A word about DACs
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.
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.
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-