Digital Processor Reviews

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Robert Harley  |  Aug 17, 2012  |  First Published: Mar 01, 1996  |  0 comments
With the introduction of Audio Alchemy's Digital Transmission Interface (DTI) more than three years ago, the company created an entirely new category of hi-fi product: the jitter filter. The original DTI was a good start, but didn't always improve the sound of the better-quality digital front-ends.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 01, 1996  |  0 comments
The High End is a tidily ordered world. There are CD players, transports, and processors used to play stereo recordings and drive stereo preamplifiers. There are stereo or mono amplifiers used to drive a pair of speakers. And then there is the British high-end company Meridian, run by one J. Robert Stuart, one of audio's deeper thinkers and a Fellow of the Audio Engineering Society. Meridian does it their way. They put their amplifiers inside their speakers. Heck, Meridian even puts their D/A processors inside their speakers when they can. And two speakers to play back stereo recordings? Meridian believes in re-creating the original soundfield no matter how many speakers and channels it takes to do it right. And they do it sufficiently successfully that their Digital Theatre system, which does all of the above, was one of Stereophile's joint Home Theater products of 1995. [See also the 2000 review of their Series 800 Digital Theatre.—Ed.]
Larry Greenhill  |  Nov 13, 2015  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1995  |  1 comments
The EAD DSP-1000 III is housed in a 2.5" high, U-shaped chassis with a brushed-aluminum front panel. The cover is made of solid, 1/10"-thick steel with a nice "powder" finish, giving the unit an expensive feel. A pushbutton standby switch sitting below a green LED indicator sits at the panel's left. Even when set to Off, power is maintained for the decoder's circuits, but the digital inputs and analog outputs are muted. To the right, three pushbuttons allow selection of one of the three digital input sources (TosLink, 750 ohm coaxial, or glass optical interface). Like the EAD DSP-7000 unit reviewed by J. Gordon Holt and Steven Stone (Vol.18 Nos.1 & 5), the DSP-1000 accepts any of the three sampling rates: 32kHz, 44.1kHz, or 48kHz. Toward panel center is a lock light that illuminates when a digital data link is established. HDCD decoding occurs automatically whenever an HDCD disc is played, causing the front-panel HDCD indicator to light. No remote is available for this decoder.
Robert Harley  |  Apr 13, 2016  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1995  |  0 comments
Of all the products I've reviewed or auditioned, a select few jump out as "best buy" recommendations. Almost universally, such products are liked by a wide range of audiophiles, and seem to match well sonically to many systems. Moreover, these products all have outstanding value; they offer a higher level of musical performance than you'd expect from the price.
Larry Greenhill  |  Aug 14, 2015  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1995  |  4 comments
The availability of the Pacific Microsonics High Definition Compatible Digital (HDCD®) PMD100 decoder chip, manufactured by San Jose's VLSI Technology, has brought about a minor revolution in Compact Disc playback. It brings sonic improvements in imaging, soundstaging, and resolution of detail. In the past six months, Stereophile has published a number of reports on the HDCD decoder's operation, what HDCD recordings are available, and the improvements brought by the HDCD chip to specific digital audio processors (footnote 1). High-end manufacturers are incorporating the $40 HDCD chip in their newest decoders, including the $4695 Sonic Frontiers SFD-2 Mk.II D/A processor, the $15,950 Mark Levinson No.30.5, and the $8195 Spectral SDR-2000 Professional HDCD D/A Processor (reviewed in Vol.18 No.5).
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.
Dick Olsher  |  Dec 18, 2015  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1995  |  5 comments
In 1995, as the compact disc enters its second decade of commercial reality, it's fair to say that the associated hardware has come of age, exorcising at last the digital gremlins of time-base jitter and quantization noise. Digital-processor maturation is particularly evident in the design of the all-critical D/A processor. The simplistic digital circuitry of yesterday has given way to considerable design sophistication that deals directly with jitter and low-level nonlinearities.
Robert Harley  |  Dec 13, 2019  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1995  |  7 comments
Making digital audio sound good appears to be a much more difficult job than its developers first realized. When digital audio was in its infancy, there was a tendency to think that digital either worked perfectly, or didn't work at all. This belief led the engineering community to devise ill-considered and flawed standards that affect the musical quality of digitally reproduced music today.
Robert Harley  |  Jul 03, 2020  |  First Published: May 01, 1995  |  3 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.

Wes Phillips  |  Apr 02, 2009  |  First Published: Apr 02, 1995  |  0 comments
"Dinner's fried chicken, honey."
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.
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  |  Feb 06, 2018  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1995  |  24 comments
Someone interested in buying a digital/analog converter today must make tough choices. Not only are there several competing technologies to choose from—multi-bit, 1-bit, hybrid—but every converter also has its own musical signature. When someone buys a converter, they're locked in to both the technology and the sound.
Robert Harley  |  May 28, 2019  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1994  |  7 comments
If there's one buzzword in high-end audio for the 1990s, it's undoubtedly jitter. "Jitter" describes timing variations in the clock controlling the ones and zeros that represent the analog audio signal. If that clock isn't stable to an extraordinarily precise degree, the sound quality of the digital processor will be degraded.

A CD transport/digital processor combination introduces jitter in three ways: 1) the transport puts out a jittered signal; 2) the S/PDIF or AES/EBU interface between the transport and processor creates jitter; and 3) the digital processor adds its own jitter to the clock. These additive factors are largely responsible for the great range in sound quality we hear from different transports and interfaces.

Dick Olsher  |  Sep 20, 2013  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1994  |  0 comments
John Stronczer, Bel Canto Design's technical spark plug, meets my definition of an electronics renaissance man, ranging as he does from designing single-ended amps that glow in the dark (the Orfeo) to digital processors (the Aida). Actually, digital circuitry is one of John's specialties, dating back to his days at Honeywell.

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