Prices: $11,000 (Tube-DAC II SE), $12,000 (Drive II)
Michael said: The Accustic Arts Reference Tube-DAC II SE and Reference Drive II are easy to recommend to anyone who can afford this level of performance and has a large CD collection. As a pair, they’re right up there with the best I’ve heard.
The gist: Perhaps the ultimate combo for your CD collection.
Kevin said: After struggling for years with trying to stream or otherwise play Radio Paradise over something other than the Audio Engine A2s connected to my Mac Mini, the HAL has provided a painless, wireless solution. It’s one of those lovely appliances that will have you wondering how you ever did without it.
The gist: Painless wireless for everyman.
Roger said: The Asus O!Play HDP-R1 is a lot of media player for $99. While it lacks the polished user interface of, say, the Western Digital WD TV Live, its excellent performance meant that it was not out of place in my reference home-theater system.
The gist: Only $99?!
Tim said: Perhaps the strongest compliment I can bestow on the Ayre C-5xeMP is that it changed my perspective on what digital sound reproduction is capable of. It brought me closer to the music, and I’m spoiled all over again.
The gist: All you really need in an audio-only disc player.
Prices: $2695 (DAC3VB), $1495 (VBS1)
Tim said: . . . you simply have to try the e.One DAC3VB with VBS1 power supply to see if the dramatic differences I experienced are possible in your home as well. The DAC3VB significantly and substantially improved the best digital sound I’ve had in my system.
The gist: Competes with the best, but at a reasonable cost.
Doug said: I know of no other component that offers these three functions and such a high level of sound quality across the board. The DAC1 HDR can be compared with components costing much, much more -- which is exactly what I did in my listening.
The gist: Three-in-one component with separates sound quality.
Colin said: The USB Tunnel 24/96 offers a fantastic way to get computer-audio signals into an existing DAC; it will almost certainly inspire many audiophiles to relegate their CD players to the dustbin of digital history.
The gist: Latest digital converter from Gilbert.
Jeff said: What impresses me is that such an inexpensive device can get so many things so right. And when you factor in the cost of the included cables, well, it’s easy to envision the Devilsound in a system based on a computer you already have, a pair of EgglestonWorks Dianne speakers, and a Simaudio or Bel Canto integrated amplifier -- for about $6000, you’d have quite satisfying sound.
The gist: DAC’n’cables cheap and easy.
Peter said: I can unequivocally state that the sound of the Esoteric D-07 DAC is very elegant and refined, and its appearance is stunning; if you’re shopping for a DAC for somewhere in the vicinity of $5000, the Esoteric D-07 is definitely worth auditioning.
The gist: A few limitations, but fantastic nonetheless.
John said: If you’re looking for your final CD player, the one that will last you until hi-rez downloads become commonplace, and you don’t feel like spending all of your kids’ college fund on it, then find a Hegel dealer and give the CDP2A a good listen.
The gist: Yet another good CD player.
Rad said: At $299.99, the Logitech Squeezebox Touch is a bargain. It gives audiophile results with high-quality music files, offers superb Internet Radio with a choice of hundreds of stations, and has a bright, impressive, responsive touchscreen.
The gist: Wireless music for everyman.
Colin said: It has all the traditional Simaudio virtues in spades, plus an even-greater-than-normal degree of performance per dollar spent. Even when I’m being exceedingly picky, I can’t find fault with this excellent DAC.
The gist: Colin's new reference DAC.
Jeff said: When it comes to D/A converters, the Simaudio Moon Evolution 750D is at the top of the heap. It is transparent to the source, has extreme levels of resolution, and is dead-bang neutral in terms of tonality -- by these or any measures, it is a terrific-sounding piece of gear.
The gist: State-of-the-art DAC technology with a CD transport to boot.
Ron said: There’s still a lot of potential in the humble CD, and good-sounding, high-value players like the TEAC PD-H600 prove that. Recommended.
The gist: Esoteric lite?
Jeff said: If you can cough up $6670 for a DAC, and if you want to explore the outer reaches of sound quality with a hi-rez computer-based source, then the Weiss DAC202 should be at the top of your must-audition list.
The gist: One of the best DACs in the world as of this writing.
Roger said: If you need an inexpensive media player to play hi-def video files, the WD TV Live is a good choice. If you’re looking for something to play audio files through a high-end system, I suggest you look elsewhere.
The gist: Good and cheap for video. No for audio.
Vade said: The W4S DAC-2 was easy to set up, easy to use, and sounded fabulous. Its high-speed USB input sounded every bit as good as its S/PDIF input, so computer audiophiles no longer need worry about building a server around S/PDIF -- the ubiquitous USB input can sound just as good.
The gist: Maybe the best DAC deal on the market today.