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    by Published on 09-09-2014 09:01 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. S/PDIF (BNC) Interface,
    4. AES/EBU Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface
    Article Preview



    Rarely do I hear a component that's truly a game changer, a component that's so good I can't stop listening through it, and a component that's so good it renders much of the competition irrelevant. I can't remember, off the top of my head, the last time I heard such a component. That is, before the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series arrived. The Alpha DAC RS, every bit a true game changer, blew me away from the first listen in my system. Since its arrival I've listened to more complete albums and heard more new sounds from old albums than any time in my life. The Alpha DAC RS is so good and such a game changer it may force consumers to reconsider their desire for high resolution music. Sure the Alpha DAC RS can reproduce high resolution music better than any DAC I've heard in my system, but its absolute magic can be heard with standard CD quality 16 bit / 44.1 kHz material. The Alpha DAC RS is without question the best DAC I've heard anywhere when it comes to 16/44.1 playback. I've never heard detail, delicacy, and transparency with my favorite music like I have when listening through this DAC. The Alpha DAC RS is so outstanding that I equate its presence in my system to that of a new pair of loudspeakers. That's correct; the Alpha DAC RS had an impact on my system equivalent to a new pair of loudspeakers. In fact, the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series is the most remarkable sounding product I've ever reviewed. ...
    by Published on 08-31-2014 03:50 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital Interface Converter,
    3. Wireless,
    4. S/PDIF (RCA) Interface,
    5. AES/EBU Interface,
    6. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface,
    7. UPnP / DLNA

    The Auralic Aries is perhaps the most talked about HiFi product in recent memory. The Computer Audiophile Community is probably more responsible for this chatter than most other outlets combined. It only makes sense that we would talk about, and hype, the Aries as the product is right up our alley. An Ethernet to digital audio interface, software driven and upgradeable, and an ambitious iOS application are items for which some computer audiophiles live. The Aries includes all three. I've had the Aries in my system since early July and it's time to deliver an update to the CA Community. In the early beta days I had my share of issues with the Aries and Lightning DS iOS application. I've used the Aries in combination with several UPnP servers, UPnP control points, and DACs since its arrival. Over the last few weeks the system has become increasingly stable and enjoyable to use for all my local and lossless streaming music needs. ...
    by Published on 08-20-2014 09:14 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Speakers,
    3. Music Hub / Controller,
    4. UPnP / DLNA

    My first exposure to a new Linn technology named Exakt was at the 2013 CEDIA Show in Denver. I didn't have a chance to listen to the system on display because the show floor was very noisy, but I talked to Linn's Managing Director Gilad Tiefenbrun about Exakt. I walked away from the conversation enthusiastic about the capabilities of Exakt and about the possibilities for better sound reproduction in home environments. I'm a big supporter of using technology, but only when it's appropriate. Linn's use of Exakt technology to send lossless digital data via CAT5/6/7 cables into the loudspeakers and keep that data in the digital domain, through the crossover and volume control, until just before the final amplification stage within the loudspeakers is what I call great use of technology. Less than one year after that CEDIA show I have an Akurate level Linn Exakt system in my listening room. I had reservations about setting aside my large analog equipment, state of the art digital to analog converter, and TAD CR1 loudspeakers in order to put the Exact system in place. There is no going in to this system half-way as it's fully active with amplification attached to the loudspeakers, digital to analog converters attached to the loudspeakers, and RJ45 ports rather than binding posts for receiving the incoming signal. I couldn't even use an Aurender music server if I wanted to with the Exakt system. None of this is good or bad in and of itself. It's just a fact of using any Exakt system. There's no hodgepodge of components to select, interconnect, and hope for a good synergy. Exakt works within its own ecosystem, and it just works. After the initial setup and two weeks of extensive listening I am very impressed with the Linn Exakt technology. In fact, the Akurate Exakt DSM and Exakt Akubarik loudspeakers comprise the best Linn system I've ever heard. Period. ...
    by Published on 07-28-2014 03:06 PM

    My job as an audio journalist requires that I attend trade shows and report back to the Computer Audiophile readers what I’ve seen and heard. Despite the luxury of listening to the best audio systems and making friends all over the world, audio trade shows can be grueling. Thus, on the last day of every show I have a free / fun day where I stroll the halls without any appointments or meetings. On my fun days I look for diamonds in the rough, new products that need and deserve attention, and products that are unique and new to me or the CA readers. This year at the Munich High End show I was strolling one of the main areas on my fun day and the Norma Audio booth caught my eye. I’d never seen nor heard of the brand even though it wasn’t a new company. The main reason the booth caught my eye is the impeccable internal product design. The board layout and look reminded me one of my favorite brands, Spectral Audio. The two reasons I spent five minutes talking to the Norma Audio team are its high speed, wide bandwidth designs (2 MHz range), and the company offers a very versatile Digital to Analog Converter (DAC). The similarities to Spectral with clean design and wide bandwidth impressed me without hearing a note. Fortunately Norma Audio offers a standalone DAC, unlike Spectral, and there was no way I would leave Germany without making plans to review such a product. I set in motion a review of the Norma Audio HS-DA1 (Pre), a DAC with built-in preamplifier and headphone amplifier. At the time I wasn’t sure if I had found a diamond or cubic zirconia. Without the ability to listen to the product at the show, I’d have to wait until I returned home to Minneapolis. ...
    by Published on 06-30-2014 10:23 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 don’t want another one lying around the house, Oppo even has a remote app for your perusing pleasure that connects via Bluetooth. ...
    by Published on 06-06-2014 10:31 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital Interface Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. UPnP / DLNA
    Article Preview



    Have a good USB DAC? Check. Want to turn it into a networked device without changing one item on the DAC? Check.

    Over the last couple years I increasingly wanted a specific product that didn't exist. I wanted an ultra simple device with Ethernet input and USB audio output. This seems like such an obvious product that should have been available since the day the first USB DACs hit the market. Especially because so many of the network addressable DACs have big problems with file types, compression schemes, gapless playback, etc… Plus, if the sound of a specific USB DAC is what the listeners want, but they also want the functionality of a networked DAC, they should be able to bridge the gap. This isn't rocket science and this isn't the 1980s. Tiny ARM based Linux compatible single board computers are everywhere. It's time for the Internet of Things and running on this IoT are millions of tiny devices that can be used to create a simple Ethernet in and USB audio out device. As The O'Jays, The Kinks, and Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings said, Give the People What They Want. Thus, the SOtM sMS-100 Mini Server was created. We finally have a physically simple device that converts network audio streams into USB audio streams for playback on nearly any popular USB DAC. ...

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