For $1495 Wired4Sound’s M-INT delivers 100 watts per channel and has a DAC built around the 192.24 bit ESS Sabre chip. It uses the same asynchronous USB technology as W4S’s wonderful DAC-2, and is housed in a ½-width case.
Red Wine Audio’s Audez’e Edition DAC and headphone amplifier ($3950–$4900) was designed specifically to drive the Audez’e LCD-2 and LCD-3 planar headphones. With two unique digital converters on one board, you can change from 192/24 to 44.1 non-oversampling with the flip of a switch.
With a redesigned user interface, greater graphic and sonic flexibility, and changes “under the hood,” the Amarra 2.3 promises to be better-sounding than earlier versions. Amarra also unveiled a new bundling program with several manufacturers, including Bel Canto. With the purchase of a DAC the customer also gets a free copy of Amarra with 96/24 capabilities.
Woo Audio went all out for this year’s Can Jam. Not only did it unveil a new $1099 WTP-1 CD transport and new $1099 WDS-1 D/A, but also $10,000 single-ended monoblock tube amplifiers. The WDS-1 DAC uses the PCM 1795 chip set, claims 115dB S/N, and supports 192/24 through its USB and S/PDIF inputs.
Write it; don’t say it. Schiit Audio showed its latest Mike Moffat-designed DAC, the $349 base-price Bifrost. It is unique due to its fully upgradeable design. For an extra $100 you can buy a user-installable USB input card that can be easily replaced when a newer implementation comes along. Even the main DAC processor board can be replaced when it gets long of tooth. Completely built in the USA with 192/24 capabilities and USB 2.0 compatibility, the Schiit Bifrost represents a super-value.
My vote goes to the EMM/Kimber room on the lobby level. The combination of great source material from Ray Kimber’s Iso-Mike recordings, careful setup and implementation using Ed Meitner digital products and Pass Labs electronics, and well-controlled room acoustics made this the room that achieved the closest sound to live music.
This was tough. Best overall sound was a dead heat between Synergistic Research’s room 8030 with the YG Kipod II Signature speakers and Empirical Audio’s Iris room with the YG Kipod II Signature speakers.
Synergistic’s room included its new active FireWire 800 cable, “The Music Cable” DAC/cable all-in-one solution, SR’s Element Copper/Tungsten interconnect cable, Element copper/tungsten/silver speaker cables, PowerCell 10 SE Mk II AC device, and Enigma Mk II valve PowerCell AC device, Mach2 Music server, Esoteric C-03 Preamp, and full SR ART room treatment system.
The Empirical Audio system included the Empirical Audio Overdrive Ultra DAC, Balanced Power Technologies BPT CPC power conditioner, BPT PC-12NT and PC-9LNT power cords, BPT IC-SLT interconnects, BPT SC-6 signature PLUS speaker cables, GIK tri traps, Art Panels, and Q7D diffuser, and a Mach2 Music server.
Again GR Research gets my vote. Its room featured the new GR-Research Super-V with granite finish, Dodd Audio Next Generation Battery Preamp, dB Audio Labs Next Generation 32-bit/192kHz Tranquility DAC, dB Audio Labs DAC Lithium ion battery supply, PI Audio Group UberBUSS, PI Audio Group BatteryBUSS, PI Audio Group ABB-2 Diffusers, PI Audio Group Room Treatments, PI Audio Group Mr. T Diffusers, Atomic Audio Manhattan Project Battery System, PI Audio Group Power Cables, Electra Speaker Cables, dB Audio Labs Next Generation bi-wire USB Cable, and again, a Mach2 Music server.
The Schitt BiFrost DAC with fully upgradeable/replaceable USB and DAC boards wins this category hands down. It’s the first budget USB DAC that won’t be obsolete in less than a year. For $349 w/o a USB card and $449 with, it makes you wonder why other manufacturers don’t offer obsolescence–proof DACs.