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Denon DA-300USB DAC Review Print E-mail
Tuesday, 27 May 2014
Article Index
Denon DA-300USB DAC Review
Set Up and Listening

Under the hood, Denon has a lot going on. Denon states that "at the heart of the DA-300USB is the high resolution PCM1795 D/A converter, which features advanced segment 32 bit architecture along with the ability to handle up to 192kHz PCM sample rates as well as the ability to decode high resolution DSD files (either natively decoded or via DoP - DSD over PCM). Via the USB-B port, the DA-300USB communicates with the PC or Mac via asynchronous data transfer mode, which ensures smooth, jitter-free digital communication, which is especially vital with very high bandwidth digital audio data streams. For optimum compatibility with the broadest range of sampling frequencies, the DA-300USB is equipped with two master clock crystals, instead of the usual one.

For the widest dynamic range and lowest distortion, the DA-300USB features sophisticated digital signal processing, including Denon's exclusive Advanced AL32 processor. The DA-300USB features no less than 7 separate printed circuit boards, to ensure the highest isolation between circuit blocks. Powered by a 15V/1A AC adapter, the DA-300USB features sophisticated DC power conversion technology with a power block that delivers separate DC voltage sources to power the various stages.

To ensure the most stable and accurate digital audio and timing data at the critical D/A converter stage, the DA-300USB also features advanced isolator chips that combine high speed CMOS technology with unique on-chip micro air-core transformers. A total of 9 isolator chips are employed, with 18 channels of isolation, delivering superior common mode noise rejection and maximum protection against digital noise transfer between critical stages, compared to conventional optoisolators

As you can see, Denon is touting some pretty advanced technologies and implementations for a product at this price point. That is what economies of scale can do. That is all great, right? So how does it sound...?

Denon DA-300USB

Set Up & Listening

I was able to put the DA-300USB through its paces with a quite a variety of music and associated gear. I used it with both McIntosh and Roksan integrated amplifiers, a Squeezebox Touch, a Simaudio MiND streamer, and a Mac Mini desktop computer. I also had the good fortune to have in for review a terrific, highly resolving Gallo Acoustics 2.1 system. I used Kimber, Audioquest, and DH Labs digital cables.

My first source was the Squeezebox Touch connected via optical, coaxial, and USB. First impressions, across all inputs, were of an amazing resolution, deep bass, and a wide soundstage. All inputs were able to decode PCM up to 192 Khz with no issues. I found it pleasing to use the front panel touch screen to change inputs.

Next up was the Simaudio MiND 180 streamer, via coaxial. The MiND, a step up from the Squeezebox, brought the DA-300USB to a new level with more nuance, tighter bass, and an even wider soundstage. The great Tim Hardin’s masterful Suite For Susan Moore And Damien, in 96/24 quality, was absolutely sublime through the Denon. It is a melancholy album with intricate arrangements, with Hardin’s other worldly voice anchoring the shop. Listening to this album was a real pinch me moment.


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