EXTERNAL digital-to-analogue converters (DACs) used to be simple machines two decades ago, typified by Arcam’s pioneering Black Box – you got a digital input or two and a set of analogue outputs. All you had to do was hook one up between your CD player/transport and amplifier, and you were ready to roll.
How much more complex times have become now. The Primare DAC30 shows just what it takes to stay relevant in the game in 2012 … and the next few years.
The Scandinavian amp and CD maker may be a bit of a latecomer in this game but catches up with the field here. The DAC30 is described as a “fully balanced high-performance 24-bit/192kHz stereo DAC, designed to render the best possible audio quality from computer-based high-resolution music files stored on a hard-drive or NAS.”
That should hint at how sharply turned out the DAC30 is – it comes with an array of eight digital inputs, including asynchronous USB, stereo balanced AES/EBU, and three pairs each of S/PDIF coaxial and Toslink optical connectors. Primare touts it as “an audiophile bridge between any music system and a PC or Mac.” A pair each of single-ended RCA and balanced XLR analogue outputs are provided.
At the heart of this digit cruncher is the Crystal DSD DAC CS4398 chipset, the same as found on Primare’s acclaimed BD32 universal player.
The DAC30 outputs a 4.3V signal from its analogue outputs, which should be good for driving many power amp/speaker configurations; however, there’s no volume control, so a preamp is still recommended. Input selection can be done via Primare’s C23 or C33 remote handsets, which also control power on/off.
The DAC30 is available in black or titanium finishes, and is expected to start shipping in November, with an expected UK price of £2,000 … not cheap, but quality has a price.