Page 2 of 3
All of the X-DAC's inputs work equally well, and it successfully locks into various sample rates without a hitch. On higher resolution material it stepped up to the plate. I cued up the 96 Khz, 24 bit FLAC version of Elton John and Leon Russell’s inspired The Union. The spirited interplay between the '70s giants really shone through via the X-DAC, with piano, vocal, and band interplay sounding vibrant and alive. All the subtle layers present on this album were distinguishable, yet the X-DAC made everything sound coherent.
The brilliant 2011 album, Ashes & Fire, from Ryan Adams is beautifully performed and recorded, a real masterwork. Through the X-DAC, FLAC files sound remarkable, with a “‘reach out touch the performers “ type of dimensionality. Ashes & Fire was recorded in analog and that is exactly how it sounded. It was very difficult not to listen to the album all the way through, and as matter of fact I did, several times through, losing track of time.
I briefly compared the X-DAC to the Musical Fidelity V-DAC II. The X-DAC is a bit weightier, while the V-DAC shifts things a bit toward the higher frequencies. Both are very well detailed, but the X-DAC is perhaps bit more balanced tonally overall. The X-DAC has the advantage of a linear power supply, and is more than double the cost of the V-DAC II. The only other DAC I had on hand to compare was the Lindemann 24/192 DAC. Both units are cut from similar cloths; music flows gracefully and there was a natural body and ease. It's hard to pick one over the other. The Lindemann, made in Germany, retails for $995, but has one less input, no balanced outputs, and is powered via wal wart power supply.
Rein Audio, totally unknown to me prior to receiving their X-DAC, has really impressed me. If this is their first DAC, I wonder what they are capable of down the road, as they mature as a company. I am rooting for Rein Audio as I believe they use sound engineering, and it seems Far East manufacturing allows them to make products that are very fairly priced, yet do not cut any corners in build quality or features. The X-DAC is worth every penny of the $780 they are asking, and them some.
The only caveat I would offer are the fact that the X-DAC is not available from a US dealer network, only through Rein Audio’s web site in Germany. Of course, this can possibly be a turn off to some. Aside from that, just looking at the price to performance ratio, it is an easy recommendation. It passed every sonic test I threw at it and is built very well. I have repeated numerous times that the sub $1000 DAC market is very crowded, and can be difficult to distinguish between so many different manufacturers offerings. Based on my extended time with the X-DAC, I think Rein Audio makes a product that is the upper tier of this market. The Rein Audio X-DAC is an excellent sounding component. I would be very interested in hearing any future products the company develops.