In the small DAC department is the iFi iDAC for $299 and for those that would like a better power supply, add the optional iUSB Power Plant for $199. Though this is the first CES for the iDAC, Michael Lavorgna has already reviewed it quite favorably over at AudioStream.com.
The iDAC sports a 24/192 USB asynch input with headphone amp, analog volume control and ESS Sabre DAC. Adding the Power Plant means your computer USB is no longer doing the heavy lifting and all of the iDAC components get a "super-regulated" filtered power supply.
When listening to audio systems in hotel rooms at shows, all bets are off. But once in a while you get a wonderful sound in the confines of the spot where the bed would normally sit.
Such was the case with the dCS room in the Venetian. The company is celebrating their 25th anniversary and Sony offered an assist in the form of a couple dozen DSD tracks straight from the vaults to hard drive. The Debussy DAC can now process DSD 64 via USB (free software upgrade available from the dealer next week), and for my demo I picked Santana's "Black Magic Woman", settling into audio ecstasy.
dCS also had their complete Vivaldi stack set up at the Mirage hotel, with a presentation hosted by Wilson's Peter McGrath. Once again the sound was extraordinary as McGrath played some 24/88 files of Mahler's Fifth that he had recorded himself with Grado microphones. I only wish every one of you could have been there.
Also in the Naim room is the company's new DAC-V1, which is a smallish size component meant to pair with the equally compact NAP 100 power amp. The DAC-V1 retails for $2395 (the amp goes for $1295) and sports multiple inputs including USB that runs up to 384kHz and SPDIF that can handle up to 32/192. It has a volume control and I loved that fact that if you touch the logo on the front panel, the unit mutes itself. Both products should be available shortly in the US.
Naim had jumped early into the digital networking waters several years back, and their most recent state-of-the-art offering is the NDS Network Player. Retailing at $11,000, the NDS also requires purchase of a power supply; the company recommends the 555 PS at $9,000.
The NDS can stream music from your NAS drive (ethernet and WiFi), has a built-in vTuner for internet radio, connections for your iDevices, and plenty of input choices including three 32/192 SPDIF jacks.
There is a small monochrome display on the front panel, and a push-button remote. But most users will probably gravitate towards the Naim n-Stream app that runs your iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.
The first time I had come across a highly precise (and expensive) femto clock in a DAC was at last year's CES in the MSB room. This year Calyx says they have added a femto clock into their new DAC which is available now and retails for $6850. Inputs include two coax, two optical and two AES-EBU in addition to a BNC and USB jack. All inputs handle up to 24/192 and there are both balanced and unbalanced outputs.
Bel Canto has three asynchronous USB link converters new to CES this year starting with the mLink at $375, the uLink at $675 and the REFLink at $1,500. All three units can handle 24/192 sample rates and will isolate the music signal, and clocks, from the "harsh, noisy electrical environments of computers and music servers."
CEntrance, whose products have been favorably reviewed by JA, is exhibiting next to the registration desk at T.H.E. Show. New this year is their very flexible DAC/Amp combo that comes with three different panels for optimizing your connections. The HiFi-M8 runs on an internal lithium battery, handles asynch 24/192 USB and should be available in March for $699.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this product is that the design and feature set was "crowd-sourced". The company went to the hive mind and asked HeadFi's readers what they would like to see in a portable DAC/amp. Hundreds of posts and discussion threads later, the M8 is the result.
In an age of rectangular components, adding a large round object to your product is a way to set it apart. Witness the Dan D'Agostino amplifier gracing this month's Stereophile cover for example, and add Germany's B.M.C. Audio to the list as evidenced by their new PureDAC Digital-to-Analog Converter. Speaking of round, the company is also known for its BDCD1.1 belt-drive CD player which has an acrylic "turntable" for your disc to rest on inside.
Retail price for the DAC will be somewhere under $1,600 (which is inexpensive by B.M.C. standards) and will feature all the usual inputs including asynch USB as well as volume and input switching. There is also a headphone jack with its own dedicated volume control.
I hadn't seen Audionet before, but apparently they have been operating for several years in Germany and had a complete range of products in one of the larger rooms at T.H.E. Show. Of particular interest to me is their DNC DAC, which is available now and retails in the US for $8990. DNC stands for Digital Network Client and the product can access music from the standard 24/192 digital sources as well has NAS drives and iDevices.
So far so good, but what really caught my eye was watching the company's head engineer, Volker Wischniowski, pull up a laptop and start to manipulate frequency response curves which could then be uploaded to the DNC.
Audio Research is replacing the CD8 with a new player this year that will use similar proprietary filters and upsampling to that of the company's Reference DAC. There are also additional digital inputs on the back to accept USB, SPDIF, Toslink and AES/EBU 24/192 connections. The new player is shipping later this month and will retail for $13,000.