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    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 Iíve 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. Iíd never seen nor heard of the brand even though it wasnít 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 wasnít sure if I had found a diamond or cubic zirconia. Without the ability to listen to the product at the show, Iíd 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 donít 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, etcÖ 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. ...
    by Published on 06-03-2014 12:37 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Music
    Article Preview



    Many music aficionados and hard core fans have been waiting a long time for a taste of Led Zeppelin in high resolution. The time has finally come. Tuesday June 03, 2014 marked the release of Led Zeppelin I, II, and III remastered at 24 bit / 96 kHz resolution plus a little extra bonus material included with the Deluxe Editions of each album. According to HDtracks, "The new remasters were created from 192 kHz/24 bit digital transfers of the original analogue tapes. The catalogue is being remastered now to take advantage of the significant advances in mastering technology that have occurred since 1991." Much of this catalog has been released several times over the years, but the dynamic range compression of so many of the releases has completely killed the sound quality. My favorite Led Zeppelin releases, in terms of sound quality, are the original Compact Disc masters with very nice high dynamic range. I used these releases as my reference when listening to the new 24/96 high resolution releases. Based on several hours of listening, I like the new high resolution masters as much or better than the original CD masters and certainly more than other previous versions of the first three Led Zeppelin albums. Sure the dynamic range of the original CD releases is greater than these new releases, but higher DR doesn't equate to better sound. There are many things that go into mastering an album. If it was all about DR nobody would have to listen to an album. We could purchase music based on numbers. Given that the original CD releases are out of print, I don't believe there's a better version than the 24/96 remasters available today. I've been listening to the first three albums for the last six hours in high resolution. I flip back to the original CD every so often just for a reality check to make sure I'm not hearing what I want and fooling myself. Every time I listen to the older versions I feel a need to switch back to the new high resolution material. It isn't an accident that I've gravitated to the new 24/96 remasters. I simply like the sound better than any other version of Led Zeppelin I, II and III I've ever heard. Period. ...
    by Published on 04-21-2014 08:28 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. S/PDIF (BNC) Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface

    (Computer Audiophile Contributor Ted Brady completes his thorough review of the Chord Qute HD / EX with this final update. I don't think there is anyone in the industry with more insight and time spent with this DAC than Ted. His original review of the HD and two updates can be read HERE. Below is Ted's wrap up with incredibly high praise for the EX. - Editor)

    I have owned the Chord Qute EX (aka EX) now for a couple months (arrived Feb 10) and wanted to wrap up my feelings about this DAC; i.e what is different about it from the HD I reviewed above, and what additional information or impressions I have of the Qute DACs since last writing about them. ...

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