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    by Published on 06-22-2016 12:36 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Music Servers,
    3. USB Interface
    Article Preview



    Over the last several years Korea's SOtM has continued to gain traction in the HiFi world. More recently, Switzerland's Highend-AudioPC has become a major player in the high end computer audio market with its Audiophile Optimizer product. It seemed like a match made in audio heaven, that I couldn't resist, when the two companies paired up to produce the sMS-1000SQ Windows Edition music server. Add to that the SOtM sPS-1000 linear power supply and Roon from Roon Labs, and I was off to the audio races. But, I wasn’t simply looking for a good solution that I could use, I was looking for a solution that combined many items from which a typical audiophile might shy away, namely a custom computer, add-on USB card, custom internal clock, Windows Server software, and Audiophile Optimizer (that ships with a sixty page user manual by itself). The sMS-1000SQ WE ships with all of the above pre-installed. I can already hear many members of the Computer Audiophile Community grumbling because they have recently assembled all the parts to build a custom computer and read the entire AO manual in preparation for a challenging and time consuming installation process, when maybe they should have considered purchasing the SOtM sMS-1000SQ Windows Edition. ...
    by Published on 06-09-2016 08:37 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital Interface Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. UPnP / DLNA,
    5. RoonReady
    Article Preview



    In Part 1 of my Sonore microRendu review I went into detail about the product's design and hardware. In Part 2 I will touch on the software, power supply options, a less expensive but less capable version (Sonicorbiter SE), and give an assessment on how my HiFi system sounds with the microRendu.

    Since the microRendu was announced it has been a very hot topic on CA. Since the product was released it has become a very hot topic in high end audio circles everywhere. This product has many high end manufacturers concerned, and rightly so. It's $640, plus the cost of a power supply ($50+), and it outperforms much more expensive products on the market. The first production run of the "mR" sold out almost immediately. The second production run is well one its way to selling out. It appears that this tiny product from a tiny company is currently the biggest thing in HiFi. ...
    by Published on 06-03-2016 12:40 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. S/PDIF (BNC) Interface,
    4. AES/EBU Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface
    Article Preview



    In September 2014 I reviewed the original Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series digital to analog converter. I began that review by saying,

    "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."

    Looking back at that review I am reminded of the impact the Reference Series had on my enjoyment of this hobby. It's crazy how one can get used to the new normal and easily forget about life before a significant event or change in one's life. I guess that's just part of being human. It actually keeps us sane in the face of tragic events, but it also dulls the enthusiasm for that new car smell with each subsequent ride. I've lived with the Alpha DAC Reference Series for almost two years and in that time I've simply become accustomed to the quality of sound it can reproduce. I know that statement may sound crazy, but it's true. My new normal, or reference as it may be called, is one of the best products available in HiFi. Call me jaded or any number of adjectives that describe this first-world problem and that's OK. I get it. But, I also haven't completely forgot my roots. There was a day back around sixth grade when my new Technics receiver and sixty-four dollar Kenwood loudspeakers totally blew away my Toshiba boombox and changed my life forever. Perhaps it's these adjustments to new things in life that partly motivates engineers to improve their products. The thrill of listening to a component that brings one that much closer to the real thing, can't be denied. ...
    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
    Article Preview



    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 10:05 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
    Article Preview



    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. ...

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