Classic DAC take two
Swiss brand Nagra may be best known for its analogue recording equipment and foundations based in the film and broadcast industries, but over recent years it has made great strides in high-end domestic digital equipment too.
The original, now-discontinued Classic DAC from 2016 was an excellent example, delivering a combination of finesse, insight and dynamic expression that few high-end alternatives could match. But Nagra has decided that it can do better, hence the development and arrival of a new Classic DAC II, which joins fellow Classic family members such as the Classic PHONO and Classic INT.
First and foremost, this anticipated sequel now incorporates the same NADM (Nagra Audio Digital Module) digital engine used in the company's range-topping HD DAC X.
As you might well expect, the Classic DAC II is compatible with all current high-resolution audio formats, including DSD256 and DXD. Despite the wide-ranging file compatibility, the company’s engineers have focused particularly on getting the best performance from traditional Red Book CD-standard 16-bit/44kHz files — no bad thing at all considering that is the bitrate and sampling rate most people still predominantly listen to music in.
Elsewhere, the Classic DAC’s output stage has been improved. It features discrete components, including individually measured military-grade transistors, and works in Class A. The circuit topology has been designed to get closer to the fluidity and natural warmth of the valves used in Nagra's more expensive digital converters. The built-in power supply has also been on the end of an upgrade too, though the family's external reference power supply, the Classic PSU, can still be added for a bigger performance boost.
At the time of writing, Nagra is yet to publish the technical specification for the Classic DAC
II, but if the original is anything to go by it should be up there in terms of performance calibre at its level.
Yes, the Classic DAC II is positioned as Nagra’s ‘entry-level’ DAC despite it expecting to cost in the region of €18,000 (around $32,000, then), but that’s the price you pay to own something by a company with such obsessive attention to detail and quality.
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