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    by Published on 04-01-2014 04:10 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Music Servers
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    Aurender music servers have been part of my digital playback arsenal since 2011. I was so impressed by the Aurender S10 that I placed it on my CASH List and named it the 2011 Product of the Year. The S10 was the first music server I'd seen that was built like a high end audio component with solid engineering on the inside and stellar attention to detail on the outside. The S10 was IT. However, a couple colleagues of mine thought the S10 was a good start, but there was much room for improvement. It turns out my colleagues were correct. Not long after the S10 hit dealer showrooms the Aurender team completed a state of the art listening room and went to work on something better than the S10. The product that emerged from this work was the flagship Aurender W20. The W20 is not an upgraded S10. The only critical component shared by the two models are the oven-controlled crystal oscillators (OCXO). Based on several months of listening, testing, and comparing the W20 to all other servers I've used, I conclude the Aurender W20 is unequivocally the pièce de résistance of high end music servers.
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    by Published on 02-20-2014 06:40 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital Interface Converter,
    3. Digital to Analog Converter,
    4. S/PDIF (RCA) Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface,
    6. UPnP / DLNA

    T+A Elektroakustik is a company for which some Americans have yet to acquire a taste. Yet, T+A's product styling, build quality, and sound quality have won numerous awards throughout Europe. It took me awhile to really get what this company was doing and to acquire a taste for these German designs. At CEDIA 2013 I told the Dynaudio North America team, importers of T+A, that the styling of the T+A components was less than pleasing. Then I was shown a "custom integration" rack full of T+A components and things started to click. The look of this tall rack with several uniform looking components was quite nice. Since the CEDIA convention T+A components have entered my mind several times, especially when considering Ethernet streaming devices. T+A isn't new to the streaming audio market. The company's engineers have been perfecting its streaming platform for years and know quite a bit more about this technology than many companies. One of the first questions I ask before reviewing a streamer is, does the product support gapless playback at all sample rates? The response I received from T+A at RMAF was priceless. The answer, "Of course." I felt like gapless high resolution playback was an issue T+A conquered last century and the company was on to solving more complex issues. After acquiring a taste for T+A's styling and hearing about the company's impressive product engineering surrounding audio streamers, it was time for me to get the Music Player Balanced into my system and start listening. ...
    by Published on 01-29-2014 09:09 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface



    Over the last few years I've had the privilege of sharing presentation spaces at dealer events with Ayre's Alex Brinkman. Usually Alex talks a bit about Ayre Acoustics as a company followed by a specific product or two then hands the floor over to me for my presentation. Listening to Alex's presentation five to ten times per evening has enabled me to learn a lot about Ayre. In fact I could likely fill in for Alex at the next event if needed. One item that sticks in my mind is Ayre's policy of keeping products in the lineup for extended periods of time. For example the Ayre K-5xeMP preamplifier has been in production for twelve years. During those twelve years Ayre has continued to make advances in design and sound quality and offered these advances as upgrades to its customers. Many customers who purchased the original K-5 preamp have sent their components to the Ayre factory for upgrades and are now using a K-5xeMP identical to the current model on showroom floors. The Ayre QB-9 USB DAC was released in April 2009. The initial version of the DAC supported sample rates up through 96 kHz. In July 2010 Ayre offered its QB-9 customers the opportunity to upgrade the initial version to support 192 kHz for a nominal fee. This upgrade had no impact on sound quality so Ayre left the QB-9 name unchanged. In May 2013 Ayre released a major upgrade to the QB-9 and adjusted its name to QB-9 DSD. This upgrade was an overhaul that could have warranted a completely new product in Ayre's lineup. Sticking with its policy of upgradability Ayre has been upgrading QB-9 DACs to the QB-9 DSD version for $500, the same as the price difference between the new and old model. As the name changed to QB-9 DSD implies, the sound quality improvement to this DAC is well worth the price of the upgrade. The QB-9 DSD is a completely different DAC from the previous generation of the QB-9. Adding the letters DSD to the QB-9 name is a bit misleading because this upgrade is much more about everything else inside the DAC than it is about the ability to play DSD material. Ayre has elevated the QB-9 to arguably the best sounding USB only DAC in its price range. ...
    by Published on 01-05-2014 02:18 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. S/PDIF (BNC) Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface





    Confessions of a DSD-Aholic, by Ted Brady

    One aspect of being able to have review/demo units on one’s system for review (thank you Chris) is that there comes a time when you need to send them back. And although I’ve demo’d dozens of DACs over the years I’ve never really experienced the angst that a return could bring on. Until now…

    I really miss the Chord QuteHD. There I said it; I was once a strong man of principle, and now reduced to a weak yearner of days gone by. In reality, I borrowed the Chord for WAY too long a period (as some of you who know me understand that this review is like 4 months late ☺) and I thank the NA distributor, Jay and Katherine Rein of Bluebird Music, for their patience…which ultimately I tested for too long of a period. I don’t blame them at all. ☺ But I do miss that thing.

    OK, so why did I have the Chord for so long, and what is it about the thing that I miss? Well, this story ultimately began when I first discovered the DSD format back in September of 2011. ...
    by Published on 12-19-2013 09:57 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface


    The plot continues to thicken around USB-stick-sized micro DACs. The release of the AudioQuest Dragonfly and subsequently the Meridian Explorer pushed the burgeoning genre even further into the audiophile consciousness. The lowly (by audiophile standards) cost of entry beckons the question, how far is this game going to go? The answer from Audioengine is another step in the southern direction with their newest release called the D3 ($189).

    While Audioengine is perhaps know best for its affordable computer audio loudspeaker setups, its reasonably priced D1 DAC unit ($169) has not gone completely unnoticed among the budget computer audio faithful. The followup micro DAC here keeps the company on pace with current industry trends and further challenges the idea that high fidelity listening has to cost an arm and a leg. ...
    by Published on 12-09-2013 02:22 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Speakers,
    3. Wireless
    Article Preview


    We've all seen countless numbers of small speakers designed for use with an iPhone, iPad, or laptop. Most of them have sound quality equivalent to their prices, low and low respectively. Thus, I was a bit hesitant to embrace the foxL DASH7 pocket-sized loudspeaker when a colleague pulled it from his bag at Rocky Mountain Audiofest 2013. Granted this was a colleague whose opinion I respect greatly but I've heard the same story about small speakers sounding much bigger than their sizes one too many times. I proceeded to indulge my friend by connecting my iPhone 5 to the foxL DASH7 via Bluetooth and selecting some tracks from my favorite music service MOG. I was immediately blown away by the sound. RMAF 2013 hadn't officially started and I knew I'd already heard my favorite product of the show. Yet, this product wasn't even on display at the show. I spent the next thirty minutes listening to the foxL DASH7 placed on a few different surfaces with several different types of music. Following this impromptu listening session my next question was, "How do I get one for review?" ...

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