AudioControl Rialto 400 Amplifier/DAC Page 2

Once connections are made, and you’re satisfied with the levels on the input gains and AccuBASS, you will likely never touch the Rialto again. It’s pretty much a set-it-and-forget-it affair. Keep in mind, though, that the total lack of any front panel volume control may be an issue depending on the source you connect. The Sonos Connect I used offered full variable control via the Sonos app, as did my iPhone 5. However, when connecting to a couple of televisions, the audio output was fixed and played at the Rialto’s max level. Many TVs and cable boxes have a "variable output" option for their audio output, however, so if you experience this, check the settings menus.

I started by listening to some Rhapsody music streamed from my iPhone. Even with the questionable analog headphone output and compressed content, the Rialto produced music that sounded rich and full of life. I’ve been really digging Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s “Love Has Come for You,” and the Rialto delivered the ethereal airiness of Brickell’s vocals and the twang and pluck of Martin’s banjo playing.

From there, I moved to my Sonos system and listened to a variety of locally stored and streamed content. Michael Hedges “Rickover’s Dream” from Aerial Boundaries is a dynamic track, and the Rialto delivered on Hedges’ superfast attack on the guitar strings while preserving the ambience and depth of the recording.

The Rialto's AccuBASS feature is designed to help bring out more depth and detail to the bottom end, restoring some richness to compressed files, and it definitely did the trick. I used a variety of content to dial in the AccuBASS for the best sound. The Crystal Method’s “High Roller” from Vegas was the perfect litmus as it let me dial in the setting to get the right amount of depth and fullness on the bottom end, but also let me know when I had gone too far by producing too much boom and bloat. AccuBASS can definitely be overused, but with smaller speakers and compressed audio, judicious use definitely improved the sound. I tested the automatic input switching between the Sonos and my iPhone, and the switchover occurs nearly instantaneously once the preferred input begins playing.

The tongue-in-cheek user’s manual—with homage to AudioControl's Pacific Northwest roots—cautions that the Rialto “will often be warm to the touch—similar to the touch of a hot cup of double shot vanilla latte in a ceramic mug from one of Seattle’s 9,368 coffee shops!” And it isn’t lying; after playing for several hours, the Rialto was indeed quite warm. It should definitely not be installed in a closed, unventilated space or have any other gear placed on or under it.

Bottom Line
The Rialto 400 definitely succeeds at what it was designed to do; it provides a terrific amplifier and DAC solution in a small package. Also, unlike so many audio products these days, the Rialto is engineered and assembled in the USA and carries a five-year warranty. For the space challenged audiophile, the Rialto 400 makes a convincing case.

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