Since digital playback was in its infancy, the best sound from CDs and subsequently from SACDs has come from playing them over a two-piece system which separates the CD/SACD player into two component parts, the CD/SACD transport which reads the information on the disc and spits it out as data, and the DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) which takes the bit stream and reconstitutes it as a musical waveform. The newest Version of a Transport is the Music Server.
There are several reasons for this: First, two devices means two power supplies which results in greater efficiency in regulation. With two devices, the magnetic field generated by the power supply of one component of the system is far enough away from the other component so as not to engender harmful EMF interaction between them. Finally, two boxes mean more real estate for each piece which can be used to create greater distance/isolation between the power supply of one unit and the sensitive signal passing components of the other.
That being Said, CD/SACD all in one players have come a very long way and these days there are many 1 box Players which out perform comparably priced separates.The best of these have multiple digital inputs into which one can connect A music server and other digital sources.
Sound by Singer pioneered separate digital components back in the mid 80’s and continues to be the home of the very best digital separates and CD/SACD players from renowned companies like MSB Technology,CH precision,Chord Electronics, PS Audio, Bryston, and Luxman.
Chord’s most advanced DAC to date is the DAVE. Frankly, I did not know what to expect when it arrived and even more frankly did not actually much care as I was blessed by an over abundance of nominally similar converters. Then I set it up and played a few Hi Res files through it. It took about 5 minutes for me to realize that DAVE was not only playing rings around competitively priced DACS but was putting components which sold for twice it price to shame. Today , the next step up from DAVE which we offer is 2.5 times its price. That says it all !
DAVE is not just a highly advanced reference-grade DAC. It is also a superb digital preamp and headphone amplifier. British in the tradition of an Alan Turing , DAVE employs a new (and in electronics terms, huge) LX75 version of the Spartan 6 Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA). The FPGA''s amazing capacity results in significantly improved timing and the best noise-shaper performance of any known DAC. DAVE''s technology delivers music with unparalleled veracity and musicality, with an unrivalled timing response.
USB B-style: 44 kHz to 768 kHz - DXD and Quad DSD
2x optical: 44kHz to 192kHz
1 x AES: 44kHz to 192kHz
4 x Coax: 44kHz to 384kHz
Dual-data mode available
2x ultra-high-speed coax 768kHz dual-data mode for use with future-unannounced Chord Electronics products.
Maximum output voltage: 6 volts RMS
THD and noise at 2.5 volts: RMS 0.000015 %
THD and noise at 2.5 volts: 127dBA Awt (124dBA into 33 ohms)
Dynamic range at -60 dBFS 1kHz -127 dBA A wt
(No measurable noise floor modulation, no a harmonic distortion)
(Analogue distortion characteristic: no distortion for small signals)
Power requirements: mains power 80 volts to 260 volts; AC 20 watts
“It doesn’t take more than a few seconds of listening to realise that the DAVE is something special. It just sounds so right from the beginning that it genuinely takes effort to even try to deconstruct its performance. When we did, we found a formidable array of talents with no discernable weaknesses. Orff’s Carmina Burana is one of the most demanding pieces of music we know. It has savage dynamics coupled to complex instrumentation and varies from outright frenzy to angelic harmonies in the space of just a few seconds. The DAVE takes it all in stride.
This DAC renders a convincing acoustic – a believable space populated by the choir and instruments. Sound staging is excellent. It is precise, layered and neatly arranged. More than that it’s stable, even when the music turns demanding. The tonal balance is similarly impressive being even-handed and utterly convincing. No part of the frequency range gets undue preference and there’s a lovely balance between attack and refinement.”
WHAT* HIFI - 27th June 2016
Put simply, the Blu MkII upscaling CD transport sets new standards for CD sound quality by using the very latest FPGA technology to implement advanced proprietary filtering and upscaling techniques. Our next-generation CD transport incorporates a powerful new FPGA core with extraordinary capability.
Blu MkII’s sophisticated WTA (Watts Transient Alignment) filtering and upscaling algorithms can output digital data at 705.6kHz (16 x CD’s 44.1kHz native resolution). When partnered with the critically acclaimed DAVE DAC/preamp, with its 705.6kHz-capable digital inputs, the Blu MkII sets a new technical benchmark for CD performance, while redefining sound quality from the medium.
At the heart of the Blu MkII lies an enormously powerful Xilinx FPGA. Rob Watts’ (Chord’s Digital Design Consultant) has used this to create his exclusive WTA M-Scaler technology, which incorporates the most advanced filter of its kind in the world. The Xilinx FPGA has also enabled a key breakthrough in tap-length (the technical indicator of how complex the interpolation filter is) taking Blu MkII to an unprecedented 1,015,808 taps.
A comprehensive suite of high-performance connectivity is offered and the Blu MkII also features a USB digital input, meaning that it can also be used a standalone high-performance upsampler, for use with other digital sources.
Further features include Chord Electronics’ legendary proprietary high-frequency switching power supply and a dedicated CD-only laser mechanism for an uncompromising performance.
“Want to know the best CD player we’ve heard? The answer is depressingly expensive. It’s Chord’s Blu Mk II transport combined with its range topping digital-to-analogue converter, the DAVE. Quality costs - and in this case the price is a hefty £16,000 for the pair.
But regardless of price, we haven’t heard a more insightful or transparent CD playing alternative.
Those who think all CD transports sound the same are in for a shock. The Chord Blu MkII delivers the most informative and enjoyable sound we’ve heard from the CD format. While it’s expensive, there are far pricier alternatives that don’t get close. We’re sorely tempted.”-WHAT* HIFI 22nd November 2017
Qutest is A ‘pure’ DAC (it does not contain headphone amplification or rechargeable batteries like some of its range stablemates) and is designed to improve sound quality in the home. It is the latest evolution of our most affordable standalone DAC, the multi-award-winning 2Qute, which it directly replaces.
Qutest, which is a What Hi-Fi? Star of CES 2018, is based on Chord’s award-winning proprietary FPGA technology developed for the class-leading Hugo 2 DAC/headphone amp, giving it proven class-leading technical and sonic performance. Perfectly equipped to bring the benefits our digital technology to a wide range of connected devices, it features a galvanically isolated USB-B, optical and coaxial digital input, giving an instant performance upgrade, plus the ability to modernise ageing digital source components.
The Qutest chassis is all-new, too. It has significantly greater mass than its predecessor and has been precision-machined from solid aircraft-grade aluminium billet. The Qutest PCB nestles within a shallow cavity in the solid aluminium chassis, giving the circuit board greater protection within the casework and additional isolation from external vibration compared to previous designs.
Qutest offers Hugo 2’s proprietary user-selectable frequency-shaping filters and input selection controls, available via two fascia-mounted spheres, introducing useful flexibility. It also features RCA analogue outputs for connection to integrated amplifiers, preamps and headphone amps, plus high-resolution dual-data digital inputs for connection to future Chord Electronics products.
The MSB Select DAC is the king of all DACs. Starting at $84,500, it outdoes all the rest. The MSB Select DAC is powered by MSB’s Hybrid DAC technology, featuring sixteen channels across eight modules, stitched together for a high-powered direct output.
There is no amplification stage needed to drive the output, just pure digital-to-analog conversion. The Hybrid module is capable of converting between PCM or native DSD.
MSB is constantly developing new input modules for every application and technology. With the release of MQA, MSB has prepared a new module and a simple software update, keeping your DAC up to date with the most recent technologies. The MSB DAC is always ready for the future
The MSB Select DAC includes:
optical/coaxial input module
standard output preamp module
Femto 77 clock
stock colors: silver and black (custom colors available with extended manufacturing time and custom color charge)
MSB Select DAC upgrade options include:
Fetmo 33 clock
mono power base
quad USB input module
XLR and SPDIF input modules
extra analog outputs
MSB’s Reference DAC is just one step below the Select DAC when it comes to performance. However, when tricked out, it produces a sound that is virtually indistinguishable from the Select model.
The MSB Reference DAC includes:
optical/coaxial input module
base output module
Femto 140 clock
stock colors: silver and black (custom colors available with extended manufacturing time and custom color charge)
The MSB Reference DAC upgrade options are the same as on the Select
The Discrete DAC, the successor and highly improved replacement to the now-famous Analog DAC is the MSB DAC that everyone has been waiting for. With two prime DACs, the MSB Discrete yields an unprecedented level of detail that reproduces the musicality, soundstage and texture of an original performance, bringing the artist to you. The fully-balanced, ultra-high precision, discrete ladder DAC architecture ensures that each note tells a story. In addition, the robust in-house design enables the finest quality playback of PCM and native DSD, while its low impedance circuitry drives your amplification directly without adding coloration or buffering noise. The end result is a digital experience that defies all expectations.
35 years after the introduction of the compact disc, PS Audio engineers have managed to perfect the art of data extraction and delivery so that end users can finally realize what’s been locked away in their CD/SACD collection for years. The DirectStream Memory Player (DMP) is a universal optical disc transport with a twist – An advanced digital lens, invented in 1993 by PS Audio’s founders, which electrically isolates the mechanical transport/laser mechanism of optical disc readers, improves audio quality exponentially, and focuses audio data into a single, bit-perfect, time-perfect DAC stream for unmatched CD reproduction. Discs played through PS Audio DMP come closer than ever to high-resolution PCM and DSD, uncovering new layers of dimensionality, soundstage, depth and musicality that were long-unobtainable in other optical readers or server-based audio systems.
PS Audio’s DMP opens the long-restricted DSD layer of SACD to the PS Audio DAC. Through a unique “code-handshake,” your DMP will deliver the raw DSD layer of copyright protected SACD directly into your PS Audio DAC, uncovering the bounty of audio’s finest digital medium, DSD, and hear exactly what the mastering engineers have enjoyed all along. The PS Audio DMP is the last optical disc player that you will ever need.
The PS Audio Direct Stream DAC will change the way you think about digital to analog converters. When used as a companion to the PS Audio Perfectwave Transport memory player, it produces sound quality typically associated with DACs costing as much as three times the price. With its network bridge, the Direct Stream DAC accesses high-resolution digital audio data from multiple sources, including a computer, network, or the Internet, and converts the data to the most natural sounding analog audio ever produced. It can convert any digital input format, such as PCM or DSD, to a pure DSD stream and produces a near-perfect analog directly to your power amplifier or preamp. Whatever the format or sample rate the PS Audio DirectStream DAC is a pure DSD based solution that fulfills the promise of a high-resolution analog performance standard that compact discs were meant to produce.
The PS Audio DirectStream Junior, also known as the DSJ, is an affordable, state-of-the-art DAC that has been called a “technological wonder,” awarded Product of the Year in Stereophile and TAS, and received a Darko Knock-Out award, as well as Editors’ Choice and Golden Ear awards. The DSJ is an extraordinary performance instrument that manages to uncover all of the missing information long hidden in your audio library, from both PCM and DSD sources. CD’s, high-resolution PCM, or DSD based media, are expertly up-sampled to a 20x DSD rate with pure analog outputs delivered directly into your amplifier or preamp. DSJ is one of the few, true, full-analog DSD devices, setting the industry on its ear and reshaping the landscape of music and high-end audio.
Now, the DSJ is MQA, Tidal (including Masters), Spotify, Qobuz, VTuner, and Roon ready.
Imagine going to a recording studio and listening to a master tape of any recording ever made. This is the experience DSJ affords its owners who enjoy a renewed sense of enjoyment and discovery when listening to everything to their library: CD’s, downloads, DSD.
There isn’t a DAC made that doesn’t benefit from a great analog preamplifier.
The Stellar Gain Cell DAC combines the benefits of both a full-featured DAC, with an exceptional analog preamplifier controlling its output level. Fully balanced circuitry from input to output, the Stellar Gain Cell DAC is built on years of research and innovation in the art of digital audio and Class A analog amplification. Together, or separately, they create an extraordinarily rich, full-bodied musical experience few standalone products can match.
Stellar Gain Cell DAC is the perfect foundation for those unwilling to compromise sound quality. It is rich, lush, and powerful and is a music lover’s answer to spiraling cost-no-object equipment without sacrifice. It is a worthy companion to the amazing Stellar S300 300-watt per channel power amp.
Designed for the true music lover, the C1's apparent simplicity hides highly sophisticated technological solutions with the single goal of recreating the full musical experience. This emotion can only be achieved when both level and time information are properly reconstructed from the digital data. And this is what the C1 is all about...
The C1 is based on a fully modular, future-proof architecture. Up to three inputs boards include standard digital inputs complemented by the proprietary CH-Link interface. Optional streaming audio inputs as well as line-level analog inputs enable the use of the C1 as a full featured preamplifier thanks to its integrated volume control.
A reference grade linear power supply (with <1W power consumption in standby mode), sophisticated mechanical chassis design and full USB based firmware update also contribute the C1's uniqueness, for now and for any future format!