Digital Processor Reviews

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John Marks  |  Dec 20, 2011  |  5 comments
I've been reading a fascinating book, Leonard Shlain's The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image (New York: Viking, 1998). Shlain's thesis is that the invention of the alphabet was the cause of immense changes in primitive society, upsetting previously widespread norms of gender equality and horizontal (rather than hierarchical) social relations in general.
John Marks  |  Apr 10, 2014  |  2 comments
Were it my place to hand out awards for "The Most Forthright People in Audio," Michael Grace of Grace Design would be at the top of the list. Years ago, after I'd given stellar recommendations of Grace's 901 and m902 headphone-amplifier-DAC-line-stage models, I asked Grace if I could audition his full-rack–size, more fully featured m904 Stereo Monitor Controller. He told me that he didn't think that was necessary, because the m904's sound was extremely similar to the sound of the smaller m902—it just had a different feature set, and he believed that the additional features were not things that Stereophile readers were likely to need. That is the only case I can recall of a manufacturer's declining an offer of additional coverage in Stereophile.
Robert Harley  |  Sep 11, 2019  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1994  |  14 comments
One measure of a high-end product designer's talent is the musical success of his top-of-the-line product. This is his statement to the world of what he can accomplish—a kind of "personal best" that defines the upper limits of his talent. Because he knows of no way to make the product better, the component stands as the ultimate testimonial to his skill.
Robert Harley  |  Nov 05, 2009  |  First Published: Aug 05, 1990  |  0 comments
As an equipment reviewer, I find it helpful to talk to audiophiles and music lovers about their systems and upgrade plans. Fortunately, Stereophile's computer supplier and troubleshooter, Michael Mandel, also happens to be an avid audiophile. I say "fortunately" because I rarely get a chance to talk to people who put down their hard-earned money for hi-fi components. Instead, I usually converse with equipment designers, technicians, and marketing types, hardly people who reflect the buying public. It is thus a valuable education to get feedback from real-world consumers to find out what kind of products they want, their priorities, and how much they're willing to spend for certain levels of performance. They have a view distinctly different from that of the often jaded reviewer who is used to enjoying the best (albeit temporarily) without agonizing over its cost.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Feb 22, 2004  |  First Published: Feb 01, 2004  |  0 comments
We audiophiles are ever hopeful that, however satisfying our present equipment and setup, we can achieve even greater enjoyment with a tweak or an upgrade. And we never stop: It was only 16 years (and three turntables) ago that I bought what I declared would be my last turntable, and there's no doubt that this "dead" format has improved substantially since then. Now, even as we make another (but less paradigm-shifting) format transition, from CD to SACD and DVD-Audio, new two-channel DACs continue to appear that show us how far we still are from wresting all the music from the original "Red Book" 16-bit CD format. I reviewed the wonderful Weiss Medea DAC in February 2003, and there are still on my auditioning rack are two more Swiss DACs that might redefine the category: the Orpheus 1 and the Nagra DAP.
Robert Harley, Lewis Lipnick, Thomas J. Norton  |  Jun 06, 2019  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1992  |  1 comments
A visiting manufacturer recently expressed the idea that digital processors and transports are the worst value in high-end audio. He contended that, because they all sound bad, their differences and degrees of imperfection are meaningless. In his view, the very best digital differed very little from the worst. His advice? Buy a moderately priced CD player and enjoy your LPs.
Robert Harley, Shannon Dickson  |  Jun 14, 2019  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1995  |  0 comments
Some high-end audio companies develop reputations for having a particular "sound." This reputation develops when every product the company makes has a similar sonic flavor. These products appeal to certain customers who like the company's sound, and who therefore tend to stay with that company's products year after year. Unfortunately, such an approach can limit a manufacturer's appeal to a broader audience.
Robert Harley  |  May 06, 2015  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1991  |  0 comments
In hindsight, it was inevitable that two sophisticated digital audio technologies—software-based digital filters and Bitstream D/A converters—were destined to be married in one product. The software-based D/A converters offered by Krell, Wadia, and Theta all used multi-bit ladder DACs, and Bitstream-based units have previously relied on off-the-shelf digital filters.
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.
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.
Michael Lavorgna, Kalman Rubinson  |  Nov 04, 2015  |  8 comments
UpTone Audio's USB Regen is a powered, single-port USB 2.0 hub that takes the USB signal from your computer, regenerates (ie, reclocks) the data, provides cleaned-up 5V power from a built-in, ultra–low-noise regulator, and sends an impedance-matched signal to your DAC. The Regen is designed to sit as close to your DAC as possible; UpTone supplies a male/male USB A/B adapter—a solid, double-ended plug, which they recommend over the 6"-long male/male USB A/B cable they also provide.
Robert Harley  |  Aug 07, 2009  |  First Published: Dec 07, 1990  |  0 comments
I find it more than a little ironic that in 1990 the only two digital-to-analog converters to employ a new state-of-the-art DAC also use vacuum tubes. Many in the audio community consider tubes an anachronism, and find it surprising and humorous that they are still used in newly designed audio products. The fact remains, however, that these two tubed digital processors achieve the best digital playback currently available—and by a wide margin. Moreover, their respective designers' technical savvy and passion for building leading-edge products is reflected in their choice of these superlative and very expensive new DACs. Is it mere coincidence that both designers also chose vacuum tubes to realize their vision of no-compromise digital playback?
Jon Iverson  |  Jul 11, 2013  |  3 comments
For the audiophile modernist, a DAC with volume control is the straightest path between the music server or network stream and your amp and speakers. If you've fully embraced networked audio, there's no need for fussy preamps with their analog inputs, analog volume controls, and [gasp!] phono stages. Find a digital source, a DAC with volume, and go.
Arnis Balgalvis  |  May 06, 2010  |  First Published: Jan 06, 1990  |  0 comments
Ain't technology grand! That's what I was thinking while driving to work this morning. Sure, the rain was coming down in buckets, but there I was sitting comfortably in a warm car, listening to music while making tracks at 50mph. A long way from horse-and-buggy days.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 02, 1999  |  First Published: Apr 03, 1999  |  0 comments
History teaches us that the full flowering of any social phenomenon takes place after the seeds of its destruction have been sown. That tourist magnet, London's Buckingham Palace, for example, was built decades after the English Revolution and the Restoration had redefined the role of the British monarchy as being merely titular, and made the elected Parliament the real seat of power.

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