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Small But SeriousApogee?s Mini?DAC D/A converter
Roughly the size of an oversized paperback book, this stereo device will handle just about anything you throw at it, including sampling frequencies up to 24-bit/192kHz. It can be digitally connected via AES, optical, S/PDIF, S/MUX or an optional USB I/O card. Best of all, the Mini?DAC is a multipurpose device. Although it's designed for portability, its conversion quality puts it right at home in a studio. Analog outputs include balanced XLR jacks and an 1/8 jack for consumer-level stereo (standard 1/8 to RCA cable required). A 1/4 headphone jack is included, and the 1/8 jack is also able to drive headphones.
A companion piece to Apogees 2003 TEC-Award winning Mini?Me A/D converter (reviewed here earlier), the two devices work together like a tag team. Between them, you can transform even an ordinary laptop into a serious audio production center. The Mini?Me converts the incoming analog signals to digital, and the Mini?DAC converts the outgoing digital signals back to analog for playback. High quality in, high quality out.
USB connectivity is the key to portability, and it works smoothly on both Macs and PCs. (If you shied away from earlier implementations of USB for audio, you should give it another chance -- USB 2.0 devices are much better, not to mention the new computer operating systems.) Apogee provides special USB drivers for its Mini series devices, which it recommends that you use (although word is that Apple's Panther OS recognizes it out of the box). The companys web site also has some tips about optimizing both Macs and PCs for USB operation (http://www.apogeedigital.com/downloads/usb_notes.html). I hooked the Mini?DAC by USB to both an Athlon-powered PC and a Mac G4, and got great-sounding playback with low latency on both platforms.
Although I didn't try it with a laptop, the USB option makes the Mini?DAC a natural for client presentations. You could just connect it to a laptop and some powered monitors to get better quality audio than most people have in their homes. USB connectivity also has other benefits: You can interface any non-USB device with a computer by using the Mini?DACs ?digital-thru mode (see illustration above).
|Front panel (click image for larger view)|
|Rear panel (Click image for larger view)|
I dont own a high quality D/A, but it would make my life a lot easier if I did. I record digitally at 24-bit/48kHz, passing the signal optically from a Mackie d8b to a Tascam MX-2424 recorder or to an M-Audio Delta 1010-powered DAW with an optical interface. Monitors are a Blue Sky System One active monitor/sub system that make the d8bs aging D/A converters sound pretty good during tracking and mixing. But most important, Ive learned a few tricks to compensate for the Mackie converters, so I can usually get what I want when mixing. Its roughly equivalent to people who mix with outdated Yamaha NS-10 monitors, because they know how to translate what theyre hearing.
• 2 x XLR (pin 2 - hot) for pro-audio stereo
• 1/8” jack for consumer-level stereo (standard 1/8” to RCA cable required) also able to drive headphone’s
• 1/4” jack headphone
|The Mini-DAC can handle digital sample rates up to and including 192 kHz A 2x AES/EBU 9-pin D-Type input connector handles 44.1k-192k sampling rates single-wide and 88.2-192k sampling rates double wide via an included breakout cable with two female XLR-3 jacks on the other end. |
$995, or $1,195 with USB option
One of the reasons the Mini?DAC shines is because of the extremely low-jitter dual-stage clock Apogee has designed for it. This is the same design Apogee uses for some of its higher end converters, such as the D/A in its new Rosetta 800, an 8-Channel, 24/96 AD/DA converter. The way it's designed, the first clock stage accepts the bitstream and stores bits in a buffer, while the second stage clocks the bits out of the buffer to conversion.
This dual-stage scheme overcomes a conflict inherent in the function of any clock, according to the Mini?DACs manual: ?The clock circuitry of a typical D-to-A converter must be designed as a compromise between the ability to attenuate input signal jitter and the ability to accept any bitstream, regardless of its stability. The more the clock is allowed to track timing variations of the input, the more jitter remains in the clock at the conversion stage, with the degradation of conversion quality as a result. So, with the dual-stage clock handling each of those functions separately, the result is a very low jitter clock for the final conversion. The combination of minimal jitter and high-quality converters is why the Mini?DAC sounds so good.
There are a multitude of uses for the Mini?DAC. It gives you audiophile-grade DVD/CD playback in a studio, a home stereo or for a portable presentation. It has inputs for just about any digital source that you'd want to connect. It's small enough to put in a briefcase, yet it looks professional in a studio. When paired with Apogee's Mini-Me A/D mic pre, it forms a complete audio I/O production system.
Apogee's got another winning product for its Mini line, which in addition to the Mini?Me also includes the new Mini?MP pre-amps with the same pres as the Mini?Me without the A/D converters. If you're looking for a versatile and professional-quality D/A, the Mini?DAC would be a hard one to pass up.
98SE, Me, 2000 and XP
Apogee-supplied ASIO drivers suggested for best performance
Windows XP note:
It is recommended that Windows XP users install Service Pack 1, which addresses known issues with USB audio.
Related Keywords:Apogee, Mini-DAC, D/A, converter, conversion