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Enter the StageDAC. It takes this natural crossfeed circuit, extends/adapts it to speaker listening—this broadens the manipulated bands from the previous 800Hz ceiling for headphone use to 2000Hz—adds an ambitious D/A converter, packs it into a no-frills affordable box to keep the price down. Shake and stir minus glitz and greed. VoilĂ , $745. This machine has separate crossfeed settings for headphones and speakers which can be bypassed. The crossfeed filter can be varied in intensity (amplitude) and time delay (spaciousness). The digital conversion process can be adjusted for various oversampling schemes (times 2, 4 or 8) combined with different digital filters to affect frequency and impulse response according to listener preference. There are fixed 2.2Vrms outputs and variable outputs of max 0.5/2.2Vrms in lo/hi gain with internal shunt jumpers to reduce gain to 13dB or bypass the variable outputs altogether. There's one USB, two coaxial and one optical digital input.

There are "two top-line Wolfson D/A converter chips in dual-mono mode, a large battery of audiophile capacitors, two toroidal transformers and power supplies for analog and digital circuits, triple-regulated supply lines and ultra-fast LM6171 opamps biased into class A with LM334 current sources.

"There are many other very high-quality components like Vishay polystyrol and polypropylen signal-path capacitors which are exemplary for this price class."

The S/PDIF input receiver is the "newest Wolfson WM8804 which instead of a conventional analog phase-lock loop uses its own separate quartz clock for much higher jitter reduction than can be achieved with more traditional receivers."

The USB-to-S/PDIF receiver is Burr-Brown's PCM2704. D/A conversion is via two Wolfson WM8741 chips in dual-mono mode. Sampling frequencies and word lengths for S/PDIF are 32, 44, 48, 88, 96 and 192kHz at 16, 20 or 24 bits and 32, 44 or 48kHz at 16 bits for USB.

"There are nine different digital filter modes* including classic oversampling with sinc function, low pre/post ringing, post ringing only, fast roll-off, non-oversampling and more. There are three intensity levels for the cross feed signal and three different delay times.

"There is star grounding and all signal path traces and components sit at the underside of the circuit board for maximal shielding. Power consumption is 7 watts and the StageDAC weighs 1.9kg and measures 28 x 17.5 x 6.7cm WxDxH. Global voltages are switchable between 110/220V."


* This SideBar has further descriptions on the user-selectable conversion parameters.

To recap, the Meier Audio StageDAC is a German-made digital-to-analog converter with USB that can operate as a converter or preamp and adds unusual functionality by way of multi-stage—but fully defeatable— cross feed circuitry and extensive upsampling + filter combinations.

All of these are mere flicks of a few switches away to allow custom tailoring to mood and music selection as well as to optimize headphone vs. speaker listening. Considering flexibility and features, the asking price seems surprisingly modest. Perhaps it is Jan Meier's attempt to increase the price/performance attraction during our economically troubled times?

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