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Jean-Michel Nappa
Financial Interests: click here
Digital Sources: Consonance Droplet, Denon 3910, Atoll CD30, Sony GRX3000, Philips DVP5960; Apple MacBook Pro 17", Acer Aspire 7736ZG 17"
Amplification: Consonance Cyber 222 MKII, Consonance Cyber 211/845, Atoll PR5.1, Atoll AM100, Atoll IN30.
Loudspeakers: Cabasse Artis Egea II, Cabasse Artis Thor II.
Cables: HMS Sestetto, AudioArt SC-5SE , Chord Odyssee, Stereovox HDXV, Chord Optichord, QED Performance, Positive Cable Optimum Orion, MIT Z-Chord II, AudioArt 1SE.
Room size: 6.5m x 11.5m attic.
Review component retail: €500
Is 2010 the year of Atoll? With no less than five new products to come, this French audio manufacturer will further broaden its products line and propose attractive solutions for both upscale audiophiles who are after the high-end and for beginners who are interested in affordable but performance-oriented machines. This review of the DAC-100 digital-to-analog converter demonstrates how Atoll has leveraged more than 12 years of expertise to provide an audio solution for PC sources.

Ready for the future? This DAC-100 is one of Atoll’s mid-line offerings. Here in France it can be bought for €500 to become a pleasant sparring partner for various entry-level systems. With a design reminiscent of their CD-100 or IN-100, this D/A converter is perfectly situated with a smaller chassis but equivalent construction quality. The heavy aluminum fascia supports the engraved Atoll logo and all commands with 3 buttons for input selection and one for standby. The display is nothing but two lines of diodes to confirm source selection. There is no remote but with this type of device, it really isn’t necessary. The back panel sports the power mains switch, 4 digital inputs (1x USB type B, 3 x optical or S/PDIF), one digital output (optical or S/PDIF) to, for example, connect a computer, CD player, multi-media hard drive, game console or Internet server. Analog outputs are via RCA only.

The Atoll DAC-100 uses a 24-bit/192kHz Burr-Brown PCM 1796 chip set and as all other Atoll products, the chassis was designed to minimize vibrations. The power supply uses two transformers one of which is dedicated to the output stage. Both digital and analog stages are fully discrete and run high-quality parts like MKP caps. The Toslink and S/PDIF inputs support 16 to 24-bit streams at 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 96kHz and 192kHz while USB is limited to 16 bits at 32kHz, 44.1kHz and 48kHz. Frequency response is 20Hz - 20kHz ±0.1dB, with THD (1kHz, 0dBF, 24-bit) of <0,001%, S/N ratio and dynamic range of 123dB, max output of 2.5V RMS, dimensions of 310 x 210 x 60mm DxWxH and a weight of 2kg.

The perfect computer companion?
Whatever your PC platform—an Apple and its optical output, a PC with S/PDIF output or simply USB—the DAC-100 is ready. With the triple navigator arrows, you select your chosen input. Three toggle between TOSLINK and S/PDIF, one is dedicated to USB on a type B socket which eliminates a hard-drive or memory stick but turns the Atoll into an external computer sound card. To cover all bases, I used
  1. Apple Mac Book Pro with Snow Leopard via Toslink
  2. Apple Mac Book Pro with Windows 7 via Toslink
  3. Apple Mac Book Pro with Snow Leopard via USB
  4. Apple Mac Book Pro with Windows 7 via USB
  5. Acer Aspire with Windows 7 via S/PDIF
  6. Acer Aspire with Windows 7 via USB