Moving away from the drum kit, the same complete honesty applies throughout. You get an appraisal of the musician’s and engineer’s art from the Callia, without grace or favour. The sound of an instrument is the sound of that instrument without embellishment or subtraction, and that is a heady wine once you get used to it.
The headphone amplifier stage is very well ‘sorted’ too. You do need to take some time to experiment with the DIP switch block at the rear of the DAC to get the best from the Callia. I found in two cases, the recommended guidelines perfectly suited the headphone used, but in another a more conservative setting was called for. I’m fairly certain this is more down to the vagaries of headphone designers being editorial with the facts about their output load than variability on the Callia’s part, because when set to work with a specific headphone, it works perfectly. In fact, the adjustment of the DIP switches acts more like a headphone volume limiter than a tonal adjustment (unless you are trying to use 300Ω headphones with a sub-32Ω setting). Get this wrong and it might get loud!
There’s a lot to like here. OK, so if you want your electronics to ‘pretty up’ your music, the Prism Sound Callia isn’t for you. Instead, this is one of the most honest DACs you’ll hear. It’s an outstanding and powerful headphone amplifier, too, even if its lack of line level inputs, balance adjustment, and remote control probably limit its real-world practicality as a domestic preamplifier. That’s said, if you want a digital hub connected via long XLR leads to your active loudspeakers, the Callia and a laptop at arm’s length could be all you even need for your musical requirements. An honest, solid, and extremely accurate recommendation.