Headphone Amp/DAC Reviews

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Daniel Kumin  |  Jul 10, 2015  |  0 comments

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’s certainly a thing. It may be a trend. Or possibly even a wave—a new-wave, high-res groundswell sweeping over the nation’s small but growing (we hope!) cadre of youthful audio fans.

I’m talking about ultra-compact integrated-amplifier/digital-to-analog converters: “ampDACs,” I’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’s ubiquitous Bluetooth wireless capability.)

Al Griffin  |  Oct 11, 2018  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive power from compact box
Built-in phono stage
Subwoofer output
Minus
Slightly forward sound on some tracks

THE VERDICT
PS Audio’s new Sprout 100 is a worthy option for anyone seeking a compact integrated amplifier/DAC that also handles vinyl playback.

The original PS Audio Sprout integrated amplifier/DAC was noted as being part of a new trend of ultra-compact ampDACs when Sound & Vision reviewed it back in 2015. We’ve since tested similar models from Elac and Teac, though it was the Sprout that most grabbed our attention due to its moving magnet phono stage—a feature those other models happen to lack.

Ken C. Pohlmann  |  Dec 14, 2010  |  0 comments

What is there left to say about iPods and iPhones that hasn't already been said? These are truly iconic products that exemplify what modern music listening is all about. If the compact disc launched digital audio, then the iPod raised the sails and navigated that boat to every faraway place in the world.

Michael Berk  |  Jun 02, 2011  |  0 comments

OK...I'll get this out of the way upfront. Despite the great reviews it's received, before I'd actually encountered it in person I was suspicious of the rCube. Arcam's a company I know and trust, they build a fantasic line of products (including some impressive all-in-one systems), and they know their wireless and DAC design.

Al Griffin  |  Apr 05, 2013  |  0 comments

I've had a DragonFly revolving in and out of my desktop setup ever since I first checked one out for S&V's 2012 Holiday Gift Guide, so I was already very familiar with its capabilities.

Al Griffin  |  Apr 04, 2013  |  0 comments

When Audioquest released its DragonFly USB Digital-Audio Converter back in 2012, the tiny USB-stick DAC quickly found a niche with audiophiles seeking to improve the sound quality of music played on their laptop computers and listened to via headphones or desktop speakers.

Brent Butterworth  |  Mar 15, 2011  |  0 comments
A product that functions imperfectly yet possesses a singular character can be as enjoyable to own as one that delivers unassailable performance. Before you argue the point, know that millions of Harley owners stand ready to back me up.
Michael Trei  |  Apr 27, 2011  |  0 comments
Michael Berk  |  Jul 19, 2012  |  0 comments

We've long been fans of CEntrance's portable USB DAC/headphone amp, the DACport; in an expanding market of bus-powered USB DACs, the venerable unit (along with its streamlined sibling, the DACport LX) remains a favorite of, and reference for, many reviewers of portable audio gear. Now they've gone ahead and put out a complete two channel system, of all things - the Audiophile Desktop System.

Geoffrey Morrison  |  Feb 13, 2012  |  0 comments

There is a way to make your music sound better. Well, OK, there are LOTS of ways to make your music sound better. If you're looking to improve your digital music, beyond new speakers, amps, and so on is a bit of technological wonder called the DAC, or Digital/Analog Converter. This is what turns your music files into something analog you can actually hear.

Receivers these days tend to have built in DACs, but just because they're there doesn't necessarily mean they're any good. A great sounding DAC can smooth out your digital audio, making it sound more natural and realistic.

Firestone Audio's tiny ILTW packs a lot into a tiny frame, for not a lot of money.

Al Griffin  |  Apr 05, 2013  |  0 comments

Housed in a billet-like slab of aluminum, the HRT microStreamer’s clean, utilitarian design tips you off right away that it means business. In this case, that biz is performing the same basic tasks as the Dragonfly, including decoding files with up to 96 kHz/24-bit resolution. And at a mere 2.5 inches, it checks in for work in a similarly compact form factor.

Michael Berk  |  Sep 17, 2012  |  0 comments

Hitachi's drive division has established a beachhead among thrift-conscious media professionals with it's G-Tech line. The long-awaited G-Connect, however, is a vastly different type of product - a portable wireless media server, meant for the iOS accessory market. It's a cool little box, packed with features.

But what, exactly, is this thing? And who is it for?

Michael Berk  |  Apr 23, 2012  |  0 comments

The dirty little secret of the iOS aftermarket accessory world (at least where audiophiles are concerned) is that Apple's various bricks and slabs actually sound fairly good out of the box. Output impedance of the headphone jack is comfortably low (around 5 ohm for iPods and iPads most cases, below 1 ohm for the iPhone 4/4s), the onboard DAC isn't a slouch - totally adequate for on-the-go, and for everyday desktop listening, you could do a lot worse.

But that might not be enough for you.

Geoffrey Morrison  |  Mar 31, 2013  |  0 comments

There is no audio company in the world more revered, feared, disputed, or discussed than Lirpa Labs.

Al Griffin  |  Apr 05, 2013  |  1 comments

[*Note: After sending me an Explorer, Meridian quietly introduced a running change into its production.

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