High-Res Audio: What To Buy

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Here are some of the new high-res products appeared at CES to appeal to serious music collectors and audiophiles:

Auralic: The company wants to make high-res audio more affordable to a broader segment of music lovers with the launch of a little buddy for the company’s $1,599 and $999 Aries Wi-Fi streaming bridges. The new $549 Aries Mini with built-in Sabre-based DAC, shipping this month, connects via analog or digital outputs to existing sound systems or powered speakers to stream high-res music from computers and NAS drives via tri-band Wi-Fi and RJ45 gigabit Ethernet. It also plays back high-res music stored on an optional internal 2.5-inch hard drive, on USB 2.0-connected USB sticks and hard drives, or via Internet-and Bluetooth-streamed music services such as Tidal and, Spotify.

For North American consumers, it also comes with a one-year subscription to the Tidal HiFi lossless music library of 35 million tracks, valued at $240.

Via Auralic’s Lightning app, users browse their music library, select songs, and choose hardware settings. The app also features built-in cloud-based streaming music services such as Tidal, QOBUZ /WimP. The app is available for Apple’s iPads and iPhones and, in the near future, for Windows PCs, Mac OS X and Linux OS.

Multiple models can be pressed into service to create a wireless multi-room audio system, streaming music to multiple Aries Minis at a time from any of its many music sources, including its optional internal HD.

It decodes DSD 256 (quad-DSD) files, 2.8MHz DSD (64), 5.6MHz double-rate DSD (128), and Digital eXtreme Definition (DXD) over Wi-Fi networks. It also decodes lossless 192kHz/32-bit files as well as lossy files.

Compared to the higher priced models, the new one adds Bluetooth.

The Mini measures 1.1 by 5.3 by 5.3 inches.

The step-up models lack internal DACs, so they must be used with external DACs, underscoring their focus on the audiophile market.

Bryston: The company’s first high-res DAC with DSD playback is the $3,495 BDA-3, which natively decodes up to 384 kHz/32-bit PCM music and up to DSDx4.

It also accepts an SACD disc’s DSD content via HDMI so that enthusiasts with older SACD or universal players could enjoy the sonic improvements enabled by the new DAC.

The component features 10 discrete inputs, including four two-channel HDMI, asynchronous USB, AES/ EBU, Toslink, and digital coax to be compatible with just about any digital source, the compay said.

It began shipping last month.

Clarion: The company’s $999-suggested NX706 CD/DVD/navigation receiver features decoding of 96/24 FLAC files, 96/24 DACs, and 4x19-watt RMS amplifier. A Toslink output is available to connect to a Full Digital Sound (FDS) processor, which sends audio in digital form right up to the voice coils of FDS speakers. The architecture ensures high-res audio is maintained without loss or the noise and artifacts added from analog connections, the company said.

Speaker and processor pricing was unavailable.

Dual: The aftermarket car-audio brand Dual will bring high-resolution audio playback to the dash with a $499-suggested CD-receiver that streams high-resolution files via Wi-Fi from a smartphone. The DWF916L supports FLAC, ALAC, APE and WAV high-resolution audio files up to 192kHz/24 bits and includes 192/24 DACs. It also features DLNA, allowing it to stream audio via Wi-Fi from DLNA-compatible tablets and laptops.

Harman Kardon: The Harman brand’s next generation of Omni wireless multiroom-audio products, based on the Blackfire platform, get such upgrades as high-res audio playback. The devices stream 192kHz/24-bit audio over Wi-Fi and feature 192/24 DACs.

Kenwood: High-resolution FLAC and PCM playback up to 192kHz/24 bits appears on the top four eXcelon-series navigation and multimedia receivers, which feature 192/24 DACs. High-res music can be played from USB sticks, memory cards, and CDs. They’re the company’s first with high-res payback, having offered FLAC 48/16 playback before and continuing to offer it in 2016 models.

Klipsch: High-res music playback is included in the Reference Premiere HD Wireless Speaker System, whose HD Control Center transmits 96/24 audio via WiSA wireless to up to 7.2 active speakers. The hub decodes FLAC and Wav files up to 96/24 via USB sticks and USB drives with a planned update.

High-res playback is also included in multiple active speaker pairs.

Mytek Digital: The manufacturer of digital audio products for both professional recording studios and consumer markets brought a new high-resolution DAC to CES MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) decoding.

The $1,995 Brooklyn DAC, which is shipping, is billed as the world’s first standalone consumer DAC and headphone preamplifier equipped with MQA. It decodes 384kHz/32-bit PCM files as well as native DSD files up to DSD256 with up to 130dB dynamic range. Brooklyn also doubles as a reference line and phono preamplifier and as a headphone amplifier with dual output jacks.

Onkyo: A high-res TX-8140 stereo receiver and the brand’s first portable, the DP-X1 with high-res and MQAformat playback, are on tap. Details were unavailable.

Pioneer: A networked Elite-series high-res stereo receiver and an Android-based high-res portable are Pioneer’s latest high-res products.

The SXN30 receiver, due late December or January, was expected to carry a suggested retail of about $599. The two-zone receiver plays back all the latest music sources, including high-res downloads up to 192/24 and up to 5.6MHz DSD. High-res 192/24 files can be streamed via Wi-Fi depending on network traffic, and DSD can be streamed via an Ethernet connection. Music from a USB stick or USB hard drive can also be played, though only up to CD resolution.

The high-res XDP-100R portable is expected to be around $700 when it ships early this year.

Via Wi-Fi, the Android Lollipop-based player will be able to download high-res 192/24 Flac files direct from OnkyoMusic.com through a preloaded OnkyoMusic app. OnkyoMusic.com said it might also support MQA downloads because its runs on a platform built by 7digital, which plans to support MQA.

Questyle: The mainland China company is bringing a variety of new components that include a pair of high-res DACs.

The company already offers a high-res portable player, a high-res DAC, a preamp, and a wireless-audio system that sends 192/24 uncompressed audio to a companion mono or two-channel amp equipped with wireless receiver and DAC.

New high-res products include the CAS192D DAC at a tentative $2,999 and companion CMA800P preamp at a tentative $3,499, the $2,999 CMA800R current-mode headphone amp, and the $1,299 CMA600i DAC with current-mode amplification. All feature coaxial, optical and USB inputs that support 192/24 digital audio.

Sony: A new soundbar, AVR and USB turntable with Hi-Res encoding are on tap to go with current models, home-audio components, and an in-dash car stereo.

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