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Stealth DC-1 DAC Build Quality and Functions

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It is clear that that Emotiva had both audiophiles and professionals in mind when they built the Stealth DC-1. The chassis is constructed out of solid steel and is hefty and inert. It is a half rack width and one unit tall for those that rack-mount such things, but it is small enough to throw in a bag for easy transport for those that take such things with them. These people are not just professions that need a high quality DAC on the go but those headphone enthusiasts that must have the best sound wherever they are.

Its exceptionally small size means you can put it in your office without taking up much space. While it is hefty for its size, it isn't so unwieldy that placement becomes a problem. From Emotiva: "The small size makes it easy to place the Stealth DC-1 in a rack, in a carry case, or even on top of a computer or console." The industrial looks may turn off the Apple crowd but I love the way it looks, it small and boxy with an easy to read blue display. Just picking up the Emotiva Stealth DC-1 conveys quality. The connections on the back are all of the highest quality and the knobs on the front feel absolutely rock solid and unbreakable (didn't test this and you can't make me). While not everyone will agree with me about the looks, I like it and I think many (especially those that have owned Emotiva gear in the past) will agree

stealth_dc_1_bags

The bag helps keep the audiophile fairies inside

The DAC

The main focus of the Emotiva Stealth DC-1 is the DAC. If it had a primary duty, it is to provide the highest quality digital to analog conversion as possible. If you ever wondered if the DACs in your system were good enough, this would give you the definitive answer.

stealth_dc_1_digital

Pictured: All the digital connections you could ever need

The Stealth DC-1 is called a "Reference-quality differential DAC" by Emotiva for a reason. The big concern with DACs is jitter. All digital music is encoded or recorded at a specific sample rate. If it is a CD, it is 44.1kHz but other high definition sources can support different sample rates. Think of the sample rate as a clock or a metronome - it tells the DAC how to decode the ones and zeros so that the music is playing at the right speed (simplified, but this is basically how it works). The extent that the DAC and the original recording or encoding are different in their timing is jitter. Low levels of jitter may be hardly noticeable. High levels can sound like a record with its hole punched off center.

Basically - Jitter is bad. Getting rid of it is good.

We can't get rid of all the jitter on our end. If the jitter was introduced at the A/D conversion point (analog to digital - i.e. when it was recorded), then there is nothing you can do. But with high quality recordings, jitter during playback can be solved.

stealth_dc_1_feet

There are only four feet on the bottom because five feet makes no sense

The Emotiva Stealth DC-1 uses "...dual independent AD1955 differential D/A converters, each operated in their highest quality internal differential monaural mode, for the lowest possible noise and distortion, followed by professional-grade LM4562 op-amps in the analog section for maximum fidelity." See, the Stealth DC-1 wasn't really designed for just the audio enthusiast. The Stealth DC-1 was designed with what we like to call the "prosumer" in mind. This is a product that will appeal to not only consumers but also the pros out there that are looking for high quality DACs for use in professional recording applications.

The Steal DC-1 has both synchronous and asynchronous sample rate converters (selectable). The difference between the two is simple - in synchronous mode, the source clock is used, in asynchronous, the Stealth DC-1 clock is used. Now, many devices claim asynchronous sample rate converters but what they really provide is asynchronous on the USB input and synchronous on everything else. The Stealth DC-1 provides asynchronous sample rate conversion on all digital inputs for the best possible jitter reduction regardless of input.

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The least polished parts of the Stealth DC-1 were stickers on the bottom label that were pulling away even before I opened the box

The Headphone Amp

The Stealth DC-1 has dual headphone outputs on the front of the unit. These are both 3.5mm ports, which is probably the only thing about the Stealth DC-1 that had me squinting my eyes in confusion. Two 3.5mm ports? Not two 1/4" ports or one of each type? Really? Hmm. Interesting choice. 

My guess after looking inside the Stealth DC-1 was the choice was made as a space-saving measure. What? Did you forget about the screwdriver? We're getting there.

stealth_dc_1_front

Just look at it! SEXY!

The Stealth DC-1 has two Muses 72320 precision volume control ICs operated in dual gain control mode. This allows you to have two different headphones with different impedances connected at the same time. The volume control adjusts in .25 dB steps from -100dB to +12dB which takes FOREVER so scroll through. With most headphones, reasonable listening volumes happened between -30dB to -25dB. The fine resolution was nice to see however.

I am the main headphone reviewer for Audioholics and have a slew of headphones to test the Emotiva Stealth DC-1 with. With no headphones did I get close to taxing this unit. While I'm sure there are some headphones that can do it but I haven't run into them yet.

Remote

stealth_dc_1_remoteEmotiva has almost always provided small(ish) rectangular remotes with their products (some exceptions of course). This one is completely different and I have to say that I mostly love it. It is non-backlit (which isn't surprising), is long and thin, and is constructed out of aluminum or steel (it is heavy). The metal is fairly smooth but the bottom is concave so that it is easy to grasp. There is no specific indentation to ensure that your hand is in the right place but it isn't too hard to figure that out (especially since you'll need the lights on to use it). As backlighting is one of my hot buttons, I'm going to give the Stealth DC-1 a pass based on where I believe its intended placement (office or studio).

The button layout isn't the most intuitive but perfectly functional. There are dedicated on and off buttons (really standby buttons as the main power switch is on the back). Oddly, the display dim button is directly below the power buttons followed by volume up, mute, volume down and the specific input buttons. This indicates to me that Emotiva thinks you'll use the power, dim, and volume control buttons the most. I disagree with one of those. I'll let you decide which.

stealth_dc_1_remote_side

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

AllanMarcus posts on April 24, 2016 11:36
Nice review. Has anyone tried it with high end headphones?
RichB posts on March 26, 2014 20:51
The Oppo HA-1 Product Page has been updated:

A notable quote:

OPPO designs the HA-1 headphone amplifier with the same universal approach as our Blu-ray players. The HA-1 is a high performance headphone amplifier, and it doubles as an asynchronous USB DAC, a stereo pre-amplifier, a digital audio dock for mobile devices, and a Bluetooth audio transport.
Its fully balanced design and numerous inputs ensure the best in fidelity and versatility.

OPPO Digital - HA-1 Headphone Amplifier

- Rich
RichB posts on March 26, 2014 20:47
Philth, post: 1025515
If that is truly a real time spectrum analyzer on that HA1, I'm going to find it hard to swallow that it will be competitive with the Stealth DC-1 on a price point. Sale or no.

Yeah, looking over the write ups, that thing is going to cost a lot more than their bluray players.

I have seen some hinted pricing but nothing to indicate that it will cost more than the Oppo BDP-105.
Time will tell.

- Rich
Philth posts on March 26, 2014 20:21
If that is truly a real time spectrum analyzer on that HA1, I'm going to find it hard to swallow that it will be competitive with the Stealth DC-1 on a price point. Sale or no.

Yeah, looking over the write ups, that thing is going to cost a lot more than their bluray players.
PENG posts on December 19, 2013 18:38
sharkman, post: 1005169
On the other hand, I understood the Oppo will have analog input, and handling things right in the analog domain is not cheap.

I don't expect anything from Oppo to be cheap, just good value for the money. I do expect it to be priced below the BDP-105, okay maybe not well below but say a couple hundreds less would be nice. The 105 has full blown universal disc and USB player, 7.1 analog out, top notch video processing, network streaming, the same ESS DAC but it has two of them, one for 7.1 channel outputs.

Yes the HA1 has analog input but that shouldn't add much cost as it should simply bypass the DAC part, nothing more than that. I was actually thinking of biting the bullet and buy a second 105 for one of my two channel system until I found out about the HA1. Not because I think the HA1 would make my system sound any better but it will not make it look stupid to include a full blown 7.1 channel universal player just to be used as a USB player/DAC/preamp.

I know this thread is about the EMO so I am going to stop talking about the HA1 now.
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