Featured A/V Processor Reviews
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The Emotiva UMC-200 A/V processor offers benchmark performance. For under $600, you get all of the latest HD audio format support, an analog audio path for purists and fast HDMI switching.
With a $549 price tag, the Outlaw Audio Model 975 is practically an impulse buy. If the unit works as well as it looks on paper, it could be the entry-level processor for the masses.
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What if you could fit an entire high resolution DAC into a USB thumb drive? That's what M2Tech's hiFace DAC promises and delivers. This DAC redefines compact. It's just 8.8" deep by 1.4" high and 2" wide (basically, the size of a USB stick). The hiFace DAC was designed to deliver hi-end equipment performance to budget-conscious audiophiles. And M2Tech claims to do it without compromising audio quality. The hiFace DAC costs $295, but with this little DAC you can turn your laptop, Mac Mini or even an iPad into a hi-end music file source—and you can do so for about the price of an overpriced active HDMI or premium speaker cable.
It's hard to judge the JBL Synthesis by other systems. With no mention of 4K (or any other upconversion), multiple zones, the newer height/width channels, room correction, analogue video inputs, streaming (though it does have an Ethernet port), Apple or Android compatibility, multiple subwoofer support, and much, much more, it would easy to dismiss the JBL Synthesis as overpriced and under-featured. But the Synthesis line is aimed at a different type of consumer. These consumers are likely to have separate boxes that do their upconversion and scaling, boxes that stream, boxes that do room correction and split out the LFE to multiple subs, and much more. Plus, the JBL Synthesis products are sold as a solution—not as individual units.
Emotiva XSP-1 Preamp Review
— April 29, 2013 12:43
The Emotiva XSP-1 brought something new to the world of stereo preamps this year. It's a fully differential balanced stereo preamp. To our knowledge, this is the only product like it in the market at this price point. In fact, there are preamps in the $3-$5000 price range that aren't nearly this sophisticated. Fully differential means that the preamp literally has a separate analogue circuit for the positive and negative connections from the balanced XLR inputs to the XLR outputs. Differential circuits offer a big advantage in that they greatly reduce both noise and distortion.
I'm always on the lookout for a good quality and feature-rich USB DAC. It's an important device if you plan to use external speakers for your laptop of desktop computer. It's a total bonus if the DAC includes a nice headphone amp and the ability to handle both outputs as needed. Today, Meridian released its Explorer USB DAC. It's basically a pocket-sized high-resolution USB DAC that the company built to deliver the best possible audio from a PC. Since this USB DAC has analogue outputs for both headphones and stereo analogue audio, the Explorer can be used in a variety of applications from private headphone listening to full system playback.
Cary Audio is a well-known name in the high-end audio industry, but fewer people have heard of their direct to consumer brand, Audio Electronics. The goal of Audio Electronics is to provide similar quality as the main Cary Audio brand, but at a lower price point (and with way more interesting product names). This is partially done by selling direct to consumers, allowing them to cut out the middle-man. At CES they displayed their Constellation Preamplifier, Hercules Amplifier, Nighthawk Headphone Amplifier, and Lightning DAC (we said the product names were cool). Although each of these products costs less than a Cary Audio counterpart would, they are certainly not cheap. The least expensive product offering in the line is $1,195 for the Nighthawk Headphone Amplifier. Still, we like seeing an internet direct brand that can stand firm on the reputation of its parent company. We think that Audio Electronics has a bright future ahead of itself in the high-end two-channel industry.
Cary Audio partnered with Tannoy at CES to show off three new products, the DAC-100, DAC-100t, and DMC-600. The DAC-100 (solid state audio buffer) and DAC-100t (vacuum tube audio buffer) are high-end digital to analog converters targeted at the two-channel enthusiast. Both products feature asynchronous USB inputs (24 bit/192kHz for both Mac and PC), an XMOS USB processor, and Wolfson digital receiver. The DMC-600 Digital Music Center allows audiophiles to enjoy their digital music collection without having to worry about sacrificing quality. It features USB, coax, optical, and Bluetooth connectivity and has a built-in CD transport. It looks like Cary Audio is poised to offer the high-end two channel crowd a number of options for getting their digital content converted to analog and passed onto a preamp.
Bryston had a huge array of products on display at CES this year but of particular interest to us were the new BDP-2, BDA-2, and BP17 because this was the first time they were on display at a trade show. Each product is aimed at the two-channel stereo enthusiast who demands ultimate performance and has the pocketbook to actually afford said performance. The BDP-2 allows consumers to access their entire digital music library and the BDA-2 offers the perfect companion DAC. Throw in the BP17 preamp for balance, input switching, and volume control and you have a serious two-channel setup that just needs an amp and a pair of speakers to be complete.
Pass Laboratories introduced the Xs Preamplifier, new flagship of its preamplifier line, at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show yesterday. The Xs Preamp is entirely new and designed to complement the ultimate performance standards of Pass Labs’ Xs-300 and Xs-150 Amplifiers. It is being showcased in performance with Sony’s flagship SS-AR1 Loudspeakers. The Xs Preamp is said to open up the soundstage, delivers a greater sense of space and layering, and provides a clearer window into the performance of reproduced music. An extra large, high-definition display addresses listeners’ desire to know a music system’s status even from across a brightly lit room. The 20-character display is easy to read and dimmable. We heard the Xs preamp & power amp system powering the new Sony SS-AR1 speakers and all we could say was "awesome"! Availability and pricing for the Xs Preamplifier are still to be determined.
Balanced Music Concept (B.M.C.) Audio introduced the PureDAC Digital-to-Analog Converter, with a build-in headphone amplifier. The PureDAC is the first entry in a new PureLine Series of components that will be more affordable than B.M.C.’s Reference-level models. Additional products in the PureSeries line will include the PurePhono Preamplifier, which is compatible with both moving magnet and moving coil type cartridges, and the PureMono Amplifier, with B.M.C.’s exclusive Current Injection technology.