Outboard DACs

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Hi-Fi Choice  |  Oct 11, 2019  |  0 comments
The smallest DAC in Audiolab's range packs a mighty punch
Hi-Fi Choice  |  Jun 28, 2019  |  0 comments
The headphone amplifier/DAC that you can fit in your pocket
Hi-Fi Choice  |  Jun 20, 2019  |  First Published: Jun 19, 2019  |  0 comments
Designed for both home and studio use, this ambitious component offers something for everyone
Hi-Fi Choice  |  Sep 11, 2018  |  0 comments
It sometimes appears as though iFi Audio takes a rather scattershot approach to its product portfolio, with its nano and micro ranges offering almost a dozen portable DACs with similar designs and features. Every now and then, though, it comes up with a product that really stands out, such as the entry-level nano iDSD Black Label (HFC 433) that it launched at the end of 2017 for just £199. This year’s offering is the xDSD, which starts a new X-series of DACs, but it’s another impressive product with a £399 price tag that represents a challenge to the market-leading Chord Mojo (HFC 423). The xDSD immediately stands out from other iFi Audio products, with a more streamlined design that is well suited to portable use.
Hi-Fi Choice  |  Nov 15, 2017  |  1 comments
When Chord’s first Hugo portable DAC/headphone amplifier was launched at CES in January 2014, I instantly knew it was special – it looked, sounded and worked like nothing else, and was so good that many bought it to use as their main domestic digital converter, rather than a mere travelling accessory. That’s not to say it was perfect. Enthusiastic early adopters soon got to know its foibles, but it sounded so superb that we learned to live with them. Much as I loved it, the original Hugo had some niggles.
Hi-Fi Choice  |  Apr 28, 2016  |  0 comments
And so it comes to pass that after nearly five years, the Audiolab M-DAC finally gets itself a bigger brother! Rather like that famous difficult second album that recording artists battle with, it was never going to be easy for Audiolab to improve on one of the strongest products it has ever released. When it came out, the original M-DAC (HFC 359) had no real rivals at its £600 price point. Indeed, it got off to a good start because it was essentially the digital converter section of the 8200A CD player – itself one of the best silver disc spinners under £1,500, thanks to designer John Westlake’s prodigious talent. Also, interestingly, it was one of the first DACs to use the (then) new and highly regarded ESS Sabre 9018 DAC chips.
Hi-Fi Choice  |  Feb 25, 2016  |  0 comments
Norwegian brand Hegel has many years experience in implementing DAC technology, both within its highly regarded integrated amps and standalone digital converters. So the advent of a new ‘reference DAC’ has many eager to hear more. In an eraof DACs becoming smaller and more portable for a new generation of headphone users, it’s refreshing to see Hegel buck this trend and produce a full-width option that unashamedly seeks to put audio quality first. The Norwegian company is a big believer in making its products convenient and simple to use, and the HD30 can be considered a veritable ‘plug ‘n’ play’ hub of digital connectivity.
 |  Jan 23, 2015  |  0 comments
For this writer, one of the most disappointing things about digital audio – and especially CD’s 16/44. 1 specification where the problem seems most acute – is its timing. It just doesn’t quite seem to accurately reproduce all the nuances you hear in music when listening in real time. The major issue to my ears is that if you go to a jazz club to hear Randy Crawford sing, then come back home and play the CD the digital disc just doesn’t have the natural ebb and flow of the live concert.
 |  Jan 21, 2015  |  0 comments
There’s more to life than hi-fi you know, and indeed many consumers are beginning to think the less of it you have, the better. This is heretical stuff to those who grew up during the seventies and eighties, when we were taught that if it didn’t come in umpteen separate boxes, it simply couldn’t be any good. Now, though, suddenly there are all sorts of possibilities presenting themselves. The most obvious example of this is the DAC/preamp.
 |  Jan 19, 2015  |  0 comments
Look who’s back. And with a new range of dedicated separates aimed at bringing hi-res to the audiophile masses, it clearly means business. Given that Sony is the company that co-created CD’s original Red Book standard and put the ‘S’ in S/PDIF, it’s safe to assume that its new products will be based on a legacy of digital audio development. This new range is also sensibly streamlined, with a handful of carefully considered separates spread across distinct product categories.
Ed Selley  |  Jan 09, 2012  |  0 comments
No cables, no bother! NAD’s new £300 DAC connects both wirelessly and effortlessly. But, asks Richard Black, how does it fare against the competition? In recent years, wireless hi-fi has taken off in a big way, comfortably banishing bad memories of analogue wireless headphones of yore. With wi-fi , AirPlay, Bluetooth and various proprietary formats, we have plenty of choice in terms of sending digits from one place to another. Not all of these are entirely trivial to set up, though, and they aren’t all bit-perfect either: Bluetooth, for a start, so far only supports transmission of lossily coded data.
Ed Selley  |  Jan 09, 2012  |  0 comments
Reference mini TEAC’s latest ‘Reference Series’ DAC is more than just a pretty box, says Richard Black, it’s also a ‘star’ performer TEAC has long managed to bridge the gap between mass-market and audiophile. Its mass-market products are exactly that (good, but mass-market), but its more refined offerings are often found in some of the fi nest systems. It may be guilty of over-using the word ‘reference’ in connection with hi-fi products, but the latest additions to the compact Reference range really do look as if they mean business, especially this new DAC. Hi-res Tenor The floodgates are well and truly open as regards hi-res USB DACs, so it’s no surprise that TEAC brings its expertise to the market.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 30, 2011  |  0 comments
Precision audio? Deltec was one of the first to make a standalone DAC and now its back in the fray, Jason Kennedy finds out if its experience has paid off Back in the late eighties the idea of a separate digital-to-analogue convertor was a very new thing. Until then, the relatively young CD player market had, on the whole, been dominated by larger companies. Deltec Precision Audio (or DPA) was formed by Robert Watts and Adrian Walker to produce technologically advanced audio components, among which were pre and power amplifi ers as well as one of the first standalone DACs to hit the market, the DPA PDM1. This used surface-mount devices (SMD) in its circuit boards, had one of the first bitstream chipsets and came in a shiny dark grey case.
Hi-Fi Choice  |  Nov 07, 2011  |  0 comments
Perfect PC partner Pro-Ject’s £140 DAC Box is a no-brainer for anyone playing music from a computer, says HFC’s technical consultant Richard Black A long the way, Pro-Ject Audio has managed to get some quite impressive functions into small spaces in its Box Audio series of components. A DAC – even a three-input one – is not quite such a shoehorn feat and, indeed, this is by no means the smallest on the market. It’s stoutly made, with a steel sleeve over a steel tray which houses the electronics assemblies. The component count is low, with a DAC chip, an S/PDIF receiver and a USB receiver, plus a minimum of housekeeping parts and a handful of power supply components.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 27, 2011  |  0 comments
Moon 300D Externally, this is Moon at its most typically unpretentious, but is there a dark side? here’s seldom much about Moon products that stands out a mile externally – which is not to deny them their smart and individual appearance. This particular member of the team has a largely typical specification, with two coaxial and one optical S/PDIF inputs and a USB socket, while analogue output is available both balanced and unbalanced. Differences are more apparent inside the unit, where Moon has carefully separated analogue and digital parts of the equation. A digital circuit board, largely populated with surface-mounted components, receives the digital input, applies digital filtering and converts it to analogue, forwarding the output to an analogue board beneath.

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