The Well-Tempered Computer, an introduction to computer audio

Friday, December 21, 2012


Active speakers dominate the studios.
At the home, they are rare.
However recently a couple of companies released active speakers targeted at the home or at least at the desktop.

Active 2way speaker with 24/96 asynchronous USB input.

Website KEF
Price: $799 (pair)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monitor Audio WS100

Wireless active desktop speaker.

The wireless connection is done using SKAA, a proprietary protocol.
It can transmit audio lossless up to CD quality.
Range is about 10 m so pretty much like Bluetooth but lossless.

A review by Audiostream.

Frequency Response:80Hz - 25kHz
Maximum SPL (each @ 1M):99.5dBA
Power output (RMS):Bass 2 x 20 watts
Tweeter 2 x 10 watts
Drive unit complement:2 x 75mm (3") C-CAM Cone Bass Driver
2 x 19mm (3/4") C-CAM Gold Dome Tweeter
System configuration:Sealed box
Auxiliary input impedeance/sensitivity:10k ohms/300mV
Wireless system:SKAAtm 2.4GHz
Wireless range:Up to 10 metres
Signal to noise SNR:>95dB
A.C. input voltage:90-264V (auto range)
Amplifier category:Class D - high resolution amplifiers
Power consumption:<0 .5=".5" 14.5="14.5" ax="ax" standby="standby" td="td" watts="watts">
Electrical approvals:ErP, CE, CB, cTUVus, FCC, IC, GOST
Dimensions (each) (H x W x D):125 x 120 x 120mm (415/17 x 43/4 x 43/4")
Colour/Finish:Silver cabinet with black glass top and black grille
Weight (each)1.8kg (4lb)

Website: Monitor Audio
Price: $399.00

Monday, November 26, 2012

Elispson Planet LW

You won’t find many speakers in this blog.
A box, a couple of drivers and a passive crossover have nothing to do with digital.

This one is different.
It is an active speaker so each driver is powered by a dedicated amplifier.
What sets it apart is that there is no analog input.
It uses a wireless connection to get the data from a PC or a iSomthing using a dongle.
Elipson calls it WELL. Wireless Elipson Lossless Link, the internet says it is based on KLEER technology so lossless audio up to 16 bit/44.1 kHz over a 2.4GHz radio link.

2-way active speaker with coaxial driver
2 x 50 W / 4 ohms ICEpower amplifier
Mid-bass driver: 6.5 " (165 mm)
Fabric dome tweeter
Frequency response: 42 Hz - 20 kHz

Website Elispson
Price €1690 (pair)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bryston BDA 2

Another DAC with the almost mandatory asynchronous USB input.

 • Dual 192K/32Bit AKM DAC’s
• Independent dual power Supplies
• Discrete Class A analog output stage
• Selectable synchronous upsampling (176.4K/192K)
• Independent analog and digital signal paths
• Inputs: 192/24 USB (1, asynchronous), COAX (2), OPTICAL (2), AES-EBU (1) BNC (2)
• Fully differential balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA stereo outputs
• Transformer coupled SPDIF and AES EBU digital inputs
• SPDIF COAX bypass loop output

Website: Bryston BDA 2
Price: US$ 2395,-

Thursday, November 15, 2012

BNC connectors

You need a true 75 Ohms cable for SPDIF over coax.
Best is to terminate it with true 75 Ohm connectors.
If you don’t you still have an impedance mismatch.
RCA connecters are not 75 Ohm.
That is the reason why BNC connectors are recommended.
Some go as far as to change the RCA receptacle on the DAC by a BNC and buy a cable terminated with BNC.
Be careful because many BNC connectors are 50 instead of 75 Ohm!

Wellshow - BNC Connector Introduction
Digital cables - The Well-tempered Computer

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ayre Acoustics QA-9 USB A/D converter

AD converters are typically for the pro world.
You need one to record digitally.
The music lover does playback only so needs the reverse of an AD, a DAC.

More and more people start to use a PC as a source for play back.
Why not digitize all of your analog sources?
Ayre Acoustics thinks we will do and launched an AD converter targeted at the home.

A review by JohnAtkinson

Price: $3950

Saturday, November 3, 2012

iFi iDAC

Small pre-amp with line out and headphone out.
24 bit / 192 kHz asynchronous USB input
ESS Hyperstream Chipset

Signal to Noise Ratio: >111dB(A)
Dynamic Range(-60dBFs): >111dB(A)
Crosstalk: <-102db td="td" z="z">
Total Harmonic Distortion(THD): <0 .005=".005" td="td">
Jitter: Below measurement limit
Frequency Response: 3Kz to 33KHz + 0.1dB/0.3dB
Headphone section:
Output Power: >150mW(15Ω)
Signal to Noise Ratio:>97dB(A)
Total Harmonic Distortion: <0 .003=".003" mv="mv" td="td">
Noise:<-86dbu td="td">
Output Impedance:(Zout): <10 td="td">
Power Consumption: < 2.5W
Dimensions: 158(l)x68(w)x28(h)mm
Weight: 193g(0.43lbs)

Website: iFi
Price: US$ 299

Electrocompaniet PI 2D Integrated Amplifier

2 x 100 Watts integrated amplifier with digital and analog inputs.
Digital inputs: two Coax, two TOSLink and one 24/192 async USB
Analog input: 1 balanced XLR input and four single ended RCA inputs.

Technical specifications:
• Input impedance ( Single Ended ): 60 kOhm
• THD + N: < 0.005%
• Output Impedance: < 0,03 Ohm
• Frequency response: 1 – 225kHz
• Channel separation: > 120 dB
• Noise floor ( 1Vrms, 20 - 20 kHz, balanced): <-130 br="br" db="db">• Damping factor: >300
•Rated output power
8 ohms 2 x 100 W
4 ohms 2 x 165 W
2 ohms 2 x 220 W

Website: Electrocompaniet
Price: €3.150

Monday, October 29, 2012


DAC supporting both PCM and DSD over USB.
PCM from 44.1KS/s to 384KS/s in 32Bit (352.8KS/s and 384KS/s USB only)

DSD64( 2.8224MHz) and DSD128(5.6448MHz) - 'DoP V1.1' standard, USB only

Frequency Response: 20 - 20KHz, +/- 0.1dB*
Signal/Noise:126dB, 20Hz-20KHz, A-weighted
THD+N:<0 .0003=".0003" 0dbfs="0dbfs" 20hz-20khz="20hz-20khz" at="at" p="p">Dynamic Range:130dB, 20Hz-20KHz, A-weighted

Digital Inputs
1*USB 2.0 buffered by ActiveUSB™

Analog Outputs
1*Balanced(output impedance 2.2ohm)
1*Single-ended(output impedance 50ohm)

Website: AURALiC
Price: US$ 3499 / € 3299

AURALiC Sanctuary Audio Processor

Sanctuary audio processor, the heart of VEGA, is based on multi-core ARM9 architecture with calculating capability at 1000MIPS which is ideal for handling multi-channel high resolution music. AURALiC also introduces the second generation ActiveUSB ™ to VEGA that separates the USB PHY into a discrete chip to future reduce EMI  from computer. Resorting to these technologies, VEGA not only support DXD format(352.8KS/s and 384KS/s PCM signal in 32bit) but also able to decode DSD stream at 2.8224MHz and 5.6448MHz in native though 'DoP V1.1' transmission standard.

Megahertz Upsampling

By using the latest ground breaking algorithm, megahertz upsampling technology can process and up-sample all incoming PCM format to 1.5MHz at 32bit depth. These not only improve the precision of DAC, but also create a new Nyquist frequency for all PCM signal which farther away from the top end of audio frequency. As a result, our engineers are able to design a bran-new analog circuit structure with more bandwidth and faster slew rate. Comparing to previous design, the new structure is more transparent to audio signal with lower distortion and less noise, it also lets red book CDs sound more rich and smooth.

Femto Master Clock

The purpose of Femto master clock is to give DAC an ultimate clock with extremely low jitter and phase noise. It utilizes aerospace grade crystal oscillator, ultra low noise linear power supply and temperature compensation technology to generate master clock with extremely low jitter performance at 82 femtoseconds(0.082 picoseconds). What's more important, the phase noise which affect sound quality a lot has been dramatically reduced to -168dBc/Hz. Driving by such amazing clean clock, VEGA can easily reproduce the music details in the 'last bit', represent a rock solid stereo image you may never experience before.

Fully Customized Digital Filters

VEGA has six built-in digital filters which are developed under AURALiC's subjective auditory sense and objective testing data relationship models. These filters are specially designed to optimize the listening experience for different music and format. The linear phase filter exhibits perfect in-band ripple and out-band attenuation performance while the minimum phase filter is better for enjoyment as it has no 'pre-ringing' effect. There are also slow roll-off filter and several noise filters for native DSD conversion. To maximum usage of these filters, VEGA allows its user to customize according to different formats, tuning sound best to personal preference.

AURALiC ORFEO Class-A Output Module

In order to drive various loads, matching different power amplifiers, VEGsA is equipped with AURALiC's patented ORFEO Class-A module as the output stage which inspired by Neve 8078 analog console’s circuit design. The principle of this module is to use a mass of small signal components with best linear characteristic. By packing them though a thermal balance procedure and bias the transistors into Class-A, ORFEO achieves impressive performance with open loop distortion less than 0.001%. The ORFEO module used in VEGA has been selected and tweaked for lower noise while maintains its driving capability for 600ohm load without distortion raise.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Iriver AK100

A portable media player supporting lossless formats like WAV and FLAC up to 24 bits / 192 kHz

MODEL AK100 Specifications:

Display 2.4” QVGA(320X240) IPS Touch Screen
Audio Format WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE
Sample rate FLAC, WAV: 8KHz ~ 192KHz(8/16/24bits per sample)
Output Level 1.5VRMS(No Load)
Audio Frequency Response 10Hz to 20KHz +/-0.02dB (24bit 48Khz, No Load)
Signal to Noise Ratio > 110dB (1KHz 0dB, 24bit 48Khz, No Load)
Crosstalk < -120dB (1KHz 0dB, 24bit 48Khz, No Load)
THD+N < 0.0009% (1KHz 0dB, 24bit 48Khz, No Load)
IMD SMPTE < 0.003% (24bit 48Khz, No Load)
Clock Source Clock Jitter 50ps
Storage Flash Memory 32GB [NAND] SD Slot MICRO SD [Max 32GB] slot x 2
DAC Wolfson WM8740 24Bit DAC
Decoding Support up to 24Bit/192kHz Bit to Bit Decoding
Interface USB 2.0, OPTICAL IN/OUT, Headphone Out
Battery Capacity 2,000mAh 3.7V Li-Polymer
Battery Playback Time Max 16hours
Charging time About 5 Hours
Size 59.2[H] X 79 [W] X 14.4 [D]
Weight 122g
Support Firmware upgrade
OS Windows 2000/XP
Website: Iriver
Price: € 799,-

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Benchmark DAC2 HGC

DAC with volume control, line and headphone out.
DSD over USB ( DoP 1.0)
Supports USB(async) 1 & 2. Driver for Win.
2x4 32-bit DACs
Output: RCA/XLR

Website: Benchmark
Price: US$ 1995

Friday, September 28, 2012

MusiCHI media player

The suite consist of 4 applications allowing you to rip, to tag, to play and to manage the libraries independent of each other. This allows you to e.g. play and rip at the same time while doing some tagging.

This suite is primarily targeted at Classical and Jazz.
It offers different styles to manage a classical and a jazz collection.
Beside the conventional tags it adds
  • Period or style
  • Album Artists (aka Performers)
  • Instruments
  • Grouping
  • Composition
It comes with its own database (CHIClean) containing an impressive list of composers (> 2500).
The compositions of major composers (Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Dvořák, Handel, Haydn, Mahler ,Mozart,Schubert, Schumann and Vivaldi) are available.
This allows you to tag your compositions in a consistent way.
Interface supports English and Français

There is a tutorial on how to tag classical music.
It is a bit hidden in the Blog but obvious written by somebody deeply immerged in classical music.
The Zen of Classical Music Tagging (Part1)
The Zen of Classical Music Tagging (Part2)

Website: MusiCHI

Friday, September 21, 2012

Metrum Acoustics Hex

Non oversampling dac.
Dual mono, 8 Dacs pro channel in differential mode.

2x optical Toslink, Coaxial 1x BNC and 1x RCA.
Optical 44 - 96 kHz sampling rate .
Coaxial , USB and AES/EBU: 44 - 192 kHz sampling rate.
AES/EBU module optional (€ 168.00)
USB module optional ( € 168.00).
The USB input is not UAC2 (USB Audio Class 2) compliant but uses the M2Tech proprietary drivers for Win and Mac.
Output voltage:
RCA : 2 Volt RMS full scale.
XLR: 4 Volt RMS full scale

Frequency response:
1Hz - 20 khz - 2.5 dB 44.1 kHz sampling rate.
1Hz - 65 kHz - 3dB 192 kHz sampling rate.

Distortion: 0.03 % THD
Noise :-130 dB related to 2 Volt RMS output
Jitter: < 35 pico Seconds

Website: Metrum Acoustics
Price: Hex € 2185

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Primare DAC30

USB audio class 2 compliant DAC with USB receiver by XMOS

  • 24 / 192 Khz
  • Crystal DSD DAC CS4398 (BD32)
  • Fully balanced analogue output stage (BD32)
  • Inputs: 1x asynchronous USB-B, 1x AES/EBU, 3x Optical, 3x Coax S/PDIF
  • Outputs: 1 pair XLR and 1 pair RCA (both 4,3V)

Website Primare
Price € 2350

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Burson Conductor

Headphone amplifier/ Pre amplifier / DAC

1 x USB Connection
1 x Coaxial RCA (Support up to 24bit @ 192Khz)
1 x Toslink / SPDIF (Support up to 24bit @ 192Khz)
2 x RCA line level input

1 x headphone jacks 6.35mm
1 x RCA Pre Amp output
1 x RCA DAC direct line out

DAC Specification
Channel Separation: 140 dB @ 1KHz, 130 dB @ 20KHz
THD+N: 0.0005% @ 1KHz, 0dBFS
COAX & Toslink / SPDIF : 32 bits / 44.1K, 48K, 88.2K, 96K, 176.4K, 192KHz

USB Specification
Tenor TE8802
OS Requirement: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Mac OS X
USB : 24 bits / 44.1K, 48K, 88.2K, 96K, 176.4K, 192KHz
Support up to 24bit @ 192Khz with 10ppm low jitter clock
Asynchronous Transfer Mode

Website: Burson
Price: $1.850

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bel Canto REFLink

Asynchronous USB converter

Supported sampling rates: 44.1kHz - 192kHz
Supported word lengths: up to 24-bit
USB driver for Win

  • Coaxial SPDIF on BNC 75Ω 
  • Balanced AES on XLR 110Ω 
  • LightLink ST Fiber 
Proprietary 500MHz DSP Asynchronous USB Core
Dual Ultra-Low Phase-Noise Clocks
Two-stage galvanic isolation
Dedicated LNS (Low Noise Supply)

Website: Bel Canto 
Price: AU$ 1595

Sunday, August 26, 2012

CIAudio Transient MKII Asynchronous USB Converter

Input: asynchronous 24/192 USB (Xmos), driver for Windows

Digital Outputs:
• S/PDIF via 75 ohm BNC Connector (Galvanic Isolated)
• I2S via Mini DIN Connector (Audio Alchemy/Perpetual Tech/Camelot)
• Differential I2S via HDMI Connector (PS Audio/Wyred4Sound)

Sample Rates Supported: 44.1k, 48k, 88.2k, 96k, 176.4k, 192k up to 24bits
Master Clock Jitter: < 1.0 psec
Analog Output Level: 2V RMS Maximum (Single-ended RCA)
Frequency Response: 0hz to 96kHz
THD + Noise: -89db @ -1dBFS

Dimensions: 4.45"W x 2.9"H (including feet) x 5.25" D
Warranty: 5 Year Parts & Labor
Website: CIAudio 
Price: US$ 699

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Chord QuteHD DAC

Harmonic distortion: 103 dBV
Signal-to-noise ratio: 115dBV
Dynamic range: 118dBV

Digital inputs:
1 x USB HD with DSD decoding (DoP), 44.1 kHz to 192kHz, 16-32-bit (future 384kHz-ready).
USB driver for Win
1x Optical
1x Coaxial 44.1 kHz/ 384kHz-ready, 16-32-bit

Outputs: 2x RCA phono
Power supply: 12v 1A 2.1mm connector. 100-240V - 50/60Hz, 1A wall adapter supplied
Weight: 0.4kg
Dimensions: 160x70x40mm (WxHxD)

Website: Chord
Price:  £990

Monday, August 13, 2012

dCS Vivaldi

  • Transport
  • Upsampler: DXD (24/352.8 or 384kS/s), DSD (1-bit 2.822 MS/s) or standard high resolution PCM (24/192)
  • Master clock
  • DAC

Asynchronous 24/192 USB
DSD over USB (DoP)
Network - UPnP

Website dCS
Price: $110,000

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sonore exD DSD DAC

USB Audio Class 2.0 compliant DAC with native DSD playback (DoP V1)

Ultra low jitter local master clock <3pS
True asynchronous mode operation
USB Audio Class 2.0 compliant
PCM playback up to 192kHz
DSD playback of DSD64 and DSD128
Compatible with DoP v1 specification
Custom made USB to DSD and PCM module
Support for Mac OS X without special driver (10.6 and 10.7), support Audirvana Plus "Direct" and "Integer" modes
Support for Linux without special driver (Alsa version 1.0.24 or later)
Support for Windows XP, Vista and Win 7 (32 and 64 bit), driver (WDM and ASIO) will be provided

RCA unbalanced outputs
XLR balanced outputs
Output impedance: <50ohm unbalanced, <100ohm balanced
Output voltage: 2V Unbalanced, 4V Balanced

Website: Sonore
Price: US$ 1195

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Linnenberg u:c:a

Pre-amp with USB and SPDIF inputs and RCA and headphone out.

USB input uses the M2tech OEM circuit (Win/Mac) but a new receiver using the XMOS XS1-L1 is planned allowing for full USB Audio Class 2 support (Win, OSX, Linux).

DAC: TI/Burr Brown PCM1794A with TI/BB4192 sample-rate converter.
Upsampling to 192kHz, regardless of input rate. Master clock oscillator with 3ps periodic jitter. Passive I/U conversation with 0.1% precision resistors, zero feedback.

Headphones amplifier: Full discrete construction. NO OPAMPS. NO CHIPS. Volume control with selected blue Alps attenuator. 6.35mm phone jack output. 1000mW continuous sine power output. 1Ohm output impedance. Suitable for 32 – 600 Ohms cans.

Sampling frequencies:44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192kHz, (plus 32kHz S/PDIF)
Resolution:Up to 32bit, (24bit S/PDIF)
Frequency response:1Hz - 24kHz +0.1dB -0.5dB
Distortion and noise:<0.01% 10Hz - 20kHz @ -10dB
Output level:4V rms
Output power:2 x 500mW continous @ 32 Ohms
Output impedance:1 Ohm
Mains voltage:115V, 230V factory set
Dimensions (H x W x D):55 x 165 x 224 mm

Website Linnenberg
Price: €1.190

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Pre-amp with streaming audio (UPnP), digital and analog inputs.

  • UPnP™-enabled to stream audio files from any UPnP enabled server such as UnitiServe or a NAS at up to 32bit/192kHz resolution
  • vTuner 5* full service internet radio
  • Optional FM/DAB module variant available
  • Streams/plays WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, AAC, WMA, Ogg Vorbis and MP3 files
  • Gapless playback available on all lossless file formats
  • Front-panel USB port for replay of MP3 player/iPod and USB-stored audio
  • Multiple intuitive control interfaces: front panel, remote control handset and n-Stream control app
  • USB mini-b connector for software upgrades
  • High quality Burr-Brown PCM1793 DAC
  • Five 24bit/192kHz-capable S/PDIF digital inputs (2 x coaxial RCA, 2 x TOSlink, 1 x front panel mini-TOSlink)
  • 3 analogue inputs (1 DIN, 1 RCA pair, 1 x 3.5mm front-panel socket)
  • 1 line output
  • Front-panel 3.5mm headphone connector
  • OLED display for high contrast and easy visibility
  • Ethernet and Wi-Fi network connectivity
Website NAIM 
Price: € 2350

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Perreaux Audiant DP32

Pre-amp with both digital and analogue inputs

Digital Inputs:1 USB (asynchronous 24/192)
2 Coaxial (RCA)
2 Optical (Toslink)
Digital to Analogue Converter:ESS Technology Sabre³² Reference ES9018 32-bit DAC
Input Word Length (maximum):32-bit (AES/EBU, Coaxial, Optical)
24-bit (USB)
Input Sample Rate (maximum):192kHz (all inputs)
Analogue Inputs:1 Balanced/Unbalanced (selectable)
1 Unbalanced Line/Home Theatre (selectable)

Website: Perreaux
Price: $2.895

Audioquest DragonFly USB Digital-Audio Converter

• Drives headphones directly
• Variable output drives powered speakers or a power amplifier
• Fixed output feeds preamp or AV receiver
• 64-position analog volume control
• Accepts music files up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution
• Asynchronous Class 1 USB data transfer using the Streamlength protocol
• Direct-coupled circuitry from the ESS Sabre DAC chip through the analog volume control and output analog driver section
• Dual Master Clocks are used to minimize the amount of jitter present in the DAC circuitry

Website Audioquest
Price:  € 249,00

Saturday, June 9, 2012

M2Tech hiFace Two USB to SPDIF converter

The biggest news is probably that M2Tech decided not to use their proprietary drivers but to using the native mode USB audio drives of the operating system.
It is UAC1 and UAC2 compliant so will work out of the box with Win, OSX and Linux.
For > 96 kHz you need a driver on Win as Win is not UAC2 compliant.
The receiver is by XMOS and the driver by Thesycon.
  • Input 1 x USB A type male
  • Output 1 x RCA or BNC female
  • Input USB 2.0 Audio Format with aAsynchronous synchronazation 
  • Output S/PDIF Stereo Digital Audio Format
  • Sampling Frequency: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4khZ, 192kHz
  • Resolution 16 up to 24 bit
  • Dimensions 10.2(d) x 2.2(h) x 2(w) cm
  • Power Supply 5V DC from USB bus
  • Weight 50gr approx.

M2Tech hiFace 2 
Price: US$ 185

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

PlayGo is working on a new wireless transmitter.
It is a multi-protocol solution
  • Apple AirPlay Technology
  • Microsoft® Play To
  • USB Audio for playback of digital audio from iOS devices
  • UPnP & DLNA Support
Supported audio formats
  • AAC
  • Apple Lossless
  • MP3
  • FLAC
  • WAV
  • WMA
Lossless Hi-Fi Audio Support
  • Up to 24-bit / 96kHz native audio
  • Burr-Brown SRC4193 upsampling
  • First company in USA to use the NEW 32-Bit Burr-Brown PCM5102 DAC
  • 112dB signal to noise ratio
  • 112dB A-weighted dynamic range
  • 2.1VRMS output on gold plated RCA connectors
  • TOSLINKTM Digital Audio Output
More at Kickstarter

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Calyx Femto DAC

DAC with volume control.
Claimed dynamic range of 132dB, THD of 0.0001% and RMS jitter of 500 femto seconds.
USB 24/192 max. Synchronization not specified but probably asynchronous.

  • Digital Input: Two Coaxial / Two Optical / Two AES-EBU / BNC / USB
  • Sampling Rate: 44.1kHz ~ 192kHz
  • THD+N Ratio: 0.0003% @ 1kHz
  • SNR: 130 [dB] @ 1kHz
  • Channel Specification: 144 [ dB] @ 1kHz
  • Dynamic Range: 130 [dB] @ 1kHz
  • Output Level(UnBal): 6.8 [V]
  • Output Level(Bal): 2 [V]

Lots of measurements in the user manual.

Website: Calyx
Price: $6.000

Monday, May 7, 2012

Certon Integrita music server

  • Security: RAID level 5 – intelligent data protection (a hard disk may fail and the data integrity is maintained)
  • Capacity: 5 internal hard disks*, 2.5 TB, 5TB or 10TB total /1.5TB, 3TB or 6TB usable / *including 1 hot spare
  • Hard drives: SATA-II AV hard drives certified for 24/7 continuous operation
  • Fans: None
  • File types: Including 192khz/24bit, AAC, ALAC, FLAC, M4A, MP3, MP4, WAV, WMA
  • Connectivity: 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x eSATA
  • Network: TCP/IP
  • Management: Integrita Control Centre via web browser
  • Media server: iTunes, DLNA
  • Size: 425w x 370d x 140h (mm)
  • Weight: 11.3kg
  • Power supply: Fanless, 84% efficient, filtered against harmonic ripple
  • Power requirement: 60W 100-240V; 50/60Hz
  • Guarantee: 2 years
Website Certon
Price: £2950

Thursday, May 3, 2012


DAC with volume control (defeatable) and headphone out.
Supports both USB audio class 1 and 2.
For USB Audio Class 2 it is possible to select either synchronous or asynchronous transmission; a special driver is required for this.

D/A converter32-Bit, 384 kHz Sigma Delta, 8-times oversampling, double-mono-quadruple
Analogue filter3rd order phase linear Besselfilter, switchable 60 kHz or 120 kHz
Frequency response2 Hz - 20 / 22 kHz (44.1 / 48.0 kSps)

2 Hz - 40 kHz (88.2 / 96.0 kSps)

2 Hz - 80 kHz (176.4 / 192.0 kSps)
Total harmonic distortion< 0,001 %
Signal noise (A)116 dB
Channel separation110 dB
Analogue outputs
coaxial (Cinch)2,5 Veff / 22 Ohm fixed. 0 ... 2,5 Veff variable
Symetrical (XLR)5,0 Veff / 22 Ohm fixed. 0 ... 5,0 Veff variable
Digital output1 x coax, IEC 60958 (CDDA/LPCM)
Digital inputsSP/DIF (16 - 24 Bit):

4 x co-ax, 1 x BNC, 1 x AES/EBU up to 192/24, 1 x TOS-Link up to 96/24

1 x USB with USB Audio Class 1 (USB full Speed) up to 96/24, adaptive mode

and USB Audio Class 2 (USB high Speed) up to 192/24 asynchronous mode (drivers available)

Website T+A
Price: £1890

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Koss Striva

Headphones with build in Wi-Fi receiver.
You must register at to configure the access points manually.
Using the browser you can connect to free internet radio streams including SHOUTcast.
Headphone can also be used wired.

Tap $500
Striva Pro $450
Website: Koss

Friday, April 20, 2012

Antelope Audio Rubicon

Rubicon is a 384 kHz converter, phono stage preamp and headphone amplifier with an integrated atomic clock.

  • 10M Rubidium Atomic Clock
  • 64-bit Acoustically Focused Clocking jitter management technology
  • Ultra low noise phono inputs with custom audio transformers, discrete JFET preamp design
  • 384kHz A/D & D/A converters
  • Gold-plated stepped relay volume attenuator matched to 0.05dB for all volume levels
  • Ultra-linear, dual stage headphone amps
  • De-jittered audio S/PDIF output
  • Custom USB 2.0 chip streaming up to 480 Mbits/384kHz with recording option
  • DLNA streaming capabilities through an Ethernet interface
Price: tba

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Streaming Client formats MP3 , WMA, AAC, OGG-Vorbis, FLAC (192/24 via LAN) and WAV (192/24 via LAN) with gapless playback (where supported by server)
Supported media servers UPnP AV, Microsoft Windows Player 10,
(MS DRM 10),
vTuner Internet Radio Service,
DLNA compatible servers
Features Web server (remote PC web browser control),
Audio network config.,
Internet Radio Station database
(automatic update via Internet)
digital access of iPod contents
(D/A conversion in MP 1260 R)
Interfaces USB 2.0, iPod with control and display,
2 x Digitalentrances (SP/DIF)
coax + optical (TOS-Link),
16 ... 24 Bit, 24 ... 96 ks/S,
Audio data
Analogue outputs Stereo 2,5 Veff / 22 Ohm
Digital outputs 1 x coax
IEC 60958 (LPCM)
D/A converter 32 Bit, 352,8/384 kHz Sigma Delta
8-times oversampling
Upsampling free programmable signal processor with
4 selectable oversampling algorithms.
FIR short, FIR long, Bezier/IIR, Bezier
Analogue filters Phase linear bessel filter
with 100 kHz limit frequency
Frequency response 2 Hz - 20 kHz
Total harmonic distortion < 0.001 %
Signal / noise ratio 112 dB
Channel separation 106 dB

Website: T+A
Price: US$ 4,200

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Micromega AS-400

Integrated Class D amp (400 W, both channels / 4Ω)
Beside the conventional inputs (phono, line in) it is WI-Fi enabled (802.11n) using Airstream.
A protocol based on iTunes/AirTunes and limited to 16Bits / 44.1 kHz.

Website: Micromega
Price: $4995

Monday, April 9, 2012

Totaldac D1

R2R DAC with volume control and headphone out.
Also available with active 2 or 3 way crossover.

  • 192KHz asynchronous Xmos USB, optical, RCA and AES-EBU digital inputs, selectable from a remote control.
  • 3.3Vrms max RCA, XLR analog output and 32ohm-600ohm headphone amplifier.
  • digital volume control, adjusted by a remote control and an OLED display.
  • phase polarity selected by remote control.
  • non-oversampling FIR digital filter activated or disactivated by remote control.
Website: Totaldac
Price: €6500

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cambridge Azur 851C

DAC/CD player/preamplifier

AES, SPDIF (Toslink & coax), USB

24-bit/96kHz driverless USB input
Supports 24-bit/192kHz USB input using a free Cambridge Audio driver
Unclear if this is asynchronous USB

Twin Analog Devices AD1955 current output DACs used in dual differential mode
Up-sampling (to 24-bit/384kHz) using a 32-bit Black Fin DSP

Output: XLR & RCA

Website: Cambridge Audio
Price: £1200

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Trigon Chronolog

Networked CD/DVD player/ripper

wav, mp3, flac, cdda, nsv, m4a, aac, strm, pls, rm, mpa, wma, ogg, mp2, m3u, mod, amf, 669, dmf, dsm, far, gdm, imf, it, m15, med, okt, s3m, stm, sfx, ult, uni, xm, sid, ac3, dts, cue, aif, aiff, wpl, ape, mac, mpc, mp+, mpp, shn, zip, rar, wv, nsf, spc, gym, adplug, adx, dsp, adp, ymf, ast, afc, hps, xsp

OS: Linux
Protocol: UPnP
Networking: 1GB LAN Ethernet/WLAN-WiFi interface

Graphical user interface using touch-WEB portal
Bit rate and frequency display
Automatic updates via the Internet

Output: RCA/XLR and HDMI/DVI

Website: Trigon
Price: $9,495

Monday, March 26, 2012

The best optical drive

A typical audiophile worry is “Is my rip bit perfect?”
There a couple of things to say about this subject and I do it here.

Another typical question is “What is the best optical drive to rip my CDs”
The answer is often Plextor.
They do have an excellent reputation but years ago they stopped making their own drives.
Today a Plextor is simple a rebadges OEM.

Little is known about the accuracy of optical drives from different brands.
But there is some empirical data.
The AccurateRip database tells you if your rip is accurate or not.
It can be used the other way around too, how many rips are accurate given a certain brand/model.
A list can be found here: CD/DVD Drive Accuracy List 2012

Review: Kingrex UD-384 and U-Power

We came across Kingrex's product while searching for a power supply upgrade for another manufacturer's DAC.  Kingrex's PSU MKII proved to be one of the most cost effective upgrade we can recommend to a USB or wall wart powered DACs.  We weren't the only one, but also numerous favorable feedback from various internet forums.

At the time Kingrex also makes a very nifty USB to SPDIF converter (they prefer to call it DDCs - digital to digital converters) called the UC192 (still in the line up, firmware upgraded to 32/384 conversion through i2s).  We were so impressed with the power supply that we contacted Kingrex for a review unit.  Kingrex informed us that they were about to launch a new model, which is not only a DDC, but also a high resolution 32/384 capable DAC/DDC plus a dedicated power battery supply designed for it.  So we decided to wait for the UD-384 and U-Power which are the subjects of our review here.

Dynamic Duo

The combo arrived and we are quite surprised to see how small they are.  They are light (less than 200g each) and compact, each about eleven cm long, and made of anodized extruded aluminum.  They are quite well made but rather light and 'casual' looking.  The U-Power is optional ($179) and in such case the UD384 would be powered by a supplied generic 7.5v wall wart.  You can then choose from two upgrade path - the U-Power, or the more expensive AC-powered PSU MkII, please do note that you will have to specified a 7.5v version for the latter.  For those of you who are suspicious of  how good clean power can do to the sound, you'll be surprised that for hifi equipment, a significant percentage of the overall sound quality depends on that.  Basically you are what you eat.

The unique thing about the UD-384 (US$479) is that it is both a DAC and a USB to SPDIF converter.  We think this is such a nifty idea since you may, in the future, want to upgrade to a more extravagant DAC which you can still use the unit's asynchronous USB conversion that works up to 24bit/192kHz (SPDIF's technical limitations prevents the UD-384 to output higher than 192kHz).  There are however no other digital inputs except USB.  Drivers are supplied for Windows, there are no drivers necessary for Mac users.

Internal digital engineering is quite unorthodox.  For instance, there is a single 'anonymous' chip handling USB receiving, and digital to analog conversion.  There is also a single high precision thermally stabilized TCXO 1ppm super low jitter clock giving beat to all of the sampling rates covering 44kHz to 384kHz.  High quality resistors and capacitors are used through out with nice attention to details on where these components would have effects on the sound.  The other peculiar thing about the UD-384 is that when used in DAC mode, with the current firmware, it can decode the highest specified 384kHz but not 352.8khz.  We believe this is due to its minimalist sigle-chip/single-clock configurations.  However, Kingrex's engineer probably has reasons to go minimalistic as proven by its sound quality - read on. 

The U-Power internals are also well thought-out.  There are  two 3.7v Li-ion batteries supplying 2600mAh of power. Charging is done through the supplied wall wart, and a circuit disconnects noisy A/C supply during battery playback. There's also a USB power port on the U-Power, I was hoping this is a power input but it actually is an output which can feed 5v power to a USB device.

They rock!

How does it sound? In one word - impressive.  If you do a blind test having your typical big shiny aluminum box high end DAC side by side and ask your friends to guess, they would surely have it wrong.  What we are most surprised by is its ability to handle slam and weight.  The resolution is also amazing with air and openness rivaling the best out there, both with normal 44.1k CD rips and native high resolution files.  Having said that, this is not a DAC for detail freaks.  It doesn't draw you into the minute details like some of the DACs do, but more the coherent message.  It just excels on tempo and energy and plainly "boogie".  Soundstage is spacious, precise and wide, with images being so stable you can reach out and touch them.  Although the stage is not as deep as some, but enough for you to work out the layers without feeling a wee bit of congestion.  This is not a hifi-sounding DAC, it is ever so smooth without edginess of lesser DACs.  Pace Rhythm and Timing are excellent breathing down the neck of much more expensive units.  The mid bass is tight but never bloated, which puts it on the clean and taught side of the scale as opposed to romantic and lush tendencies of  tube peers.

Most of our listening was with the supplied U-Power unit.  However, we did have on hand the dearer Kingrex PSU MkII for comparisons.  The differences were quite small.  You will have a slight better macro dynamic with music with big dynamic range swings, but the all else were excellent as it is.  The synergies of the two units are there and is highly recommended you get the UD-384 and U-Power as a combo.


Once in a while you come across a product that are so deceptive simple in appearances. These little boxes proved to be so much for the price.  If you are new to computer audio and do not want to spend a fortune on state-of-the-art converter or DAC, the UD-384 is a great future-proof USB/SPDIF converter with a superb DAC to boot.  We think the UD combo is the best sounding DAC we have heard so far in its price range.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Monkey Banana Turbo 8

Active monitor with SPDIF input

System'2-way' active
Price € 399,- each
Digital inputS/PDIF
HF driver1-inch natural silk dome
LF Driver8-inch ceramic cone
Analogue inputXLR/TRS Combo connectors,
Amp30/80 Watt A/B
DSPBuild-in DAC

Website: Monkey Banana

NOCS NS2 Air Monitors

Active speakers with AirPlay technology $399
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz - 20 kHz
  • Woofers: 3" Kevlar with dual magnets
  • Tweeters: 3/4" silk dome
  • Digital Signal Processor: 32-bit
  • Total Harmonic Distortion: <0.15%
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: > 85 dB
  • Amplifier type: Class D
Website: NOCS 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

John Kenny JKSPDIF MK3

Modified HiFace 24/192 asynchronous USB - SPDIF converter
Manufacturers description:
  • it is completely off-grid, powered from 2 internal batteries (these will last about 24 hours between charges)
  • it is portable - no need for external power supply when listening to audio
  • the SPDIF output stage is now based on the Wolfson WM8804 chip
  • SPDIF signal is now within spec
  • it comes in an aluminium enclosure
  • it now uses a USB type B socket
  • internal battery charger - requires user supplied 9V or 12V DC supply
Website: John Kenny
Price: €320

Sunday, March 4, 2012

NAD M51 Direct Digital DAC

35-bit 844kHz DAC and Digital Preamp.

Manufactures description:
Running at 108MHz, the M51 resamples the incoming pulse code modulated (PCM) signal and converts it to a pulse width modulation signal (PWM) with a sampling rate of 844kHz. Operating in a differential mode with double precision, the M51 has state-of-the-art specifications for low noise and freedom from distortion. The extreme headroom afforded by the 35-bit architecture allows for a DSP-based volume control that does not reduce resolution. Even with 24-bit high definition signals, the output can be attenuated by 66dB (very, very quiet) before bit truncation begins.

Rated Distortion (THD+N with AES 17 filter) <0.0005% (0dBFS)
IMD Distortion 0.0001%
Signal/Noise Ratio <-125dB (ref. 0dBFS 2V out)
Channel Separation >-115dB (ref. 0dBFS Volume -1dB)
Sample Rate 32kHz to 192kHz (USB and digital S/PDIF)
Frequency Response ±0.5dB (ref. 20Hz - 96kHz sample rate)
Output Level 2V (ref. input 0dBFS)


  • SPDIF Coaxial x 1
  • Optical x 1
  • HDMI x 2 (stereo only)
  • USB Audio Codec 2.0: asynchronous 24/192 support


  • HDMI Video Out (3D video pass through)
  • Analogue Unbalanced and Balanced

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Human Audio Tabla Pico

USB to SPDIF converter using Hiface EVO drivers (bulk mode).

Manufacturers description:
  • Resolution: up to 24 bit / 192 kHz
  • OS driver availability: for Windows & Mac OS X ( hiFace EVO compatibility )
  • Input: USB 2.0
  • Output: 75Ω BNC (optional RCA adapter from BNC)
  • Powering: Built-in rechargeable LiFePO4 battery with ~8 years lifetime without memory-effect
  • Charging: Fully automated from USB power when idle(stop & power off state)
  • Operation time (in "GREEN" battery mode) without charging: at least 12 hours of continuous playback
  • Seamless switching (with LED indication) between the clear battery ("GREEN") mode and battery charging during playback ("YELLOW") mode without any audible glitch. The battery is permanently connected to the circuit, only the charge control switch goes on and off when required. 
  • Charging time: max. 8 hours
Website  Human Audio
Price: US $579 / €380 (including 27% VAT)
The Pico on Head-Fi

Monday, February 20, 2012

Abacus A-box 10

System2 way active system
Price pair: €1190,- (incl. VAT)
Frequency response16…200-20.000Hz
Digital inputN/A
Analogue inputRCA Line-Input
Balanced input (XLR or 6,3mm jack)
Drivers16,5cm (6,5”) Woofer
25,4mm (1”) Tweeter
Amp50W RMS
Crossover at 2500Hz
Bass roll-off continuously adjustable from 16 Hz to 200 Hz
H x W x D210×235×353,5 mm
10 Liter

Website Abacus

Saturday, January 21, 2012

iBasso D7

Portable USB DAC with volume control and headphone out.

- True 24Bit/192K USB-DAC, supports bit for bit decoding.
- Asynchronous USB transfer
- WM8740 DAC chip
- Up to 24Bit/192K coaxial output
- RCA output and Line out.
- Built-in +/- 5V class A headphone amplfier that run off of USB power
- Full aluminum case
- Measures 60W*93L*22H (mm), and weights 108g
- Comes with USB Cable, and Leather pouch

Price: US$ 179

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Anedio D2 DAC

Pre-amp / DAC with various digital inputs and headphone out.

Asynchronous USB using the XMOS receiver, Thesycon driver for Win (USB audio class 2).

USB: 24 bits, 44.1K, 48K, 88.2K, 96K, 176.4K, 192KHz
SPDIF 75-ohm BNC + RCA: 24 bits, 44.1K, 48K, 88.2K, 96K, 176.4K, 192KHz
SPDIF 75-ohm RCA: 24 bits, 44.1K, 48K, 88.2K, 96K, 176.4K, 192KHz
Tosllink Optical: 24 bits, 44.1K, 48K, 88.2K, 96KHz


Price:  US$1470