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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Everywhere you look established specialist audio companies are getting into the headphone and lifestyle market. These products are smaller, more affordable, and easier to use than traditional hi-fi. They appeal to a new generation of music lovers looking for products that fit their more mobile and computer centric lifestyles. I'm the ideal case study. I spend hours throughout my day listening to music on headphones at my desk. Streaming RDIO, watching videos on YouTube, editing videos, etc. While the built in headphone output on my Mac book Air is good. I've been using external USB Dacs for some time to drive bigger less sensitive headphones. Arcam sent us two of their R series boxes to check out, the rPac USB headphone DAC/amp and the rBlink Bluetooth DAC.
I think it's fair to refer to the Benchmark DAC2 HGC as a DAC since that is its official title, or a headphone amplifier but the owner's manual refers to it as a 'Reference Stereo Preamplifier'. Whatever you call it, this little box does a lot. I reviewed it mostly as a DAC but tried out the preamp and headphone functions as well.
On its website, respected British manufacturer Audiolab proclaims the M-DAC is the follow-up to the 8000 DAC, introduced all the way back in 1992. I have gathered that DACs were quite popular in that era because CD players had not become all that good yet. With the market now awash in quality DACs, I guess it is safe to say we are in a DAC renaissance. Here, we review the Audiolab M-DAC, which, at $899, turns out to be an audio bargain.
Following on the highly successful BDA-1 DAC, Bryston has raised the bar with the addition of an asynchronous USB input and reduced distortion in their new BDA-2 DAC. Take a look at what I found. The performance is quite a surprise.
Computer audio is all the rage now, with many people moving their entire digital collections to music servers, and the laptop taking the place of the CD player in many systems. The technologies behind USB DACs have evolved rapidly to where the interface is now on the same level as Coaxial or Optical interfaces. One area that hasn't been addressed as well is the portable audio market, as most USB DACs are rack-sized components that require a wall power supply. This is certainly not a convenient option for those of us that want high-resolution audio on the go.