Rein Audio X-DAC Review 
Home Theater Preamplifiers Stereo Preamps
Written by Andre Marc   
Thursday, 09 February 2012

Rein Audio, out of Germany, was unknown to me until I received an email from Rein’s Jason Tornald asking if I was interested in reviewing their new X-DAC. Since I have done a slew of budget, or better put, reasonably priced DAC units in the past year, including those from Channel Islands Audio, Arcam, and Musical Fidelity, I was more than willing to see how it stacked up.

Rein Audio is a pretty new company but has quickly become known for a full line of audio and AC cables. They also plan on bringing an amplifier to market, the X-Amp. Even after spending a bunch of time on the Rein website, I still do not know too much about the company. I was able to conclude that Rein probably means “pure” in German. I also noted that chief designer Tomasz Wilczak had a ten-year history working for “well known” German audio companies. It also seems their products are currently available only via the Rein Audio website online store (I believe they are currently seeking US distributorship).

The compact X-DAC retails for $780 and is a very attractive component.  Out of the box, it impressed me with its build quality. It is very well made and inspires confidence when you pick it up out of the packaging to install.  According to the Rein website, high end DAC chips from the British company Wolfson are used. There are four digital inputs: two SPDIF Coaxial, one SPDIF TosLink, and one USB. The digital inputs are selectable via a large silver knob on the front, and handle 192 Khz, 24 bit data via SPDIF, and 96 Khz, 24 bit via USB. There is also an IEC jack for connecting a detachable power cord, and another large silver knob for powering on and off. There are two green LED lights on the front panel, one to indicate power, and one to indicate a USB connection.

Set Up & Listening:

I set up the X-DAC using a Shunyata Venom AC cable, a Kimber OPT1 TosLink cable, and a DH Labs D-75 coaxial cable.  For audio sources, I chose my Squeezebox Touch streamer and a Marantz CD5003 CD player. I used only the single ended outputs, running Kimber KCTG interconnects into a Densen B-200 preamp. There is a set of balanced XLR outputs as well, but the Densen accepts only RCA inputs.  It only took a few days to get a handle on what the X-DAC was doing, and that was letting the music pass through with a bold, full bodied, and lifelike quality. I certainly had never heard of Rein Audio before, but now they had my attention.  

The X-DAC leans toward the slightly warm side of things, with a richness of tone and I find immensely appealing. A current obsession of mine, Dengue Fever, out of Los Angeles has hit it out of the park on their most recent CD, Cannibal Courtship, from mid 2011. FLAC files streamed through the Squeezebox Touch come alive with excitement, taught bass, and tons of clarity.  Lead singer Chhom Nimol’s siren call is seductive and lifelike.

I recently rediscovered an album deep in my collection, Eye of the Hunter, by Brendan Perry, one half of the classic, hard to define, Dead Can Dance.  Perry’s deep, well-recorded voice comes through with majesty. The songs on this album are melancholy ruminations that sound like a long lost soundtrack to a futuristic thriller. I found myself melting into the music, not the least bit concerned about “evaluating” the X-DAC. This, to me, is proof the X-DAC is doing everything very right. Of all the sub $1000 DAC models from various manufactures that have passed through my listening room, the Rein unit is the most natural sounding. I do not mean there was any loss of detail, or smoothing over. Not at all. I think the X-DAC pulls this off because it is so balanced sonically.


 

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.

Conclusion:

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.

An Interview with Jason Tornald of Rein Audio:

1) Avrev.com: Can you tell our readers about how Rein Audio got started?

REIN AUDIO was established in 2011 selling Hi-end audio cable. It has created a new page in stereo history with its high quality design and conductor.  Tomasz Wilczak was the designer of a certain brand of German stereo and has 10 years of design experience. He designed a new brand of pure audio cable rods and named it REIN AUDIO, which might bring everyone to a new understanding about cable. Three principles of design of REIN AUDIO:

1. A good design should be simple and easy to practice;
2. The products should be able to replay the music accurately;
3. The products should have outstanding performance and reasonable prices.

2) Avrev.com: What is Rein Audio planning for future products?

We launched the X-DAC  and X-AMP (Stereo Amplifier) as well as  the Xignature Series cables. In  the future, we are planning for Headphone related products such as Pure Phone Amplifier and Integration Amplifier.

3)Avrev.com: What are your long term plans for international distribution?

For international distribution, we are recruiting distributors from different countries, not just US, but also in Europe and Asia.



Specifications


Rein Audio X-DAC

Device Type: Digital to Analog Convertor
Input: 24-bit/196kHz S/PDIF, TosLink & Coax, 24-bit/96kHz USB
Output: RCA, Balanced on XLR
Dimensions: 220 x 190 x 65 (mm)
Weight: about 2.5kg
Availability: Online through Rein Audio website: www.reinaudio.com
Price: $780.00


Review System 1



CD Transport: bel canto CD3t
Server: Squeezebox Touch with CIA  VDC-SB power supply
DAC: Bryston BDA-1
Headphone Amp: Pro-Ject Head Box
Preamp: Audio Research SP16,
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55
Integrated Amplifier; McIntosh MA6600
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4
Cables:  Stager Silver Solids, DH Labs Revelation (IC), Kimber KCTG (IC), Transparent  MM2 Super (IC),  Transparent Plus (Speaker) Acoustic Zen Tsunami II (AC),Transparent (AC).Shunyata Venom (AC)
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Sound Anchors stands,  Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner, Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Salamander rack

Review System 2



CD Player: Marantz 5003
Music Server: Squeezebox Touch
DAC: Musical Fidelity V-DAC II, Rein Audio X-DAC
Preamplifer: Densen B-200
Amplifier: Revox A722
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3, Transmission Audio M1
Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant (IC),/PS Audio, Pangea Audio (AC), Kiimber(digital)







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