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Reviewer: Edgar Kramer
Financial Interests: Click here
Source: AMR CD-77.1 CD player
Preamplifier: Supratek Sauvignon with NOS RCA and Bendix tubes; NuForce P9, NuForce P18 [in for review]
Amplifier: NuForce Reference 18 monoblocks; Cymer Audio Southern Star SE-35 monoblocks; Ancient Audio Single Six monoblocks
Speakers: Wilson Audio Specialties Sasha W/P
Cables: Cerious Technologies; Harmonic Technology Magic; NuForce digital cables; ETI Quiessence [in for review]; Bocchino Audio Morning Glory; Cable Research Laboratory (CRL) Gold with Bocchino XLR and RCA; Cerious Technologies; DanA Digital Reference Silver; Eichmann eXpress 6 Series 2; Harmonic Technology Magic and Truthlink Silver; MIT Giant Killer MPC; PSC Audio Monolith AG; PSC Audio Pristine R30 Ribbon; NuForce IC-700 Speaker, ETI Quiessence [in for review]; Cerious Technologies; MIT Giant Killer GK-1 loudspeaker cables; NuForce SC-700, Power: Cerious Technologies AC; Eichmann eXpress AC power cables; Harmonic Technology Fantasy; PSC Gold Power MKII; Shunyata Research Diamondback
Stands: SGR Signature HiFi racks
Acoustic treatment: Fonic Designer panels and StudioCel bass traps
Sundry accessories: Burson Audio buffer, Bright Star Audio IsoRock Reference 3 and BSA IsoNode feet; Bocchino Audio Mecado isolation diodes; Black Diamond Racing cones; Stillpoints ERS paper in strategic positions, Shakti On Lines; Densen CD demagnetizer; Auric Illuminator CD Treatment
Room size: New room with details to come but, at the early stages, better acoustics resulting in superior sound to the previous room
Review component retail: AU$11.800

Déjà vu. It’s the time of the DAC. Again. Sift through the sands of time. You may remember. In the late ‘80s Arcam—a then relatively young UK company—released what was by all accounts the first outboard DAC dubbed The Black Box. It indisputably leap-frogged the sonic qualities of single-box players of the era. Subsequently Arcam’s successful model was emulated by many of its competitors all around the globe. Inadvertently or not, the company became the instigator of a whole new class of device. With dedicated and stiffer power supplies, superior parts and evolved design (the often higher jitter notwithstanding), the outboard DAC reigned king when it came to high-end audio systems.

Alas, after a few short years of sovereignty, improvements in integrated CD player engineering resulted in the DAC’s dethroning. Barring esoteric and ultra-expensive designs, the separate transport/DAC concept faded from popularity. Pump up the time-warp drive to the 21st century around the midpoint of the first decade. The reemergence is of far stronger impetus. This has been driven by the ever-increasing popularity of computer audio. There are now more DAC brands, most of the USB kind, than one can poke a stick at. Many are from companies that have sprung up to dedicate their entire operations to DACs alone – and usually of the budget kind. At all levels the more successful ones have expanded their product lines to include other electronics and have thus enriched the audio pool with the vibrant colors of their offspring.