It seems DACs are back. The humble DAC (digital to analogue converter) is back in favour as a separate entity, despite its crucial role as an integral part of all CD players. The latest standalone DAC to join this increasing - and niche - pool boasts cutting-edge D/A conversion engineering and a price to match.
German hi-fi specialist Accustic Arts has made a high-end valve-hybrid DAC that combines the benefits of solid-state technology with the romance of valves.
The new Tube-DAC II falls within the brand's flagship Reference Series and is aimed at audiophile's wanting the precision of digital, combined with the musicality of the best analogue systems. Accustic Arts is said to have developed its own take on upsampling CD data, whilst busy designing the DSP (Digital Signal Processing) section of the product.
It's this technology - which relies on a 32-bit microcomputer - that lies at the heart of the Tube-DAC II. The microcomputer upconverts the signal to two 32-bit signals (instead of CD's standard 16-bit) before processing the data into analogue form via two converter chips.
The dual analogue signal is then processed by the tube-hybrid filter circuit, before leaving the device either via balanced XLR-outputs or unbalanced RCA outputs. Cutting-edge 32-bit technology does not come cheap, however: this one costs £5,000.