When first I proposed this test, I was keen to see the new Resolution Audio Cantata m100 amps, but thought we’d sideline the Cantata ‘Music Center’ CD-streaming-USB-DAC-preamp. The Cantata Music Center is far from old news, however. It’s the perfect bridge between the old digital world and new, capable of playing CD though its slot-load transport, network audio, USB audio, and – thanks to the clever Pont Neuf dongle – all points in between. And it will play these to 24-bit, 192kHz precision where relevant. It really is all digital; the front load CD player is joined by a USB, Toslink, S/PDIF coax, and an AES/EBU XLR input. And that’s it. Vinyl? Unless it digitises its output, wake up and join the 21st Century. It has variable analogue balanced XLR and single-ended RCA sockets, which should be dimed (set at 100) when used as a source component. It’s not possible to set the Cantata to fixed output, however.
Although the Cantata speaks UPnP like a native, the optional Pont Neuf (‘New Bridge’) is ideal for those wanting to use USB across a distance of more than 5m. It plugs into a USB socket and provides a simple Ethernet connection designed specifically for audio use (up to 24-bit, 96kHz, without the need for third-party drivers for Mac or PC). If there is a wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection following the Pont Neuf, it’s all good. Note that this is somewhat different in intent from standard USB-Ethernet ports in that it treats Ethernet like an enormous USB cable, allowing you to run your iTunes library direct from your computer over long distances, rather than supplement existing Ethernet connections for UPnP.