Aura Note NeoPrice: $1795

Website: www.aprilmusic.com

Philip said: A buyer of the Aura separates will be treated to a highly engaging sound whose warmth, midrange clarity, and solid low end offer all the ingredients of a wholly involving listening experience. The fact that they also offer so much functionality and connectivity is just the icing on the cake. Some of their competitors would be wise to follow their example. 

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Lifestyle mixed with audiophile.

Arcam Solo rDacPrice: $479

Website: www.arcam.co.uk

Vince said: Arcam’s Solo rDac has exceeded my expectations for an inexpensive DAC. With a sleek silver-aluminum chassis and a single button on top, it’s a good-looking, easy-to-use audio component. Although I didn’t find that it significantly improved the performance of my Oppo Blu-ray player, its forte was playing music through its USB connection.

Great Buy

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Asynchronous USB DAC that's a solid deal.

ARC DAC8Price: $4995

Website: www.audioresearch.com

Vade said: ARC’s DAC8 is a well-engineered, well-built machine that advances the state of the audio art and finally makes it possible to assemble a no-holds-barred, computer-based music server whose sound is competitive with just about anything -- which is just what I was looking for.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Sure to be a popular choice for computing audiophiles.

Auraliti PK100Price: $799

Website: www.auraliti.com

Vade said: If you haven’t yet begun using computer audio files because you’re uncomfortable with a computer, or don’t feel like buying an extra computer for storing and playing music files, the Auraliti PK100 is an easy, inexpensive way to get started -- and it has the legs to be used in an advanced high-resolution audio system.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: An inexpensive way to get into a standalone audiophile-oriented music server.

Ayre DX-5Price: $9950 in silver (add $250 for black)

Website: www.ayre.com

Pete said: Digital audio has never sounded better in my system than when I use Ayre Acoustics’ DX-5 as the source. Refined, resolving, musical, and engaging, the DX-5 is exactly what the doctor ordered: an electrifying performer and an unequivocal bargain, despite its price of nearly $10,000. The folks at Ayre have outdone themselves -- the DX-5 is better than their C-5xeMP at spinning audio discs, leagues ahead of their QB-9 for computer audio, and provides 2D images of unequaled quality, without the ailments typically inflicted on an audio system by the inclusion of video.

Select Component

Read the Ultra Audio review.

The gist: Maybe he best universal player yet.

Bel Canto Design e.One DAC2.5Price: $1995

Website: www.belcantodesign.com

Roger said: I can think of several very good DACs for about $1000 that have recently been recommended by SoundStage! Network reviewers. At twice that price, the Bel Canto e.One DAC2.5 might seem expensive in comparison. But when you consider that it includes a high-resolution digital volume control, analog input, and a Home Theater Bypass mode, its value becomes apparent. It can be used as the control center of a high-performance two-channel rig and still be easily integrated into a multichannel system. The e.One DAC2.5 offers a lot of performance and flexibility for $1995.

Great Buy

Read the SoundStage! Access review.

The gist: Digital control center for a high-quality, high-value system.

Blue Circle BC509Price: $1205

Website: www.bluecircle.com

Jason said: The BC509 dished out more depth and dynamics, more realism in the bass, and a silkier top end, and while each of these is small potatoes in isolation, together they cohered into a whole that, once again, sounded more like music.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Musical sounding, modestly priced DAC from Gilbert.

Bryston BDP-1Price: $2195

Website: www.bryston.com

Doug said: The BDP-1’s purpose wasn’t clear to me before it arrived, but it’s very clear now: the high-quality transfer of music data from an attached USB drive. That’s all it does, but it does it startlingly well and very easily.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Bryston is ahead of the field with their first music server.

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