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This review first appeared in the August 2012 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of the Centrance DACmini PX in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of fairaudio or Centrance - Ed.

Reviewer: Jochen Reinecke
Sources: Marantz SA 7001 CD/SACD, iPod Classic 80GB with Pure I-20 digital dock/DAC, Samsung NP305E5A notebook with JRiver Media Center 17.0.182 & Centrance ASIO driver
Amplification: Funk Lap-2 and Dynavox TPR-2 preamps, Myryad MXA 2150 power amp, Yarland FV-34C III integrated
Loudspeakers: Neat Momentum 4i monitor, DIY TL (Fostex F120A widebander), Nubert nuBox 101 with AW 441 subwoofer
Cables: AVI Deep Blue interconnect, Ortofon SPK 500 speaker cable
Review component retail: $1.450

“It sure is pretty” ought to be the first reaction. The Centrance DACmini PX cuts a dapper profile next to a Mac Mini. Also on size (164 x 164 x 42mm) it matches the trendy number cruncher from Cupertino to a ‘c’. With this piece US firm Centrance clearly aims at a younger hipper audience who prefers compact elegant all-in-all solutions with good sound over traditional tower-of-power racks.

Their website sports a few quirky facts though. It says they’ll only sell one machine per person (why?) and that the jitter of their internal clock is immeasurable (!). But Centrance is a serious player whose components have a good rep with musicians, radio stations and recording studios for performance, circuitry and reliability.

The Centrance DACmini comes in PX and CX flavours. The latter (ca. €800) simply strips off the class D amp module. Otherwise both are virtually identical. To partner the PX for a complete mini system, Centrance has launched the MasterClass 2504 two-way monitor speaker. That wasn’t available for audition.

Facts first. What can the DACmini PX do? It’s a 3-in-1 DAC, class A head amp and 25wpc class D integrated which the maker quite fittingly dubs audio hub. There are four inputs starting with USB which digests signal up to 24bit/96kHz. Here the DACmini eschews asynchronous transfer to champion the company’s proprietary ‘JitterGuard’ solution. That’s a two-stage PLL reclocker inserted between USB transceiver and DAC chip. S/PDIF is supported with coax and Toslink sockets and both handle 192kHz. To not give analog sources the cold shoulder there’s a classic RCA input too.

Leaving the machine the signal is either un-amplified but converted (via fixed RCA output) or runs through the internal amp via high-quality gold-plated terminals which accept bananas and spades. A 6.3mm headphone socket on front is fed from its own class A voltage gain stage. Here Centrance was after plenty of drive to service headphones of all ambitions, regardless of whether 32 or 600 ohms.

Unpacked and fired up the DACmini PX conveyed a solid impression – which it should for €1.475. For a triplet of class D amp, head amp and DAC that’s neither highway robbery nor chicken feed. I was impressed with the careful fit & finish which carried on beneath the bonnet. Here the mini sports galvanically isolated chassis-mount inputs which particularly with computer sources should suppress potential hum and ground loops. The SMPS power supply is external (audiophiles rejoice) and the machine itself isn’t directly grounded (a subject close to the designer’s heart). Input selection is via noise-free small knob disguising a +/-45° switch which shuttles through sources in both directions.