Digital Processor Reviews

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Robert Harley  |  Jul 25, 1996  |  0 comments
Let's say you play a CD on a poor-quality CD transport and store the digital audio data in a massive computer memory. You then repeat the process, but this time play the CD into the memory from the finest CD transport extant (say, the Mark Levinson No.31). A week later you feed the two sets of data from the massive memory into a digital processor and listen to the music. Would the CD transports' sonic signatures be removed from the signal? Could you hear a difference between the transports a week later?
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jul 31, 2020  |  47 comments
I felt like I'd just been offered a choice of 31 flavors of Baskin-Robbins ice cream topped with up to 57 varieties of Heinz ketchup, 57 condiments, and 47 brands of coddled cream. My head began to spin, my stomach churned, and my mouth grew very dry as I read that Gold Note's DS-10 ($2995) was a "chameleon DAC" with 192 setup options that enable it to "completely blend in with different music genres, giving the listener the opportunity to adapt the behavior of the unit to the music playing, to one's stereo system and, most of all, to the listener's taste."
John Atkinson, Wes Phillips  |  Apr 23, 2006  |  0 comments
In his bimonthly column, "The Fifth Element," John Marks has tried to identify pro-audio components that would be of interest to audiophiles. In his June 2005 episode, John wrote about Grace Design's m902 D/A headphone amplifier ($1695), the Colorado company's replacement for the 901, which had long been a favorite of his. Changes include: the handling of single-wire sample rates of up to 192kHz; unbalanced analog outputs, controlled by the front volume control, to allow the unit to be used as a preamplifier; a cross-feed processing circuit licensed from www.meier-audio.de; power-supply revisions; and the provision of a USB digital input, in addition to S/PDIF, AES/EBU, and TosLink.
Herb Reichert  |  May 23, 2019  |  3 comments
Every time I review a digital-to-analog converter, my memory drifts to the spring of 1983, when the first Compact Discs arrived at Tower Records in New York City. They appeared in the opera section. Sitting next to big, thick boxed sets of opera LPs, these new discs looked truly compact. A few months later, boxed sets of popular opera LPs, in almost untouched condition, began selling in the Tower Annex for $1/disc.
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 30, 2020  |  24 comments
In contrast to phono cartridges and analog tape recorders, digital audio converters distinguish themselves by the fact that they can be fashioned in an almost infinite number of ways. Therefore, the odds against two manufacturers' DACs or ADCs sounding exactly the same are extremely large.
Herb Reichert  |  Aug 25, 2020  |  20 comments
I am fascinated by DACs and the shifting sands of today's digital-audio marketplace. This month, I am reporting on two more DACs, both made by Denafrips: the $4498 Terminator, until recently their flagship DAC, and the $768 Ares II, the company's least expensive model. Like the HoloAudio May DAC I described last month, both Denafrips converters employ R-2R conversion schemes, and both render recordings into direct, unprocessed sound.
Herb Reichert  |  Jan 26, 2021  |  27 comments
What I categorize as mainstream, dealer-based, fancy-pants streamers and big-speakers audio is actually only the gold-plated tip of a gigantic asteroid-like monolith that extends (underground) from New York to Hong Kong, from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Dec 19, 2019  |  47 comments
What kind of creature is this? Gryphon Audio Designs' new Ethos ($39,000)—pronounced EE-toss by its Danish manufacturers—is marketed as a CD player and digital-to-analog converter. It's decidedly au courant in that it includes two 32-bit/768kHz ES9038PRO Sabre DAC chips—one for each channel—with each holding eight individual DAC chips; offers optional upsampling to either 24/384 PCM or DSD128; and decodes up to 32/384 PCM and quadruple DSD (DSD512) via its USB input, or up to 24/192 (and no DSD) via AES/EBU or S/PDIF.
John Atkinson  |  Jul 27, 2012  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2012  |  16 comments
When it comes to getting audio from a PC via its USB port, the buzzword du jour is asynchronous. This cryptic term refers to which device has control over the timing of the audio data being streamed from the computer: the computer itself, or the device receiving the data. It might seem logical to have the computer control the timing, but this is not so. When digital audio data are converted to analog by a D/A converter, control over exactly when each dataword is converted is critical for the best quality of sound. Any uncertainty in that timing manifests itself as analog distortion, aka jitter.
John Atkinson  |  Dec 23, 2010  |  3 comments
The weekly Vote! Page is one of the most popular features of the Stereophile website, and the August 22 question, "Should Stereophile review more or fewer computer-audio products?", generated a record number of responses. No less than 88% of those responding asked for more coverage of products that allow a computer to be a legitimate source of music in a high-end context. Just 7% of readers wanted less coverage.
Wes Phillips  |  Apr 23, 2006  |  0 comments
Looking at all of the high-end headphones and headphone accessories available today, it's difficult to even remember how barren the head-fi landscape was in the early 1990s. Back then, headphones got no respect, except for exotic, expensive electrostatic models, yet most of the world listened to music through headphones all the time, mostly through crappy cans connected to portable players. (Well, maybe it wasn't that different a landscape.)
John Atkinson  |  Aug 28, 2020  |  54 comments
The email from Herb Reichert was intriguing. "I am, with great difficulty writing about HoloAudio's new two-chassis May DAC," he wrote. "It is death quiet and very natural. It makes every recording sound non-digital."

Once Herb had finished writing his review of the HoloAudio for the August issue's Gramophone Dreams column, I sped to his Bed-Stuy bothy and grabbed the May DAC, both to get it on my test bench and to take a listen for myself.

Herb Reichert  |  May 03, 2018  |  16 comments
While covering CanMania at the 2017 Capital Audiofest, I was sitting at the table of HeadAmp Audio Electronics, listening first to John McEuen singing Warren Zevon's "Excitable Boy," from McEuen's Made in Brooklyn (24-bit/192kHz AIFF, Chesky JD388/HDtracks), then to Macy Gray's Stripped (24/96 AIFF, Chesky JD389/HDtracks). I was listening through HeadAmp's extraordinary GS-X Mk.2 headphone amplifier ($2999–$3199), but midway through Gray's "I Try," I stopped, pulled the Audeze LCD-4 headphones off my head, and asked HeadAmp's head of sales and marketing, Peter James, what DAC he was using.

"Do you know the HoloAudio Spring DAC?"

Art Dudley  |  Jun 13, 2013  |  1 comments
No history of the computer-audio marketplace could be complete without some mention of High Resolution Technologies, the California company whose Music Streamer was, in 2009, the first perfectionist-quality USB digital-to-analog converter to sell for as little as $99. One could argue that HRT's entire business model has contributed to shaping our attitudes toward the hobby: Because digital-audio technology continues to evolve at such a rapid pace, HRT has introduced a succession of newer and ever more effective Music Streamers, occasionally to the obsolescence of their predecessors; yet because those products have all been so affordable—remarkably and laudably so, given their thoroughly American provenance—we tend not to mind.
Jon Iverson  |  Feb 23, 2011  |  6 comments
Art Dudley and others have covered the first products released by HRT, and now the company has added to its product line a Pro version of its Music Streamer, which sports balanced circuit design from tip to tail.

Housed in the same simple, functional, six-sided case of extruded aluminum as HRT's other products, the Pro is painted a bright blue to distinguish it from the Music Streamer II (red) and Music Streamer II+ (gray). At 5.6" it is also a tad longer than the others, and includes a single B-type USB 1.1 jack centered on one end, and two small, fully balanced TiniQ output jacks on the other. More about these special mini sockets later.

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