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.
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.
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.
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.
Light Harmonic has decided that the only way to properly put both DSD and PCM processing into one product is to incorporate two "separate and discrete" decoding engines in the box. According to the company, one signal path is optimized for PCM the other for DSD. The PCM side can handle streams up to 32/384 with the DSD path handling DSD128. Price is $31,000 and the Dual DAC should be available around spring this year.
Not content to stick with DACs, Light Harmonic is adding a new music server to the line up. The Source chassis is comprised of two parts: The bottom section contains the company's proprietary digital power supply, a hard drive bay that can accept four 2TB drives in a RAID array and also a Blu-ray disc player. The top half contains all of the processing circuitry and music server software.
Price is stil to be determined but I was told that the Blu-ray drive will be able to rip up to 24/192 PCM off of any Blu-ray disc inserted in the machine. Additionally, an iPad mini will be included with each purchase, loaded with a custom remote control app suite and a pre-configured wireless access point for plug-and-play setup. Ship date is estimated to be around the middle of the year.
USB Dongle DACs are taking off, and companies like HRT are attempting to combine small form factor with features and sound quality. Unlike Audioquest's Dragonfly, the microStreamer sports two output jacks, one fixed and optimized for line level destinations and the other with variable out for headphones.
The microStreamer will retail for $189.95, can handle streams up to 24/96 and is connected to your computer or source with a short USB cable. The company explains that this approach prevents mishaps where the dongle could damage your computer's USB connector if it was plugged straight in like the Dragonfly.
The Music Streamer HD has been upgraded to include both balanced and unbalanced output jacks (the previous model had one jack with a special adaptor) and can stream up to 24/192 via USB2. Retail price is $449.95
Mike Yee (shown here holding his DAC) has been working for the past several years on a unique approach to DAC design. He has invented a technique (for which he has applied for a patent) he calls MODR or Musically Optimized Digital Reconstruction.
Yee uses an FPGA (field programmable gate array) to intercept the digital signal as it comes into the DAC. The FPGA provides a proprietary "pre-emphasis" conditioning of the signal before the DAC chip to "remove the DAC's effect on quantization error." After the DAC chip, an analog stage provides de-emphasis prior to output.
There are SPDIF and Toslink 24/192 inputs as well as a 16/48 USB port. On the front are LEDs to indicate the sample rate. Introductory price is $1,000
Meridian's Bob Stuart is holding the recently introduced Media Source 200 which allows current Meridian Digital Media System (Sooloos) owners to add another zone to their system for $1,000. As with other components in the MDMS line, the Media Source 200 includes Meridian's apodising upsamping filter.
There is an ethernet jack on the rear to connect to the network and then a combination analog/digital jack so you can connect the Media Source 200 via stereo analog cable or optical SPDIF. There is also a SpeakerLink output for connecting directly to Meridian DSP loudspeakers.