Mytek Digital, the second MQA® license after Meridian to ship an Audiophile DAC with MQA technology, will be introducing their MQA-capable Manhattan II DAC. The new Manhattan II DAC is a reference USB/Network DAC/Preamplifier with MQA decoder, 384k PCM and DSD256, phono and line analogue preamplifier and a reference quality headphone amplifier. More »
Aesthetically, the HA-2SE continues the HA-2’s design – genuine leather casing with contrast stitching and bevelled aluminium edges. Inside, the digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) chip is upgraded to the ES9028Q2M, the top-of-the-line from ESS Technology’s SABRE32 Reference series for portable designs. The headphone amplifier is further optimized for very sensitive In-Ear Monitors, with a lower noise floor and higher signal-to-noise ratio over the HA-2.
Featuring hybrid class AB amplification and a USB DAC, the HA-2SE offers high performance digital-to-analogue conversion for Apple’s iPhone/iPod products, a wide range of Android devices, PC and Mac computers. Equipped with a 3000mAh internal battery and OPPO’s patented safe rapid charging technology, the HA-2SE may be conveniently used to charge mobile devices on-the-go and can itself be efficiently charged in 30 minutes.
Being a “Made for iPhone” certified device and coming with a Lightning cable included, the HA-2SE can charge the iPhone and play music at the same time. When used with the right apps, the HA-2SE supports bit-perfect playback of high resolution music, exceeding the 48 kHz sample rate limitation of using the phone’s built-in headphone output or headphone adapter.
In addition to the USB DAC inputs, the HA-2SE provides a 3.5 mm line-in jack for portable music players that do not have a USB-compatible digital output. The same jack doubles as line-out when the HA-2SE is used as a DAC. The headphone amplifier has two gain level settings. The High Gain mode is capable of driving large power-hungry headphones, delivering up to 300 mW into 16-Ohm headphones. The Low Gain mode is intended for sensitive In-Ear Monitor type earphones. For users who like a bit more punch and impact with their music, the HA-2SE offers a Bass Boost function that is implemented purely with analog audio circuits.
Priced at $299, the HA-2SE can be ordered from OPPO Digital’s web site or resellers. The HA-2SE will be available for audition and demo at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver during the weekend of October 7 – 9.
Merging Technologies will display a pre-production version of the Merging+NADAC Player at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. The result of a dynamic partnership with Roon Labs, On a Higher Note, Merging’s US distributor will be demonstrating the product in Long Peaks on the Mezzanine floor of the Denver Marriott Tech Center. The concept of Roon’s ground breaking player program being offered in integrated solutions is not new; there being many existing partners with products available, but this will be the first time that the focus will shift to a complete turnkey and networked solution offering stereo as well as multichannel capability up to DSD256 and DXD.
The Merging+NADAC player was shown as a concept at the 2016 HIGH END Munich event and was welcomed by the attendees. The ‘single box’ solution with the software and the server combined with a DAC removes the need to have a computer in the living room. The ease with which the whole system can be controlled by your favorite tablet or smart phone enhances the user experience significantly. Integration details such as direct control of the NADAC volume and mute from the Roon user interface, also adds to the overall ergonomics by simplifying the control of the entire system from one single page on one single tablet. The NADAC Player requires only to be connected to the home network to access the remote control tablet through Wifi and stream from NAS servers storing music. When connected on the network any computer can still also stream music to NADAC using Merging Ravenna/AES67 drivers for Windows or Mac, while the NADAC Player enjoys a brand new Merging Linux/ALSA driver. Optional USB drives containing music may be connected directly on the back plate of the NADAC Player.
Merging also announced that this solution can be retrofitted to all Merging NADAC units already in the field and to any units shipping from now on, meaning that early adopters can take advantage of the upgrade if they wish. The Merging+NADAC Player is planned to be shipping in time for CES in January. Prices will show a small increase from the existing DAC despite the huge increase in functionality and convenience.
Roon’s CEO, Enno Vandermeer commented; “We are sure that this combination of the very best audio reproduction and the ultimate user experience, is going to bring back the enjoyment of listening to music in the home.” On Merging’s behalf, Head of Software Engineering and NADAC Product Manager, Dominique Brulhart stated; “The feedback we have had from customers, dealers and distributors over the past few months has convinced us that the market wants an elegant solution in a neater package. The Merging+NADAC Roon player is just that.”
“Katalyst takes an unprecedented level of control over the critical elements that lie at the heart of the analogue signal’s creation, to deliver the most accurate reproduction ever from a digital source” claims the Scottish brands recent press release.
In 2007 Linn launched their original DS player and in 2016, the five key aspects below have been improved utilising Linn’s investments in R&D:
Reference Level – Now completely isolated from noise to produce a high-stability input Reference Level that generates the signal’s amplitude without variation.
Independent Power Supplies – Independent, isolated power supplies are tailored for each process, so feedback from one process cannot influence the performance of another.
Data Optimisation – Linn-designed data optimisation stage that prepares the digital signal for conversion with greater accuracy, minimising errors right at the start of the process.
Master Clock – A single high precision clock with its own independent power supply ensures greater timing accuracy throughout.
Output Driver – The new ultra-low distortion analogue output driver prepares the analogue signal for transmission out of the device, making it less susceptible to noise and degradation.
Every aspect of the original DS design was carefully drawn from first principles in order to optimise performance, from the electronics inside to the clamshell enclosure, machined from a solid billet of aluminium.
Products and Pricing
The new Klimax DS and Klimax DSM featuring Katalyst DAC Architecture are available today in silver or black anodised finishes, with upgrades available for current owners.
Klimax DS: £15,800
Klimax DSM: £18,900
Klimax DS upgrade: £3,850
Klimax DSM upgrade: £4,200
Chord Electronics’ new Cable Accessory Pack for its Mojo DAC/headphone amplifier contains a great selection of cables and adaptors to get your Mojo workin’ straight from the box. Designed to offer compatibility with a wide range of partnering devices, the Mojo Accessory Pack also features Chord’s first-ever add-on Mojo module.
The new USB adaptor block module makes connecting Mojo with an OTG (On-The-Go) Micro USB cable or Lightning-to-USB Camera Adaptor cable much simpler. The module attaches directly to the Mojo’s inputs as an extension of the device and a hollow recess houses the bulky end of Apple’s Lightning-to-USB cable and Android-type OTG cables.
The additional length the USB adaptor module brings to Mojo allows plus-size smartphones to align more suitably with the device when strapped together, giving full access to large smartphone screens; Chord-branded rubber band straps are provided in the pack. The module also contains an internal circuit board which extends the Micro USB charging port when the adaptor block is in use and retains visibility of the battery indicator light.
The Cable Accessory Pack includes the following:
1x USB Adapter Module
1x Standard Optical Cable
1x 3.5mm to Standard Optical Cable
1x 3.5mm to ¼” Headphone Adapter Cable
1x 1m Type A USB to Micro Cable
1x USB Micro to USB Micro OTG Cable
1x USB Micro to Female USB OTG Cable
1x Dual Play and Charge USB Cable
2x Chord Branded 180mm Rubber Band Straps
2x Chord Branded 160mm Rubber Band Straps
1x Ferrite RFI Suppression Choke
Note: Apple’s Lightning-to-USB Camera Adapter cable is sold separately
The Cable Accessory Pack case sells for £59.99 and is available from dealers now.
The Stream Xa is a combined streamer/DAC, retailing at £1,295. The PSX R2 power supply is an optional upgrade and retails at £695. John Scott takes them both out for a test. More »
At £900 for the amplifier and £995 for the CD player these two units from Audiolab are relatively inexpensive but well specified. Ian Ringstead plumbs them into his system and rather likes what he hears. More »
Rockna DAC is available from £3950 for the single ended ‘edition’ model with balanced and ‘Signature’ versions also available. Released today is the latest firmware for existing customers and naturally new units will ship with Firmware 4.01 enabling DSD512 compatibility.
The company’s press release says “We always thought that high-end audio should be everything about innovation. Playing around with off-the-shelf available chips is fun and certainly a good and economic way to produce good sound. But once you want to design a cutting-edge product, the off-the-shelf approach doesn’t apply. Naturally, a custom solution, freed from the limitation of the available chipsets, come into place, allowing us to design and build from the scratch an entire digital audio system. All building blocks of the Wavedream DAC concerning digital processing are built entirely on a single piece of programmable silicon – a FPGA . With a FPGA, it’s internal hardware architecture could be described by a piece of software (actually, a very complex one). When upgrading the Wavedream with new firmware, you actually change it’s hardware. This system allows great flexibility, obsolescence protection and let us improve the sound of your dac by changing it’s internal architecture, or add new cool features, or improve the existing ones.”
Release notes for 4.01:
– enabled DSD256 (you need to set ASIO driver as output)
– enabled DSD512 (same)
– enabled dither option (not active in previous version)
– enabled clock option (same)
– brand new upsampling filters
For DSD256/512 playback files are scarce, one way of get great sound is to upsample everything is real-time using HQplayer (which can upsample to DSD512).
Dither “on” will reduce distortion for low level signals (starting at -80 dB and below) ; We used a triangular distribution, shaped mode dither – without increasing noise floor in the audio band.
Clock option works like this : stream mode will track the input frequency constantly while local mode will adjust the lock only from time to time, using a few stages of memory buffers.
Rockna Wavedream Dac and NET player is available in the UK at BD Audio.
John Scott takes a listen to the Hana Lab Sakura music server and DAC hailing from Croatia and costing £500
Hydra Z from Audiobyte is a USB audio playback bridge and clock generator whilst the Hydra ZPM is its matching Ultra linear audio power supply. Dan Worth is already a user of the company’s previous model Hydra X+ and most definitely a digital audiophile, so who better to put to put this £1050 combo through their paces. More »
Specialist UK Distributor Sound Design Distribution Ltd has signed a UK distribution deal with Mola-Mola. Mola-Mola is the brainchild of Bruno Putzeys, “he wunderkind of Class-D technology” originator of Universal class-D (UcD) in 2001 while at Phillips and as chief tech guru at Hypex, responsible for the development of its game-changing NCore Class-D amplifier technology.
Presented in strikingly distinctive rippled all-aluminium enclosures the ‘Makua’ Control Amplifier, complete with modular DAC and phono options, and ‘Kaluga’ Monoblock power amplifiers will be the first Mola-Mola designs to be made available to UK audiophiles through Sound Design Distribution Ltd.
The Makua is a fully balanced gain stage and routing matrix, accommodating optional DAC and phono stage modules and programmable via a dedicated App through USB or Bluetooth to access any combination of channel, processing and routing. Via the phono stage option for instance, vinyl-lovers can connect up to five turntables and program the settings individually for each. All five inputs are switchable between XLR and floating RCA connections, and all can be assigned as either phono or line.
All stages in the Makua employ discrete amplifier modules using a little known topology called “single-ended driven differential”, which prevents noise from propagating all the way through to the outputs (paralleled for bi-amping). The relay-based volume control directly controls the gain of the output stage.
- 5 balanced and 5 unbalanced inputs, all routable through optional processor boards like the phono stage and DAC
- 2 parallel outputs for bi-amping
- 4 programmable trigger outputs
- Distortion at maximum signal level (THD, IMD): negligible – estimated around -150dB
- Bandwidth >200 kHz
- Dimensions: 420mm(W) x 110mm (H) x 345mm (D). Depth includes volume knob and connectors
- Weight: 11kg
Based on Bruno Putzeys’ Ncore technology the Kaluga amplifier uses a circuit from Mola-Mola derived from the Hypex NC1200 amplifier, featuring an audiophile layout of short, isolated signal paths and eliminating board-to-board connectors in favour of star-quad cables soldered directly to the circuit board. The input stage on a separate circuit board uses the same discrete buffers as those found in the Makua pre-amplifier. The redesigned output filter uses monolithic capacitors.
- Output power: 400 W/8 ohm; 700W/4 ohm; 1200W/2 ohm
- Unweighted Signal/Noise Ratio: 128 dB
- Distortion (THD, IMD): <0.003 % (all frequencies and power levels)
- Bandwidth: >50 kHz
- Balanced and unbalanced input
- 2 pairs of Furutech binding posts, bi-wired directly to the amplifier PCB using Kubala·Sosna cable
- Dimensions: 200mm (W) x 110mm (H) x 335mm (D). Depth includes speaker terminals
- Weight: 7kg
The DAC from Moma-Mola has been designed from the ground up using circuits and digital algorithms developed entirely in house. The converter is a three board stack that fits in one of the option slots in the MAKUA preamp. On the first board, all incoming digital audio is upsampled to 3.125MHz/32 bits and converted to noise shaped PWM. The two remaining boards are mono DACs, in which a discrete 32-stage FIR DAC and a single-stage 4th order filtering I/V converter convert the PWM into analogue with a 140dB SNR. This is near the theoretical limit for 24-bit files and far beyond that of even quad-speed DSD.
- Inputs: XLR, Optical, USB and Bluetooth (A2DP)
- Supported formats: PCM up to 384 kHz /32 bits (>192 kHz and >24 bits only via USB); DSD up to quad speed (DDSD and up only via USB)
- Performance: Signal to Noise Ratio: 140 dB (standalone version), 130dB (preamp option board); THD, IMD: negligible – estimated around -150dB.
- Bandwidth: Up to 80 kHz. Choice of sharp or slow upsampling filters, minimum or linear phase.
- Integrated jitter: <1 ps from 10 Hz upwards, <300 fs from 1 kHz upwards.
- Jitter rejection: >80 dB at 1 Hz after 20 seconds of lock.
A standalone version of the Mola-Mola DAC is in the final stages of development
The RIAA add-on for the MAKUA Preamp has MC/MM input stages are optimised for current noise and voltage noise respectively.
Unlike the more common arrangement of MC head-amp feeding the MM stage, the two stages are fully independent, realising an equally short signal path for both. Input gain is switchable in 5dB steps over a 40dB range. Input resistance and capacitance are individually switchable. Available EQ settings cover practically all known cutting curves ever used, including most 78RPM.
UK retail price (inc VAT):
Makua – £7,299; Kaluga (each) – £4,999; DAC board for Makua – £3,999; Phono stage for Makua – £1,699
Availability: September 2016
The £5995 Leema Acoustics Libra is both a DAC and a preamplifier with a plethora of inputs that should be ample for anyone. Dominic Marsh gets to grips with it for Hifi Pig. More »
The Formula DAC is the first in the aqua – acoustic production to show a proprietary D/A conversion system, that they have named Optologic DAC. This conversion system follows the same multibit technology (already used in the previous DACs such as La Voce and La Scala) but with a discrete R2R resistors ladder instead of Burr Brown PCM1704 dacs.
Galvanic and magnetic isolations are implemented between the FPGA and the four branches of the R2R ladder converter. This creates complete isolation of all digital circuitry – including the clock – from the analogue section for a pure clean ground plane. It also plays the main role in the differential management of the R2R ladders, “achieving perfect symmetry between the counter-phase halves”.
The Formula Dac uses no digital filter or any other compensation, relying instead on attention to each sub circuit. The analogue and digital power supplies are executed purely discretely by extensive use of BJT, Mosfet, Jfet and ultra-fast diodes. Passive parts were selected not just for the best sonic result but also for their top quality, longevity and reliability. With the exception of six superior quality electrolytics, all other caps are Tantalum, solid-polymer OS-CON and double-metalized MJP. The signal path itself is direct-coupled and free of all capacitors. The two output stages (one single-ended, one transformer-coupled balanced) use discrete BJT and JFet with metal-film resistors. All the electronics parts show an ultra low RF noise.
Australian brand Burson have announced a Noir Edition of the Conductor V2+ headphone amplifier/DAC/preamplifier. Hifi Pig had one of the older versions of this in house for a few months driving Audeze cans and it offers very good value and great sonics for money at USD 1499.
The Noir Edition will have the same spec as the classic silver one. ie.
8.2W per channel @ 16ohm,
SABRE32 ESS9018 DAC + Xmos USB receiver making it DSD256 / DXD / 32bit384khz able
Remote Controlled Preamp
5 years of warranty
The Noir version will be Available later in August.
Schiit Audio have introduced Modi Multibit, the most affordable DAC in the Schiit Multibit lineup. Modi Multibit, which retails for £249, joins Bifrost Multibit, Gungnir Multibit, and Yggdrasil in the Schiit Multibit DAC line.
“Modi Multibit smashes the price barrier in advanced multibit DACs,” said Mike Moffat, Schiit’s Co-Founder and head of digital development. “It is the most affordable multibit DAC built on a modern architecture—from any manufacturer, in any country in the world.”
Modi Multibit is built on Schiit’s proprietary multibit DAC architecture, featuring Schiit’s unique closed-form digital filter on an Analog Devices SHARC DSP processor. For D/A conversion, it uses a medical/military grade, true multibit converter specified down to 1/2LSB linearity, the Analog Devices AD5547CRUZ.
“It may seem incredible that, just a little over a year after we introduced our first multibit DAC, Yggdrasil, we’re introducing a multibit DAC that includes a version of the same digital filter and a real multibit D/A converter for 89% lower cost,” said Mike. “But we don’t believe that you should have to spend a boatload for great sound, so it makes complete sense.”
Modi Multibit is Schiit Audio’s fourth multibit DAC, and is built on Schiit’s second major multibit platform that was developed from the ground up. It fits into the line as follows:
Yggdrasil: Schiit Multibit 1 Platform, Modular/Upgradable, 8X Closed-Form Filter, AD5791BRUZ x 4, Choke-Input, Shunt Supplies, Discrete JFET Buffer Output, Gen 3 USB, £2045
Gungnir Multibit: Schiit Multibit 1 Platform, Modular/Upgradable, 8X Closed-Form Filter, AD5781BRUZ x 4, Discrete JFET Buffer Output, £1125
Bifrost Multibit: Schiit Multibit 2 Platform, Modular/Upgradable, 4X Closed-Form Filter, AD5547CRUZ, £540
Modi Multibit: Schiit Multibit 2 Platform, 4X Closed-Form Filter, AD5547CRUZ, £249
Multibit DACs differ from the vast majority of DACs in that they use true 16-20 bit D/A converters that can reproduce the exact level of every digital audio sample. Most DACs use inexpensive delta-sigma technology with a bit depth of only 1-5 bits to approximate the level of every digital audio sample, based on the values of the samples that precede and follow it.
MUTEC, German manufacturer of professional and audiophile consumer audio equipment, say they are excited to introduce the firmware V1.10 for their MC-3+ Smart Clock USB. The new firmware V1.10 will not only introduce several functional improvements, it also presents a significant step-up for the already exceptional sound performance of the MC-3+USB say the company. Furthermore, the update will be free to all users and is ready to be installed on their own at home or at the studio.
- Free, user-executable update
- Painstakingly optimized re-clocking algorithm
Improving the already exceptional sound quality to achieve even more clarity, resolution, and presence
- PCM/DSD auto-detection
Enjoy music via USB up to 192 kHz PCM and DSD/DoP streams (up to DSD256 and DoP128 respectively) without the need for manual switching
- Bugfixes and functional improvements
Windows only at the moment, but Mac update coming soon
One of the most significant functional improvements and most requested feature of the firmware V1.10 is the automatic detection of DSD and PCM streams when using the MC-3+USB for audiophile computer audio playback via USB. MUTEC CEO Christian Peters comments: “Convenience is key for our high-end consumer audio customers and having to switch modes depending on the source file when playing back a mixed format playlist for example was a major nuisance.” From now on, the user simply has to select the USB input from the reference menu (all top three LEDs now illuminate) and the MC-3+USB will automatically adapt to PCM streams with up to 192 kHz sampling rate and DSD/DoP (DSD256 and DoP128 respectively).
Christian continues: “Our development engineers have painstakingly tweaked the DDS algorithms under the hood yielding a new level of sound quality. This is an achievement we’re particularly proud of and that all users will benefit from.”.
The firmware release package will contain several update files and a comprehensive guide taking the user through the process step by step. The update will be made available via MUTEC’s website as a zip-archive download. At the moment, the update is limited to Windows users only, but a Mac version of the update is expected to follow soon.
Expect a review of this the MC-3+USB on Hifi Pig soon.
Karma-AV have announced the availability of the Mark-Levinson № 526 dual- monaural preamplifier. The № 526 is a 12-input dual-monaural design featuring Pure Path circuit topology, a class-A ‘Pure Phono’ stage, a 32-bit DAC, and a class-A Main Drive Headphone output.
Designed and engineered at HARMAN’s Engineering Centre of Excellence in Shelton, CT, USA, the Mark Levinson № 526 offers a signal path that is fully discrete, fully balanced and completely dual-monaural, with a discrete, balanced R-2R ladder volume control to maintain the highest level of sonic purity, resolution, transparency and dynamic range.
There is the choice of two balanced and three single-ended analogue audio inputs, stereo phono inputs and six digital inputs, supported by the Mark Levinson ‘Precision Link’ DAC and HARMAN Clari-Fi® music restoration technology.
The Mark Levinson № 526 offers digital decoding up to 32-bit, 192kHz from PCM and double-speed DSD.
Its proprietary ‘Precision Link’ DAC incorporates an ESS Sabre32 Reference converter. Six digital audio inputs including asynchronous USB, AES/EBU balanced, TOSLINK optical and coaxial unbalanced, feed the digital signal path. For listeners whose libraries contain older or lower resolution content, the № 526 incorporates HARMAN Clari-Fi® music restoration technology.
In addition the № 526 is equipped with a ‘Pure Phono’ stage, which operates in class-A throughout, offering a fixed-gain MM section with five capacitive cartridge-loading settings, and an MC section with three gain settings and 10 resistive cartridge-loading settings. An infrasonic filter intelligently compensates for rumble and warping.
The № 526 preamplifier delivers its signal to balanced (XLR) and single-ended (RCA) stereo outputs, as well as a 1/4-inch (6.3mm) Main Drive Headphone output integrated with the front panel metalwork – a first for Mark Levinson. The Main Drive Headphone amplifier circuit drives up to 32-ohm headphones in class-A by employing the main output circuit rather than a secondary signal path.
The № 526 features a 6000- series aluminium housing in black with silver trim. It can be controlled from the front panel, from the remote control supplied and via a comprehensive range of system integration connections. Like all Mark Levinson products, the № 526 is designed and handcrafted in the USA.
- Pure Path discrete, direct coupled, fully balanced, dual-monaural signal path
- 32-bit Precision Link DAC with three selectable filters and seven power supplies
- Supports high-resolution PCM (up to 32-bit, 192kHz) and DSD (up to 5.6MHz)
- Discrete, balanced R-2R Ladder volume control for precision and performance
- Class-A Main Drive Headphone output for up to 32-ohm headphones using main circuit
- Selectable fourth-order, 80 Hz high-pass filter allows seamless integration of subwoofers
- Class-A Pure Phono stage with physically separated channels for MC and MM
- 12 analogue, digital, and phono inputs; balanced, single-ended, and headphone outputs
- Designed and handcrafted in the USA
Mark Levinson No 526 Dual-Monaural Preamplifier typical retail price inc VAT: £15,000 ea
The £3785 Naim Superuniti is an all in one box streamer, DAC and amplifier, but is it a Jack of all trades and master of none? John Scott finds out for Hifi Pig. More »
Absolute Sounds say it is pleased to announce its appointment as sole UK distributor of dCS audio equipment with immediate effect.
Based near Cambridge, dCS is a world leader in digital audio replay systems for domestic and professional use. The company is widely acknowledged to have pushed the digital audio performance envelope as a result of its many proprietary technologies, most famously the dCS Ring DAC™ – a shining example of British technological ingenuity.
Originally called Data Conversion Systems, dCS was founded in 1987 to manufacture high-performance Analogue-to-Digital Converters (ADCs) and Digital-to-Analogue Converters (DACs) for major telecommunications companies and military agencies, whose primary requirement was technology that delivered state-of-the-art precision, linearity and reliability. The company’s first project was to develop the Blue Vixen radar system for the Royal Navy Sea Harrier FA2 fighter aircraft.
In the late 1980s, dCS began making ADCs and DACs for music reproduction – first for the rapidly growing digital recording industry, then for use in the home. While the company’s focus had changed, its commitment to producing digital conversion systems of unrivalled accuracy had not, the company’s R&D-led approach further growing its reputation for leading-edge innovation.
dCS is responsible for many ‘firsts’ throughout its timeline, including the world’s first 24-bit audio DAC and the first-ever 24-bit/96kHz analogue-to-digital and digital-to-analogue conversion systems. No company has played a more pioneering role in the development of today’s hi-res digital music scene than dCS, and its products continue to enjoy an exceptional reputation among industry professionals and discerning music lovers around the world.
Today, dCS has three main product lines – Debussy, Rossini and Vivaldi – each designed from the ground up to represent the pinnacle of digital audio performance. The company’s DAC technologies are truly unique, utilising proprietary hardware and software in place of ubiquitous, off-the-shelf chip solutions. A modular design approach delivers a clear upgrade path, allowing dCS owners to update their state-of-the-art digital playback systems as technology progresses, and all the company’s products are hand-built in the UK.
Commenting on the appointment of Absolute Sounds, David Steven, Managing Director of dCS, said:
“dCS has been developing state-of-the-art digital audio technology for almost 30 years. Since becoming Managing Director in 2009, I have been committed to furthering our pioneering tradition with products that deliver the finest performance available today.
“One of the most crucial elements in helping our customers enjoy an unrivalled listening experience is the support offered by our global distributor and dealer network. We are constantly looking for partners who share our passion and commitment to deliver an unforgettable in-home musical experience.
“Absolute Sounds has been the primary architect of the UK’s high-end audio scene over the past four decades. We share a passion for providing wonderful sound and exceptional customer service to discerning music lovers; by working together we can make that experience even stronger.”
Ricardo Franassovici, founder and Managing Director of Absolute Sounds, added:
“There are very few digital audio products in the world that deliver the level of performance we demand from the brands we represent. The components made by dCS unquestionably do, with the company’s proprietary technologies cementing its status as a true digital audio pioneer.
“When we auditioned the latest dCS Vivaldi 2.0 digital playback system, we were inspired by its magnificent sound quality. And when David Steven and his team of engineers shared their forward-thinking vision with us, we became excited at the prospect of our new partnership. On a personal note, having known David’s father prior to his death in 2009, I am delighted at the prospect of working with the innovative company that he helmed for many years and that his son now steers toward further success.”
Having heard a full dCS digital front end we at Hifi Pig can attest to how good their kit actually is!
Burson got in touch with Hifi Pig to tell us they are introducing the pocket sized, USB powered “Conductor Air”. Details are pretty scant at the moment but they say that just like its full sized sibling, its a USB DAC, Head amp, Preamp 3 in 1 unit.
- 185g uni-body aluminium enclosure
- Xmos USB receiver capable of native streaming DSD256, DXD, 32bit/384khz audio files
- SABRE32/ESS9018 DAC chip, just like the desktop Conductor V2+
- Raising a 5V USB power to 18V resulting in 4 times the dynamic range and 500mW into 32ohm of power
- Remote controlled preamp.
The conductor Air will come in both silver and black and will cost $499 when it is available in late August.
Audiolab’s M-ONE compact integrated amplifier is the latest addition to the M-DAC family, harnessing the company’s acclaimed DAC and amp tech in a single diminutive box. The M-ONE takes Audiolab’s DAC technology, adds high performance pre/power amp circuitry and a range of connectivity options including aptX Bluetooth.
Outwardly, the M-ONE is almost identical tothe M-DAC+, Audiolab’s flagship DAC component. It sports the same compact aluminium case, small enough to sit unobtrusively on a desk, table or shelf, with the same central OLED display and dual rotary control scheme. But while standalone DACs like the M-DAC+ require a separate power amp to drive a pair of speakers, the M-ONE has stereo power amplification plus preamp facilities for analogue sources as well as digital. The M-ONE shares the same core D/A conversion technology, based around the peerless ES9018 Sabre32 Reference chip family from ESS Technology in this case, the recently introduced two channel ES9018 K2M, little brother to the flagship eight channel ES9018 chip found in the M-DAC+. It sports the same patented 32-bit HyperStream® DAC architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator, unique to the Sabre32 Reference family, surrounded by Audiolab’s signature circuitry. The preamp section mixes minimalist design with high-quality components, ensuring a short, direct signal path to maintain sonic purity. Volume is digitally controlled in the analogue domain, outputting directly to the Class AB power amplifier, which delivers an output of 40W per channel into 8 ohms–plenty of power to drivee fficient modern speakers.A low-noise linear power supply benefits all circuits from the DAC to the power amp, incorporating a shielded, precision-wound toroidal transformer and multiple power supply sections to keep crossover interference to a minimum. In addition to themain power amp stage,the M-ONEshares the same high-quality headphone amp featured in the M-DAC and M-DAC+, ensuring it’s just as capable with headphones as it is when powering speakers. There are two USB inputs – aType B socket (ideal for PC/Mac connectivity) andaType A socket (useful for Apple iOS device docking and playback). Both USB inputs are compatible with PCM data up to32-bit/384kHz, as well as DSD64/128/256, and both are asynchronous–data is regulated by the precision master clock in the M-ONE’s DAC section, rather than by the source device, thus helping to minimise jitter. Other digital devices can be connected via optical or coaxial cables; one input of each type is supplied, supporting PCM data up to 32-bit/192kHz.These are accompanied by two RCA-phono inputs for analogue source components, while those who enjoy the freedom of wireless connectivity can pair smartphones, tablets and computers via Bluetooth, with support for the sonically superior aptX codec.
The Audiolab M-ONE is available from August in finely textured black or silver. RRP is £799.95
Exposure Electronics has just announced an upgrade to the 2010S2 DAC, enabling the latter to handle DSD music files.
The new upgraded edition, available now, is able to handle single-rate DSD (DSD x64 or DSD 2.8mHz) through the USB input, as well as PCM support up to 24-bit / 192kHz.
There are also three coaxial and two optical inputs, all capable of handling files up to 192kHz. The former are of the BNC variety.
Further key features include:
Multiple stages of regulation for SPDIF input receiver, USB input, clock oscillator, DAC and output stage for accurate output.
Very clean master clock to SPDIF input receiver and USB input to ensure low jitter operation.
Discrete filter and output stage for optimum performance (no op-amp ICs).
Digital output can be switched ‘on’ or ‘off’ (and is re-timed) to reduce the jitter level as compared to SPDIF input. This function can also be used to convert USB input to SPDIF output.
Available in either titanium or black, the 2010S2 DSD DAC features all-aluminium casework.
|Inputs||USB2 XMOS, coaxial (3), optical (2)|
|Supported sample rates / bit depth||PCM 44.1kHz to 192kHz @ 24-bits
DSD over DOP x64 (2.8mHz) using XMOS solution
|Frequency response||20Hz – 20kHz ± 0.2dB|
|Total harmonic distortion||<0.005% at 2V RMS @ 1kHz|
|Signal to noise ratio||>110dB ref 2V RMS output @ 1kHz|
|Channel separation||>60dB @ 20Hz – 20kHz|
|Mains supply||110/120V or 220/240V, 50/60Hz (factory set)|
|Dimensions||90mm (h) x 440mm (w) x 310mm (d)|
|Net weight (unpacked)||5kg|
|Gross weight (packed)||7kg|
The Exposure 2010S2 DSD DAC is available now priced at £920 (including VAT).
Current owners of the existing 2010S2 DAC can upgrade to the new DSD version at a cost of £400 (including VAT and return shipping).
Dan Worth has a listen to the £3000 Chord Hugo TT for Hifi Pig. More »
The Nēo ACE from Moon is “A Complete Experience of musical ecstasy” says the company’s press release. The all-in-one ACE is an integrated amplifier and streaming DAC music player so all you need do is simply hook up a pair of speakers, connect to the internet and play. The ACE features Moon’s MiND* control system which provides a full graphic interface allowing access to a digital music library or streaming service.
The ACE features all-new advanced setup software and will decode DSD up to DSD256 and 32- bit/384kHz PCM. The ACE also features a moving magnet phono preamplifier and has RS-232 and IR ports for use in custom-install environments.
RRP £2,800, though on offer at £2500 until July 1st
MOON NEO ACE FEATURES
- Three line-level inputs including a front-mounted 1/8” mini-jack for personal media
- Headphone output on 1/4” TRS jack located on the front
- Seamless integration with MOON’s MiND
- Eight (8) digital inputs include USB (hi-res audio), SPDIF (2), Optical (2), aptX® Bluetooth®, Wi-Fi and Ethernet
- The first MOON product using an OLED type screen – provides more detailed information.
- Simple MiND setup via on-board software
- Moving magnet phono preamplifier
- Analogue inputs are configurable to “pass-through” mode, which bypasses the gain stage to accommodate components like a home-theatre processor
- Output Power at 8Ω: 50 Watts per channel
- Input Sensitivity: 370mV – 3.0V RMS
- Input Impedance : 11,000Ω
- Gain: 37dB
- Signal-to-noise ratio: 100dB @ full power
- Frequency response (full range): 10Hz – 60kHz +0/-3dB
- Crosstalk: 90dB
THD (20Hz – 20kHz @ 1 watt/50 watts): 0.015% / 0.02%
- Intermodulation distortion: 05%
- PCM Bit-depth range/sampling rates: 16-32bits / 1-384kHz
- DSD sample rates: DSD64, DSD128 & DSD256
- Shipping weight: 24 lbs / 11 Kgs
- Dimensions (width x height x depth): 42.9 x 8.9 x 36.6
UK based Veracity Audio’s Mystra is a dual mono design with dual DAC architecture. The dedicated 24bit dual mono, multi-bit conversion handles PCM files without sample rate change and the stand-alone ∆Σ DAC/reconstruction filter offers playback of DSD64 and DSD128 natively without digital processing. The DAC features auto-switching with incoming signal file format, directing DSD to the DSD reconstruction filter and PCM to the parallel PCM only DAC. Both engines share only the SE triode valve analogue stage on a ‘one-at-a-time’ basis.
To match the output of the DAC to any pre or integrated amplifier the DAC is equipped with an analogue volume control designed with non-inductive resistors controlled by relays, with only two resistors in the signal path at any level and R2R shunt operation. For digital-only systems, this volume control can facilitate direct connection to power amplifiers. Volume control and input selector operation can be remote controlled with the custom, handmade handset.
A jitter rejection system for SPDIF inputs is employed with a quad differential receiver for use with a CD transport and any other compatible signal source.
Line preamplifier function is offered for external analogue source to directly use the DACs triode valve stage as an active preamplifier with R2R volume control. Analogue input is via a pair of RCAs whilst output is via RCA and XLR.
Mystra features a Headphone output for 32Ω – 300Ω headphones.
The valve analogue output stage operates in pure Class A. It is a single ended triode design without negative feedback.
Low impedance, high current drive audio outputs are connected directly from the valves through Jensen Copper foil audio capacitors to a stereo pair of RCA single-ended and a pair of XLR passively balanced analogue outputs. Both output types are coherent with any amplifier input with RCA`s 209Ω and XLR`s 600Ω output impedance.
The valve stage consists of a pair of 6SN7 signal drivers, a pair of ECC82 output drivers and a pair of CV574 full-wave valve rectifiers.
Veracity Audio has separated out the digital and analogue power supplies and also the left and right channels. Strictly linear, ultra low noise power supplies were designed, each for the specific application including internal power supply for the USB interface. All power supplies are capable of high current delivery and feature separate power rails with dedicated decoupling for each individual power consumer. Multiple choke filters system and ultra low impedance film and organic polymer capacitors are used to provide the purest power flow possible. The DAC also features a built-in, selected Schurter mains filter.
Mystra DAC is equipped with Soft start, giving the time for the valves to warm-up. During this warm-up time signal outputs are muted with the Audio comes-on automatically after 70 seconds.
The long-awaited DAC/valve headphone amp and preamp from the Danish brand Copland has arrived in the UK courtesy of Absolute Sounds.
The heart of the DA215 is a D/A converter with multiple S/PDIF inputs, PCM, and DSD capabilities using the ES9018 Reference 32-bit DAC in quad-mono configuration, 8 mono to 2 stereo configuration. The company’s press release has the following to say “Combining four in-phase and four opposite-phase converters per channel, the statistical properties of the signals are taken to advantage; the signal power of the phases correlate and add-up in constructive addition, whereas the noise power of the phases are de-correlated, improving the signal to noise ratio of the resulting analogue waveform”.
The class-A buffering technology of the analogue filtering sections is borrowed from the Copland CD-players and composed by discrete transistors.
The DA215 incorporates an asynchronous USB input, three S/PDIF digital inputs, an analogue input, two analogue outputs (fixed and variable) and a complete pre-amplifier with analogue volume control and front panel headphone output featuring vacuum tube gain stages.
You can use the DAC215 for headphones playback. However, you can also use it as a high-end pre-amplifier with volume control, using the amplifier RCA outputs. The volume control and pre-amplifier functionality can be bypassed for pure DAC mode.
The DA215 USB features USB 2.0 PCM 24/32 bit data transfer to 384 kHz, including native DSD64 and high resolution DSD128. The input is converted to i2s and it is connected directly to the DAC chip. Once connected, the computer recognizes the DAC and routes the digital audio data to it, bypassing the source device’s internal audio circuitry. The asynchronous USB-B port connects to the computer’s USB-A port. No power is taken from the computer. The regulated power supply for the USB input section has its own winding of the power transformer and the noisy computer line is completely interrupted by the use of digital Isolators.
UK RRP: £1998; available with black or silver fascia
Cyrus Audio is launching its first Kickstarter campaign on 1st July, with the aim of raising £50,000 to develop the SoundKey, a micro-sized DAC designed to get the best musical performance out of mobile phones.
Aimed firmly at music lovers who use their mobile phones as the primary source, the SoundKey bypasses the low quality internal circuits of the phone and takes the digital music signal directly to its own DACs and amps. With just 50mA current draw from the phone it won’t run the batteries down too quickly.
Simon Freethy, managing director of Cyrus, says, “There’s a whole new generation of music lovers who just don’t know how good the music on their phones can sound, as it’s let down by the low quality DACs and amplifiers employed in the phone. The Cyrus engineers, using their 30 years experience building products that provide a better music experience, have come up with a world-beating solution in the diminutive SoundKey.” He continues, “It will significantly enhance the enjoyment of content from phones and we are so excited by it that we want to invite consumers to be part of this revolution. Join us at our dedicated SoundKey microsite and register your interest to be one of the first backers and among the first to own one of these really cool products.”
Kickstarter pledge levels will be announced shortly and Early Bird and VIP packages will be available that reward the first people who get behind the product.
Chief Technical Officer at Meridian, Richard Hollinshead comments: “The Meridian Ultra Digital to Analogue Converter is the culmination of nearly two decades of research and engineering. With considerable connectivity options, user features, and format support, the Meridian Ultra DAC incorporates an extensive list of performance-enhancing technologies, including Dual Mono DAC cards, DSP filter options, upsampling, and apodizing. This dedicated DAC utilises Meridian’s renowned audio expertise to set a new standard in the analogue realm”.
Connectivity options include USB 2.0, S/PDIF, TosLink, 75 ohm BNC, and AES3 on XLR, as well as Meridian’s Speakerlink and the Sooloos music-management platform. One pair of balanced and one pair of unbalanced analogue outputs are also provided.
The Meridian Ultra is a 384kHz/24-bit dedicated DAC capable of playing virtually any recording format including DXD, DSD64 and DSD128 (DoP), and MQA.
Significant user features are provided, including LipSync, PC setup, and RS232 enabling integration with third-party systems such as Control4 or Crestron. The Ultra DAC is the first Meridian product to give users the option to select one of 3 upsampling filters when reproducing sources with a sample rate of 44kHz or 48kHz, such as CD or DAT. In addition, a dedicated clock card is included for the lowest possible jitter.
The Ultra DAC is the first product in the world to include MQA Limited’s Hierarchical Converter Technology, which employs multiple converters to increase temporal resolution while reducing noise and quantization errors.
Another first for a Meridian product is the construction of the Ultra’s Dual Mono DAC card, which incorporates multiple regulated power supplies and eight-layer circuit boards with low- impedance ground-planes, for isolation and the low-noise grounding. A fully linear power supply provides isolation from the AC supply, and DC-coupled output prevents degradation from AC coupling capacitors. Even the Ultra DAC’s front panel was designed for quiet operation, with non-ferrous construction, and a static LCD display chosen for its low electrical noise and ease of readability.
The Meridian Ultra DAC is built by hand in the UK and is available in beautiful high gloss black as standard. Other colour options are available using Meridian’s Select bespoke colour service (£500).
Suggested Retail Price: £15,000
Dominic Marsh and Ian Ringstead take the very well specced £699 Pro-Ject MaiA DS integrated amplifier for a ride and rather enjoy it. More »
The Wadia Dl122 Digital Audio Decoder will decode files at 24-bit/192kHz has a USB input that accepts up to 32-bit signals and support for DSD64, DSD128, DXD 352.8kHz and DXD 384kHz. It has an onboard headphone amp, a host of outputs and costs a pound under £1500. Dan Worth takes a listen for Hifi Pig. More »
Part four of Hifi Pig’s coverage of High End Munich 2016 featuring: Neodio, Audio Hungary, Bang And Olufsen, Terrastrato Typ 1 Standard, Estelon, Blumenhofer Acoustics and Cammino, Indiana Line, TW Acustic, Constellation and Martin Logan, TAD, D’Agostino, Wadia, Krell, Audio Research, Meridian, EAT, Sonus Faber More »
Lampizator, Skogrand, Emmespeakers, Analog Design, Kronos, Stacore, SoundKaos, SOtM, Bauta, Ayon,; Fischer & Fischer, Mudr Akustik, AVM and Elac
The High End Show at Munich is an absolutely gargantuan task for anyone to undertake but it always ends up been worth the effort of trying to see absolutely ever room you can as you come across some real gems that you just weren’t expecting…and of course some that you perhaps expected would be great anyway.
The vast majority of exhibitors go to an extraordinary amount of effort to make their rooms the very best they can be and all credit must go to them. As always though there are the rooms and stands that really leap out at you and remain in your memory for the whole of the show and a long time afterwards.
So, here are some of what I considered to be the real gems of this years show. They’re in no particular order and are likely to be in the order we happened across them. More »
Prism Sound today launched its Callia DAC, a PCM and DSD capable DAC, pre-amplifier and headphone amp at Munich High-End.
Prism Sound today launched its Callia DAC, a PCM and DSD capable DAC, pre-amplifier and headphone amp at Munich High-End. More »
Mytek Digital has announced the release of the MQA™ firmware update which enables the new Brooklyn DAC/ Headphone/Phono Preamplifier to decode all MQA files — in addition to all other formats, including PCM 384k/32bit and DSD256. After Meridian, Mytek is the second MQA licensee to release the firmware update with the MQA technology.
MQA is an end-to-end technology that captures and delivers master quality audio in a file that’s small enough to stream or download. And because it’s fully authenticated, the listener can be sure they are hearing exactly what the artist recorded and approved in the studio.
Later this year, availability of high-resolution music streaming services using MQA format is expected.
In a move that is rather unusual in a $2,000 DAC, Mytek has engineered the very Brooklyn DAC to also include a Phono Preamplifier and Headphone Amplifier.
Boulder Amplifiers, based in Boulder Colorado have announced that with the completion of the HDMI input module, the full release and shipment of the 2120 D/A Converter. The original 2000 Series was in continuous and unchanged production since 1996. The replacement 2100 Series is Boulder’s “highest performing, continuously produced product line”.
International export prices will vary by country.
All electronic circuitry within the 2120 D/A Converter is entirely new and all technological changes were developed over a six-‐year period that included the engineering of a complete SoM (System on Module) host processor and dedicated video driver to support the front panel display.
Among the numerous features of the 2120 are:
- Standard traditional digital inputs: coaxial S/PDIF, balanced AES3, and Toslink (EIAJ) optical
- Both Standard (computer) and Slave (memory device) streaming USB connections accepted
- Optional HDMI inputs (2x Input, 1 x throughput)
- DLNA/UPnP via Ethernet for bit-‐perfect network streaming
- Multiple fully modular digital input options available to tailor the 2120 to the user’s system needs and prevent obsolescence
Digital Processing Features:
- Asynchronous digital streaming
- Digital audio file formats accepted: PCM, DSF (DSD 1x and DSD 2x), AIFF, ALAC (Apple Lossless), FLAC, WAV, MP3, OGG Vorbis
- Digital data rates accepted: 16-‐, 20-‐, 24-‐ and 32-‐bit word lengths at 32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4,
192, 352.8 and 384 kHz.
- Digital volume control for direct connection to amplification, featuring an 80 dB range and 1.0 dB step resolution
- A balanced variation of Boulder’s Precise Interval Clock to substantially reduce noise in the clock circuit and maintain ultra-‐precise data timing at the DACs
- Boulder’s Eigen-‐algorithm digital filter for optimized frequency and phase response
- Three-‐output power supply (analog left channel, analogue right channel and digital), plus an independent supply for low power consumption standby modes
- Isolated left and right channel analog sections as in the 2110 Preamplifier
- Ten proprietary Boulder 99S gain stages per channel
- Dual balanced outputs for each channel
Operational and Chassis Features:
- Function control by multiple control points on Apple-‐ and Android-‐based tablets and mobile devices as well as iTunes
- Four separate chassis: left analog, right analog, user interface and power supply
- Separate power supply casework ensures optimal noise isolation
- Large, full-‐color, 12.3-‐inch (31.2 cm), 1280 x 480 LCD display
- Display provides complete metadata readout, selected input or customized source listing, progress bar, resolution and data rate
- Album art displayed when available
- Automatic software updating when attached to an active Internet connection
- Multiple Standby modes for quick start, standard and ultra-‐low power consumption
- Comprehensive setup and configuration modes
- IP control with two-‐way communication for integration with external control systems, such as Savant or Crestron
Auralic North America Inc. and its parent company, Auralic Limited, is introducing the new Altair Streaming DAC. The company say that the Altair can act as an easy-to-use Home Music Center with more than 15 input sources including: Streaming Inputs: Network Shared Folder (NAS), USB drive, Internal music storage (optional), uPnP/DLNA media server, TIDAL and Qobuz streaming, Internet Radio, AirPlay, Bluetooth, Songcast and RoonReady; Digital Inputs: AES/EBU, Coaxial, Toslink, USB device to computer, 2 USB host for storage and DAC, RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11b/g/n/ac Tri-Band WiFi.
Xuanqian Wang, Auralic’s president & CEO, said: “The new ALTAIR is both a high quality streamer and DAC, and was designed based on feedback from dealers for an exceptional yet convenient-to-operate digital Source unit at an $1,800 – $2,000 price point.
“Some may consider this as a combination of Vega and Aries or the upgrade version of Aries Mini with digital input. However, the Altair is definitely a Line Extension, and not replacing the Aries Mini, or Auralic’s award-winning Vega DAC or Aries Streamers which represent the very highest level of sound quality.”
The Altair streaming DAC utilizes Auralic’s Lightning technology. Launched in 2014, Lightning was the audio industry’s first streaming technology that supports DXD and Quad-Rate DSD playback through a WiFi network. It also offers features such as Gapless Playback, On-Device Playlist and Multiple-Room functions, as part of Auralic’s ongoing program of offering regular upgrades that download in the background. Memory Playback, the latest feature added to to the Lightning streaming technology, allows the Altair to fetch and cache the entire track in its memory or system storage in advance to improve the sound quality, and also play locally without the need of network data transfer. Using Lightning DS, you can also stream TIDAL, Qobuz and listen to Internet Radio at any time. Altair’s AirPlay, Songcast and Bluetooth functions provide alternative ways to stream your favorite music from Apple Music, Spotify and other service providers through your smartphone or computer.
Altair’s’s streaming function, operated by Auralic’s Lightning DS control App, is available on iOS platforms right now, with Mac and Windows versions in development. It is also compatible with other 3rd party OpenHome or UPnP control software for playback. Altair also works as a RoonReady endpoint to use with Roon software, bringing you a new way to discover and listen to music. The unit’s other inputs include AES/EBU, Coaxial and Toslink, and a USB connection to a computer working as a standalone USB DAC.
When purchasing Altair you can add an optional 2.5-inch HDD or SSD for internal music storage, turning the ALTAIR into a Music Server.
Cosmetically, the new Altair shares the same size enclosure as the Vega DAC, including a 512×64 pixels OLED Display (although the content is different from the Vega). A headphone jack is located on the front panel.
The Altair has a MSRP of $1,899. Shipment will commence in June, following the Munich HIGHEND Show.
Altair is powered by Auralic’s proprietary Tesla hardware platform that includes a Quad-Core Coretex-A9 processor running at 1GHz, 1GB DDR3 onboard memory and 4GB system storage. The Tesla platform has a calculation ability of 25,000 MIPS and can decode including AAC, AIFF, ALAC, APE, DIFF, DSF, FLAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, WV and WMA. Future features planned include DSD Upsampling, Room Acoustic Treatment and MQA support. All these features can be delivered through automatic online updates without user’s attention.
Femto Master Clock
The dual-frequency Femto Master Clock inside the Altair is specially designed and optimized for its ESS Sabre DAC chip: with one frequency for playing music with a sampling rate which is the multiple of 44.1K, and a second for 48K. The Femto Master Clock, which is powered by a 9uV dedicated power supply that has a very low phase noise performance.
Linear Power Supply
Auralic uses Purer-Power™ linear power supply technology on the Altair where AC power firstly goes into a power purification module, and the DC current and noise from both within and outside audio frequencies can be reduced by as much as 90dB. The purified AC power is then fed to a transformer.
Flexible Filter Mode
ALTAIR has four built-in filter modes which allows its user to customize sound best befitting their personal preference.
Frequency Response: 20 – 20KHz, +/- 0.1dB*
THD+N: <0.001%, 20Hz-20KHz at 0dBFS
Dynamic Range: 121dB, 20Hz-20KHz, A-weighted
Network shared folder
Internal music storage**
uPnP/DLNA media server
TIDAL and Qobuz streaming
1*USB device to computer
2*USB host for storage and DAC
1*RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet
1*802.11b/g/n/ac Dual-Band WiFi
1*Balanced XLR (output impedance 10ohm)
1*Single-ended RCA (output impedance 50ohm)
1*6.35mm Headphone jack
Supported File Types
AAC, AIFF, ALAC, APE, DIFF, DSF, FLAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, WV and WMA
Supported Digital Formats
All PCM from 44.1KS/s to 384KS/s in 32Bit***
DSD64, DSD128, DSD256***
Output Voltage: 2Vrms at Max. with dynamic-loss-free digital volume
AURALiC Lightning DS for iOS
AURALiC RC-1 remote control
OpenHome compatible software
uPnP AV compatible software
Device Display: 512×64 pixels OLED Display
Dimensions: 11”W x 9”D x 2.6”H (33cm x 23cm x 6.5cm)
Weight: 7.0 pounds (3.2kg)
Arcam, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, were the first company to launch an outboard DAC, way back in 1987. Previewed at Bristol Sound and Vision 2016, the Arcam irDAC II is now available at £495. Arcam say: “We’ve taken our hugely successful irDAC, updated it, improved it, added Bluetooth aptX streaming, an audiophile-grade headphone amp, direct/remote volume, input control and more. The irDAC II offers a substantial jump in audio quality over its predecessor and adds exceptional usage flexibility, all at a very sensible price.” Key new features include a new ESS Sabre DAC, new internal circuit upgrade, new audiophile headphone amplifier and a new Bluetooth aptX streaming input.
DAC – ESS ES9016K2M
Inputs – USB, SPDIF, optical, Bluetooth
Frequency Response – 20Hz-20kHz, +/-0.1dB
Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise -0.0007%
Signal-to-noise ratio (A-weighted) – 117dB (24-bit)
Maximum output level – 2.1V RMS
Supported sample rates
USB: 32kHz, 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz, 384kHz
Optical: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz
Coaxial: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz
Bluetooth: SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX-LL
Bit Depth – 16-bit, 24-bit
Headphone – 30Ω – 600Ω, 3.5mm plug
Dimensions – W194 x H44 x D124mm
Weight – 1.1kg
It’s been almost four years since the original DragonFly (v1.0) launched and then a year and half later, DragonFly introduced the updated v1.2—for €149.
Now, AudioQuest is to introduce two new DragonFlys that will work with Apple and Android™ phones!
AudioQuest worked alongside Microchip Technology to develop a new high-performance, full-speed USB microcontroller (a DAC’s input processor) that delivers improved signal-to-noise ratio and significantly lower power consumption. Drawing 77% less current than the DragonFly v1.2’s microcontroller, the new Microchip MX microcontroller enables compatibility with Apple and Android smartphones and tablets. For use with Apple iOS devices, Apple’s Lightning-to-USB Camera Adaptor is required; for use with Android devices, a Made for Android (OTG) adaptor, such as our DragonTail USB Adaptor For Android Devices, is required.
The new DragonFly models also incorporate improved 32-bit ESS Sabre DAC chips—the 9010 in Black and the higher-performance 9016 in Red—both of which employ minimum-phase filtering. While DragonFly Black uses the same high-quality headphone amp and analogue volume control found in the DragonFly 1.2, DragonFly Red includes the latest ESS headphone amp and a bit-perfect digital volume control that resides on the 9016 DAC chip itself.
DragonFly Black outputs 1.2 volts—enough power to capably drive all preamplifier input circuits and all reasonably efficient headphones. Meanwhile, with its higher 2.1-volt output, DragonFly Red is compatible with an even wider range of headphones, including power-hungry, low-efficiency models. For reference, DragonFly 1.0 and 1.2 featured 1.8-volt output.
The difference in maximum output between DF Black and DF Red is essentially irrelevant with our NightHawk headphones, as they can be easily driven by either model, but Red’s higher output is an important advantage with some of the more inefficient headphones on the market. However, the difference in sound quality between the two new models is always meaningful, and is important whether feeding headphones or the Aux input of an audio system. At the same volume, Red has much more “torque,” “grip,” and “muscle” than Black. Red simply sounds cleaner and clearer overall, enabling a larger soundstage with each instrument or voice more nearly in its own space.
And, more good news: The new DragonFlys are software upgradeable through complimentary Windows and OS X desktop applications. As new developments arise in music player applications, streaming protocols, or other associated software, DragonFly users will be able to incorporate those updates into their existing devices.
DragonFly Black for only €99, with better sound than any previous DragonFly for less money than any previous DragonFly, and DragonFly Red with much better sound at only €199—and both compatible with phones—how much good news can you stand?!
DRAGONFLY BLACK & RED
- Play all music ﬁles: MP3 to high-res
- Compatible with Apple and Windows PCs, as well as iOS and Android devices (requires Apple Camera Adapter or Made for Android/OTG adaptor)
- Asynchronous Class 1 USB data transfer using the Streamlength™ protocol
- Fixed output feeds preamp or AV receiver
- Medium output (1.2 volts) drives a wide range of headphones
- 32-bit ESS 9010 DAC with minimum-phase ﬁlter
- Analog volume control
- High output (2.1 volts) drives almost all headphones, including power-hungry models
- 32-bit ESS 9016 DAC with minimum-phase ﬁlter
- Bit-perfect digital volume control
“DACportable is a powerful, palm-sized device that turns the average audio of your smartphone, tablet or computer into a concert-hall listening experience” says the recent press release from CEntrance.
Encased in anodized aluminium, DACportable comes packed with audiophile-grade components the company continue.
DACportable is said to be plug and play via a USB connection. DACportable has features like EQ filters, digital volume control, a quick charge battery. DACportable’s high-res sound (backed with 32-bit/384kHz digital audio) is self-powered, so it won’t drain your phone’s battery.
The DACportable will also work with future iPhones with or without headphone jacks.
CEntrance recently launched DACportable on Indiegogo and received an amazing response, already surpassing their funding goal with $53,000.
Romanian manufacturer Rockna have announced the new Wavedream DAC series will be available in the UK soon. There are 2 main models : Edition (featuring Rockna RD-1 discrete DAC modules) and Signature (featuring Rockna RD-0 discrete DAC modules) with each version being available in single ended or balanced configuration.
In addition to the Femtovox clock system, both Edition and Signature benefit from a new discrete output stage, have an improved power supply section and in addition have dedicated sections for digital and analogue areas. There are 3 separate transformers, and all power supplies are low noise linear – no switchmode power supplies are used whatsoever. There are a total of 20 linear regulators inside the DAC.
The RD-1 module has a 26-bit ladder structure, while RD-0 is a 27 bit ladder structure. Both are FPGA-based, meaning they have their own (upgradable) firmware. A custom solution, freed from the limitation of the available chipsets, comes into place, allowing them to design and build from the scratch an entire digital audio system.
All building blocks of the Wavedream DAC concerning digital processing are built entirely on a single piece of programmable silicon – an FPGA . With an FPGA, the internal hardware architecture could be described by a piece of software. When upgrading the Wavedream with new firmware, you actually changing its hardware. This system allows flexibility, obsolescence protection and lets Rockna improve the sound of your DAC by changing its internal architecture, or to add new features, or improve the existing ones.
The Wavedream upsamples any material with a fixed rate of 16x. The DAC modules will decode the digital stream with a rate of 768Khz, or 705.6Khz, respectively, according to input sample rat which the guys at Rockna say is the rate they found to be optimal for analogue performance of the DAC modules. The digital filters are made with the combined effort of 58 DSP blocks, resulting into in 15 GMACS of processing power. The developed filters are unique say Rockna. They avoid standard Nyquist rate filters as Rockna thought they did not “provide the expected performance for the DAC”. After lots of mathematical simulations and careful listening tests, they have created a custom Parks-McClellan upsampling filter. There are three variations available on current firmware: linear, minimum and hybrid phase.
Finally, the last stage of the signal path is the analogue output stage. Designed from the scratch to work with converter modules RD-0 & RD-1, the output stage is totally discrete and acts as a high-speed buffer. Made entirely with through-hole components (non-smd), Rockna engineers combined J-Fet & Bipolar Devices into a class A design, with a closed-loop output impedance of under 1 ohm and equivalent input noise as low as 1nV, as a perfect match for the converters overall performance.
Both DACs will be available from BD AUDIO in the UK soon.
Unison Research are expanding on their valve-based hifi electronics to produce their first ever dedicated headphone amplifier. The SH is a single-ended, two-stage full-valve headphone amplifier designed to accommodate both traditional analogue sources and modern computer-based audio.
Unison Research have created SH in order to cater for the growing world of headphone audiophiles. As most readers will be well aware, headphones have become increasingly important in the high-end home listening environment and the SH was developed to offer a high-end valve alternative to the many solid-state headphone amplifiers that are currently available.
The SH began with the same basic aim as the company’s Simply Italy integrated amplifier; to produce a world-class sound from a specialised device, using the best technology available. However, to suit the particular factors associated with headphone listening, the development team also had to ensure that the amplifier was designed with low noise characteristics and low internal impedance.
The result was a fairly simple linear circuit with low negative feedback that produces an output voltage which is capable of driving a wide range of headphones, while keeping distortion low throughout the frequency range. To compensate for the low negative feedback required in the design, attention was paid to ensure optimal linearity and increased attention on managing noise to a minimal level throughout the electrical path. “It’s thanks to this design that the SH is able to deliver a consistent, coherent, rich and identifiably “valve” sound character when in use” says the recent press release from Henley Designs, the UK Distributor.
The input stage uses an ECC83 valve, while the output stage uses one EL84 (both valves operating in triode mode). The benefits to using this specific combination of valves are said to be two-fold. First, the application requires reduced power compared to how the valves are usually employed, resulting in extended life. Second, the EL84 is capable of producing enough power to also drive the specially-selected output transformer with optimal electrical and sound character.
The SH has two headphone outputs that are connected in parallel (each with their own EL84 valve) for easy switching between headphones, or to accommodate multiple listeners. There is also a “Sensitivity” switch, to ensure the widest possible range of headphones can be comfortably driven by the amplifier. When set to “High Sensitivity”, the output voltage from the amplifier is reduced, and at “Low Sensitivity” it is at its maximum. The volume stage is entirely passive.
In addition to a standard un-balanced RCA input for connecting any Line-level source, the SH is also equipped with a USB DAC. The asynchronous USB 2.0 technology is the same as found on the recent Triode 25 amplifier, and supports audio formats up to 384kHz PCM and DSD 128. There’s a patented jitter-elimination circuit and galvanic isolation employed between the power areas of the USB interface and the conversion IC.
Aurender has announced that their latest downloadable software upgrade, System SW 4.5.58 (5.5.58), adds several new features, including: Qobuz high fidelity streaming, and the company’s unique Smart Copy®function that allows direct music uploading, within their Conductor App, to any Aurender Music Streamer/Player’s internal HDD directly from your NAS or external USB drive, without using a PC or Mac.
These new features are backward-compatible with any Aurender Music Streamer/Player. The Smart Copy process includes all metadata and the copying of either folders, individual files or both from a NAS or any attached USB drive into the Aurender. One may select a “target” folder of their choice as the destination for the transferred folders or files. It is a “copy” function, and does not currently allow deletion or name changes; this will come in a future software upgrade.
For those Aurender models with two internal HDDs: When the target HDD is full, Smart Copy will copy to the second HDD automatically.
Also included in the latest software upgrade: W20 supports on-the-fly DSD to PCM conversion up to DSD64. (The recently–introduced N10 Music Server has had DSD to PCM conversion since its introduction, and supports up to DSD128.)
Leema Acoustics’ Elements range has expanded to include a new preamp with a high-quality DAC section, offering a wide range of connectivity for today’s digital devices. The new Elements Pre-Amplifier builds on the Leema Acoustics’ Elements integrated, adding a high-quality balanced output.
The new Elements Pre-Amplifier retains the familiar half-width-chassis form factor of the Elements product range and is built to the same standards as the full-width Leema models. A matching 160-watt bridgeable power amp is also available.
Leema Acoustics’ on-board digital to analogue converter offers a 24-bit/192kHz S/PDIF coaxial input, three 24-bit/192kHz S/PDIF optical inputs and a 24-bit/192kHz asynchronous USB input, enabling a wide range of source components.
Analogue inputs include three unbalanced stereo RCA inputs, a pair of balanced inputs on XLR, plus a 3.5mm input jack on the front panel. The output connections include one pair of balanced XLR outputs and one pair of stereo RCA.
Full LIPS® implementation (Leema’s proprietary communication system) allows for easy system integration with other Leema products and home automation systems, and a remote control is also included. Additionally, an internal headphone amplifier provides a useful personal listening option. Finishes include black and silver.
The Elements Pre-Amplifier is available now priced at £1,395
Burson have announced that they have completed the R&D of our 3rd generation Conductor., which is their reference class headphone amp, USB DAC and preamp, 3 in 1. They say “is a major update from previous Conductor models”. The Conductor V2 headphone amp and pre-amp section are powered by a dedicated 70W transformer. Tuned to operate in pure Class A, it outputs over 8 Watt per channel into 16ohm, making the Conductor V2, claim Burson “one of the most powerful headphone amplifiers in the world, capable of driving any headphone”. On the digital front the Conductor V2 features the flagship ESS Sabre DAC, has completely new supporting circuitry and an independent power transformer. The new USB module features a digital interface from XMOS with their 8 core U6 chip supporting native DSD256 playback and up to 32bit depth.
Burson are yet to set a price for it. Instead, they have put the design on Indiegogo to seek community support. With enough contributions from the community, they are hoping to push the price as low as $999 USD for the analogue version (V2) and $1,499 USD of the fully equipped version (V2+). Burson have told us: “We want it to have a lower price so more audiophiles can own this truly amazing machine.”