CES 2012 Report - Steven Stone on Digital Products

Disc players,
Multi-format disc players,
Digital-to-analog converters,
Music servers and computer audio,
Headphone amps and amp/DACs
McIntosh Labs MV891


Light Harmonic’s DaVinci 384K DAC ($20,000) made a strong visual statement with its unique industrial design. Boasting a 384kHz sampling rate, three dedicated crystal oscillators, over 40 low-noise regulators, and a CNC-cut aluminum-alloy multi-layer chassis, it attempts an all-out assault on the state of the art.

Wadia expanded its line of micro-sized components with the 121 Decoding Computer ($1499). This DAC/pre utilizes Wadia’s 32-bit 1.4MHz upsampling technology, asynchronous USB, balanced and unbalanced outputs, and Wadia’s DirectConnect 32-bit volume control. The 121 supports up to 192/24 via either coax or USB 2.0 inputs.

A new name at CES, Qualia (not associated in any way with Sony) featured its Indigo USB-DAC ($45,000). With a chassis crafted out of a solid piece of billet aluminum, the Indigo uses four ESS 9012 DAC chips in parallel-monaural output mode, four power transformers encased in non-magnetic panels, and separate power supplies for the right and left channels. Currently the USB input only supports up to 96k although it is USB 2.0-compliant.

Playback Designs unveiled its MPS-3 Music Playback System ($8500). It features both balanced and single-ended analog outputs and inputs for AES/EBU, S/PDIF, and USB. Not only will it play 192/24 PCM files, but also DSD files up to 6.1MHz.

Cambridge Audio showed its new DacMagic Plus DAC ($599) in the Mirage Hotel. With twin Wolfson WM8740 24-bit DAC chips at its heart, 384/24 upsampling, and up to 192/24 via USB 2.0, asynchronous USB transfer, balanced and unbalanced analog outputs, and provisions for an optional Bluetooth input that can use Apt-X Bluetooth digital codec, this modestly priced DAC delivers big-time.

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