The B.DAC EX adds €2,000 for a price of €14,990 (incl. 20% sales tax)
The B.DPR (analogue stage but no streamer) adds €4,000 for a price of €16,990.
Upgrading any unit with an EX streaming module after the fact will cost you €2,500
So going all the way to the B.DPR EX in one go certainly saves you some coin (€1,000 by my calculations).
By way of comparison, the Série One equivalents cost roughly 60-65% of the Référence products, with the same EX upgrade costs (and savings).
The only problem with reviewing a three-in-one product is the number of bases you need to cover, although thankfully in this instance we can at least separate the different elements, allowing us to split the review. This time around I’ll concentrate on the DAC and DPR (control) elements, saving the EX module’s musical performance for the next instalment. In purely functional terms The B.DPR EX offers:
One pair of balanced and two pairs of single-ended RCA inputs.
AES/EBU, two RCA coaxial S/PDIF, one USB B and two TosLink digital inputs.
An RJ45 network connection for streaming/server connection and a USB A Data input for firmware upgrades (or for connecting a USB media drive/SSD, allowing the unit to act as a Server).
One pair each of balanced and single-ended RCA outputs.
High-res digital replay is handled via the network streaming capability, with the B.DPR EX able to handle PCM data rates up to 384kHz and DSD to DSD256.
The asynchronous USB B input is also 32bit/384kHz PCM and native DSD256 capable. DSD over PCM is limited to DSD128.
The AES/EBU and coaxial S/PDIF inputs will accept data rates up to 24bit/192kHz.
In other words, plenty of inputs and plenty of input capability for most systems and purposes. There’s no proprietary high-res link for SACD replay – but as B.audio don’t offer an optical disc transport, let alone a CD/SACD transport, that’s hardly surprising.
Set-up and system matching
Unpack the B.DPR EX and the first thing that you’ll notice is that the chassis, despite its lack of excessive weight, is still reassuringly inert. The unit stands on four concave, conical feet, tipped with small O-rings: be warned – those O-rings can easily fall free and if I was B.audio, I’d include a few spares just in case. Rear panel socketry is logically laid out and well-spaced, so initial hook-up is entirely fuss-free. In use, I soon discovered that the B.audio is support sensitive. Neodio B2 footers worked wonders, but even a trio of basic bamboo blocks sharpened up focus, separation and added depth to the soundstage and a welcome crispness to dynamics and timing. What was more complicated (given the sheer array of connection options) was the grounding arrangements. Ultimately I settled on the CAD GC1.1 hooked up to an unused S/PDIF input and a pair of Chord GroundARAYs in the unused outputs (balanced or single-ended, depending on system topology and the amp(s) in use).
The B.audio IR remote handset is suitably discrete and styled to match the black and silver fascia of the products. It’s seven buttons are also entirely devoid of annotation or identifying marks – so here’s tip: before you start wading through the manual (which won’t tell you anyway) or searching the web-site for enlightenment (ditto) just flip the handset over. The legend that describes the function of each button is engraved on the rear. It’s an entirely logical (if unexpected) solution. The layout is also sufficiently intuitive that once you’ve absorbed it the first time, I doubt you’ll need to refer to it again.