October 2, 2009 - Positive Developments in Computer-Based Audio
by Jeff Fritz

The world of computer-based audio is really getting interesting. Products on display at the 2009 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest that cater to audiophiles transmitting digital signals from hard drives to DACs were numerous. From digital-to-analog converters like the DAC3.1 from Bel Canto Design to digital-interface products like the Weiss Int202 digital converter, both of which we featured in today's coverage, there seemed to be some genuinely positive movement in the product genre. These are the kinds of useful, cutting-edge products audiophiles have been waiting for -- and there's much more to come.

There were some production pieces like the $349 Stello U2 24/96 USB link (with both coaxial and I2S outputs) that will find its way into systems right now, and there were plenty of product prototypes from all sorts of companies as well as many promises of "we’re working on it and hope to have it by CES" from those companies that didn't yet have anything to show. This area of high-end audio has the most development going on, and the supply of new products seems endless.

Stello's new $349 U2 digital converter can be used to transmit 24/96 signals from a computer to a DAC.

I was glad to see so many companies addressing computer audio in what seemed to be relevant and innovative ways. Probably the most oft-asked question I heard from showgoers was what products would facilitate full 24-bit/192kHz resolution to be transmitted digitally from point A (being the computer) to point B (being a DAC). This has been a source of concern among audiophiles for some time since the products just haven't been there to accomplish this. I can happily report that the solutions are either here now or are coming soon. A new time for discovery in high-end audio? Definitely.

Weiss' $1300 Int202 digital converter can be used for 24/192 signals by using a FireWire connection to the computer.