August 2018
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Letters to the editor: A matter of give and take

By | August 17th, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: |

Are you a giver or a taker?

In the wake of articles going up on these pages comes a slew of reader emails (that were once comments – RIP). The majority of emails request opinions on hardware not included in – and so implicitly beyond the scope of – the review or news piece. Takers for whom I have no answer.

Givers are more interesting. And of more value to all. They return the gift, sharing their own experiences with the matter at hand.… Read the full article

EISA awards 2018/19 ring the bell for Future-Fi

By | August 16th, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , , , |

EISA. The European Image and Sound Association is a conglomerate of (some of) the world’s finest tech journalists who annually bestow awards on the best in in-car electronics, mobiles devices, home theatre, photography and hi-fi equipment, the latter being our focus here.

The EISA award winners in the hi-fi category for 2018/19 are as follows:

  1. Micromega M-One M150 for ‘High-end innovation’
  2. Focal Clear for ‘High-end headphone’
  3. Sennheiser HD660S for ‘headphone’
  4. Harman Kardon Citation 500 for ‘Smart loudspeaker’
  5. Q Acoustics 3050i for ‘Best buy loudspeaker’
  6. ELAC Adante AS-61 for ‘Loudspeaker’
  7. Technics SL-1200GR for ‘Turntable’
  8. Chord Electronics Hugo 2 for ‘DAC’
  9. Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra for ‘Streamer’
  10. NAD M32 for ‘High-end amplifier’
  11. Pioneer A40-AE for ‘Best buy amplifier’
  12. Primare I15 Prisma for ‘Amplifier’
  13. Yamaha R-N803D for ‘Stereo receiver’
  14. Marantz ND8006/PM8006 for ‘Stereo system’
  15. Dali Callisto 6C & Sound Hub for ‘Wireless system’
  16. Naim Uniti Atom for ‘All in one system’
  17. Denon CEOL N10 for ‘Compact music system’
  18. Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 for ‘Analogue music system’
  19. iFi Audio xDSD for ‘Portable DAC/headphone amplifier’

That’s the news but what’s the story?… Read the full article

A short film about the AURALiC Aries G1

By | August 14th, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Using a standard Mac or PC as a network streamer – WiFi/Ethernet in, USB out – will only get us so far on sound quality. So too will patching the Mac or PC’s electrically noisy USB output with filters and/or USB re-clockers. Adding a linear power supply to a desktop PC might bring an audible improvement but it doesn’t bypass or disable the noisy switching power supplies and regulators running on the motherboard.

For extracting better performance from our downstream DAC, we need a network streamer that has been built to satisfy audiophile sensibilities: a motherboard and digital outputs with lower electrical noise and lower jitter.… Read the full article

Darko.Audio podcast #9 – Music formats

By | August 12th, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , , |

Vinyl sales are on the up and up. Audiophiles already know that. But cassettes are coming back too. UK cassette sales were up 90% on the same period last year. Moreover, almost all new releases still get pressed to CD. And yet that DSD-loaded future we were promised back in 2010 is nowhere to be seen.

A new Aphex Twin EP will soon be issued as a limited vinyl, a standard vinyl, a CD and a cassette. And if it wasn’t for the 24-bit PCM download or the streaming, you’d swear it was 1991 all over again.… Read the full article

The Bartók network/headphone DAC is a new low for dCS

By | August 10th, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , |

Low? At £9,999, the all-new Bartók from dCS is the UK manufacturer’s most affordable D/A converter to date, inheriting the Ring DAC™ circuit and digital processing platform from the Rossini DAC to add network streaming and a suite of traditional digital inputs: AES/EBU, S/PDIF and asynchronous USB.

From its Ethernet port, the Bartók will offer support for Apple AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Tidal and UPnP. It will also be Roon Ready.

Sayeth the press release: “Bartók supports all major codecs including high-resolution PCM and DSD, with user-selectable upsampling.Read the full article

Ethernet or WiFi – which is better for high-end audio streaming?

By | August 9th, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , , , |

WiFi or Ethernet? For high-end audio streaming, the decision is often made for us. Manufacturers such as Antipodes, Innuos, Roon Labs and Sonore kicking WiFi to the curb at the product design stage to favour an Ethernet input’s lower electrical noise generation. Hobson’s choice.

Case closed? Not so fast. Joining a network streamer to a router with Ethernet cable connects the former to the latter’s (possibly) noisier internals, its (possibly) noisier power supply – almost always a cheap switch mode brick – as well as mains power supply noise.… Read the full article

Letters to the editor: assume = ass + u + me

By | August 8th, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , |

What’s the number one misunderstanding about your job? For the hi-fi reviewer, it might be that s/he has heard every single piece audio hardware coming to market; that s/he finds sufficient time to review each one; that any brand/product omissions must be down to reviewer prejudice or a behind the scenes beef.

As the cliché goes, to assume is to make an ass out of you and me.

Dear Mr Darko,

I’m currently reviewing some DACs to upgrade my HiFi system, and I have avidly read and mulled over a number of your reviews (still am….), which are always both infinitely apropos in structure and content and entertaining as well.Read the full article

Absolute beginners: what’s better than a Sonos Connect?

By | August 7th, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , , |

Long in the tooth – one way to describe the Connect; the standalone network streamer from Sonos, the world’s most popular streaming audio manufacturer.

As their range of digitally active loudspeakers enjoys the occasional hardware refresh, often with the addition of new features like AirPlay2, Trueplay room compensation and digital assistants, the Connect has been left to languish. It hasn’t seen its internals updated in almost a decade.

That leaves room for the smaller manufacturers to creep up and steal (some of) its lunch.… Read the full article

Filling the void: 5 DAPs that do Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify etc.

By | August 2nd, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

The IFPI’s Global Music Report 2018 annual report confirms what we already know: that downloads are down, way down, 20% down (on the previous year). And that streaming is up. Way up. 41.1% up (on the previous year).

Many switched on hi-fi manufacturers are moving with the times, baking Bluetooth, Google Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Qobuz and Roon into their streaming hardware, thus allowing end users to stream from the cloud as well as over the home network.

The Music-First Audiophile has his/her finger in many streaming service pies, each one complementing a hard drive full of downloads and CD rips.… Read the full article

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Roon Labs Nucleus+ review

By | August 1st, 2018|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , |

Roon has been my preferred music player since its 2015 release and its features have multiplied since the first release allowing me to not only explore my music collection with this unique program but take advantage of its numerous DSP functions.

I have been hooked on file-based audio, or as many refer to it, computer audio since 2006. I can remember my first setup using a Windows XP desktop I had assembled myself. It was connected via USB to a pre-asynchronous USB Wavelength Audio Cosecant DAC.… Read the full article

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