Article Index
Audiolab Q-DAC
page 2 Sound Quality
page 3 Conclusion
page 4 Measured Performance
All Pages

Stripped-down it may be in terms of features, but the Q-DAC gives little away sonically to the more expensive M-DAC. Frequency extremes are well extended, the bass firm and assured without the slightest hint of overhang while treble is sweet and open.
    There’s also an exceptional amount of detail retrieval in evidence.
Keith Jarrett’s ‘The Koln Concert’ in 24/96 gave ample evidence of the Q-DAC’s impressive qualities. Jarrett's dynamic performance was presented in a tremendously spacious fashion – the piano sounding natural and undistorted. I could hear all of his sharp intakes of breath, grunts and yelps as his fingers fly over the keyboard.
    Switching between the various filter options here revealed subtle shifts in the sound. Audiolab itself recommends using one of the three Optimal Transient settings – which it says give the most natural and pure sonic performance if not the best technical specification.
    This is indeed the case. All three have a mellifluous quality which lets the music flow organically with an ever so slightly warm balance.
It’s a sound that suits something like Nick Cave’s ‘Murder Ballads’ extremely well – adding an all-important touch of menace to the singer’s growling vocals and blood-drenched tales.
    The remaining four filters -
(Sharp Rolloff, Slow Rolloff, Minimum Phase and Optimal Spectrum) – all have their own distinct sound. Optimal Spectrum, for example, is significantly sharper and more transparent giving a more CD-like reproduction.
    Experimentation is definitely recommended here – and many will find different settings will suit particular genres of music or, indeed, the recording quality of individual tracks. Whichever you choose, what will become quickly evident is the Q-DAC’s ability to take on and unravel complex pieces of music without sounding analytical or leaden-footed.
Listen to Ornette Coleman’s experimental ‘Free Jazz’ outing – two jazz quartets playing simultaneously through the left and right speakers – and it becomes surprisingly easy to track the individual players, the Audiolab providing a high level of instrumental separation while never losing its grip on the subtle interplay going on between the individual musicians.

Comments (1)
Philips Test CD
1Saturday, 06 September 2014 06:13
Michael Krauss
Dear Experts!

With great interest I read some of your tests on CD players. You mention that you use special Test CDs for CD and SACD performance measurements.

I wonder where I could buy such a Test CD. Can you give me a hint and advice where to buy these items?

Thank you for your help in advance.
Michael Krauss

Sadly, the answer is "no". Philips produced the best test CDs (Denon, Technics and a few others too) but these were never made available to the public, at least in any obvious manner. In the end Philips would not even release test CDs and SACDs to those they felt might use them to criticise the medium.

There is a modern solution. Use Audacity to generate test signals and burn them to CD. It works.

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