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    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
    Article Preview



    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 12-04-2015 09:20 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Speakers,
    3. Wireless,
    4. UPnP / DLNA
    Article Preview



    Imagine this: You place an audio playback system in your living room and enjoy the hell out of your favorite music with your family and friends. This is something I could only imagine, but for many people this is something they remember. Back in the day people placed a stereo console in their living rooms and partook in all the fun that goes along with listening to music with others. Sadly, over the years these “beautiful” pieces of audio furniture were replaced by separate components and soon relegated to man caves. The wonderful hobby of listening to music moved from a shared experience to a companionless commitment. Even worse than a room in the basement, where there’s a chance the guys could hang out for a while and listen to a couple tracks before being summoned upstairs to join the rest of the party, is the solitary loneliness of listening to music through headphones. The shared experience of listening to music has been obliterated by keep-it-to-yourself audio and the antisocial pseudo-communal experience of sharing yourself with others online, but only from the comfort of your empty house. I am way over on the introvert side on the introvert / extrovert continuum, but I still enjoy sharing the things I love with friends and family … while the friends and family are physically in the room, not simply reachable via Internet Protocol from an iPad in an isolated nook of my living room. In addition to sharing the music I love with others, the ability to share high quality sound with others is also important. Without an easily accessible and conveniently placed high end audio system in a common living space, this sharing of good sound just isn’t going to happen. Sure, my three year old daughter comes down to my listening room now and then, but imagine if I could bring all the music and all the quality to her on a daily basis. That would be priceless. While the dream of doing this is priceless, the reality of doing this here and it’s made possible my England’s Naim Audio. Having the Naim Mu-so in my house has enabled me to bring my favorite (and my daughter’s favorite) music, in high quality, to her and has enabled me to share the fine qualities of a high end component with friends who had no idea such a product exists. I don’t know how many times I’ve told friends that a Bose iPod dock isn’t the height of living, but now I can casually let them experience the joys of high quality music and fine craftsmanship while getting together to create new shared experiences we’ll remember for a lifetime. ...
    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. ...
    by Published on 09-28-2015 11:32 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. Speakers,
    4. Wireless,
    5. USB Interface,
    6. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface,
    7. UPnP / DLNA
    Article Preview



    When audiophiles or those in the pro music industry think of Yamaha loudspeakers, the first thing that comes to mind is, arguably the most important speaker of all time, the Yamaha NS10. A little known fact about the NS10 is that it started as a consumer HiFi product before moving to the pro market exclusively. The NS10 was involved in so many of our favorite recordings that it's nearly impossible to mention them all. It's probably easier for someone to create a list of recordings in which the NS10 was not involved in some fashion. Love them or hate them, the Yamaha NS10 has played a significant role in everyone's music listening experience for decades. Fast forward almost fifteen years after the NS10 was discontinued (2001) and Yamaha continues to manufacture a wide range of consumer and professional audio components. Over the years the company has changed and improved performance through its massive global R&D organization, but one thing remains constant, Yamaha's iconic bright white bass/mid driver cone in its loudspeakers. The Yamaha NX-N500 active loudspeakers that I've had connected to my 27" iMac 5K for the last month can't be mistaken for anything but a Yamaha product. In fact these speakers exude a sense of music history, a confidence, a je ne sais quoi all their own. These speakers aren't the highest of HiFi or the flashiest of audio jewelry, but they are distinctly Yamaha. The NX-N500 delivers exactly what Yamaha customers have come to expect over the company's 120 year history. Solid products with good sound and commensurate build quality. In addition, the NX-N500 delivers features commonly associated with niche high-end components such as XMOS asynchronous USB, PCM and DSD support up through the highest sample rates, and gapless DLNA playback at 24/192 via wired Ethernet or WiFi. This is just the beginning of all the supported features of the Yamaha NX-N500. These all-in-one active loudspeakers should easily satisfy 99.9% of music enthusiasts. ...
    by Published on 09-14-2015 01:01 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. S/PDIF (RCA) Interface,
    4. AES/EBU Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface
    Article Preview



    My love affair with Ed Meitner designed products began a bit over four years ago when I received a review sample of the Meitner Audio MA-1 DAC in the Summer of 2011. After living with the MA-1 for a couple months I wrote, “The MA-1 was one of the most enjoyable products I've reviewed in recent memory (link).” One year later Ed’s team stepped me up to the major leagues by sending me the emm Labs DAC2X for review. The DAC2X contributed greatly to one heck of a Summer listening to my HiFi. At that time I concluded it was, “Unequivocally the best DAC I've heard in my system (link).” In the years between that review and today, emm Labs has been hard at work making the DAC2X even better. In fact, at recent trade shows Shahin from emm Labs has implored me to send my DAC2X back to the factory in Calgary so the team could updated it to current production specs. He suggested the updates Ed had been working on were incredible. Of course a representative of any company is going to tell a member of the press that the newest product is not-to-be missed. Thus, I held on to my appropriate amount of skepticism as I sent the DAC2X across the Canadian border for updates. After a few weeks I received two packages from emm Labs. The newest version of the DAC2X arrived with its brother, the PRE2-SE preamplifier. Keep in mind that the DAC2X has a fixed analog output and requires a preamplifier between it and the power amps. I enthusiastically placed the new emm pair in my system with Pass Labs XA160.5 monoblock amplifiers and TAD CR1 loudspeakers, all connected via Wire World Platinum Eclipse / Starlight 7 cables. What I heard emanating from my speakers was nothing short of fantastic. Shahin from emm Labs was correct in using the adjective incredible to describe Ed Meitner’s ingenious updates to the DAC2X. ...

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