Playback CEDIA 2012 Show Report - Part 1 (Playback 61)

Headphone amps and amp/DACs
Playback CEDIA 2012 Show Report - Part 1 (Playback 61)

I recently attended CEDIA Expo 2012, which was held in Indianapolis, IN from September 6-8, and have prepared a two-part show report for Playback.

Now to be frank, most people quite rightly think of CEDIA as a home theater and/or custom-installer-oriented show, both of which are true observations, but even so I have discovered that at least some manufacturers have chosen to use CEDIA as their venue of choice for rolling out new headphones, earphones, and personal and desktop audio products. Thus, I gathered notes on new Playback-related products seen and heard at CEDIA and have pulled them together in the report, below.

This is Part 1 of a two-part show report.

Note: To make things easier for online readers, I’m covering manufacturers in alphabetical order. As always, my apologies to manufacturers whose worthy products I fail to mention here. Enjoy.


Normally, show-goers might expect AudioQuest’s booth to be all about cables, cables, and more cables, but at CEDIA the centerpiece of the AQ display was the unspeakably cool new DragonFly USB DAC/headphone amp ($249), which is only about the size of a typical USB memory dongle. (NOTE: For subscribers to The Absolute Sound or for those who prefer to buy the magazine on newsstand, I strongly encourage checking out Editor-in-Chief Robert Harley’s review of the DragonFly in the current issue—Issue 225). But, for those who don’t have direct access to the magazine, let me sketch out the basics.

The DragonFly is a 96/24-capable, asynchronous USB DAC based on the very same ESS Sabre DAC chip found in many more costly disc players and other digital audio components. Moreover, it uses Streamlength Class 1 USB code licensed from none other than acknowledged USB audio guru Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio. The tiny device is entirely USB-powered and incorporates a quite respectable headphone amplifier (the AW team loaned me a sample at the show, and I’ve been listening to ‘phones through it ever since). But best of all, the DragonFly sounds both hearty and refined, is dirt simple to use, and sports numerous clever detail touches that I think users will come to love as they become familiar with the component.

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