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Blue Circle Audio BC509 Digital-to-Analog Converter

Blue Circle BC509Price: $1205

Website: www.bluecircle.com

Jason said: The BC509 dished out more depth and dynamics, more realism in the bass, and a silkier top end, and while each of these is small potatoes in isolation, together they cohered into a whole that, once again, sounded more like music.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Musical sounding, modestly priced DAC from Gilbert.

Bryston BDP-1 Digital Player

Bryston BDP-1Price: $2195

Website: www.bryston.com

Doug said: The BDP-1’s purpose wasn’t clear to me before it arrived, but it’s very clear now: the high-quality transfer of music data from an attached USB drive. That’s all it does, but it does it startlingly well and very easily.

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Bryston is ahead of the field with their first music server.

Simple Design Sonore Music Server

Simple Design SonorePrice: $1899

Website: www.sonore.us

Jeff said: We’ve crossed a bridge: Laptop and desktop computers are no longer the only thing to get if you seek the best sound from your music server. And audiophile-oriented companies are still doing what they’ve been doing for decades: taking something that reproduces sound and making it sound better. Simple Design is a company to watch, and their Sonore is a really good-sounding machine. I guess there’s no looking back now: Out goes the computer, in comes the music server.

Read the Ultra Audio review.

The gist: Excellent standalone music server from a custom builder.

Eximus DP1 Digital-to-Analog Converter/Preamplifier/Headphone Amplifier

Eximus DP1Price: $2995

Website: www.aprilmusic.com

Doug said: Its appearance and build are fitting for a product at twice or even thrice the price; on the digital side, its rich feature set and thoroughly up-to-date technology approach the state of the art; and the DP1’s distinctive, lively, ultraclear sound -- whether it’s used as a DAC-preamp, an analog preamp, or a headphone amp -- is ridiculously good at the price.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: Jewel-like build and sound.

Esoteric K-03 SACD/CD Player/DAC

Esoteric K-03Price: $13,000

Website: www.esoteric.teac.com

Howard said: I’m giving the Esoteric K-03 a Reviewers’ Choice award, no ifs, ands, or buts. It’s the Swiss Army Knife of high-end audio. In fact, it does so many things so well that if Esoteric told me that an amplifier, a pair of tower speakers, and 50 jazz CDs were jammed into its box, I almost wouldn’t be surprised. More important, the K-03 does all of these things at an uncommon level of performance.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Hi-Fi review.

The gist: One of the best one-box digital players so far.

 

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