Oliver said: The airDAC is a music maker through and through -- one that offers a huge slice of audiophile sound at a real-world price. It does so without playing favorites in terms of musical genre or listener preference, delivering the musical goods in the most engaging way it can.
The gist: Who says an AirPlay-equipped DAC can’t be high end?
Pete said: For the well-heeled, obsessive-compulsive audiophile, and/or all who have invested in statement-level digital gear and strive to eliminate from their systems any compromises, the W20 should fit the bill.
The gist: Probably the best music server.
Jeff said: If you’ve wanted an Aurender S10, but were put off by its price and don’t need its myriad connection options, then I see nothing that should hold you back from the X100L. It’s a killer little product.
The gist: Excellent choice for a plug’n’play music server.
Sathyan said: For those who like to play digital music files on computers, Bel Canto Design’s e.One uLink is a worthwhile upgrade, allowing bit-perfect reproduction of tracks sampled above 96kHz. For those with DACs lacking USB inputs, the uLink provides an easy and musical way of adding computer-based audio to a system.
The gist: Make your old DAC new again with great-sounding USB connectivity.
Vade said: The DA-06’s vivid, colorful sound enhanced whatever recordings I played through it, from DSD64 to “Red Book” -- just for old times’ sake, I spun a couple of CDs through the Luxman, and they, too, sounded great. The DA-06’s wide assortment of digital inputs make it compatible with just about any digital source device, and with all commercially available digital file formats in use as of the end of 2013. I understand that Luxman plans to release DAC models at prices lower and higher than the DA-06’s $4990, but for me, for now, the DA-06 represents a peak on the value scale.
The gist: An exceptionally versatile, solid-performing DAC from one of the most-respected names in hi-fi.
Jeff said: Ultimately, the Young DSD made me want to listen to music. That’s what this hobby is all about. It’s a good component worth the 1699 bills, which means it's fairly priced. Considering that, I’ve got no complaints.
The gist: Good in all areas when considering its competitive price point.
Doug said: The Explorer clearly sounded better, overall, than the DragonFly v1.0. But it’s surprising that the Wavelength Proton, a very good DAC that costs three times as much as the Meridian, wasn’t obviously superior in sound. That’s what makes the Explorer a bona-fide high-end bargain. Highly recommended.
The gist: Who knew a $300 DAC could sound this good?
Thom said: If you’re looking for a good, solid, reasonably priced, well-designed and -engineered, high-performance outboard digital-to-analog converter, I can’t think of a better buy.
The gist: Couldn’t get this digital performance for three bills even five years ago.
Sathyan said: Overall, the NAD D 1050 is a remarkable value that harks back to NAD’s traditional combination of performance, value, and simplicity.
The gist: Lots of DAC connectivity for the money.
Wes said: The Lyra 2 just played everything I threw at it. This level of simplicity is very welcome. The fact that it solves so many problems while providing such clean, effortless sound makes it a no-brainer recommendation.
The gist: Pro-sound-based DAC that is feature-rich and sounds great to boot.
Jeff said: Unless you’re the type of audiophile who needs a huge, gleaming chassis in your system -- or several of them -- look no further than this little puppy for all your digital needs. Regardless of the pedigree of the rest of your gear, the Resonessence Invicta Mirus will fit in just fine.
The gist: Miniature in size, but certainly not in sound quality.
Aron said: Simaudio’s 180 MiND has opened my ears to the small but compelling market of austere streamers, and is proof that Simaudio is evolving with the times. The control app Simaudio has developed is ingenious in layout, intuitive to use, and graphically stimulating enough that it easily competes with other streamers costing several times the MiND’s $1300 price.
The gist: Add a streamer to your list of Simaudio source components.
Vade said: The Sony HAP-Z1ES is not the only all-in-one high-resolution music player in existence, but it’s a thoughtful design that offers excellent value. While it’s possible to get better sound, chances are it will cost you lots more money.
The gist: Solid value in a hi-rez music server.
Garrett said: If you’re in the market for a desktop or console-top DAC, I strongly recommend checking out the T+A DAC 8. It can be the solo source for a superb three-piece system of DAC-preamp, power amp, and speakers. And as the hub of a digital system it’s completely flexible, accepting USB from a computer, S/PDIF and optical systems from other digital sources, and works terrifically with most any headphone out there. I loved it.
The gist: Highly configurable DAC is a product of fine German engineering.