Digital Processor Reviews

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Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jul 31, 2020  |  28 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."
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 30, 2020  |  20 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.
John Atkinson  |  Jul 24, 2020  |  65 comments
Hi-fi system resolution has long been the cause of heated arguments. But when it comes to converting digital data to an analog signal, there can be no argument. Data go in at one end of a DAC and an analog signal comes out of the other end, with a noise floor directly rated to the combination of the converter's digital and analog resolution. Ever since I started measuring digital products for Stereophile, I have been expressing a D/A processor's effective resolution in terms of the equivalent number of bits.
Robert Harley  |  Jul 03, 2020  |  First Published: May 01, 1995  |  3 comments
Spectral is a bit of an enigma in the high-end audio world. Although nearly 20 years old and one of the founders of the American high-end audio industry, Spectral isn't a name that comes quickly to mind when considering the best of the best in high-end.

Spectral's low profile is of their own choosing. They advertise very little, their products are demonstrated in a small number of stores, they almost never send products to magazines for review, and they are very quiet about their accomplishments.

Jim Austin  |  May 15, 2020  |  28 comments
At the 2019 AXPONA, I took part in one of my first official meetings, as editor of Stereophile, with members of the manufacturing community: the German company T+A. They were presenting in the room of Texas dealer Lone Star Audio, which was owned by the late Jim Hench. They had a corner hallway to themselves: two rooms and, at the time when I arrived, a hallway table brimming with coffee and pastries. Fortuitous timing.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Apr 27, 2020  |  24 comments
This unique device is a solution to a problem that previously couldn't be solved.

There are, of course, any number of little boxes that can extract audio from the HDMI video bitstream; they began to appear on the market to fill a need for a way to route audio from a player's HDMI output In the recent past, you could buy a good-quality—even audiophile-grade—universal player and listen to SACDs via its good-sounding analog outputs. But good-sounding universal players are becoming scarce.

John Atkinson  |  Feb 25, 2020  |  62 comments
The idea of using digital signal processing (DSP) to convert digital audio data sampled at 44.1kHz or 48kHz to a higher sample rate is not new. I first heard the beneficial effects of upsampling at Stereophile's 1998 hi-fi show in Los Angeles, where a pro-audio dCS 972 digital-to-digital processor was being used to convert 16-bit/44.1kHz CD data to a 24/192 datastream.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Feb 21, 2020  |  9 comments
In an era when polar opposites compete as absolutes, it can be a challenge to acknowledge the different and equally valid ways in which audiophiles approach musical truth. But the reality is that our perceptions of how reproduced music should sound are determined, to a large extent, by how we approach the live experience.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 20, 2020  |  19 comments
Even as digital/analog processors were becoming a hot product category in the early 1990s, audiophiles were also learning that timing uncertainties in the AES/EBU and S/PDIF serial datastreams—jitter—would compromise any improvement in sound quality offered by these DACs. Some companies therefore introduced products to reduce or eliminate jitter—in the November 1994 issue of Stereophile, Robert Harley reviewed three such products: the Audio Alchemy DTI Pro, the Digital Domain VSP, and the Sonic Frontiers UltrajitterBug. I still have Stereophile's review samples of the UltraJitterBug and VSP, along with two contemporary DACs: a PS Audio UltraLink and a Parts Connection Assemblage DAC-1.

As our reviews of these products were published before Paul Miller's and the late Julian Dunn's development of the "J-Test" diagnostic signal, I performed J-Test jitter measurements to bring that 1994 review into the 21st Century. You can see what I found here.

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.
Robert Harley  |  Dec 13, 2019  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1995  |  7 comments
Making digital audio sound good appears to be a much more difficult job than its developers first realized. When digital audio was in its infancy, there was a tendency to think that digital either worked perfectly, or didn't work at all. This belief led the engineering community to devise ill-considered and flawed standards that affect the musical quality of digitally reproduced music today.
John Atkinson  |  Nov 21, 2019  |  13 comments
Unlike the world of recorded music, where streaming has decimated sales of physical products, book publishing is seeing the reverse trend: sales of eBooks are declining while those of both hardback and paperback books are recovering. I have been a book junkie all my life—the two long walls of my listening room are lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and I have many boxes of books in storage—but these days almost all my book reading is with the Kindle app on my iPad mini.
Jonathan Scull  |  Nov 08, 2019  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1995  |  2 comments
As the sides of the slim-line Timbre Technology TT-1 DAC are radiused rather than flat, it's elegant compared to its typical boxy competition. While the TT-1's handsome shape stands out more than your average audiophile device, its curved sides help create a stronger, less resonant shape than the usual box, and serve as just one of the many elements contributing to a high degree of mechanical integrity and damping.
Robert Harley  |  Nov 08, 2019  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1992  |  10 comments
Looking at the Digital Link II's build quality and circuitry, it's hard to believe that it can sell for $499 at retail. The Digital Link II shares the same appearance as PS Audio's SuperLink and UltraLink processors, but has a 4"-shorter chassis. The ¼"-thick front panel uses PS Audio's familiar touch-sensitive switches that turn the unit on and select between coaxial and optical inputs. LEDs above these switches indicate when the unit is locked to the digital source. A third LED illuminates when power is applied.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Oct 15, 2019  |  19 comments
This is the 100th and—surprise!—final edition of Music in the Round. MitR began in mid-2003, shortly after SACD and DVD-A discs made high-quality multichannel music convenient and widely available. At the time, I was convinced that multichannel reproduction was superior to stereo because it was able to reproduce the full sound of the performance—not just the performers. Stereophile's founder, J. Gordon Holt, had promoted this idea many times, but the appearance of the new media finally brought it to a wider audience.

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