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Internally the compact enclosure is stuffed tight with motherboard, CD ripper and 2TB hard drive right up to the rear connectors. The fanless design minimizes operational noise and contributes to heat dissipation. Additionally heatsinks on the motherboard plus ventilation slots on the bottom and rear panels stabilize internal temps. Wyred is an authorized VortexBox builder and utilizes a custom OEM version of the VortexBox software, a Fedora-based Linux OS for an extremely efficient and quite powerful piece of media server software. The only Linux limitation is a potential compatibility issue with USB DACs geared specifically for Windows or Mac drivers. Both VortexBox and Wyred make available a list of suitable USB DACs to address this issue for those who absolutely demand this method of communication. Since Wyred offers a wealth of alternate connectivity, this is a minor point of concern. The  server supports AAC, APE, AIFF, Apple Lossless, Monkey's Audio, FLAC, QuickTime, MP3, MPEG-4, Musepack Ogg Vorbis, MPEG-4 SLS/HD-AAC, WAV, Windows Media, WMA Lossless, WMA Pro and Wavpack. This should cover the bases for most conceivable situations.

Wyred sent their DAC-2 to allow me to get a good measure of the performance capabilities of the server through a wide variety of outputs. The only capability I was unable to test was a full Wyred USB setup due to the DAC 2’s  lack of Linux support. Signal Cable Reference digital coax and optical interconnects as well as Wyred I²S and USB cables were used. The speakers changed over the course of the review from the Clearwave Loudspeaker Design Symphonia 72R to the Apogee Duetta Signatures, allowing insight into how the components would fare under different circumstances.

Since this was not a formal review of the DAC, I spent some time exploring its capabilities and sonics to be able to separate what it was doing from the music server. I did a comparison of my AudioSpace CDP-8A's coax and Toslink digital outputs into the DAC versus the player’s own tube and transistor analog outputs. For USB input I turned to my laptop configured with Wyred‘s proprietary drivers. The I²S output is more unique and comparison there was done solely against the other inputs from the server.

To keep it short and sweet, the performance of the DAC was exemplary. In ergonomic terms versatility was unmatched in my experience, becoming a full-fledged digital-based line stage with generous socketry. In sonic terms it occupies middle tier status. It can be outperformed in some parameters but will require some serious cash flow to better it overall. In the 44K Redbook realm against the AudioSpace, it proved about equivalent, the CDP-8A showing a little more dynamic life in the midrange against superior transparency in the Wyred’s favor. Some will be disappointed by that statement. They shouldn’t be. The AudioSpace DAC is a feisty overachiever. It held up surprisingly well against the higher-tier supremacy of the Acoustic Buoy 2488 DAC which outperformed the AudioSpace in all parameters and therefore would have also outperformed the Wyred on absolute basis but as with most things High End, there's a law of diminishing returns. At three times the cost, the 2488 DAC remains the top digital product to have come through my house. At three times less the Wyred DAC-2 pushes close and counters with almost unlimited versatility.

Sound. If you have a tubular disposition, the optical inputs came closest by being mildly lush with midrange air. The coax inputs emphasized transient information to create a slightly drier but dynamically exciting presentation. USB seemed to split the difference. I²S was a mix of transparency with dimensional and tonal immediacy that matched my custom NOS DAC in its best strengths. The I²S overall outperformed every other input in all parameters by a small margin although some may have a different preference. The sound was very analog in the best sense - open, solid and with superb projection. Air was acoustic not high-frequency hash and instrument separation was natural rather than emphasized. If these descriptions don’t sound middle-tier status, it’s testament to how far current DAC technology has progressed in recent years.

The choice of music in this examination was predominantly server based and often played against its CD counterparts through the CD player’s analog out as well as digital outputs feeding the Wyred DAC2. The material played was extensive and varied so the few pieces mentioned were only a tiny sampling. "Battle in the Mutara Nebula" from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn: James Horner [Retrograde FSM 80128-20]  is classic early Horner by the maestro’s own hand. This recording is done very much in the Bernard Herrmann school of technique, concentrating less on absolute orchestral perspective to capture instrumental texture on a broad canvas for a rare glimpse into the intent and interplay the composer intended.

"Silent All These Years" from Little Earthquakes: Tori Amos  [Warner Music Eastwest CD82358] is the debut album that garnered Tori Amos tremendous critical and popular acclaim. Exceptional vocals showing strong personal material driven by ferocious intensity accompanied by soft piano and layered with overdubs. A decent recording that captures those qualities from subtle nuance through rage.

"You‘re Driving Me Crazy" from the HRx edition From the Age of Swing [Reference Recordings HR-59] is a classic Keith O. Johnson jazz recording presented in glorious 24/176.4. Dick Hyman and jazz ensemble kick with infectious warmth, impressive dynamics and acoustic air that exceed the capability of the already great CD edition.

"Fever Dream" from Blind Windows: Nash the Slash [Cutthroat Records CUTCD-2] is Nash the Slash at his eclectic beginnings. In the 70s and 80s while performing with the Canadian pop pioneer band FM,  it marks Nash’s solo entry into the world of experimental electric music, a marriage of primitive synth with electric violin and mandolin that creates as surreal a landscape as the Vanderhorst painting he often accompanies. The second cut is the infamous Marsden version of the first, created when the unobservant DJ played back the 45 EP at 33.3 for the entire album and it became popular. If this seems a ludicrous situation it should be remembered that Beethoven’s works are generally played at a much slower tempo than they were written for. Uptempo or ponderous, art follows the fashion of the moment.

"You Don‘t Know What Love Is" [Saxophone Colossus: Sonny Rollins Concord Jazz, 24/192 file version] is a nice cut from a 1956 Prestige recording that was given the full high definition mastering treatment. It goes for mood, dark, sultry and involving. Think smoky bar and baleful sax close up and personal with the orchestra adding weight and dimension. High resolution adds texture and meat to classic material.