CES 2012: Audio Research Reference DAC bridges the digital gap

Audio Research DAC

Convergence is one of the big themes here at CES 2012, and nothing illustrates this better than the latest product from Audio Research, the Reference DAC Digital Media Bridge.

This is no ordinary DAC. Oh no. For starters, when it goes on sale in the US in the second quarter of 2012 it will cost around $14,000-$15,000.

That's a lot of money, for sure. But just look at the specification: the Reference DAC builds on that of the DAC8 (which we'll be testing soon) and uses technology from Audio Research preamps such as the Reference Anniversary.

"Understanding that many consumers today are migrating to a digitally implemented lifestyle, the design and engineering team at Audio Research approached the project of a Reference series DAC not only to provide unparalleled sonic performance, but also to address the needs of today's customers," the company says.

To that end, the chassis is the same size and adopts the same look as other Reference series products.

There's a 3.5in TFT display on the front panel, able to display all unit functions as well as metadata from certain sources. The Reference DAC can also upsample any 44.1 or 48kHz source to 176.4 or 192kHz.

With wired (ethernet) and wireless connectivity, plus optical, coaxial and USB inputs, a host of different music sources can be connected. There's DLNA and UPnP connectivity for streaming music from a music server, and a built-in internet radio tuner.

We chose the Audio Research Reference DAC Digital Media Bridge as one of our Stars of CES 2012.

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Andy Clough

Andy is Global Brand Director of What Hi-Fi? and has been a technology journalist for 30 years. During that time he has covered everything from VHS and Betamax, MiniDisc and DCC to CDi, Laserdisc and 3D TV, and any number of other formats that have come and gone. He loves nothing better than a good old format war. Andy edited several hi-fi and home cinema magazines before relaunching whathifi.com in 2008 and helping turn it into the global success it is today. When not listening to music or watching TV, he spends far too much of his time reading about cars he can't afford to buy.