Freedom from internal noise sources: on the inside, the DACmini chassis is essentially divided left-to-right, and front-to-back, which each “quadrant” housing specific blocks of circuitry (e.g., the class A headphone module, the DAC module, the line-level preamp module, etc.) that are effectively isolated from one another.
Freedom from mechanically-induced noise: the DACmini may look Apple-playful on the outside, but it’s built like a fighter plane on the inside. The chassis walls, for example, are surprisingly thick and fitted with tongue-and-groove panel connection. In the center of the chassis, and running from left-to-right, is a massive vibration control/noise suppression “fence.” The apparent front plate of the chassis is backed by a second, even thicker plate (offset from the outer plate by a few millimeters) that is designed to minimize internal vibration and to act as a “roll cage” of sorts should the DACmini (heaven forbid) ever fall faceplate first on the floor.
Freedom from jitter: the DACmini uses one of the crown jewels in the CEntrance technology arsenal--a two-stage jitter-reduction circuit that yields, says Goodman, jitter levels so low that they are virtually immeasurable, plus clocking so precise that it is specified to be accurate to within 10 parts per million.
Audiophile grade analog circuits: very low noise, pure class A designs throughout.
Home-grown device drivers: CEntrance doesn’t buy other people’s drivers; it writes its own (as well as those used by many, many other manufacturers, by the way). As an added bonus, the DACmini comes with authorization for a free download of CEntrance’s cool UD (universal driver) ASIO driver, which the company provides for users whose music software programs will allow use of an ASIO driver. Cool, no?
One more point not specifically addressed by Goodman’s white paper is that the DACmini is flexible. If you visit the CEntrance DACmini homepage, you’ll discover a small button marked “Mods”. What unfolds is a surprisingly extensive and very carefully explained list of customization options you can specify for a DACmini if you so desire—a very thoughtful and forward-looking touch.
So how does it sound? I'm still very much in the "getting to know you" phase of things, but already the DAC sections of the DACmini sounds superb (I've been listening to it through the remarkably revealing Cavalli Audio Liquid Fire headphone amp). I won't get ahead of myself by trying to characterize the sound of the DACmini in detail on the basis of not yet enough data, but I will say my first impression is that the sound of the DACmini is reminiscent to that of certain great pieces of Pass Labs equipment. Take this to mean that--again, on the basis of a first listen--the DACmini DAC section produces a highly detailed sound presented against an extremely quiet background, while also managing to sound natural, hearty, and reasonably "organic."
For me, at least, the jury is still out on the headphone amplifier section, largely because the DACmini in its standard configuration simply does not have adequate gain to drive my preferred reference headphones (the HiFiMAN HE-6’s); but note, there is an available CEntrance gain mod that (I think) would address that problem. So, I’ll likely use either a set of Sennheiser HD800’s or perhaps the new (and somewhat easier to drive) HiFiMAN HE-500’s to evaluate the headphone amp further.
Stay tuned for the coming Playback review. This is going to be a good one (the product, I mean, though we’ll of course do our best with the review, too).