, one that can suck the listener in and alter one's plans for the evening. I've enjoyed the Yggdrasil so much since I took delivery of the unit that I can say it's unequivocally one of the best DACs at reproducing acoustic music I've ever heard. Of course this DAC is fabulous at amplified / electric music as well, but there is something about its ability to convey realism when reproducing acoustic instruments that is remarkably alluring. In my experience, sound quality of this caliber comes at a price that most of us simply can't afford. We read the reviews of ultra high-end products as aspirational buyers who may one day get lucky enough to find a gem on the used market for well below the original price. Many audio enthusiasts know what I'm about to say, but those who are unfamiliar with the Yggdrasil, and Schiit Audio in general, should stop skimming this review and pay close attention. The aforementioned sound quality of the Yggdrasil, Schiit Audio's top-of-the-line digital to analog converter, can be had for $2,299 USD. That's a new-in-box component with a fifteen day return policy and a five year warranty, for less than the cost of sales tax on many items in this wonderful yet sometimes crazy world of high end audio. Come along as I share my extraordinary experience with the Schiit Audio Yggdrasil digital to analog converter. ...
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