This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

There’s also a choice of digital output filter which may operate in fast/brickwall or slow rolloff. With the ‘PH’ option the converter’s absolute polarity can be inverted. This is indicated with the display’s upper three segments for 0°, the lower three for 180°. The €979 b-DAC does include VAT but no remote yet is preprogrammed for a standard RC5/RC6 protocol such as Logitech or most Sony remotes run to control input selection, volume setting and on/off. The owner’s manual includes the learning sequence to activate standard remotes and also lays out the various options of the control menu.

Enough introductions now. We installed the b-DAC in parallel to our PS Audio PWD. The b-DAC connected to the S/PDIF output of the PS Audio PWT, the PWD via its proprietary I²S-over-HDMI protocol to the same  transport. A Wolfson WM8741 forms the heart of the PS Audio converter as an example of a modern multi-function chip with the option to skip all upsampling in ‘native’ mode. Then what comes in goes out, i.e. 16/44.1 material is treated as such.

The PS Audio converter maxes out at 24/384 but also sports selectable digital filtering. We prefer its auto function which matches filter to incoming bit rate. By matching the output voltage of both DACs we could run a convenient A/B comparison off the same PS Audio PerfectWave transport.

But first the b-DAC on its own. We fed it a variety of musical forms and media. Favorite CDs at the moment are Lee Ritenour’s Six String Theory and Larry Carlton’s Saphire Blue for heavier guitar fare, Paolo Fresu/A Filetta Corsican Voices/Daniele di Bonaventura with Mistico Mediterraneo as example of beautiful etheric voices (it starts where Jan Garbarek & The Hilliard Ensemble left off) and Brad Mehldau’s Live in Marciac with its Jazz festival flair. All these are good ol’ 16-bit 44.1kHz Redbook CDs. 24/88.2/96/176.4 WAV files spun directly from DVD and contained things like m.a. recordings’ Ravid Goldschmidt and Silvia Perez Cruz on Llama, Martin Zeller’s 6 Suites à Violoncello Solo – J S Bach and Sera una Noche’s La Segunda (a few DVDs had to be re-copied to DVD, more on this in an upcoming review]. For the USB input a laptop running XXHighEnd delivered the signal.

Whatever source was used, the b-DAC never displayed ‘digital’ or ‘hifi’ artifacts. The sound had flow and dynamics but no colorations or any emphasis/deemphasis on certain frequency ranges. Bass was taut when electrical or mellow and woody as on the Bach recording. Voices had body and the illusions of ‘live’ and ‘real’ were high. Large and subtle dynamic shifts occurred without hesitation and at higher level could be outright startling. Even though a pure audiophile aspect, imaging was wonderful without any wandering of instruments around the soundstage. On its own this b-DAC was a little miracle. But how would it stand up against a DAC thrice its price?

With the parallel inputs and matched output levels A/Bs were easy. Theoretically. When it came to actually distinguishing the b-DAC from the PerfectWave DAC A/Bs were impossible. We could not discern the two, neither from up close whilst operating the input selector on the amp nor sitting far away in quasi blind fashion while one of us operated the switch for the other. Both converters operated in native mode, that is the b-DAC manually via its menu, the PWD by means of its auto function as triggered by the matching transport. The PWD is €3.300.

What to say? This humble b-DAC is on hell of a performer. It's versatile, it battles digititis successfully, it has sufficiently expansive connectivity and it even doubles as excellent USB to S/PDIF converter slash reclocker/jitter buster. Its idiosyncratic operating facilities and minimal display might be offputting to some but once you get the hang you’ll have one of the finest DACs for quite the bargain on your hands.
Quality of packing: Excellent
Condition of component received: Flawless.
Website comments: Informative and complete
Human interactions: Quick, courteous and friendly.
Suggestions:  A FireWire input for Mac users?

Tentlabs website