By Lee Shelly
Note: Many of the sources have already been covered in the Amplification Report. Those include the combination DAC/Amplifiers like The Codex from Ayre Acoustics, The Woo Audio WA8, The Chord Hugo and Hugo TT, Aurender Flow, Peachtree Audio, ALO Continental Dual Mono, Geek Out and Geek Pulse from LH Labs and LIO from Vinnie Rossi.
One of the most enticing new product introductions was the Yggdrasil from Schiit Audio. (OK Jason … just how much harder are you going to make these names!?!). The Yggy, for short, uses multi-bit DAC’s and a special Mike Moffat designed digital filter that I’d designed to bring the warmth back to the sterile world of digital audio. I’ve had the privilege of spending some time with Yggy and can attest to the successful achievement of that goal. We’re not talking tube-based additive warmth, we’re just talking about giving the listener the true analog sound of the recording … providing the source material has that to begin with, of course. Iggy does not support DSD … and according to Jason and Mike, it never will. They say they are proudly serving the 99.9% of available source material out there. Will that hurt Yggy’s acceptance? We’ll see.
Down the way a little bit was the AURALiC booth where they were showing their Aries wireless streaming bridge. Aries isn’t a DAC per se. Nor is it a server. It’s a bridge. It allows you to store all your digital music on a NAS server and wirelessly stream it to your DAC. It also allows you to connect a USB stick of music if you have friends over and want to listen to something they brought. They have also added support for Tidal, making this a one-stop shop for wireless music. This is all possible because of the Linux based computer under the hood. It’s based on a Quad-Core ARM A9 processor running at 1GHz, 1GB of onboard memory and 4GB internal storage. Very cool tech, to be sure.
Questyle was on-hand and demonstrating their CMA-800i DAC/Amp acting as a DAC only while driving their CMA-800R for amplification. From their website:
“CMA800i DAC section, PCM version it adopts USB Asynchronous transmission 3X Clock structure design, support 192KHz/24bit both USB and SPDIF input/SPDIF output, more important is it support True DSD format digital to analog converting. Different from current DoP (DSD over PCM) format, CMA800i drive program will send DSD source code directly to DAC section for digital to analog converting, its hardware is specially designed with DSD channel to process DSD signal in its original format ,strictly comply with standard SACD format. Same as CAS192D, CMA800i adopts Wolfson WM8741 DAC chipset with 4 levels of digital filters and power regulation. In PCM version it’s designed with IIR(MP) digital filters to eliminates pre-ring, while in True DSD version all digital filters are invalid.”
But the star of their booth was the new unreleased QP1 and QP1R Digital Audio Players (DAP). These beautiful looking devices were beta units that were not fully functional yet, but were able to be played, delivering wonderful and powerful sound to both their outboard amps and to headphones that were on hand. The design and size look to fit right in among the high-end of DAP’s, while the price slots them nicely between the Fiio and Astell & Kern offerings. Look for these this summer!
Astell & Kern
Speaking of Astell & Kern, Jimmy Moon and Owen Kwon were manning the booth and demonstrating their full line of portable players. The star of the portables was the new AK240SS. SS for Stainless Steel. This is stated to improve the sound by allowing the whole body to act as a ground.
They were also proudly showing their 500N Network Audio Player. The 500N acts as the ultimate repository for your music. You can rip CD’s to WV’s or FLAC’s and store them, as well as your audio files on the 4 bays of SSD drives. The 500N runs on battery to eliminate any chance of AC noise creeping in to your sound at the source level.
On the portable side, CEntrance was demonstrating their prototype of the iPhone 6 Hifi- Skÿn. This DAC/Amp and battery becomes part of your phone in the form of a case that reduces the need for a stack of external gear to get great sound from your iPhone. You can catch more info at their Indegogo page.
Another iPhone friendly DAC/Amp was the Oppo HA-2. This is sized VERY similarly to the iPhone6 and has a full-size USB input that allows you to use the provided ‘Lightning to USB’ cord to connect your iPhone directly to the HA-2’s DAC section. This same connection can also be used to charge the iPhone! Great sound and longer battery life … Win-Win!
The guys from Echobox were at the show with the most fun-looking product to be sure! It’s a DAP in the shape of a flask! The prototype sounded very good and they are promising that the production version will be even nicer, with a larder screen and more responsive User Interface. Look for a launch later this year!