Digital Processor Reviews

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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.
John Atkinson  |  Sep 14, 2020  |  5 comments
When Stereophile publishes followup reviews of various kinds in the print magazine, we add the followup as a "child page" to the full review. That means that they don't appear on the website's home page and might get missed. The October 2020 issue included three followups: of the Boulder 2108 phono preamplifier, the Weiss DAC502 D/A processor, and the IsoAcoustics Gaia loudspeaker isolation feet.
John Atkinson  |  Aug 28, 2020  |  54 comments
The email from Herb Reichert was intriguing. "I am, with great difficulty writing about HoloAudio's new two-chassis May DAC," he wrote. "It is death quiet and very natural. It makes every recording sound non-digital."

Once Herb had finished writing his review of the HoloAudio for the August issue's Gramophone Dreams column, I sped to his Bed-Stuy bothy and grabbed the May DAC, both to get it on my test bench and to take a listen for myself.

Herb Reichert  |  Aug 25, 2020  |  20 comments
I am fascinated by DACs and the shifting sands of today's digital-audio marketplace. This month, I am reporting on two more DACs, both made by Denafrips: the $4498 Terminator, until recently their flagship DAC, and the $768 Ares II, the company's least expensive model. Like the HoloAudio May DAC I described last month, both Denafrips converters employ R-2R conversion schemes, and both render recordings into direct, unprocessed sound.
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.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jul 31, 2020  |  47 comments
I felt like I'd just been offered a choice of 31 flavors of Baskin-Robbins ice cream topped with up to 57 varieties of Heinz ketchup, 57 condiments, and 47 brands of coddled cream. My head began to spin, my stomach churned, and my mouth grew very dry as I read that Gold Note's DS-10 ($2995) was a "chameleon DAC" with 192 setup options that enable it to "completely blend in with different music genres, giving the listener the opportunity to adapt the behavior of the unit to the music playing, to one's stereo system and, most of all, to the listener's taste."
Herb Reichert  |  Jul 30, 2020  |  24 comments
In contrast to phono cartridges and analog tape recorders, digital audio converters distinguish themselves by the fact that they can be fashioned in an almost infinite number of ways. Therefore, the odds against two manufacturers' DACs or ADCs sounding exactly the same are extremely large.
John Atkinson  |  Jul 24, 2020  |  70 comments
Hi-fi system resolution has long been the cause of heated arguments. But when it comes to converting digital data to an analog signal, there can be no argument. Data go in at one end of a DAC and an analog signal comes out of the other end, with a noise floor directly rated to the combination of the converter's digital and analog resolution. Ever since I started measuring digital products for Stereophile, I have been expressing a D/A processor's effective resolution in terms of the equivalent number of bits.
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.

Jim Austin  |  May 15, 2020  |  28 comments
At the 2019 AXPONA, I took part in one of my first official meetings, as editor of Stereophile, with members of the manufacturing community: the German company T+A. They were presenting in the room of Texas dealer Lone Star Audio, which was owned by the late Jim Hench. They had a corner hallway to themselves: two rooms and, at the time when I arrived, a hallway table brimming with coffee and pastries. Fortuitous timing.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Apr 27, 2020  |  24 comments
This unique device is a solution to a problem that previously couldn't be solved.

There are, of course, any number of little boxes that can extract audio from the HDMI video bitstream; they began to appear on the market to fill a need for a way to route audio from a player's HDMI output In the recent past, you could buy a good-quality—even audiophile-grade—universal player and listen to SACDs via its good-sounding analog outputs. But good-sounding universal players are becoming scarce.

John Atkinson  |  Feb 25, 2020  |  62 comments
The idea of using digital signal processing (DSP) to convert digital audio data sampled at 44.1kHz or 48kHz to a higher sample rate is not new. I first heard the beneficial effects of upsampling at Stereophile's 1998 hi-fi show in Los Angeles, where a pro-audio dCS 972 digital-to-digital processor was being used to convert 16-bit/44.1kHz CD data to a 24/192 datastream.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Feb 21, 2020  |  9 comments
In an era when polar opposites compete as absolutes, it can be a challenge to acknowledge the different and equally valid ways in which audiophiles approach musical truth. But the reality is that our perceptions of how reproduced music should sound are determined, to a large extent, by how we approach the live experience.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 20, 2020  |  19 comments
Even as digital/analog processors were becoming a hot product category in the early 1990s, audiophiles were also learning that timing uncertainties in the AES/EBU and S/PDIF serial datastreams—jitter—would compromise any improvement in sound quality offered by these DACs. Some companies therefore introduced products to reduce or eliminate jitter—in the November 1994 issue of Stereophile, Robert Harley reviewed three such products: the Audio Alchemy DTI Pro, the Digital Domain VSP, and the Sonic Frontiers UltrajitterBug. I still have Stereophile's review samples of the UltraJitterBug and VSP, along with two contemporary DACs: a PS Audio UltraLink and a Parts Connection Assemblage DAC-1.

As our reviews of these products were published before Paul Miller's and the late Julian Dunn's development of the "J-Test" diagnostic signal, I performed J-Test jitter measurements to bring that 1994 review into the 21st Century. You can see what I found here.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Dec 19, 2019  |  47 comments
What kind of creature is this? Gryphon Audio Designs' new Ethos ($39,000)—pronounced EE-toss by its Danish manufacturers—is marketed as a CD player and digital-to-analog converter. It's decidedly au courant in that it includes two 32-bit/768kHz ES9038PRO Sabre DAC chips—one for each channel—with each holding eight individual DAC chips; offers optional upsampling to either 24/384 PCM or DSD128; and decodes up to 32/384 PCM and quadruple DSD (DSD512) via its USB input, or up to 24/192 (and no DSD) via AES/EBU or S/PDIF.

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