Aqua - Acoustic Quality La Voce S2Price: $2700

Website: www.aquahifi.com

Michael said: You’d easily need to spend at least $4000 or even $5000 to surpass the level of performance La Voce S2 achieves for $2700. In my book, that makes it great value for the money. With its solid build quality, full feature set, modular design with easy field support -- and, most important, high sound quality -- the Aqua - Acoustic Quality La Voce S2 DAC is easily and highly recommended.

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: Your choice of DAC chips makes this product highly customizable.

Ayre Acoustics QB-9DSDPrice: $3495

Website: www.ayre.com

Colin said: When a component raises the bar as much as the QB-9DSD did in my system, I think I’d sell a kidney to keep it. So far that hasn’t proved necessary, and at the $700 upgrade price I won’t have to sell even an eyelash.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: One of the original USB DACs gets a makeover.

BluesoundPrice: $699

Website: www.bluesound.com

Kevin said: The Powernode and Duo are simply a dedicated combo of receiver and speakers -- but this “receiver” is a dedicated streaming tuner, and the speakers are three diminutive wonders from Paul Barton. They are elegant reinventions of tried-and-true audio products.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Streaming receiver with 50Wpc of NAD-like power.

Calyx MPrice: $999

Website: www.calyx.kr

Rad said: The Calyx M is a great-sounding portable player that includes native DSD decoding and works with just about every other format and sampling rate. It has a beautiful OLED screen and an attractive copper finish

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Viable alternative to Astell&Kern.

Cambridge Audio Azur 851NPrice: $1799

Website: www.cambridgeaudio.com

Hans said: The Azur 851N’s DAC section is a real honey, producing the kind of dulcet sound that any audiophile should be able to appreciate. Combined with an intuitive user interface and a raft of digital inputs and outputs, this unassuming streaming DAC should have no shortage of admirers.

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Incredibly full-featured digital front end.

Cocktail Audio X40Price: $2695

Website: www.cocktailaudio.com

Sathyan said: I was, on the whole, very impressed with the Cocktail Audio X40. In the X40, one gets a ripper, a server, a renderer, a tuner of both Internet and FM radio, and an excellent DAC, all tied together with a well-thought-out user interface. What’s not to like about that?

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Less-expensive alternative to the Aurenders of the world.

DigiBit AriaPrice: $7995

Website: www.ariamusicserver.com

Vade said: I’ve tried many other servers, and have never encountered one so easy to get up and running. But that would be of only academic interest if the Aria didn’t sound good, and it sounds splendid -- its built-in DAC is especially good. And the Aria looks as good as it sounds. For me, the Aria’s features easily justify its cost. It gets my highest recommendation, and is a Reviewers’ Choice.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: In the top tier of today’s best music servers.

EsotericPrice: $80,000 (combined)

Website: www.esoteric-usa.com

Howard said: For now, the Grandioso P1 and D1 play on a field where the sign outside the stadium says “SOTA.” Remarkably, at this level you can spend even more. However, I’m not certain that, if you do, you’ll see a decent return on your money, if any. Highly recommended for those with deep audiophile pockets and the desire to go from 0 to 60 in 2.2 seconds now.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Ultra review.

The gist: As far as the best digital, in the top three for sure.

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