Digital Gets Small

Dusty Vawter's Channel Island Audio has made its reputation building high-performance audio components in extremely small packages, but we were still surprised to see how tiny CIA's new VDA-2 DAC ($599)is. How small? Try 4.4" W by 2.65" H by 4.4" D.

Vawter didn't like the conventional DAC architecture, which uses a brick-wall digital filter followed by analog filtering to smooth out sampling noise. "Our design uses only a 'slow roll-off' digital filter and no analog filtering," Vawter told us. "It sounds less 'digital' and more 'analog' than either brick-wall or filterless designs."

The VDA-2 still carries a bunch of functionality on its tiny chassis, however. Digital inputs include Toslink optical and S/PDIF coaxial. There's an input switch and a digital domain phase switch, as well as a LED lock indicator. Two pairs of RCA outputs are offered—which means you can output a balanced analog signal via CIA's optional VRX-1 cable. As usual with CIA, the 14V AC power supply is outboard. The sound, through Penaudio's new Alba loudspeakers, was relaxed and expansive.