Tag: DAC

Attack of the Clones: Fake FiiO Products Discovered on Amazon

They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. While that may have been true in some past age before the strict implementation of copyright and intellectual property laws, in today’s world it is an offense that can quickly land you in federal prison. Aside for the heavy putative measures taken against individuals and groups who engage in such “flattering” activities, the cost of fake products is heavy on consumers and the original companies. Before moving forward, we’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that we are authorized with FiiO and deliver only original FiiO products. Aside from that, we are also authorized with a multitude of other brands–rest assured, if you bought from Sonic Electronix it is the real deal.

It was officially reported last week that fake FiiO products including the E1E3E5E7,L1 have been sold to unsuspecting consumers on Amazon. Unfortunately, its not a surprise that such a fraud has happened to FiiO in particular. They are wildly popular for their high level of quality and cost-efficiency, making them a glaring target for counterfeiters everywhere.

Most shockingly, the counterfeit FiiO amps and DACs are practically identical to the real ones in appearance and reportedly perform well for a very brief period of time. According to various blogs, the real danger of purchasing the fakes is that they are poorly built and often short-out or even violently explode because of rechargeable-battery malfunctions.

Although the FiiO website is entirely silent on the matter, they have responded to customers and headphone enthusiasts on blogs offering lists of registered and authorized dealers. It is unclear whether FiiO is taking active steps in prosecuting confirmed scammers, but whatever the case, we would like to take this opportunity to remind our customers that we are completely authorized with FiiO and receive all our supplies directly from the manufacturer. You will not find any phony FiiO products  here (or any other phonies, for clarification).

To help our customers stay ahead of the game, here is a complete and official copy of FiiO’s Black List of US Retailers and some images to help you identify fake FiiO E6 amps.

Fake FiiO E6 Will Not Have a Serial Number

The User Manuals are Different from Original E6

Thick Pocket Clip Hook Are Fake E6

Fake FiiO E6 has Battery with Poor Insulation and Messy Soldering

Fake FiiO E6 has Battery with Poor Insulation and Messy Soldering

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NuForce Cube Review: Ultra-Portable Media Center

Take it Just about Anywhere

They finally arrived. After careful negotiations and a few flattering words, we got our hands on a box full of NuForce goodies.  While we certainly are grateful for all the quality stuff we got and expect to create equally impressive videos for a number of the products we got such as the NuForce Air DAC iWireless system, one of the most impressive and visually striking items we received is NuForce Cube. The elegant lines, a clear box resembling the minimalism of Apple packaging, and rich solid colors stood in stark contrast to the dry brown of the cardboard shipping box. But what is most impressive, apart from the aesthetics of the Cube, is the range of technologies NuForce has integrated into this diminutive 2″ box.

How Many Features Can Be Packed Into a 2″ Cube?

Don't Let Size Fool You: the Cube is Loud, Detailed, and Packs a DAC and Headphone Amp

In an effort to beef-up your mobile rig, NuForce has equipped the Cube with a headphone amplifier, a 16-bit/48kHz Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC), and an 3.5mm (1/8″) AUX. In theory, the goal of fitting so many functions in one place is to offer users a central sound entertainment hub. To that end, the Cube definitely delivers the key terms that will ignite the interest of virtually any audiophile. Adding to the portability of the Cube, it has a built-in battery that can deliver roughly eight continuous hours of playback and can be recharged through USB connection.

While packing so many features seems like it may become unwieldy, switching between the USB DAC function of the Cube in speaker mode to headphone mode was as easy plugging the phones in. To test the claims power of the headphone amplifier, I linked it to headphones rated at 100 Ohms. By no means the highest ohm load available, but one where issues start to become apparent if the cans are being under-powered (beside, the Cube is intended as a portable system. If you consider headphones over 100 ohms “portable” maybe you should reconsider).

As a headphone amplifier and DAC, the Cube performed remarkably well and delivered the sound quality expected of NuForce: clean, true to the signal, and minimally colored. But, to prevent skirting the most important question of the speaker’s performance too long, I move on.

Pandora’s Box?

Unlike Hephaestus who according to ancient Greek myth unleashed evil on the world upon opening Pandora’s box against Zeus’ command, unlocking the power of the NuForce Cube will not be as chaotic nor as reprehensible.

Instead, your first impression  is likely to be pure awe at volume this 2″ box can achieve. The first notes flooded through the speaker with utmost authority sounding loud and shockingly clear. For the fact that the speaker is no larger than a Kennedy Half-Dollar, the speaker retained a respectable amount of detail in the high frequencies and just enough bass to round out the reproduction and give the music a sense of depth.

While the Cube performed impressively in at mid-volume levels, it began to loose its brilliance once we pushed it up to its limits. Of course, no one expects to blow down the house or set off alarms with this little thing, but distortion is never a good thing and there was a perceivable level of distortion once we reached the highest volume thresholds.

For what it is and what it is designed to do, the NuForce Cube performs at a high level. It is hard to imagine a speaker with so many features, let alone one that can match the quality of the Cube. Although its somewhat high price-tag may deter some buyers, those who know what they are looking for and understand the quality of NuForce products will not hesitate to rejoice over the NuForce Cube.

The Full Array of Cube Colors in Their Package

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Do I Need a DAC? When and How to Choose a DAC

A common question that arises among music lovers looking to improve the sound quality of their set-up is the question of whether a Digital to Analog Converter (DAC, for short) is necessary and at what point a DAC becomes a useful component of either a speaker system or headphone rig. Before addressing the question of the necessity of a DAC, it is important to understand precisely what DACs are designed to do.

Function

The essential function of a DAC is to convert the digital signals that computers or portable players use to store music into an analog current that can be used by headphone transducers or speakers to create physical sound. As a matter of pure functionality, no player that stores music digitally can interact with analog components without some type of on-board DAC. Of course, to keep the overall price of machines and devices capable of digital music storage down, many manufacturers equip devices such as mp3 players, laptops, and desktops with sub-par DAC systems. These systems generally do only enough to convert binary into a current and do not stress distortion reduction and general sound quality leaving the music without dimension or depth.

Do I Need a DAC? When to Get a DAC?

The statement I am about to make may surprise some and completely offend others: no one ever needs a DAC. A dedicated DAC should be the final step in achieving the finest audio quality for your stereo system or headphone rig. No amount of specialization, flashy specs,

NuForce Signature Gold; No amount of gold or diamonds will save a poor source

or carefully selected DAC components will improve the sound quality of a poor source. Painfully compressed digital audio files such as MP3 and internet radio streams will always leave out the nuances serious listeners crave. Before a DAC should ever come into consideration, it is of greater priority that the audio file is of the best quality available and of the lowest compression.

Even before considering new headphones or speaker components, until the music files have achieved the highest possible level of quality it is premature to begin considering external DACs or amplifier DAC combinations.

Choosing a DAC

Assuming you have all your lossless files in line, decent set of headphones or speakers, and (in necessary cases) an amplifier, a DAC is something to consider as final step in improving you system. Like adding the finishing touches to a carefully crafted work of art, adding a

FiiO-E17, described as having a "neutral" signature

DAC to you system should feel like polishing an already impressive composition. An effective way to select a suitable DAC is to test one with the music it will be used to play. Because DACs feed decoded information to other systems within the unit that eventually travel to the listening device in an analog form, all DACs will have a unique sound signature. The sound signature is basically the amount of coloration, or sound imposed on the analog signal not inherent to the mix or engineering. While the most neutral reproduction is the most desirable, some individuals may find that DACs with “warmer” coloration are more suited to their tastes. At this point in the process, it is just a mater of selecting a DAC with a sound signature that suits your individual tastes and that most heightens your musical enjoyment.

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What It All Means: Frequency Response, Impedance, Sensitivity, and Drivers

As headphones of all types gradually become  fashion accessories, important technical measures of performance with unglamorous scientific measures seem to be preeminently targeted for exclusion by many manufacturers. Further still, even when manufacturers supply technical information, it can often be overlooked and placed beneath less pertinent factors to listening experience and sound reproduction such as model style, crafty novelty, and brand name. Just as one would not purchase a new set of reading glasses because they look “cool” without first considering the appropriate magnification, buying headphones requires that buyers are equally aware of the characteristics that best fit their particular needs. Whether it is a total suppression of relevant information or lack of knowledge surrounding the specifications that make a true difference in sound reproduction, purchasing headphones of any type based solely on emotive judgement can  result in an inadequate and unsatisfying listening experience. To help you make your next headphone purchase as a discerning and refined buyer, this blog will explain the importance and relevance of their most crucial technical specifications.

In the following sections we will define and explore the effect on listening experience of specifications including Frequency Response, Impedance, Sensitivity, and Drivers (which classify better as components rather than a characteristic, yet are imperative to sound quality). This list covers only the most common specifications and do not take signal quality or signal source into account.

Frequency Response

The Grado SR225i features a frequency response between 20 - 22,000 Hz, well within the average human range

Perhaps the most controversial specification among audiophiles, the frequency response uses Hertz (Hz) as a measure of sound waves per second where 1 Kilohertz (kHz) = 1,000 Hz. In reference to headphones, and speakers in general, the frequency response describes the frequencies a set of headphones can produce. Essentially, the lower end of the frequency response indicates the lowest frequency the speaker can produce while the larger number describes the highest frequency the speaker can produce. This, of course, does not necessarily translate into sound heard. The reason for this is because human hearing averages between 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. What makes this measure particularly polarizing is the general assumption that a frequency response with a lower Hz measurement translates into a better bass reproduction. While a frequency response lower than 20 Hz can be taken as a strong indicator of the potential bass reproduction, measures beneath roughly 16 Hz are felt as sound pressures rather than audible tones. The same logic that applies to bass applies to the treble scale. Sound above roughly 22 kHz tend not to be audible. As a general principle when shopping for headphones, buyers should at the very least be sure to accommodate for the average audible range for human hearing with a safe amount above and below the human hearing range. For example, a set of headphones with a frequency range of about 16 Hz – 23 kHz is  adequate for most casual listeners. Nevertheless, frequency response should not be the lone factor in deciding a purchase, there is plenty more to consider.

Impedance

The Sennheiser HD 650 features an impedance of 300 Ohms making it practically impossible to play with only a portable device

Without complicating matters too much, impedance basically indicates the power demand of a headphone and is most useful to buyers as an indication of a headphone’s application. Impedance is measured in Ohms and when thinking of impedance it is useful to separate into low and high impedance categories.

Low impedance headphones ranging from around 32 ohms to around 100 ohms are particularly well suited for portable applications. Because low impedance headphones require less voltage to produce high volume, a battery powered MP3 player or a portable device like an iPod have enough voltage to allow the voice coil and magnet to push and pull the speaker in the appropriate direction.

On the other hand, high impedance headphones are intended primarily for high-powered applications. High impedance headphones require more voltage from the source in order to reach comparable volumes to a lower impedance headphone. Nonetheless,  at a higher impedance, the tightly wound, thin voice coil wire creates resistance and results in a greater magnetic field that allows a more responsive diaphragm allowing high impedance headphones to push and pull the speaker with greater ease. High impedance headphones can be used with portable devices if they are paired with an appropriate headphone amplifier that will provide the high impedance headphone enough voltage to convert the electrical signal into music.

Sensitivity

In direct relation to impedance is a headphones sensitivity. While impedance describes the voltage necessary to power the headphone at a specified volume level, sensitivity is describes the amount of electrical signal that is converted into sound.  The relationship between sensitivity and impedance is such that sensitivity is a direct result of voltage. In other words, sensitivity tells users about the volume level, measured in decibels (dB), at a specified voltage.  So, if you know the impedance of a set of headphones and the power supply, sensitivity can give users a good idea of the volume you can expect for a set of headphones.

Drivers

Finally, the driver. Easily the most important part of a set of headphones as this is the place where the music happens. Although there are many types of drivers available to consumers, perhaps the most common is the dynamic driver. All the specification discussed up to this point directly affect the performance of the driver. Of particular importance is the driver size, as this most often indicates the type of frequency the driver will best suited to reproduce.

The old adage that bigger is better is only partially true in regard to headphones. For instance, if the goal is to get the most bass out of a pair of headphones and have made sure to see that the frequency response of the headset is sufficiently low, then a large driver may be the best option. Because a large driver with a larger surface area will push more air through the chambers, the large driver is best suited to provide the best bass response. Moreover, because of the large surface area, the pressure of inaudible frequencies will be more noticeable.

However, if your musical tastes and demands tend toward the higher frequencies, a larger driver is antithetical to your purposes. Higher frequencies travel in faster and tighter waves than the broad bass frequencies. This means that your driver will need to respond quicker and fluctuate faster than it would need to with low frequencies. Smaller drivers, with a smaller surface area and reduced mass, are much easier to move making it the most appropriate option for mid to high frequencies.

Conclusion

Despite the continuing trend toward marketable and trendy headphones, these devices are complicated and technologically advanced pieces of equipment that have developed over many years. Understanding how to get the most of a set of headphones require a dedicated degree of commitment and personal investment. Ultimately, the diligence necessary to fully appreciate the characteristics of a pair of headphones can be the difference between just another mundane experience and a lifetime of enjoyment.

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Hear What You’re Missing With Infrasonic’s Blow4D Nearfield Reference Monitors

Apparently, Infrasonic owns a trademark on the phrase, “Hear What You’re Missing.” They’re certainly justifiably confident in holding that trademark. Infrasonic makes a variety of products, including reference monitors, FireWire/USB/PCI audio interfaces, MIDI controllers and microphones, and as far as this blogger can tell, they’re all top-notch. These monitors, the Blow 4D, are a fantastic example:

Infrasonic Blow4D

Bi-Amplified Nearfield Studio Monitor Speakers w/ Built-in 24-bit/192kHz DAC, Bass Reflex & Much More

The Infrasonic Blow 4Ds are a pair of 55-Watt, 4″ bi-amplified near-field studio monitors. They feature a two-way design, a bass reflex system and natural silk dome tweeters in order to reproduce the broad frequency response and overall stellar-quality sound that they do. Their high-strength MDF composite cabinet design also contributes to that.

Infrasonic Blow4D back

The Blow 4Ds have both analog AND digital inputs, with a stunning 24-bit/192 kHz DAC built right into it.

Don’t be fooled by the “BLOW4″ you see in the picture. It’s easy as pie to tell the difference. The difference (and, if I may, what a beautiful one it is) is that the Blow 4Ds come equipped with a DA-912 digital interface module, allowing users to utilize a number of digital inputs such as AEU/EBU(XLR), S/PDIF(RCA) and an RCA thru connector.

The DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) in the DA-912 has an astonishing 24-bit/192kHz resolution which translates to 123 dB of dynamic range. Keen observers will also notice the variety of filters above the DA-912 module that help control low and high frequencies in a wide variety of ways. Truly, the Infrasonic Blow 4Ds are some of the most outstanding near-field studio monitors on the market today. With speakers this accurate and powerful, you’ll surely “Hear What You’re Missing.™”

Make sure to click one of the images or this link to check out the Blow 4D product page for further information!

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