If you saw Dave Grohl’s documentary about the Sound City studio in LA, the hallowed ground where Rumours, Nevermind, Damn the Torpedoes and many, many great albums were made, you will have realised that the real star of the show, and the reason for Grohl’s interest was the Neve mixing desk. Rupert Neve is a British engineer who’s still designing at the tender age of 93! Neve sold the original Neve Company in 1976, but he has been very active in the recording business (and mixing desk business) since then. His current company is Rupert Neve Designs, which manufactures high-end mixing desks and recording equipment. ‘Fidelice’ is a sub-brand of Rupert Neve Designs, producing high-fidelity playback equipment. Alongside this DAC, there is currently a headphone amp and phono stage in the Fidelice line.
The Fidelice Precision DAC bucks a number of trends found in contemporary converters, it has no wi-fi capabilities, Bluetooth and Airplay are for kids as far as Rupert is concerned and when it comes to sound quality I’m with him all the way. Just listen when someone switches to BT enabled hands free on their mobile and you’ll get the picture. It has analogue inputs in both balanced and single ended form so can be a preamp for a whole system. There is no mention of Roon readiness but there are extensive notes on how to get good sound from a PC in the manual. It also features seven filter settings and the response curves for some of them are included in the manual. Volume can be controlled with the red knob on the front or switched to line level on the back, the front of this DAC is professionally executed and the back is no different, there are just a lot more connections. Many of them for headphones, three in fact: four-pin XLR balanced, Pentaconn balanced and regular quarter inch jack.
Despite its comprehensive preamplifier functionality there is no remote control, you literally have to get out of your seat and walk over to the device, however as fitbit users will know this is a good thing. Also a little odd is the absence of a power switch on the front, there is one by the mains inlet on the back and the box is fairly shallow so it’s not hard to reach. There are more switches than usual on the back, including fixed or variable output, variable input gain for analogue connections and the aforementioned filters. The RCA inputs are inverted with red/right at the top and the XLR inputs have TRS jack sockets in the middle for full pro credentials. For this is what the Fidelice is, a pro audio DAC with some audiophile features and a nice box with inlaid wood on top.
Inside it has an AKM converter chip that’s capable of reproducing PCM up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD512 (4x), the filter set includes one called AKM ‘high quality sound’ as well as another dubbed DSD high pole. The majority of the filters relate to roll-off and group delay and you can have hours of fun trying the various options, alternatively you can connect to one of the three digital inputs and enjoy your music. Given Neve’s frankly awesome pro-audio credentials and background, it’s odd that there is no AES/EBU digital input, something that’s pretty well de rigueur on hi-fi DACs at this price.