Stereo digital source components (CD and SACD players, DACs, music servers, etc.) reviewed on the SoundStage! Network in 2010. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted and are accurate at the time of the review.
The entries are shown alphabetically by company name.
Prices: $11,000 (Tube-DAC II SE), $12,000 (Drive II)
Michael said: The Accustic Arts Reference Tube-DAC II SE and Reference Drive II are easy to recommend to anyone who can afford this level of performance and has a large CD collection. As a pair, they’re right up there with the best I’ve heard.
The gist: Perhaps the ultimate combo for your CD collection.
Kevin said: After struggling for years with trying to stream or otherwise play Radio Paradise over something other than the Audio Engine A2s connected to my Mac Mini, the HAL has provided a painless, wireless solution. It’s one of those lovely appliances that will have you wondering how you ever did without it.
The gist: Painless wireless for everyman.
Roger said: The Asus O!Play HDP-R1 is a lot of media player for $99. While it lacks the polished user interface of, say, the Western Digital WD TV Live, its excellent performance meant that it was not out of place in my reference home-theater system.
The gist: Only $99?!
Tim said: Perhaps the strongest compliment I can bestow on the Ayre C-5xeMP is that it changed my perspective on what digital sound reproduction is capable of. It brought me closer to the music, and I’m spoiled all over again.
The gist: All you really need in an audio-only disc player.
Prices: $2695 (DAC3VB), $1495 (VBS1)
Tim said: . . . you simply have to try the e.One DAC3VB with VBS1 power supply to see if the dramatic differences I experienced are possible in your home as well. The DAC3VB significantly and substantially improved the best digital sound I’ve had in my system.
The gist: Competes with the best, but at a reasonable cost.
Doug said: I know of no other component that offers these three functions and such a high level of sound quality across the board. The DAC1 HDR can be compared with components costing much, much more -- which is exactly what I did in my listening.
The gist: Three-in-one component with separates sound quality.
Colin said: The USB Tunnel 24/96 offers a fantastic way to get computer-audio signals into an existing DAC; it will almost certainly inspire many audiophiles to relegate their CD players to the dustbin of digital history.
The gist: Latest digital converter from Gilbert.
Jeff said: What impresses me is that such an inexpensive device can get so many things so right. And when you factor in the cost of the included cables, well, it’s easy to envision the Devilsound in a system based on a computer you already have, a pair of EgglestonWorks Dianne speakers, and a Simaudio or Bel Canto integrated amplifier -- for about $6000, you’d have quite satisfying sound.
The gist: DAC’n’cables cheap and easy.