NuForce's Midas Touch

In a sure sign that the low-cost DAC is finding its place as an object of mass consumer desire, NuForce has released a 24-karat gold plated version of their uDAC-2 converter-and-headphone-amp combo unit, a popular entry-level choice among personal-audio enthusiasts. Aside from the finish, a single Swarovski crystal lets you keep track of your output levels; specs otherwise appear unchanged from the standard unit. The uDAC's a bit of a strange choice from NuForce's product line; the more highly regard Icon HD/HDP series might have been more sensible candidates for the fancy-dress treatment. But that depends on perceived consumer priorities, of course, and finish can certainly be a primary factor.

You'll pay a steepish premium for the bling, of course: the Signature Gold Edition goes for $399; the Icon uDAC-2 in your choice of metal finishes runs for $129 (though if you're looking to properly accessorize your old-school BMX bike, purple anodizing adds $20). Too big a price to pay to dress up your desktop system? You be the judge.