Digital Processor Reviews

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Alex Halberstadt  |  Jul 27, 2022  |  13 comments
My little corner of Brooklyn happens to have a terrific little record shop. I like it for the usual reasons: well-chosen merchandise, fair prices, fun music on the speakers while you browse. But I like it just as much because great record stores tend to resemble one another in more idiosyncratic ways, and this one has the earmarks of the great record stores of my youth.
Art Dudley  |  Apr 30, 2013  |  First Published: May 01, 2013  |  2 comments
Bratty, mollycoddled, and altogether spoiled consumers such as you and I have inflicted on computer audio the same injustice that laparoscopic surgery, antilock brakes, mobile telephones, word processors, e-mail, microwave ovens, and over-the-counter proton-pump inhibitors have suffered at our hands in recent years: In less time than it takes to say "ho-hum," we've knocked it from the pedestal to which all such breakthroughs are entitled and begun taking it for granted.
Herb Reichert  |  Jan 03, 2019  |  52 comments
On the first page of the owner's manual for iFi Audio's Pro iDSD tubed/solid-state multibit DAC and headphone amplifier, the British company unabashedly describes it as "a 'state of the art' reference digital to analog converter" and "a wireless hi-res network player or the central DAC in an expensive high-end home system." As if in an afterthought, it continues: "The on-board balanced headphone section means high-end headphones can also be directly connected to it." The manual doesn't describe the headphone "section" as "state of the art," so I'm deducing that the Pro iDSD is really more a fancy-pants DAC than a high-tone headphone amp.
Julie Mullins  |  Dec 31, 2021  |  17 comments
It had been a while since I'd done any serious, critical listening through headphones. That changed when Editor Jim Austin asked if I wanted to review the iFi Audio ZEN Signature Set ($599). Figuring I could use more Zen in my life, I agreed.

UK-based iFi Audio, which operates under the auspices of the Abbington Global Group, has released several compact products in its ZEN series: DACs, headphone amps, a Bluetooth receiver, and a network streamer.

Alex Halberstadt  |  Dec 22, 2021  |  13 comments
"Resolution can be a tricky thing when it comes to digital," my friend Michael Lavorgna recently told me. "Too much, and my focus shifts from music to sound; too little, and I become less engaged." Lavorgna, a visual artist and proprietor of the online audio-and-music publication Twittering Machines, is one of my favorite people to talk to about records, books, art, and hi-fi. We've been doing it for almost 20 years.
Robert Harley  |  May 28, 2019  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1994  |  7 comments
If there's one buzzword in high-end audio for the 1990s, it's undoubtedly jitter. "Jitter" describes timing variations in the clock controlling the ones and zeros that represent the analog audio signal. If that clock isn't stable to an extraordinarily precise degree, the sound quality of the digital processor will be degraded.

A CD transport/digital processor combination introduces jitter in three ways: 1) the transport puts out a jittered signal; 2) the S/PDIF or AES/EBU interface between the transport and processor creates jitter; and 3) the digital processor adds its own jitter to the clock. These additive factors are largely responsible for the great range in sound quality we hear from different transports and interfaces.

Robert Harley  |  Feb 13, 2014  |  First Published: Mar 01, 1992  |  1 comments
Since the first digital processor on the market using UltraAnalog DACs appeared (the $12,000 Stax DAC-X1t, reviewed in August 1990, Vol.13 No.8), there has been a proliferation of good-sounding processors using this extraordinary—and expensive—part. Among these are the Audio Research DAC1, Audio Research DAC1-20, VTL Reference D/A, and the groundbreaking Mark Levinson No.30 reviewed last month.
Robert Harley  |  Nov 08, 2010  |  First Published: Jan 08, 1994  |  0 comments
Remember the early days of CD, when some players were touted as having the revolutionary new "2x-oversampling" digital filters?
John Atkinson  |  Aug 22, 2004  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2004  |  0 comments
Sony Classical's head of engineering, David Smith, is a man whose opinions on sound quality I have come to respect. So when David e-mailed me a year or so back, enthusing over a new DAC he'd heard, I paid attention. When Lavry Engineering contacted me about reviewing their DA2002, I didn't need much persuading.
Art Dudley  |  May 27, 2014  |  12 comments
Ten years ago, the average consumer was unaware that he or she needed an e-book reader. Since that time, neither those people nor the authors whose books they consume have changed very much. But the people in between have grown restless and unsatisfied, and it is they who call the tune. Consequently, many of you have gone from owning books to sort of, kind of owning books (and sort of, kind of not).
John Atkinson  |  May 24, 2010  |  0 comments
As someone who wrestled endlessly with the nine-pin serial ports and the RS-232 protocol with which early PCs came fitted (footnote 1), I welcomed the Universal Serial Bus (USB) interface when I first encountered it a decade ago, on the original Apple iMac. Plug it in. Don't worry. Be happy. The computer peripherals work as they should, which was often not the case with RS-232. It was a given, therefore, that the then-new USB port would be seen as a natural means of exporting audio data from a PC (footnote 2), but the first generation of USB-connected audio devices offered disappointing performance.
Wes Phillips  |  Mar 12, 2008  |  1 comments
Even the most savvy Stereophile reader might wonder what a "network music player" is. Linn rightly considers a music server to be a combination of 1) stored digital files, 2) music-management software, and 3) a device that uses #2 to transfer #1 to your hi-fi. What Linn's Klimax DS is is a high-quality digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that receives digital data through an Ethernet connection rather than optical or electrical S/PDIF or AES/EBU inputs.
Art Dudley  |  Mar 18, 2011  |  1 comments
My quandary on receiving for review the Linn Majik DS-I: What, precisely, is it supposed to do? Does the Majik DS-I contain a hard disk and music-ripping software, so I can use it to store all the music in my CD collection? Does it have a graphical user interface (GUI) that at least matches the one provided by the endearingly free Apple iTunes? Does it include a DAC that allows it to play the music files I've already put on my computer?
Art Dudley  |  Oct 01, 2005  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2005  |  0 comments
I'm beginning to understand why some people enjoy writing about crazy tweaks like electron counseling and magic listening trousers: When an idea is that new, it brings with it the chance for some gifted but heretofore unappreciated journalist to rise through the ranks and describe it to an anxious world. By contrast, when a defeated and baggy old establishment writer sets out to describe a CD player or amplifier, the product is surely the millionth such thing to come down the pike, and before long the readers complain: We used to like you, but you don't try very hard to excite us anymore.
John Atkinson  |  Mar 23, 2022  |  10 comments
I start this review with a confession. I have consistently found that when I play CDs on a transport and feed the digital data via AES3 (AES/EBU) to a D/A processor, the music has more drive, particularly at low frequencies, than it does when I send the same 16/44.1 data to the same D/A processor via my network.

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