Here is a rudimentary diagram of how the Gefen Digital Audio Extender fits into an audio system.
Music Server >> TosLink or coax cable >> Gefen DAE transmitter >> CAT-5e Ethernet cable >> Gefen DAE receiver >> TosLink or coax cable >> DAC / AV Receiver.
It's not often that audiophiles get excited about a $150 digital audio product. However, the Gefen Digital Audio Extender is really something to be excited about. This DAE (Digital Audio Extender) provides audiophiles much more flexibility than the traditional options. The DAE package consists of a transmitter, receiver, and power supply. The power supply connects to the transmitting unit. This is really nice because it keeps a noisy wallwart PSU far away from the audio components. Both transmitter and receiver have optical TosLink, and coaxial digital interfaces. The size of the DAE units is very small at 1.25"H x 1.5"W x 3.875"D. They have surprisingly nice build quality with an all metal chassis and nice rubber feet on the bottom of each unit.
The best thing about the Gefen Digital Audio Extender is that it's bit perfect! The DAE does not change the audio signal one bit. I was able to play HDCD tracks and illuminate the HDCD indicator on my DAC. This extender also supports 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS audio for the multi-channel fans in the audience. The second best thing about the Gefen Digital Audio Extender is it supports high resolution 24/96 audio. As long as the music server can output 24/96 via a coax or optical interface the DAE will pass it along bit perfect. One unadvertised benefit of the Gefen Digital Audio Extender is its ability to convert interfaces. During my listening sessions I connected the units via TosLink from my computer and via coax from the receiving unit to my DAC. Note, I used a 50' Ethernet cable for the duration of the review period. I also attempted to use a USB to coaxial converter before entering the DAE's coax input, but could not get any audio to pass through the units.
I can already visualize many CA readers sitting on the sofa with their MacBook music server in hand connected only via TosLink cable to the Gefen Digital Audio Extender. Forget about remote control when you have direct access to the music server in your lap. If you place all your music on a NAS drive connected to a wireless router it's possible to have terabytes of storage all accessible via handheld music server from your listening chair. It's a pretty cool idea if you ask me. Sonically the Gefen Digital Audio Extender is really good. I spent many hours with these units in my audio system and suffered no listening fatigue. In direct comparison to my Lynx AES16e card via AES/EBU cable the Gefen Digital Audio Extender was outclassed. The DAE has nowhere near the resolution of the Lynx AES16e card, but this may have something to do with a possibly inferior optical output on my Mac Pro music server. Listening via the optical output from my Mac Pro directly into my DAC was better sounding than with the DAE in place, but the difference was not show-stopping. I was unable to test the DAE with a good coaxial output from my music server. That test may yield different results.
The Gefen Digital Audio Extender is a little gem at $150. Bit perfect output at 16/44.1 and 24/96 at 330 feet is a great option to have in your back pocket. The DAE certainly has it's own sonic signature, but the flexibility the units provide may easily turn this signature into a minor detail for many listeners. When your significant other orders you to move the music sever out of the room, you now know of a viable option for continued connectivity. It's not a reference level component, but the DAE provides much needed flexibility. If this need arises for me I will definitely use the Gefen Digital Audio Extender without hesitation.
Manufacturer: Gefen Inc.
Digital Audio Extender: $150
Purchase direct or through dealer network
a) Product page
Associated Equipment: Mac Pro, Lynx AES16e card, Kimber USB cable, Cambridge Audio DacMagic, Weiss Engineering Minerva, Benchmark DAC1 PRE, Kimber Select cable, Avalon Acoustics speakers, Focal Electra Be series speakers, McIntosh tube amplification, Virtual Dynamics power cables, Richard Gray's Power Company cables, Bel Canto USB Link., Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC.