Digital Processor Reviews

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John Atkinson  |  Feb 15, 2021  |  2 comments
When Stereophile publishes a followup review in the print magazine, we add it as a "child page" to the website reprint of the original coverage. We have recently done so with three significant products: the Magico M2 loudspeaker, the Linear Tube Audio Z10e tubed headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, and the Okto Research dac8 PRO multichannel D/A processor.
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.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 21, 2021  |  4 comments
For his review of the Pink Faun 2.16x music server in the December 2020 issue, Kal Rubinson needed to use a Linux-compatible multichannel D/A processor. A little Googling uncovered the 8-channel dac8 PRO from Okto Research in the Czech Republic, so Kal borrowed one from the manufacturer. He found it to be a great-sounding DAC with an intriguing feature set. He purchased the sample.
Robert Harley  |  Dec 09, 2020  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1992  |  6 comments
Though their first CD player featured a vacuum-tube output stage, California Audio Labs is recently known for making good-sounding, moderately priced solid-state CD players, like the Icon Mk.II that Jack English reviewed in July 1992 (Vol.15 No.7). The Sigma, a $695 tubed D/A converter, furthers their reputation in both areas.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Nov 30, 2020  |  First Published: Dec 01, 2020  |  7 comments
For a couple of years, I have been following Prague-based Okto Research. At first, Pavel Krasensky, the founder and hardware developer, offered audio design ideas and DIY modules that I found tantalizing. For example, there was a dandy-looking ESS 9038Pro Sabre–based output module and some appealing power supply modules—but to use those, the buyer had to manage inputs and integration on their own.

Then, finally, last year, Krasensky released the dac8 PRO, an 8-channel D/A processor with USB input and output, 8 channels of AES/EBU input, and 8 channels of balanced (XLR) analog output as well as a headphone output.

John Atkinson  |  Nov 16, 2020  |  First Published: Dec 01, 2020  |  4 comments
Three products are the subjects of lengthy followup reviews in the December issue of Stereophile: MBL's Noble Line N31 CD player-D/A processor, the GoldenEar BRX loudspeaker, and Alta Audio's Alyssa loudspeaker.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 12, 2020  |  0 comments
Two of the followup reviews that were published in the November 2020 issue of Stereophile have been posted to the magazine's website: Herb Reichert on the Yamaha A-S3200 integrated amplifier and the measurements of the Denafrips Ares II and Terminator D/A processors.
John Atkinson  |  Sep 14, 2020  |  5 comments
When Stereophile publishes followup reviews of various kinds in the print magazine, we add the followup as a "child page" to the full review. That means that they don't appear on the website's home page and might get missed. The October 2020 issue included three followups: of the Boulder 2108 phono preamplifier, the Weiss DAC502 D/A processor, and the IsoAcoustics Gaia loudspeaker isolation feet.
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  |  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.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Aug 06, 2020  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1995  |  16 comments
To echo Audio Cheapskate Sam Tellig, who was in turn paraphrasing Thomas R. Marshall, what the world needs is a great $299 CD player. Certainly there's no shortage of expensive units vying for your attention—most of them consisting of separate transports and D/A converters.
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."
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.
John Atkinson  |  Jul 24, 2020  |  72 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  |  4 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.

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