A word about DACs

NOVO - - DIGITAL MUSIC PLAYER GUIDE -

24 bit/192 KHz au­dio files may be the high­est res­o­lu­tion you’ve come across but be­lieve it or not, it doesn’t stop there. Some DACs can process 32bit/384 KHz files. Even sam­pling rates as high as 24.576 MHz are avail­able. In­sane? Per­haps, but it is out there. Oc­tu­ple-rate Di­rect Stream Dig­i­tal (DSD) record­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties are found in some pro­fes­sional gear. The con­sumer elec­tron­ics in­dus­try won’t have to worry about this any­time soon but stop­ping at 192 KHz seems pre­ma­ture. Su­per Au­dio CD (SACD) uses the DSD en­cod­ing scheme. If you wish to de­code stereo DSD files, a 5.6 MHz DSD com­pli­ant DAC would be a great idea. The Marantz NA8005 boasts this ca­pa­bil­ity. I can­not un­der­state the im­por­tance of your DAC. It will be the sin­gle larg- DAC is a great ex­am­ple of a model sup­port­ing the USB Au­dio Class 2 stan­dard. You should also make sure that the DAC sup­ports all the file for­mats that you’re in­ter­ested in de­cod­ing in­clud­ing DSD.

Au­dio­phile Grade

Like any other au­dio­phile-grade prod­ucts, build qual­ity and com­po­nent se­lec­tion mat­ters. Higher end prod­ucts dis­tin­guish them­selves by us­ing top-shelf DACs op­er­at­ing in dif­fer­en­tial mode. Re-clock­ing is used to re­duce jit­ter and dis­crete com­po­nents re­place op-amps. And you won’t find any cheap caps here! Au­dio­phile grade ca­pac­i­tors and pre­ci­sion me­tal-film re­sis­tors are used. Have a bal­anced preamp with XLR con­nec­tors? No prob­lem, XLR out­puts are easy to find in this group. To top it all off, beefy shielded power sup­plies and fan free de­signs are typ­i­cal for this grade of prod­uct. The Cana­di­an­made Brys­ton BDP-2 is a per­fect ex­am­ple of an au­dio­phile grade DMP.

Big Perks and Lit­tle Perks

McIn­tosh Lab­o­ra­tory calls their MB100 player a “media bridge”. This unit of­fers two zone ca­pa­bil­i­ties. This is achieved by us­ing the dig­i­tal or ana­logue out­puts with one zone and the USB out­put with the other. There is how­ever a catch. This will only work with other USB ca­pa­ble McIn­tosh prod­ucts.

Some mod­els of­fer nice lit­tle perks. They’re not game chang­ers by any stretch but they cer­tainly are con­ve­nient. The Marantz NA6005 for ex­am­ple of­fers “Standby Recharg­ing”. This fea­ture al­lows you to recharge a por­ta­ble de­vice such as an iPod or smart­phone even when the NA6005 is in standby mode. And once the charg­ing cy­cle is com­plete, it puts it­self into an even lower power con­sump­tion standby mode that uses less than half a watt.

Some units of­fer vari­able ana­logue out­puts that al­low you to con­nect them di­rectly to an am­pli­fier. Some of­fer gap­less play­back although not al­ways for ev­ery file for­mat. For ex­am­ple, the Marantz NA6005 of­fers gap­less play­back but only for WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF and DSD files. Head­phone am­pli­fiers are found in some mod­els as well. Sony’s HAP-Z1ES of­fers a Dig­i­tal Sound En­hance­ment En­gine (DSEE) to en­hance low res­o­lu­tion mu­sic files.

Con­trols

DMPs are sim­i­lar to mod­ern re­ceivers in that a plethora of con­trol op­tions are avail­able to you. In ad­di­tion to the tried and true hand­held re­mote, re­mote con­trol in-

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