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CEntrance DACport USB DAC & Headphone Amplifier

Product Name: CEntrance DACport USB DAC & Headphone Amplifier
Product Type: USB DAC & headphone amplifier
Price: $499.00
Reviewed By: Jez Ford
Magazine: Geare: September/October 2010
Distributor: Wicked Digital Pty Ltd
Who Sells What/Website: CEntrance

The DACport is a moveable feast. USB plug on one end headphone socket on the other.

http://www.avhub.com.au/images/stories/igsu/IgnitionSuite_Image(10399).jpgYou can plug your finest headphones into this all-in-one USB DAC and headphone amplifier — it won’t disappoint

We salute the philosophy of the CEntrance DACport. The headphone sockets on computers get their signal from cheap hideous amplification stages. The sonic circuits behind them are, on most computers, equally non hi-fi. Hence we have long recommended that anyone listening to computer-based music should add a USB DAC between the computer and a traditional hi-fi system. But the usual mainspowered DACs are hopelessly inconvenient for a laptop, and many DACs don’t even cater for headphones, having either an average headphone stage or none at all.

The DACport is a moveable feast. USB plug on one end, headphone socket on the other — it is entirely powered from the USB, so you can plug it into a laptop on the move as easily as your desktop at home. They even give you a belt clip, and a little felt pouch. And it’s a triumph of neatness, fitting all its circuitry within a nicely milled tube into which you insert your headphones (full-size quarter-inch socket), while a cable plugs into your computer’s humble USB socket.

A bit pricey at $499? You’re paying for quality; it sounds superb. Not only does its DAC handle anything up to 24-bit 96kHz audio, it does so with keen attention to timing, using a “militaryspec” clock oscillator with 10ppm accuracy, before feeding the result to a direct-coupled (no capacitors) low-distortion Class-A headphone amplifier.

http://www.avhub.com.au/images/stories/igsu/IgnitionSuite_Image(10400).jpg

In fact we’re amazed the DACport can obtain the power required from USB; it drives even tricky headphones beautifully, while dissipating not inconsiderable heat. Full up, there was no audible distortion, thrilling levels of detail and precision for positioning of elements within a mix; bags of power. If we tell you that in A/B switching the DACport consistently matched or exceeded our own dedicated (and powered) DAC and headphone amp, and that our reference retails at four times the price, you can take this as a high recommendation. Exceptional. We note that it runs fairly warm and stays that way even when it’s idle, indeed even if it’s not selected as the computer’s audio output device. So sadly it’s best to physically unplug it when not in use, which is a slight inconvenience.

That aside, and assuming an excellent set of headphones is on hand to make the most of its skills, the DACport provides a thrillingly audiophile all-in- one file-to-phones solution with the astounding additional gift of easy use on the move. Keeps your pocket warm too.

Distributor: Wicked Digital Pty Ltd