Stack Audio Link II network bridge/streamer/reclocker

Music servers and computer audio
Stack Audio Link II

The 18 volts that this bridge runs on is provided by a switched mode plug top supply but those after greater results can upgrade with the Link Linear PSU which comes in a similarly high quality bit of casework to the Link II. This is a rather more chunky device but it’s still a one hand lift and comes with a good quality connector cable, if you buy one with a Link II there is currently a £50 saving.

The first DAC I partnered with the Link II was AURALiC’s rather good VEGA G2.1 reviewed last month (issue 191), it took the place of an AURALiC ARIA G1 and sounded notably leaner than that significantly more spendy streamer (more than twice the price). However it didn’t take long to get used to the Link II’s balance, in fact the second piece I played seemed to have plenty of body, but there were occasional tracks where a bit more warmth in what is essentially the lower midrange would have been nice. But soon the coherence and ease of this streamer started to make itself felt, it’s surprisingly revealing of detail and very good at presenting it in a musically engaging manner. Herbie Hancock’s take on ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ [Gershwin’s World, Verve] had good weight albeit the treble was open and sparkling if a little exposed. I switched the Vega G2.1 to its smooth filter setting (from the starker ‘balanced’) and things relaxed rather nicely, letting the great pace of ‘Jackie Wilson Said’ [Van Morrison, Saint Dominic’s Preview, Warner Bros] come through, the brass section giving it energy and presence. Other recordings revealed strong image depth and really muscular bass, the lack of warmth giving the low bass more impact because it’s delivered with such precision.

It’s interesting that the bass is on the one hand seemingly tighter and apparently lighter with the Link II yet that it has serious power when genuinely low notes come along. It certainly seems well-defined and articulate and this makes for strong timing. Switching to the Linear power supply refines the presentation, dropping noise and removing a slight eagerness in the treble. It meant that I could go back to the more precise ‘balance’ filter on the VEGA G2.1 without revealing anything untoward, and this made the music that much more snappy and exciting with it. Patricia Barber’s ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ [Nightclub, Premonition] sounded really remarkable, the vocals in particular are so well recorded that it makes for a very real musical experience. But switching sample rates proved to be the undoing of the Stack/Auralic partnership, the change causing the DAC to deliver noise instead of music and only rebooting would overcome this. 

Which meant I could try the Link II with a DAC more appropriate to its price point, this took the form of an iFi Pro iDSD. This was also interesting because it seemed to work with the 5V on the USB line switched off, something that did remarkable things for the sound. I was playing London Grammar’s ‘Hey Now’ [If You Wait, Metal & Dust] and finding it a bit humdrum, cutting the 5V gave it so much emotional impact that I almost let me lip quiver. Sadly a few tracks later the DAC had had enough and wouldn’t play ball so the power had to go back on, this was hardly disastrous however and I continued to use this combination for several weeks, enjoying every moment of it, especially when I upgraded the power amp to a Moor Amps Angel 6 and discovered that it was delivering even more than had previously seemed the case.

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