Audioengine D1 DAC/ Headphone Amp (Playback 54)

Digital-to-analog converters,
Headphone amps and amp/DACs
Audioengine D1

Both through headphones and line level outputs, the Audioengine D1s overall resolving abilities were also worthy of special note. While not unkind to 320 kbps MP3 music files, with 44.1/16 bit and higher rez files the Audioengine D1 gets right down to the inner workings of the music. On the GoGo’s rendition of “The Cool Jerk” off the band's Greatest Hits CD [A&M] each drum hit and vocal part has its own phase-shifted reverb trail. The D1 keeps all this low level stuff from homogenizing together.


On the Grateful Dead’s Aoxomoxoa album [Rhino] there’s a tune, “Doin' That Rag,” that includes one of the more bizarre spatial effects I’ve ever heard. At 00:14 Jerry Garcia’s disembodied voice comes floating out from WAY outside the right side and slightly BEHIND the listener’s head. The first time I heard it I had to call in my wife, Suzanne, to sit down and listen, to find out, without telling her what to expect, if she heard the same thing, to make sure I wasn’t suffering from aural hallucinations. I’m sure it’s a phase trick, but with better DACs Jerry’s vocals seem to come simultaneously from three spots: left of center in the mix, outside the right-hand speaker and, most disconcertingly, from a location just outside your right ear. The Audioengine D1 does this eerie aural slight-of-hand trick as well as any of my reference DACs, including the Eximus DP1 tethered to the Empirical Audio Off-Ramp 4.

On my own, far more conventionally done, live concert recordings, the Audioengine D1 delivered enough information to keep me fully involved, yet confident enough to make critical judgments about mic placement. Listening to my recordings of The Deadly Gentlemen through the same Ultimate Ears Reference In-ear Monitors I used when I

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