Originating from Canada the Brunoco Diva is a small form factor digital amplifier with integrated DAC and is only a little bigger than a Mac Mini. It’s housed in a stylish aluminium case and sports connections for coaxial RCA, optical and Async USB digital inputs supporting up to 24/192, along with one set of analogue inputs which run through an ADC (Analogue to Digital Converter) in order to utilise the inbuilt amp. Output is 40wpc. The amplifier is not a standard class D and DAC combination it is in fact a full digital amplifier which the manufacturer has the following to say about it “Diva is full digital amplifier, that means input PCM(pulse code modulation, master digital signal) signal is processed and amplified in digital format. So there is no DAC(digital to analog converter) needed. DAC is necessary for conventional analog amplifiers(both solid-state and tube) because analog amplifiers need input analog signal to amplify.
DDC converts input PCM signal into PWM signal which can be amplified by PWM amplifier in digital domain. The Critical part of digital amplifier is this PCM to PWM converter. Performance of DDC is based on how the algorithm used can minimize the distortion and noise and do the exact conversion which results in final sound quality. One of the most important factor to sound quality is SNR(signal to noise ratio) and especially residual quantization noise and RF(radio frequency) switching noise of PWM should be removed from the audible frequency range(20-20kHz).”
The external power supply is a very high quality analogue design and is very heavy in comparison to the main unit and there’s no doubt that the quality of the PSU is a key factor to the Divas performance.
Substantial packaging encases the cute little Diva keeping it safe for its long journey overseas and during unpacking its easy to appreciate the units all aluminium build quality and substantial weight to the high quality power supply, along with a true credit card sized remote control with only 6 buttons – in fact this is all that is needed for full control of the unit. First impressions left me feeling satisfied with what I was presented from this new kid on the block.
I ran the unit in for a week of continuous play time ensuring it was ready for a good listen.
First impressions were, “digital amplifier” but during the week I noticed a certain amount of weight and a little more richness coming through filling out the bottom end nicely, my only gripe was this added weight to the bass was emphasising a steep roll off point giving the bass a more one note approach.
There is an equaliser built into the device – not the usual rock, dance, acoustic type, it’s way more subtle than that, the settings have a couple of letters and a number (ie BaMd2) to refer to them, each setting is like a slightly different version of the previous. The goal is to use these settings as more of a digital room equalisation than the typical graphic equaliser found in cheaper products. Playing through these differing settings I found one or two which I preferred, notably for their smoother roll off of the bottom end allowing notes to fade more naturally in my listening space, which even though subtle was a very welcome addition. The EQ really does seem to be very transparent indeed, has been implemented very well and doesn’t seem to get in the way.
Chris Jones’ ‘Soul Storm Comin’ has many overlaid smaller guitar details which is a highlight of the Brunoco – it has a great way of picking out these smaller details even in a strongly central focused track and each can be heard in its entirety along with each textural strum of string and richness to Chris’s vocal. I’ve found many times with Class D amps (not all of them) that the attention to detail is fantastic yet the performance as a whole can suffer with a colder tonal balance, the Diva is voiced extremely well and doesn’t suffer from this ‘coldness’ – it’s not a Class D amp after all. It’s far from coloured and far from warm, it’s has all the characteristics of Class D yet with a richness to the sound!
Phantom Limbs ‘Don’t Say A Word’ displayed glossy vocals with great undertones of rich harmonies, sound staging with the dinky Diva is fantastic along with great layering allowing drum rolls, guitar strings and double bass to really recreate stage placement fantastically well, encapsulating the performance in a high end way that belies its meager price point.
As you’re all probably are aware by now I am partial to some heavy dance beats – I’ve always liked what digital amplifiers can achieve with this sort of music – a clean and crisp representation of the genre – and the Brunoco is no different. Hitting the volume seriously hard the little Diva achieved some insane volumes and spl’s through my loudspeakers, I reached a volume which was so loud I had to turn it down a little before I reached any perceivable levels of distortion and the neighbours came knocking! A slight change in the equaliser settings to add some more punch to the sound and I was really amazed with what could be achieved from the unit.
In comparative terms at twice the cost of the Brunoco Diva is the £1000 Peachtree iDecco, also using similar technology. The Brunoco makes for a much more engaging and exciting listen in comparison, leaving the iDecco’s blander and colder sonic signature behind in the stakes of sound reproduction.
I’ve written this review using my Squeezebox Touch as in my mains system it is my most known source and is easier to gain an impression of what the Bronoco Diva adds to the sound. However, I did get a little carried away in what we can call my own free time testing the unit with some big and small single driver speakers, some two way bookshelves in a desktop system, with some wall speakers in a bedroom system and also with other sources such as the Mac Mini, a Windows laptop and an Apple TV and I’d be very happy to use the little Diva with any or all of these sources. Notably in the bedroom with a TV on the wall a set of wall speakers and an Apple TV, it’s was a wonderfully minimalist approach to reproducing great unobtrusive sound quality.
Whether the chosen music be a stripped down acoustic or a big medley for an evening listen or a more beat driven piece – or let’s say ‘party mode’ – the Diva has a substantial amount of intelligence at reproducing each sound and note with plenty of air and space around them and can hold a coherent overall image with rich tones and decay that just makes it such an enjoyable listen.
It can pride itself on having a ‘grown up’ sound and a sound that belies its small size and low cost, with plenty of inputs, great looks, a decent outboard power supply and the ability to use what we could call a simple but effect room equalising option which has gentle changes in the sound that allows for some fine transparent tuning – all in all with its enjoyable and toe tapping sound is an excellent in a modern home or hard core audiophiles second system.
Build Quality – 8.5/10
Sound Quality – 8.5/10
Value for money – 10/10
Overall – 9/10
Price when reviewed – £499
Highly Recommended for its detail driven, exciting performance that is true value for money.
Author – Danny Worth