CEntrance is a small audio company with roots in the pro world. Like others, they have recognized the market share gains made by Apple in consumer music software and hardware, and so they have developed several products that integrate visually with Apple devices. The DACmini CX, which we tested recently, fits nicely on top of an Apple Mac Mini, although electrically there is no reason that you couldn’t use it with any PC or Mac, laptop or desktop, as long as your computer has USB or S/PDIF outputs.
Apart from visual integration, the idea of the DACmini is straightforward: desktop computer users would often like to have a small device to A) do D/A conversion for audio files on the computer and B) power headphones. That’s what the DACmini does. It also has line outputs so that it can be used to drive powered speakers or an amp/speaker setup (though the latter somewhat defeats the goal of space-saving). Interestingly, CEntrance offers customers the option of ordering the DACmini with either fixed or variable-level line outputs; if the latter option is chosen, the DACmini can basically serve as a preamplifier to drive a power amp or active speakers.
Priced at $795, the technical features of the DACmini are impressive. The D/A input accepts up to 192kHz/24-bit signals over SPDIF and 96kHz/24-bit data over USB. A proprietary two-stage clock management system is used to clean up the digital audio data to reduce jitter before the D/A conversion. The DACmini comes with self-installing USB drivers for both the Mac and Windows environments, making initial installation a snap.