Category Archives: DAC

Cambridge Audio Sonata NP30

Sonata NP30 Cambridge Audio have been lurking in the streamer business for years but have been hard pressed show any appearance on the shop shelves. Now it looks as if they are finally getting to a shop near me with their recently announced Sonata NP30 Network Music Player. The apparatus is neatly designed yet slightly on the conservative side of the front panel fence.

On the spec side the player offers 24-bit/96KHz playback of Flac and other formats through its Wolfson DAC, streaming from a variety of sources – wired and not.

As with everything else on this planet, the device can be remote controlled from the ever present iPad/iPod/iPhone.

Head-Direct HifiMan HM-602

HifiMan HM-602 Last year audiophile Fang Bian released a first shot at a true high-fidelity portable audio player (we can’t go around calling it an MP3 player now, can we – let alone a walkman!?) with a slightly bulky exterior boasting some really impressive specs. It even had a detachable amplifier section. Now he has gone and done it again, releasing a somewhat smaller but definitely not less impressively spec’d player. The HM-602 uses a Philips TDA-1543 dual DAC to support 24bit/96KHz Flac files as well as Ogg Vorbis. When you are not out there jogging in a crystal clear soundscape, the HM-602 can be used as a USB DAC feeding off of your computer stocked music.

It may not run Angry Birds or remote control your garden sprinkler, but at a price somewhat lower than your average iPod, this is quite an interesting piece of hi-fi equipment that does one thing and one thing only: Deliver sound.

Devialet D-Premier

Conditionnement DevialetThis Fritz Langian breathe-on-it-and-it-tranfers-your-brain digital amplifier and world-domination-in-a-chrome-box, is simply the most awe inspiring piece of hi-fi equipment I have seen in a long time. Inside a sleek chrome box, it harbors 240 watts of weird class A and D combinatrix, 24-bit/192KHz DAC, SD card reader, wifi connectivity and streaming over network. And that is not all… look at that remote. I know a remote has fairly little to do with soundstage and transparency; but look at it! Is that cool or what?!

Outputs include XLR and HDMI, and they are routable (!). On the input side it goes novel even more by including a programmable phono stage to satisfy most, if not all but the most pernickety, vinyl lovers. What can I say? I want one!

Marantz NA7004

NA7004Marantz for me always stood for good old conservative ways and champagne colored aluminium bezels. Never as a technology frontloader. Perhaps that is the reason why they had me on this one. I didn’t see it coming.

Last year Marantz released the NA7004, which by a quick glance looks like any other Marantz component. But it ain’t! Under the hood lurks a three piece DAC, audio streaming and that all too rare Flac support. The NA7004 will discover DLNA compatible servers and play your music as the audio gods intended. It interconnects with other Marantz components and boasts a well laid out front. And HD? Well, it goes aaaalll the way pal.

Peachtree Audio Nova

novaThe rather unusual integrated amplifier, Peachtree Audio Decco has now been granted an older brother (entsippled?) which has yet to have its specs properly disclosed. What is clear is that it sports 80W under the hood and a 24bit/192KHz DAC. The design is sligtly purer than the Decco but otherwise the same.

One thing is new, though. This is what they say on the web site:

“Even compressed MP3 files sound almost indistinguishable from the original CD when played through the Nova or Decco”.

What? Have their brains melted? That’s like saying that snow chains will keep your ears warm*.

*Which in fact they might when used outside the recommendations normally given in the manual.


Naim have always been associated with extreme high end and baffled the world not long ago when they extended their product line to Bentley in-car hifi with KW-fed 11 speaker extravaganza and a price tag to fit the car. Well, none of that. Now Naim went out and did an all-in-one package for the home sporting some rather nice specs and a compactness leaving little else to be desired.

Naim Uniti The NaimUniti is a 50W integrated FM/DAB receiver with built-in CD transport and internet connectivity. It accepts USB devices, controls an iPod, reads CD-R discs and streams music from the network, including internet radio stations. Ogg Vorbis and Flac are supported as is Apple Lossless. On the input side there are 5 digital and 4 analogue. The latter including one specifically for the Naim Stageline phono stage for all that vinyl screaming for attention and so often forgotten in other solutions.

Headroom Total BitHead

Headroom Headroom started in the early nineties making audiophile headphone amps. Today they boast a phenomenal line-up of more than 20 different DAC adorned amplifiers and aftermarket cable-upgrades for just about every serious headphone on the shelf.

The Total BitHead comes with a built-in USB port which makes it a perfect computer soundcard replacement. It should be noted, however, that the BitHead uses a 16bit D/A converter. The unit comes with velcro pads to affix an iPod or another MP3 player onto it, but quite frankly it is the USB input that makes this gadget interesting. Not an analogue line-in.

Cambridge Audio DacMagic

DacMagic The Cambridge Audio DacMagic has existed for a couple of years but has now had a sort of re-debut at CEDIA in Denver. The new version kicks some serious situpon [you cannot imagine how thrilled I am to use that word] with not only three digital inputs [one of which is USB] and a digital out; but balanced outputs and full 24bit/192KHz resolution from two Wolfson DACs upscaled from a number of resolutions up to 24bit/96KHz. A nifty little device.

McIntosh MCD500

MCD500 It’s been a year since McIntosh introduced their larger than life [literally] music server MS750 with specs that would boggle anyone’s mind and rich with novel ideas. On such novelty was the ability to stream an analogue source through a high end A/D converter. Now McIntosh shows off again releasing a new SACD player, not really belonging on this blog. One cool things about the MCD500 that brings it in accord of this blog, however, is a number of digital inputs that allow you to use the McIntosh’s 24bit/192KHz quad balanced DAC for other digital devices. With an attenuated output, balanced from 0-6V or unbalanced from 0-12V, it is even perfectly capable of driving an end stage. In other words a pre-amplifier with a built-in DAC. The SACD transport simply thrown in free of charge for good measure. What else could you ask for? The money you save [there’s an oxymoron for you] can be well invested in a pretty wood cabinet that muffles the trademark McIntosh smack-dab-in-your-face exterior.

Firestone Audio Fubar II USB & Spitfire DACs

Spitfire The Firestone Audio line of products is a refreshing attack on the design style of Hi-Fi equipment – not unlike the world of downhill mountain biking [the world is split into four distinct elements: peat, dirt, sight and sound]. Within the scope of this blog, two Firestone Audio products are particularly interesting: The Firestone Audio Fubar II USB DAC and the Firestone Audio Spitfire DAC. The former comes in a choice of bright red or grey and the latter just in grey.

Fubar II The Fubar II is particularly useful as an external sound card for a PC, sporting a direct USB input as well as Toslink and coaxial inputs, all for a 16bit/48KHz conversion. Big brother Spitfire does not have a USB port but does offer a highly relieving bandaid in the form of a maximum resolution of 24bit/96KHz sampling rate. That makes the Spitfire a brilliant part of a chain starting with 2L’s hiRes Flac downloads.

Incidentally, there is also a Fubar III which has a built-in headphone amplifier.

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