Headphone Amp/DAC Reviews

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Michael Berk  |  Sep 15, 2011  |  0 comments

Today Bose introduced the latest unit in its SoundLink line of wireless speakers, the SoundLink Wireless Mobile.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Feb 06, 2014  |  5 comments
Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $199

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Inexpensive
Compact
192-kHz capable
Minus
Potential dynamic limits
Runs warm

THE VERDICT
Though not ideal for more demanding headphones with challenging music, this is a highly affordable way to improve computer audio.

Bits are helpless prisoners trapped on the hard drive of your computer. If you plug your headphones (or desktop audio system) into the computer’s analog output, you can faintly hear their cries for help, but not the true timbre of their colorful voices. It takes a USB DAC (digital-to-analog convertor) to truly liberate them. And the good news is that USB DACs—especially those suitable for headphones—have gotten so small and unintrusive that you hardly notice their presence. A product like Cambridge Audio’s DacMagic XS is no bigger than a USB thumb drive. But the difference it can make to your computer audio listening life is very big indeed.

Brent Butterworth  |  Sep 12, 2011  |  0 comments

From an audio standpoint, the CEDIA Expo used to be little more than a showcase for in-wall speakers and other products built mainly for multiroom systems and custom home theaters. But with the decline in home sales over the last few years, the custom market isn't so hot anymore.

Michael Berk  |  Oct 25, 2011  |  0 comments

British manufacturer Monitor Audio has a deserved reputation for well-designed, high-performing speaker systems, and the latest offerings in the company's line of iOS device docks, the i-deck 100 and 200, follow in those footsteps. And now they can be yours.

Michael Berk  |  Dec 14, 2011  |  0 comments

Cable cutting. You've probably begun the process already, even if you haven't gone all the way - think about how often you turn to Netflix, or Amazon, or Hulu Plus. And despite the panicked efforts of networks and providers nationwide, when are you watching live TV, exactly, aside from sports?

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jul 02, 2014  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
HDMI input for high-res music on Blu-ray
Adjustable ’phone impedance and sampling rate
Sounds good with different ’phones
Minus
None to speak of...

THE VERDICT
Essence’s HDACC bridges the gap between Blu-ray music content and legacy audio systems with an extremely adjustable and great-sounding DAC.

The most unusual product in this roundup is the HDACC HD Audio Center from Essence Electrostatic, a company that also markets flat-diaphragm loudspeakers. Like the NAD, it qualifies as a headphone amp, DAC, and stereo preamp with TosLink, coax, and analog inputs. But its greater claim to fame is a pair of HDMI jacks, input and output, on the back panel.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Mar 22, 2018  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $199

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Handles PCM, DSD, and MQA natively
Second iEMatch output for IEMs
USB or battery powered
Minus
No analog line input

THE VERDICT
This full-featured budget amp/DAC can get the best out of most headphones, especially in the all-important presence region.

If you’re looking for a USB amp/DAC to juice your headphones, you might assume that a couple hundred bucks would buy nothing more than a stick amp, one of those compact dongles that extends straight out from your computer’s USB port. We live in the golden age of the stick amp, and I’m sure not knocking ’em. But what if the same money can buy something with a little more real estate for circuitry and the always vital power supply, offering better than 96-kilohertz/24-bit resolution, DSD, MQA, and two headphone outputs with different gains, one for demanding ’phones and one for more efficient ones (including in-ear monitors, aka IEMs)? Of course, you must read on.

Michael Berk  |  Sep 13, 2011  |  0 comments

It's curious enough to find venerable speaker companies getting into the headphone business, but the announcement today by Apple accessories specialists InCase of an all-new - and very complete - line of headphones is even more of a surprise.

Daniel Kumin  |  Oct 16, 2012  |  0 comments

When we first looked at iPhone/iPod touch remote control solutions in our September 2010 issue, the concept was novel enough that we were unabashedly gushy. There was only a bare handful of remote control apps, and the variety of angles by which they attacked, mostly success- fully, the ever-vexing problem of how to operate an A/V system without losing any marbles (and then throwing them, hard, at expensive components) was truly cool.

Michael Berk  |  Oct 04, 2011  |  0 comments

Along with a couple of other choice items - the Mode M40 noise-cancelling full-size headphones and the G-17 AirPlay dock - Klipsch has released the S4A, an Android-friendly incarnation of the popular S4 in-ear headphone.

Michael Trei  |  Dec 14, 2017  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Transfer analog sources to high-resolution digital including DSD
Phono preamp with variable EQ settings
Built-in headphone amplifier
Minus
No input for low-output moving-coil cartridges
No software-based vinyl noise reduction

THE VERDICT
The Korg DS-DAC-10R lets you move your music from LP records into state-of-the-art high-resolution PCM or DSD files, all while retaining their essential vinyl character.

Ten years ago, who would have figured that almost every major new music release would also get issued on vinyl? Every day more and more people are learning to appreciate the appeal of vinyl records, but sadly the lack of portability means that for most of us it’s a stay-at-home listening experience. That can be frustrating in a world where we’ve become so accustomed to digesting our music on the go, so lots of new vinyl records come bundled with a lossy-compressed Digital Copy as a free download. Of course, at that point you’re no longer getting the vinyl experience at all, so really, what’s the point? But, what if you could capture some of that analog goodness in a portable hi-res audio version that you can take with you, instead of those crappy MP3 files we’ve endured for so long? That’s the idea behind the DS-DAC-10R, a handy little box developed by the pro-audio mavens at Korg and distributed by Essence.

John Sciacca  |  Dec 25, 2012  |  0 comments

Remote controls can essentially be clumped into three categories: low-, middle-, and high-end. At the low end are DIY models that offer basic “all-in-one” control functions and are meant to replace lost or broken manufacturer-issued remotes. High-end models require professional programming and provide powerful automation features, IP and RS-232 control, and radio-frequency operation.

Michael Berk  |  Nov 16, 2011  |  0 comments

Over the past couple of weeks Hewlett Packard has rolled out a huge pile of new consumer products, among them a clutch of all-in-ones, touchscreen PCs and tablets, Beats-enhanced laptops, and even a curious little Wi-Fi mouse.

Al Griffin  |  Feb 14, 2014  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $249

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive sound quality for Bluetooth
Audiophile-friendly look
Pain-free setup
Minus
Pricey

THE VERDICT
It might not be high-rez or high end, but Mass Fidelity’s Bluetooth receiver is a great option for casual listening.

Bluetooth gets a bad rap in the hi-fi world, and for good reason: In contrast to other wireless audio technologies that let you stream uncompressed CD-quality audio from a PC or portable device, Bluetooth subjects the signal to lossy compression. If you’re an audiophile with a reputation to uphold, the story pretty much ends there.

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