Introduction to DAC Reviews

External DACS (digital-to-analog converters) first came into vogue a number of years ago as a way to enhance the playback quality of the humble CD player. The rationale being that if you separated the components that converted all those “ones and zeros” into music, lavished some additional resources and attention to its design, you could tangibly improve the ultimate sound quality of your digital source player.

Today the “digital source” has broadened to include home computers, laptops, cell phones, networked digital media players, and more. Also storage space on modern devices, being as plentiful as it is, no longer limits us to lossy music file formats like MP3. Bit-perfect digital music reproduction can be had virtually anywhere and, to achieve that end, there are a plethora of modern DACs available. Most DACS are still strictly two-channel affairs but there are a few multi-channel units on the market geared for home theater use as well. They truly do come in all manner of sizes and price points, with interfaces like SPDIF, Toslink, AES, USB and even HDMI that suit most conceivable applications. Some DACs even have room and speaker correction capabilities as well as volume controls, so they can act as preamplifiers too.

Through listening and measurements, our reviews can help you sort through the best of what’s available in DACs and, hopefully, guide you to a choice that will fit your needs and be musically satisfying.

DACs

Auralic

AURALiC ALTAIR Wireless Streaming DAC Review

The AURALiC ALTAIR is a beautiful-looking digital audio product that combines a high-end DAC with wireless streaming solution. To achieve the highest quality of digital sound reproduction, ALTAIR is equipped with the Femto Master Clock, full linear power supply, and four built-in filter modes for sound customization.

NAD

NAD C368 Hybrid Digital DAC Amplifier Review

The NAD C368 is a versatile product that can serve as a centerpiece to a stereo music system. It is an advanced integrated amplifier that can function as a preamplifier (with both line-level and phono inputs), a DAC (with both coax and optical inputs)...

Cambridge Audio Azur 851D DAC Review

The Digital / Analogue Converter seems to have managed to become one of the most significant pieces of audio gear in most systems, and if they can double as a preamplifier, the more signifi-cant it has become.

Bryston BUC-1 USB Converter Review

Modern DACs have asynchronous USB inputs to connect your computer for playing music files. This results in the bitstream being re-clocked to the outboard DAC's own clock, which is much more accurate than a computer's digital clock. However, older DACs, even expensive ones, don't have asynchronous USB inputs. The Bryston BUC-1 solves this by having a USB input for connection to your computer, and an accurately re-clocked digital output that can be connected to your old, and perhaps very expensive, DAC, giving you the essential asynchronous input.

NAD D 1050 USB DAC Review

The NAD D1050 is a full-featured DAC with high resolution USB audio support. Plenty of inputs with two each of optical and coax make this a versatile DAC. The NAD D1050 even features both RCA and balanced stereo output. Enjoy neutral, spacious sound with all the intricate details of 24bit/192kHz material from the NAD D1050.

AURALiC VEGA DAC Review

The AURALiC VEGA DAC is a stylish package that is one of the best sounding and performing units available today. At $3,499, it sits in the lower end of the price range for top notch DACs, but in the upper echelons of sonic output.

Antelope Audio Zodiac Platinum DAC with 10M Rubidium Atomic Clock Review

Antelope Audio is a company originally based in the USA, but is now based in Europe, with the factory in Bulgaria. The manufacture DACs and A/D converters for the pro industry (recording studios). However, they also offer these products in a high end consumer edition. The Zodiac Platinum DAC with an outboard 10M Rubidium Atomic Clock is their latest set of DAC components for audiophiles.

Emotiva Stealth DAC

Listening to my records one night, I received an email from Susan Johnson asking if I would be willing to review the Emotiva Stealth DC-1. Would I ever! Last year I tried the Emotiva USP-1 preamp and UPA-200 amp in my system and I have been very happy with the combination. Needless to say I was very curious to see and hear this reference piece from Emotiva.