DACs

Bryston BDA-1 Digital to Analog Converter and Halide Design USB to SPDIF Bridge

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction

Digital to Analog converters (DACs) have been enjoying something of a renaissance in the past couple of years due to the widespread adoption of computer based music. Back before SACD, DVD-A and multichannel audio, DACs were the source component du jour for redbook CD. With the adoption of the new high-resolution formats, DACs fell out of favor, replaced by integrated universal disc players. Today, many people have gone to entirely computer based audio setups. The highest resolution digital audio available today does not come on a disc, but is available via download. This means DACs are back, and the Bryston BDA-1 is regarded as one of the best of the new breed of 24 bit 192 kHz DACs. Along with the Brytson BDA-1, we review the Halide Design USB to SPDIF Bridge.

Specifications

  • BDA-1
  • Design: DAC
  • Decoding: 24 Bit, 192 kHz
  • MFR: 20 Hz - 20 KHz, -0.1dB
  • S/N: 140 dB Unweighted
  • THD plus N: .002%
  • Output Level - 2.3V Unbalanced - 4.6V Balanced
  • Dimensions: 1.75" H x 17" W x 11.25" D
  • Weight: 12 Pounds
  • MSRP: $2,150 USA
  • Halide Design USB to SPDIF Bridge
  • Design: Bridge Between USB and SPDIF
  • Power: Supplied by USB Connection
  • Built-In Power Rails for Digital Circuitry and Master Clock
  • Supported Rates: 44.1, 48, 88.2, and 96 kHz (user selectable), at 24 bit resolution. (Note: Windows Vista / 7 currently requires WASAPI for non-resampled 88.2 kHz playback by plug-n-play USB audio products)
  • Connection: 75 ohm, BNC or RCA
  • Length - 6 Feet, 16 Feet Options
  • MSRP: $450 USA
  • Bryston Audio

My previous DAC was one of the first that handled digital signals like the BDA-1: reclocking with a FIFO (First In First Out) buffer and a high accuracy crystal oscillator to reduce jitter, upsampling and padding to higher bit depth and sample rate, combined with a state of the art, high bit depth and bit rate DAC. It is a Bel Canto DAC-1.1 and I've had it for almost 10 years. It was so good, I haven't replaced it until now. The BDA-1 is the DAC that managed to finally send my old Bel Canto packing. I, like many others, was seduced by the siren song of the SACD and the DVD-A but recently found that computer based audio was they way to go. I now have all my music from redbook CDs and DVD-As stored on a hard drive in Apple Lossless format. I use an Apple Macbook Pro laptop as my music server. This means the DAC has become a much more important part of my music system: it is the high performance bridge between the mass-market computer and my audio system. For some time, I have been using the Bel Canto DAC with the optical digital output of the Macbook Pro. Unfortunately, this optical output is not very good. When I got the Bryston BDA-1, I also was able to get a hold of the Halide USB to SPDIF bridge. This in theory should be a much better way to connect the computer to the DAC than the Apple provided Toslink connection.

Is the reputation of the BDA-1 well deserved? Does the Halide Bridge sound as good as it should in theory? The short answer is yes. In this review, I'll tell you why.