Distinctive modular casework: upgradable; outwardly minimalist yet versatile; digital and analogue; by now there will be many amongst you thinking “CH” – and conceptually you wouldn’t be wrong. On a broad-brush basis, there are many similarities between the two company’s product lines. Those similarities may not survive a more granular analysis: the B.audio products don’t offer user configurable, card-cage construction, or the same sheer variety of products and options, but if CH were going to offer a more affordable product line, it’s no great stretch to imagine it looking a lot like this – functionally and even visually. Which is a considerable compliment to B.audio.
The similarities go more than skin-deep. The B.audio digital products are classically executed, high-bit designs, fully balanced and direct-coupled, leveraging the power of DSP to enhance and control the performance of their DAC chips. However, they are far from being ‘me-too’ designs, with the company incorporating its own, patented, source jitter elimination circuitry (SJR). But it’s a DAC/control unit that we’re looking at here and, dig deeper and once again you find common ground – at least superficially – with the CH designs. The B.DPR EX employs a sophisticated power supply with individually regulated DC feeds for each stage and separate transformers for the digital and analogue sections. The DAC chips are multi-bit delta-sigma designs, with massive DSP filtering using phase coherent algorithms to preserve timing and dynamic information. And in another echo reminiscent of the CH approach, having incorporated a serious DSP capability, why not use it for more than just up-sampling and noise shaping? So-saying, B.audio have incorporated a sophisticated, eight-way parametric equaliser to allow users precise acoustic compensation. Like I said, minimalist on the outside, versatile and high-tech on the inside.
The volume control operates entirely in the analogue domain, employing a 64-step, relay driven resistor network. A curved row of 16 (dimmable/defeatable) LEDs to the left of the volume control gives a clear visual indication of output level. Take a step further down the line and you find similar innovative ambitions in the power amps, that feature what B.audio term Intelligent Output Drive (IOD) topology, designed to reduce switching distortion in the Class AB designs. In other words, there’s a lot more here than meets the eye. But the real question remains, what does it do for your ear?
B.audio submitted their B.DPR EX for review, the company’s flagship digital control unit and a product that hits three birds with one stone: the DAC, the EX streamer module and the DPR analogue control section. It costs €18,490 (incl. 20% sales tax) in this fully-loaded configuration. So let’s break down the costs and options:
As a standalone DAC, the B.DAC will set you back €12,990 (incl. 20% sales tax)