Outboard DACs

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Martin Colloms  |  Dec 16, 2022  |  First Published: May 01, 1997
hfnvintageThe no-compromise 2010 preamp and 2020 DAC are part of the US manufacturer's ongoing 2000 series project. Martin Colloms listens

Boulder's founder and chief engineer Jeff Nelson gained his first audio engineering experience with studio mixing desks and the design of a professional cartridge tape unit. This led to a constructive interchange with the late Deane Jensen, the audio transformer wizard and the originator of a classic 'operational amplifier'. This was not an integrated circuit but one implemented at good power and wide bandwidth via the use of discrete devices.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 18, 2021
hfnoutstandingIf it isn't broken, don't fix it... but Simaudio's MOON 280D outboard DAC is certainly enhanced by the addition of the updated MiND 2 streaming module and app

There are two ways to make a network music player. One is to take a streaming platform and integrate a DAC to provide analogue outputs, while the other is to start with a DAC and then build in the network playback capability. The two approaches have their strengths and weaknesses. Typically, the network player with DAC will be just what it says: a full-featured machine, usually complete with a display, but with limited connectivity for external digital sources. The DAC with streaming, meanwhile, will commonly have more digital ins, but sometimes less network audio capability.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 15, 2020
hfnoutstandingThis flagship DAC from Canada, complete with a raft of in-house digital and power supply technologies, and very slick control app, is a complete network music solution

When is a DAC not a DAC? When it turns into a multifunctional network-connected music player, that's when! Increasingly, the lines between products that exist to convert digital inputs into analogue audio and full-blown network players are becoming blurred. So, just as there are players provided only with digital outputs – network transports or bridges to be paired with an outboard DAC – so we now have DACs with network capability built-in. Add an app running suitable UPnP control software, and you have a complete streaming solution.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 22, 2023
hfnoutstandingFrom Germany's SPL (Sound Performance Laboratory) comes this multicolour USB DAC designed for both 'legacy' and computer connection. There's a volume control too...

Given that most of today's digital components seem to be multifunctional – streamer DACs, DAC/headphone amps and the like – it's unusual to find a product as simple in its operation as its design. Yet that describes the latest arrival from German manufacturer SPL, the £2499 Diamond DAC, available in silver, black or red like all the company's products. A back-to-basics DAC? Well, almost...

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 26, 2021
hfnoutstandingWith deep roots in 'professional audio' and a novel discrete op-amp module as a key driving force, SPL is looking to bring a splash of colour to our audiophile universe

Well, it makes a change from the usual choice of silver or black… Yes, you can have the German-made SPL Phonitor xe USB DAC/headphone amp, which starts from £1899 depending on specification, in either of those colours if you want, but it's also available in the bright red anodised finish you see here. Not that it needs colour to catch the eye for the unusual battery of features makes it either intriguing or something of a head-scratcher: what do all those knobs and switches do? And then there's the pair of illuminated, retro-looking VU meters – this is clearly not your common or garden DAC/headphone amp.

Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Nov 11, 2014
Since reviewing T+A’s DAC 8 converter [HFN Oct ’12] it has become something of a reference for us. The same DAC architecture has been transplanted into this luxuriously built multi-function media player, the first of a new line of high-end pure audio components, dubbed ‘HV’ for High Voltage [see also p73]. The MP 3000 HV comprises a CD player, a UPnP network client for computer-sourced music streaming via Ethernet or WLAN, an internet radio incorporating thefamiliar vTuner platform, and an FM radio tuner with RDS. Naturally, since it has a high-end DAC at its core, it features an asynchronous USB input for ‘pushing-in’ audio data from computers, and it sports no fewer than six digital inputs at the rear to accommodate a plethora of digital sources as well.
Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 05, 2019
hfnoutstandingAre the days of the disc almost over? Evidence to the contrary comes in the form of this flagship SACD/CD transport and network DAC/preamp from T+A's 'High Voltage' series

I think I can be pretty confident in saying there aren't too many new British hi-fi components out there whose development has been government-funded. Clearly they do things differently in Germany, where the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy underwrote the design and development of the network-capable DAC/preamp forming half of the subject of this test, T+A's £23,400 SDV 3100 HV. The project has borne fruit in the behemoth of a digital converter you see here, all 26kg of it, described as a 'Super High Definition Audio DAC with bit-perfect data transmission and resolutions of DSD1024 and PCM768'.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 20, 2024
hfnoutstandingComplete with a new streaming module, T+A's latest network-attached DAC/preamp is the perfect partner for its PA 3100 HV integrated and A 3000 HV power amplifiers

Tipping the scales at a hefty 26kg, measuring a portly 46cm deep and 17cm tall, and selling for £14,900, T+A's PSD 3100 HV appears every inch the flagship DAC/streamer/preamp. Except that it isn't – that accolade is reserved for the German brand's SDV 3100 HV [HFN Oct '19], which has been deemed its 'reference' model since its arrival in 2019 and remains available for £26,040.

Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 13, 2015
Known originally for its professional studio speakers, Pioneer’s Technical Audio Devices brand is now firmly established in high-end consumer audio. Late last year, TAD announced the D1000 disc player/DAC and the DA1000 as a DAC-only alternative. Both offer the same DAC input options, but the DA1000 also includes a linear volume control, for direct connection to a power amp, and a separate headphone amplifier (fascia controlled for level). Both new models, says TAD, ‘integrate a newly developed, ultra-high accuracy master clock equivalent to that employed in the higher-level TAD D600’ [HFN May ’12].
Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngPacking a high quality DAC and streamer into a half-size box, this new digital converter also features powerful user-configurable DSP. It's a potent combination…

With this new DAC, for the first time in my design career, I have the chance to make an impression that has people saying “wow”', Daniel Weiss told HFN. 'Designed by our team here, it is different – but not radically so – to our earlier products.' He's being a little modest because the new Weiss DAC501 is more than a little diverting in any number of different ways…

Keith Howard & Paul Miller  |  Apr 17, 2009
As the tone of my reviews of the Linn Majik DS and dCS Scarlatti Upsampler/DAC may have hinted, I am beginning to see hard disk – rather than optical disc – as my audio source of choice in the near future. If you have been thinking along similar lines, your mind may have boggled at all the different ways of achieving this. A single-box music server solution is not for me, if only because for review purposes I’m likely to require a component rather than integrated solution. And streaming players are out because I insist on having multichannel capability.

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