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John Kenny Ciunas USB DAC Review Print E-mail
Monday, 14 October 2013
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John Kenny Ciunas USB DAC Review
Set Up and Listening

Kenny says, "the battery is charged via an internal charger, powered from a 5V supply. A USB charger cable is supplied which allows charging from a spare USB port or alternatively an external 5V PS can be used. The quality of this PS is immaterial as the device uses a battery shunt configuration & is continuously trickle charged. The battery has a lifetime of 20 years when operated in this manner."

In my experience, this design is unique, and takes the worry of battery replacement out of the equation. Kenny does however, recommend powering off the DAC if it will not be used for an extended period of time to allow it to get to full charge. I followed this advice and during the review period the DAC and the battery operated without a hitch.

Describing the audio circuitry, Kenny says, "two high quality audio clocks are used to time the audio signals. These clocks are used directly at the DAC chip's input to re-synch the signal timing in order to achieve the lowest jitter feasible. No capacitors in the signal path from the output of the DAC chip. The DAC will operate with native universal audio class 2 (UAC2) USB drivers found in MAC OS 10.6+, Linux/Unix. It will also operate with PC using a downloadable driver & with Squeezebox Touch (when using the EDO plugin)."

John Kenny Ciunas DAC

Set Up & Listening

I first used the Ciunas DAC in two separate systems. First, the Squeezebox Touch with the Enhanced Digital Output applet installed, connected to McIntosh MA6600 integrated amp, driving Harbeth Compact 7ES3 speakers, and briefly a pair of KEF LS50s, which are scheduled for a review. Cabling was Transparent, except for the USB cable, which was from DH Labs. My entire digital music collection spans resolutions from standard Redbook to 192 Khz, all in FLAC. The Ciunas replaced a just departed Burson Conductor DAC, and my usual Musical Fidelity V-DAC II.

The first thing I noticed was how spacious the Ciunas sounded. The soundstage seemed to widen, especially compared to the V-DAC II. I then was impressed with the unit’s detail retrieval and overall musical accuracy. Nothing stood out as out of place. No midrange glare, no upper frequency hash or flatness in the treble. To quote Radiohead, "everything was in its right place."

I always start reviews with albums I have had in heavy rotation, and here I began with Valerie June’s stupendous Pushin’ Against A Stone (48 Khz, 24 bit download). All of the music’s rustic flavor came through in spades. Part country, part blues, part folk, the songs have a lot of ambient touches, and the Ciunas really did make the music come alive.  

On Eric Clapton and B.B. King’s stupendous 2000 collaboration, Riding With The King (88.2 Khz, 24 bit download), the Ciunas did a superb job of capturing the vibe of this excellent recording. Special nod to Clapton for the great, natural sounding production. I don’t think King’s voice or guitar was ever better recorded. With the system in full flight, I found the sheer weight and life-like qualities on this album to mesmerizing.


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