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Set Up and Listening
Set up for the NuWave DAC was as straightforward as can be. But there have been a few additions to my system, so a few more ways to put a DAC through its paces. First, I used my go to AC cable for digital components, the Element Cable Red Storm. I used Stager Silver Solids for interconnects, and three USB cables, including the Audioquest Forest, WireWorld UltraViolet, and the DH Labs USB. I also used DH Labs TosLink and Coax cables .
My sources were multiple. I had a Musical Fidelity CDT connected via coaxial, a Squeezebox Touch connected via optical and USB, and an HP PC running Windows 7, loaded with Jriver Media Center, with FLAC files on an external hard drive. After installing the required driver, the PC was connected to the NuWave DAC via USB. I used the NuWave DAC in two systems. First, in my main system, with Audio Research electronics driving the excellent Martin Logan Ethos speakers. Then in another system with a McIntosh MA6600 integrated amplifier driving Harbeth Compact 7ES3 speakers.
First up was my Squeezebox Touch connected via optical streaming FLAC files. I cued up the 24-bit/96kHz download of Bob Dylan’s monumental Highway 61 Revisited. The various instrumental backing on this landmark album has always been slightly homogenized on all previous versions I have heard, save for maybe the SACD. But the NuWave DAC offered up precise, detailed sound with tremendous clarity. Each distinct part was in its proper location within the soundstage, and easily distinguishable.
I streamed numerous albums and heard a consistently engaging, big sound, with no glare or mechanical artifacts. The NuWave was bold and lightning quick with high frequency transients. Bass was weighty, precise, and articulate. I don’t normally get caught up in such things, but recorded detail was spotlit in the most pleasant way, and I found myself noticing parts on certain recordings that were previously not as distinguishable from the whole.
Switching over to the coaxial input, I used my Musical Fidelity CDT transport. Having just received a stash of remastered Jethro Tull from Amazon, I started off with their mid-70s master work, Songs From The Wood. The sonic goodness heard via the optical connection was just as evident here, with precise images, impressive textures, and distinct sound layers courtesy of Tull mastermind, Ian Anderson. The title track was magical sounding, with Anderson’s overdubbed vocal intro, flute parts, and acoustic guitar sounding remarkably present.
Spinning a more modern recording, Queen Of Hearts, by world fusion master Jai Uttal, yielded plenty of musical pleasure. On this outing, Uttal blends his usual Indian inflections with reggae and dub beats. The NuWave DAC rendered the prominent bass lines with unusually tight precision, with no overhang into the lower midrange. Uttal’s distinct, soulful voice was beautiful in timbre, and it was easy to get lost in the exotic, hazy melodies.