DACs

HD Micromega AirStream Wireless DAC

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction

At this year's CES in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to attend an event for an unusual little device being dubbed a "Wireless DAC." Upon arriving, I saw a box of the plainest kind, about the size of a CD player, with one blue LED in the center. After introductions and some chit chat, I did what any of us would do, looked at the back of the unit. The rear panel was about as plain as the front! A protruding half-circle piece I presumed to be the antenna, a couple of analog RCA outs, digital out, and power cable. That was it. What is this strange box and what is it doing at a high end audio show? Well, it's the HD Micromega AirStream WHi-Fi wireless DAC and it's at a high end audio show, because it delivers high end sound.

Based in France, Micromega has a long history in the world of CD players and digital audio. With the latest digital audio craze being the Apple iTunes store and digital downloads, it comes as no surprise that Micromega would be on the forefront of bringing us a means of delivering high quality sound from downloaded music files.

Since compressed digital downloads have been around, they have never been well accepted into the world of audiophiles alike. Seen as inferior to the 44.1/16 bit fidelity of CD audio, or even more inferior to vinyl lovers, compressed "portable" audio (MP3's) has never had a spot in most dedicated 2-channel systems. Well, I can tell you that is all about to change. I could not believe the number of suite's at the Venetian during CES that used a MacBook Pro and iTunes to show off systems costing tens of thousands of dollars. With the ability to rip CD's in a lossless compressed form (Apple Lossless, FLAC), there should be zero loss of quality. In fact, many believe they can reproduce those files more accurately with no mechanical CD transport getting in the way.

Personally I feel that this is, without a doubt, the direction high end sound systems are headed. It is only a matter of time before iTunes, or Amazon start offering higher than CD quality files for download. Once that happens, CD's, which are already a dying breed, will become near extinct. But why wait? Start building your system around a digital media server today.

Specifications

  • DA Converters: Cirrus Logic 4344 24/192
  • Wireless Network: 802.11n
  • Protocol: Apple Airtunes
  • Input Sampling Support: Limited by Airtunes to 16bit/44.1kHz
  • Outputs: 1 RCA Analog, 1 Coaxial Digital
  • MSRP: $1,595 USA
  • Distributed in the USA by Audio Plus Services