PS Audio Sprout Performance Features Value Teac AI-301DA Performance Features Value PRICE PS Audio: $799/TEAC: $549 AT A GLANCE: PS Audio Plus Phono input Line input and output Warm, engaging sound Minus No remote control No direct DSD decoding AT A GLANCE: Teac Plus Six source inputs Dedicated sub output Remote control Dynamic and transparent Minus No stereo line out THE VERDICT These compact, versatile, and affordable combos will drive good bookshelf speakers or headphones to audiophile heights, each with its own sense of style. It&rsquo;s certainly a thing. It may be a trend. Or possibly even a wave&mdash;a new-wave, high-res groundswell sweeping over the nation&rsquo;s small but growing (we hope!) cadre of youthful audio fans. I&rsquo;m talking about ultra-compact integrated-amplifier/digital-to-analog converters: &ldquo;ampDACs,&rdquo; I&rsquo;m calling them. The newly evolved species combines a two-channel integrated amplifier (usually of modest power), a headphone output (usually), and high-resolution audio digital-to-analog conversion, all engineered to meet audiophile expectations of quality, and all packaged into a single, paperback-sized unit conceived for versatility. (Most models, including the two under review here, add today&rsquo;s ubiquitous Bluetooth wireless capability.)
After becoming music director of the Minnesota Orchestra in 2003 Osmo Vänskä began recording an excellent multi-channel SACD set of Beethoven symphonies with his new group. The Finnish conductor has since returned to the work of his countryman Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), recording this multi-channel SACD of the composer's most popular symphonies, Nos. 2 &amp; 5.
Most headphone amps aren’t made for the way we use headphones. Even many small models are too big to slip comfortably into a pocket. And most require power from an AC wall wart or a USB port. What use is that when you’re stuck in seat 34B of a Boeing 757, miles above Enid, Oklahoma, struggling to get better sound from your smartphone?