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The B.dac's thick front panel of aluminium nearly seamlessly marries to the enclosure set apart only by colour. The front is very uncrowded. Behind black acrylic glass, a big quite bright logo placed against the lower ledge neighbours a small monochromatic display placed higher. This shows two lines of light grey text; the upper for the currently used digital input, sampling rate and data type, the one below bluntly informing me that my loaner was a demonstrator not for sale. I found this custom-coded preventive measure quite entertaining and thoughtful.
These alphanumerics are small, of low enough resolution to betray single pixels up close and one needs a sharp eye from the distance to make them out. This wasn't a personal drawback since all I usually see is a single digit on my daily DAC's Nixie tube front. B.dac's acrylic section finely merges into the aluminium fascia for nice contrast and visual distinctiveness. A large endlessly rotating input wheel found on the other side turns very smoothly and didn't protrude from its surroundings. One lit diode out of six on the wheel's right side indicates the digital input on duty whilst the adjacent button is the secondary on/off switch. The machine wakes up almost instantly and its fit'n'finish and overall industrial design really were top notch. Only a remote wand was missing. Considering price, this was surprising. A five-figure tag should at least include a basic remote capable of switching inputs and dimming the display.
The U-shaped cover forming the top and sides sports a satin-touch coating, recalling the Nextel paint championed by Aqua Hifi of Italy and elevating the appearance of quality when touched. The rear panel was occupied by the usual suspects: RCA and XLR outputs, AES/EBU, 2 x optical, asynchronous USB and 2 x coaxial S/PDIF inputs plus an IEC power inlet with mains rocker. Four round aluminium footers with rubber rings touch terra firma. On specs, USB supports 32bit/384kHz PCM and native DSD256 whereas DoP does DSD128. Getting to the innards was a breeze. With just six screws removed, I detached the hood for a good long look inside. Five key sections spread out across two PCB. The power supply was occupied by two toroidal Amgis transformers, one for digital, the other for analog. The Amanero USB input on the other board was its only recognizable element because all other important silicon had its top deliberately defaced to frustrate reverse engineers.
What's publicized is that the B.dac exploits an ARM processor and DSP loaded with an in-house developed convolution engine which applies its own linear phase filter for reduced pre-ringing. And yes, there's upsampling. Each key element (DSP, clock, DAC, output stages, DC servo) has its dedicated power regulator. There was no way to dismount the rather large mysterious box on the main board without damaging it. Sébastien explained that it houses B.dac's D/A conversion module based on multi-bit ΔΣ modules and their proprietary SJR or 'source jitter removal' scheme. Its goal is to fully eliminate all incoming jitter without an external clock link. A clean clock generator decoupled from the source clock claims optimal timing for D/A conversion without any digital harshness. The output stage is executed dual mono and loaded with low phase deviation filters. I was informed that these are applied for maximum accuracy and to preserve dynamics and micro detail. Lastly, a specific multi-pole DC servo allows direct coupling without risking a voltage offset at the output.
To review the B.dac, my trusty Asus UX305LA laptop fed either it or LampizatOr's Pacific DAC. One of those then passed signal to either a Kinki Studio EX-M1 or Trilogy 925 integrated amp and these alternately fed Boenicke W8 floorstanders. Both DACs connected to Gigawatt's PF-2 power strip via identical 2m long LessLoss C-MARC power cords whilst two identical pairs of Amber-modded Audiomica Laboratory Erys Excellence RCA interconnects hooked up the integrated amps. Early on the iFi audio iGalvanic3.0 + iUSB3.0 team did its usual magic between my transport and sources to see which of the two was more subject to USB tweak improvements. Over the years I've had a few useful experiences with various products designed to strip noise from digital interfaces. These led me to think that music without noise sounds not only generally better but on many counts also more alike. I heard this with the LessLoss C-MARC power cords, USB decrapifiers by iFi audio, the Fidata HFLC leash and the GigaWatt PC-2 EVO+ power filter. All vary in key purpose, potency and figures on their price tags. Each makes the music calmer, more revealing, livelier and airier, with edge and grain lessened and so-called backgrounds darker. Any repertoire served up in such fashion flows better. Less garishness equals more pleasure and the B.dac belonged to this group as well.
For two weeks this machine expressed loud and clear that it looked as good as it sounded, quickly revealing itself to be finely tuned and utterly free from any harshness. If I had just one word to describe it, liquidity it would be. Any product able to provide such perfectly sorted, grainless, organic and smooth sound without major temperature twists must be called liquid. To achieve it with digital usually requires that the incoming digital be already properly treated. The good news is that the B.dac didn't require it. Despite its Amanero transceiver, it turned out to be far more resilient to the usual USB tweaks than my reference source with the very same Amanero module.
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