Art Pepper’s Intensity [OJC] is one of this legendary alto sax player’s finest albums and it comes with the bonus of the amazing sound Contemporary Records would regularly deliver back in the early 1960s. On the track “Too Close For Comfort” the way Pepper’s sax soars from a subtle whisper to an in-your-face blast was quite startling through the ADL using the Ultimate Ears. Yet at the same time the air and space around Frank Butler’s drums, and the tunefulness of Jimmy Bond’s upright bass was never overwhelmed by the sax. The B&W P5s in particular loved this track through the ADL, bringing out the smoothness in Pepper’s tone, without dulling the bite of the top notes in his range.
Led Zeppelin’s Houses Of The Holy [Atlantic] is probably their most densely woven recording, reflecting the experimentation they brought to the recording process by using a lot of natural acoustic spaces. On The Ocean there’s a lot to sort out, but the ADL amp did a good job of helping me to unravel the layers. The acoustic space around John Bonham’s drum kit was clear and distinct from those surrounding the guitar and vocal tracks, and the famous ringing telephone during the guitar solo was easy to pick out. That’s pretty impressive for a little portable headphone amp.
With the Cruise and Stride, Alpha Design Labs/Furutech has managed yet again to deliver a product that punches well above its weight class. With its excellent built in USB DAC, it can also do double duty as a home/desktop DAC/headphone amplifier, although its connectivity really makes it more of a road machine. It biggest strength is how it somehow manages to get the best from whatever headphones you use, exploiting their strengths while minimizing any weaknesses. A superb all rounder.
Consider this Amp/DAC if:
• You want a portable amp that also works well at home.
• You want to get the best from your computer-based files while on the road.
• You want a portable rig that can go for the long haul on a single charge.
Look further if:
• You are sensitive to a subtle low level hiss and use in-ear monitors.
• You require a DAC capable of 192/24.
• You want something super slim that can disappear into your pocket.
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced DACs/headphone amps):
• Design & Features: 7
• Tonal Balance: 9
• Timbral Purity: 8
• Detail & Resolution: 9
• Imaging/Soundstaging: 8
• Dynamics: 10
• Value: 6 (Cruise) 8 (Stride)
Once again, Furutech’s Alpha Design Labs shows us that they really know how to make a versatile product that covers a lot of potential uses. The Cruise and Stride are two essentially identical amp/DACs, only one’s dressed in casual clothes while the other is wearing a tuxedo. Personally, I would get the Stride and use the price difference to buy more music, but I understand how looking cool is critical to some. Either way, you get a fantastic tool for extracting the most from your tunes while on the road, that continues to perform when you’re kicking back at home.
Alpha Design Labs by Furutech Cruise and Stride portable DAC/headphone amps
Inputs: USB (mini B type); analog 3.5mm mini-jack
Outputs: One headphone output via 3.5mm mini-jack
D/A converter: Wolfson WM8716
USB controller: Tenor TE7022L
Output power: 78mW (12 ohm), 94mW (16 ohm), 110mW (32 ohm), 98.6mW (56 ohm), 23mW (300 ohm), and 16mW (600 ohm).
Power source: USB 5V, included AC power supply, internal battery
Signal to Noise Ratio: 100db (A-Weighted - line in) 96db (A-Weighted - USB)
THD: 0.02% (Line Input 1KHz)
Channel separation: 60db (I kHz)
Frequency response: 20Hz - 20KHz +/- 0.5db
Input bit depth: up to 24 bits
Input data rate: up to 96KS/s (USB)
Dimensions (H x W x D): 1.1” x 4.73” x 2.56”
Weight: 7.0 oz./198g (Cruise); 6.7oz./190g (Stride)
Included accessories: USB cable, 3ft; A/C Power Supply; Setup Guide; Microfiber carrying pouch
Warranty: One Year
Price: $540 (Cruise); $395 (Stride)