Digital Processor Reviews

Sort By: Post Date | Title | Publish Date
Kal Rubinson  |  Mar 01, 2018  |  5 comments
Merging Technologies' original NADAC Multichannel-8 ($11,500) is an impressive device. (NADAC is an acronym for network-attached digital-to-analog converter.) It has eight channels of high-resolution D/A conversion, and two more for its front-panel headphone jack; a cutting-edge Ravenna Ethernet input (based on the AES67 Audio over Internet Protocol, or AoIP); and, to my delight, a real volume-control knob on the front.
Robert Harley  |  Feb 06, 2018  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1995  |  23 comments
Someone interested in buying a digital/analog converter today must make tough choices. Not only are there several competing technologies to choose from—multi-bit, 1-bit, hybrid—but every converter also has its own musical signature. When someone buys a converter, they're locked in to both the technology and the sound.
Art Dudley  |  Jan 23, 2018  |  1 comments
For all its faults—complex grammar, inconsistent rules of pronunciation, burdensomely endless vocabulary—English has proven itself a commendably plastic language. This is good for audio enthusiasts, in the US and elsewhere, whose choices in playback gear continue to evolve not only in substance and function but in name: Unlike many of the people who speak it, English can keep pace with the changes.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 18, 2018  |  4 comments
MBL's Corona C15 monoblock has been one of my amplification references since I reviewed it in 2014, and as I've been reviewing DACs the past year or so, it was high time I spent time with one of the German company's digital products.

"Black shiny products are tough to photograph at shows, so trust me when I say the new N31 is dripping with gorgeousness not reflected in this photo," wrote Jon Iverson in his report from the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show. And when I unpacked my review sample of the Noble Line N31 ($15,400), I was indeed taken with its looks.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Dec 21, 2017  |  54 comments
A huge fuss was made over Aurender's first music server, the S10, when it premiered in 2011 at the California Audio Show. While I didn't feel that the room acoustics and setup were good enough at CAS to permit an honest appraisal, the looks and features of the S10 (now discontinued) thrust Aurender into the spotlight. So when John Atkinson, who had very favorably reviewed Aurender's N10 server in April 2016, asked if I would evaluate Aurender's new A10, the opportunity to serve so many audiophiles with a single review elicited from me an unequivocal "Yes!"
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Nov 30, 2017  |  31 comments
John Atkinson asked me to review the dCS Network Bridge ($4250), which was designed to be paired not just with the dCS Vivaldi DAC ($35,999) running the current v.2.02 software, but with any DAC. This meant I was forced to endure several months with the state-of-the-art Vivaldi as a replacement for my reference dCS Rossini ($23,999). Oh, how I suffered.
Jim Austin  |  Oct 26, 2017  |  83 comments
Much has been written about the divide in high-end audio between subjectivists, who trust their ears, and objectivists, who believe that anything not scientifically proven is fake news. I respect both sides and am skeptical of both extremes, and I like to think that's how most audiophiles feel. High-end audio is about experiencing music—that's the whole point—but scientific and technological rigor lie behind every real advance, past and future. I regret the cynical snake-oil salesmanship, bad thinking, and clumsy engineering that pervade certain parts of our hobby.
John Atkinson  |  Aug 22, 2017  |  8 comments
Throughout the summer and fall of 2016, I worked on a project with Stereophile contributor Sasha Matson, recording, editing, mixing, and mastering—for release on 180gm LP, CD, and high-resolution download—an album of works that Sasha had composed for various chamber ensembles: Tight Lines. As you can read in the article we published about this project, for the vinyl release we decided not to master the discs directly from the hi-rez files, but to create an intermediate analog tape master. Feeling that audiophiles would want an LP that at some stage was "analog," we therefore needed to choose a D/A processor to drive the Studer open-reel tape recorder we were going to use.
Herb Reichert  |  Aug 15, 2017  |  30 comments
In equipment reports, I use the phrase forward momentum to refer to something a little deeper and more encompassing than what's meant by that well-worn Brit-fi expression pace, rhythm, and timing (PRaT). Pace refers to the speed at which a piece of music is being played, and the accurate reproduction of that speed requires audio sources with good dynamic pitch stability. (Digital folk always lord it over LP clingers for digital's superior pitch stability.)
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 25, 2017  |  8 comments
What? Johnny-come-lately turntable manufacturer Brinkmann Audio now makes a DAC? Are they desperate? What sampling rates does it support—162/3, 331/3, 45, and 78? I guess the vinyl resurgence is over! Why else would Brinkmann make a DAC?

If that's what you're thinking, consider that Helmut Brinkmann began designing, manufacturing, and marketing electronics well before he made the first of the turntables for which his company is best known in the US.

Kalman Rubinson  |  Jun 29, 2017  |  7 comments
It's been going on for a while now: Despite support for multichannel in audio/video receivers and A/V processors priced from as little as $200 to $30,000, there are still very few offerings that cater to the music listener. They may offer stereo-only streaming features through their USB or Ethernet inputs, but these inputs don't see your multichannel files. To handle such files, they would require you to add a music server with HDMI output. However, I know of no turnkey music servers that will output multichannel audio via HDMI.
John Atkinson  |  Jun 20, 2017  |  14 comments
For digital playback, in recent months I've been breathing some rarefied air, pricewise. In December 2016, I reviewed dCS's Rossini Player and Clock, followed in May 2017 by Meridian's Ultra DAC, and in June by Chord's DAVE DAC. The Rossini Player costs $28,499 without the Clock, the Meridian $23,000, and though the DAVE is less expensive than either at $10,588, that's still a fair chunk of change. Even PS Audio's PerfectWave DirectStream DAC, which I bought following Art Dudley's review in September 2014, costs $6899 with the Network Bridge II, which hardly counts as "affordable."
John Atkinson  |  May 18, 2017  |  21 comments
Fifteen years? Has it really been 15 years since I reviewed what was then the flagship D/A processor from English company Chord Electronics? In the July 2002 issue, here's how I summed up my review of the Chord DAC64: "While the Chord Electronics DAC64 is undoubtedly expensive, it is eye-poppingly gorgeous. . . . many listeners should find its silky-smooth highs seductive, as well as its slightly larger-than-life lows." How times and prices change—the "undoubtedly expensive" DAC64 cost only $3040! I did make a couple of criticisms of the DAC64 in my review, but according to Wes Phillips, in his August 2007 review of Chord's revised DAC64, "the Choral Blu [CD transport] and Choral DAC64 are, together, the CD player we music lovers have long prayed for"—even if, five years after my own review, the DAC64's price had risen to $5000.
Art Dudley  |  Apr 25, 2017  |  2 comments
It's the sad realization at the heart of every product review: No matter what the writer has to say, the reader may hear things—or see or feel or taste things—rather differently. I refer not only to physiological differences in hearing acuity from person to person, but also to the no-less-critical differences in the ways we process and prioritize the things we perceive. It's an oft-made point that bears any amount of repetition: In our pugilistic little pastime, the priorities of the listener who values, say, fidelity to the musical timing captured in a recording over fidelity to that recording's timbral truths are no less legitimate than those of the enthusiast whose priorities are the other way around. Both approaches—and any number of others—bend toward the sun of high fidelity.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 18, 2017  |  9 comments
As I mentioned in my review eight years ago of Meridian Audio's 808.2 Signature Reference CD player, I have long been impressed by the British company's components—in fact, ever since the early 1980s, when I purchased a Meridian 101 preamplifier, followed by my very positive experiences with Meridian's MCD Pro and 208 CD players, 518 digital audio processor, D600 and DSP8000 digital active loudspeakers, and, most recently, the Prime and Explorer D/A headphone amplifiers.