updated 12:10 am EST, Sat January 29, 2011
Audiophile accessory for iOS gadgets
Audiophiles currently have the ability to obtain a wide variety of high-end gear, but connecting components to an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch leaves users limited to the digital-to-analog converter (DAC) built into the iOS device. High Resolution Technologies recently introduced a new product, the iStreamer, that boasts a higher quality DAC. MacNN stopped by HRT's booth at Macworld Expo and listened to a demo with the new setup.
We believe Apple has already equipped its portable devices with better DACs than most of the competition, but that does not mean there is not room for further improvement. As storage capacities continue to expand, it is no longer impractical to fill the device Apple Lossless-formatted content that takes full advantage of high-end gear.
Users simply attach the iStreamer to the iOS device via USB and connect the other end to preamps or other gear via RCA. The iStreamer supports 16-bit samples at data rates of up to 48k, effectively matching CD quality. Unfortunately the device does not support 24-bit/96k content, but that is a limitation of Apple's hardware rather than HRT's DAC.
For $200, the iStreamer actually seems like a bargain compared to many other high-end DACs on the market. Nonetheless, it is a niche item that cannot be fully enjoyed without other quality gear. At the very least, the device should be used with a decent pair of cans and a headphone amp. It will become even more significant if Apple ever manages to push record companies to release lossless tracks on iTunes, but that is a separate issue entirely.
We look forward to taking a closer look at the iStream for an in-depth review, where we can make direct comparisons with Apple's integrated DACs in a controlled environment.