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Recently Reviewed A/V Processors

M2Tech hiFace USB DAC Preview

M2Tech hiFace USB DAC Preview

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.

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" wide.

— May 17, 2013 00:00 in AV Preamp and Processor Reviews

JBL Synthesis SDP-45 Surround Processor Preview

JBL Synthesis SDP-45 Surround Processor Preview

It's hard to judge the JBL Synthesis SDP-45 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 SDP-45 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.

It would easy to dismiss the JBL Synthesis SDP-45 as overpriced and under-featured. But the Synthesis line is aimed at a different consumer. If you have to ask the price, the SDP-45 isn't for you.

— March 12, 2013 04:40 in AV Preamp and Processor Reviews

Emotiva XSP-1 Preamp Review

Emotiva XSP-1 Preamp Review

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.

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.

— February 13, 2013 08:30 in AV Preamp and Processor Reviews

Meridian Explorer USB DAC Preview

Meridian Explorer USB DAC Preview

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.

A good quality and feature-rich USB DAC is an important device if you plan to use external speakers for your Mac, Windows PC or Linux laptop of desktop computer. Enter the Meridian Explorer USB DAC.

— February 11, 2013 23:00 in AV Preamp and Processor Reviews

Audio Electronics Debuts Four New Products at CES

Audio Electronics Debuts Four New Products at CES

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 is a well-known name in the high-end audio industry, but fewer people have heard of their direct to consumer brand, Audio Electronics. They showed off four new products at CES 2013.

— January 17, 2013 05:15 in AV Preamp and Processor Reviews

Cary Audio DAC-100t and DMC-600 Digital Music Center Preview

Cary Audio DAC-100t and DMC-600 Digital Music Center Preview

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.

Cary Audio partnered with Tannoy at CES to show off three new products, the DAC-100, DAC-100t, and DMC-600. Each are targeted at the two-channel enthusiast who has also embraced the digital world.

— January 16, 2013 06:10 in AV Preamp and Processor Reviews

Bryston BDP-2 Digital Music Player, BDA-2 DAC, and BP17 Preamp Preview

Bryston BDP-2 Digital Music Player, BDA-2 DAC, and BP17 Preamp Preview

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.

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.

— January 14, 2013 11:30 in AV Preamp and Processor Reviews

Pass Labs Xs Preamp Preview

Pass Labs Xs Preamp Preview

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.

Pass Labs introduced their new Xs Preamp at CES yesterday. The Xs Preamp is entirely new and designed to complement the ultimate performance standards of Pass Labs’ Xs-300 and Xs-150 Amplifiers.

— January 09, 2013 12:50 in AV Preamp and Processor Reviews

B.M.C. Audio PureDAC Digital-to-Analog Converter Preview

B.M.C. Audio PureDAC Digital-to-Analog Converter Preview

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.

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.

— January 08, 2013 09:35 in AV Preamp and Processor Reviews

Emotiva UMC-200 AV Preamp / Processor Review

Emotiva UMC-200 AV Preamp / Processor Review

The Emotiva UMC-200 offers benchmark performance in virtually every category. For under $600 you get an A/V processor that supports all of the latest HD audio formats and sampling rates, a true analog audio path for purists, and fast HDMI switching. It’s easy enough to setup and operate without the need of referencing a user manual which is a big plus in my book. The real surprise of the UMC-200 was its fabulous analog preamp section. Plugged directly into a high quality DAC, you’ve got yourself a preamp that will rival any mid priced A/V receiver and give most dedicated analog preamps a run for their money. If you’re looking to break into the separates market at receiver level pricing, I can’t think of a better solution than the Emotiva UMC-200. Highly recommended!

Review: The Emotiva UMC-200 AV preamp/processor offers benchmark performance. For under $600, you get the latest HD audio format support, analog audio path for purists and fast HDMI switching.

— January 03, 2013 10:30 in AV Preamp and Processor Reviews

Emotiva XDA-2 DAC/Digital Preamp/Headphone Amp Preview

Emotiva XDA-2 DAC/Digital Preamp/Headphone Amp Preview

As at home in an office as it would be in a two-channel listening room, the Emotiva XDA-2 has just about everything you'd want out of a digital preamp. Integrating high quality components, support for 24-bit/192kHz files, balanced design with an immunity to jitter , and a high-current headphone amp, the XDA-2 can be just about anything you need. While it doesn't support analogue inputs, it doesn't pretend to. Instead, this is an audiophile device for the digital age. We're betting this will be a popular present this Christmas. At least it would be welcome under our tree.

As at home in an office as it would be in a two-channel listening room, the Emotiva XDA-2 has just about everything you'd want out of a digital preamp. At $350, it should make a popular X-mas gift.

— December 11, 2012 22:00 in AV Preamp and Processor Reviews

Marantz Flagship AV8801 A/V Preamp & MM8077 Amp Preview

Marantz Flagship AV8801 A/V Preamp & MM8077 Amp Preview

Marantz is rounding out their preamp and amp lineup with the release of two new flagship products, the AV8801 preamp and MM8077 amp. The AV8801 is an 11.2ch preamp with a full arsenal of inputs/outputs, network features, multiple HDMI outputs (independent), and top-notch Audyssey MultEQ XT32 and Sub EQ HT. The MM8077 is a 150wpc amp that that was designed to match the performance of the AV8801 tit-for-tat.

Marantz is beefing up their lineup with the release of two new flagship products, the AV8801 11.2ch preamp and MM8077 7ch amp.

— December 07, 2012 06:30 in AV Preamp and Processor Reviews

Emotiva UMC-200 7.1 Surround Sound Processor Preview

Emotiva UMC-200 7.1 Surround Sound Processor Preview

The obvious question is: What do you need in a processor? If you are looking for automatic room correction with tons of user control with a focus on high-quality audio, the Emotiva UMC-200 will be for you. But if you need legacy video inputs, you're going to want to look elsewhere. With a $699 list price but a $599 street price (since it is sold direct, we doubt the $699 price will ever be seen), the price is certainly right. Multizone support and HDMI overlay OSD makes the UMC-200 not only competitive with other budget processors, but some with vastly greater price tags.

If you are looking for automatic room correction with tons of user control with a focus on high-quality audio, the $599 Emotiva UMC-200 will be for you.

— November 21, 2012 05:15 in AV Preamp and Processor Reviews

Outlaw Audio Model 975 Processor Preview

Outlaw Audio Model 975 Processor Preview

The Outlaw Audio Model 975 is a targeted processor. While it might float a bit off the target to be aimed squarely at legacy gear owners, it certainly hits squarely at those on a budget. With a $549 price tag and a number of ways to cut that cost on the Outlaw Audio website, the Model 975 is practically an impulse buy. If the manual is as good as it looks, and the unit works as well as it looks on paper, it could be the entry-level processor for the masses. We know that we'll be putting it high on our recommended list for Audioholics-in-training. It would also make a great solution for those with extra amps lying around that want a decent second (or third or fourth) system.

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.

— November 20, 2012 05:00 in AV Preamp and Processor Reviews