The Transporter’s analog stage is exceedingly quiet. Even at maximum output, which is how I listened to it most of the time, I detected no hiss or hum even when I pressed my ear close to the speaker driver.
The Transporter’s resolution abilities were excellent, easily matching that of my reference Bel Canto DAC-3. Lateral imaging was especially precise, and depth was certainly on a par with other solid-state DACs I’ve heard recently. However the Transporter’s depth recreation wasn’t quite as fleshed out as that of the tube-output Wavelength Brick USB DAC, whose circuit manages to add three-dimensionality to even the flattest commercial digital recordings.
Although I wouldn’t characterize the Transporter’s overall harmonic balance as harsh or bright, it does have a slightly more mechanical presentation than the Bel Canto DAC-3 on coaxial and TosLink digital sources. The Transporter’s overall rendition was more left-brained and matter-of-fact, emphasizing the details without drawing the listener into the music as completely as the Bel Canto. Both produced excellent bass fundamentals, but at higher output levels the Bel Canto’s more robust active output stage seemed to generate more visceral low bass and dynamic contrasts.
When I compared the Transporter to the Meridian 568.2/518 combo, I noticed the Transporter’s more open and extended top end. Every musical selection had additional air and extra shimmer on flutes, cymbals, and even female vocals. Although the Meridian combo was more musical primarily due to its richer midrange, it was also harmonically warmer and darker and rhythmically slower. Think fudge compared to white chocolate.
On my own 96/24 music files taken from live concert recordings made on a Marantz PMD-671 recorder the Transporter sonically outdistanced every other source in my system by a substantial margin. As Gordon Holt often told me, “Software always trumps hardware.” Being able to play higher-resolution music files catapults the Transporter to the top of the wireless music server (and DAC) heap. Even the Bel Canto DAC-3 sounded inferior when it played the same recordings down-sampled to 44.1kHz. Through the Transporter the higher-resolution versions of the same music had more life, better micro-dynamics, and greater dimensionality.
The Transporter strikes me as a versatile product whose flexibility may be its best and worst trait. Since it can be used in more than one way—as a music server, DAC, or stand-alone digital preamp, many users may employ it in a way that prevents it from sounding its best. Although the Transporter has a volume control that allows it to be used as a stand-alone digital preamp, this digital volume control can and will decrease the Transporter’s fidelity if it’s used for more than 10dB of attenuation. Audiophiles who want to extract maximum performance from a Transporter should use it in conjunction with an analog preamp to control its output levels. Although you can use a Transporter as a stand-alone digital preamp, that doesn’t mean you should.
I think the ideal prospective owner of a Transporter would be someone who’s been using a $4k-to-$5k DAC that he purchased five or more years ago, and who is ready for a step up in both fidelity and ergonomic flexibility. Combined with a Music Vault II the Transporter can form an ergonomically elegant portal into the world of digital music. The Transporter can handle all your legacy digital sources, give you access to Internet music and radio, perform as a wireless music server, and let you enjoy higher-definition 96kHz/24-bit music files. It is the only high-end two-channel DAC that can do so much for so little money.
If you are thinking of buying any $2000+ DAC you absolutely must consider a Transporter. It’s simply that good.
Logitech Transporter Network Music Player
Type: WiFi (802.11g) and/or Ethernet-connected D/A processor with digital-domain volume control (range-adjusted with resistor jumpers)
Digital inputs: TosLink, coaxial, BNC, AES/EBU, word-clock (BNC)
Digital outputs: TosLink, coaxial, BNC, AES/EBU
Analog outputs: One pair RCA, one pair balanced XLR
Operatingsystemssupported: Mac OS X 10.3 or later, 733MHz Pentium running Windows NT/2000/XP, Linux/BSD/Solaris/Perl 5.8.3 or later
Sample rates supported: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, and 96kHz
Audio formats supported: linear PCM, 16 or 24 bits/sample
Maximum output levels: 2V RMS, single-ended; 3V RMS, balanced
Dimensions: 17" x 3" x 12.25"
Shipping weight: 11 lbs.