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Prism Callia
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p3 Sound Quality
p4 Conclusion
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SOUND QUALITY

Most listening took place via an Arcam A49 integrated amplifier driving Quadral Aurum Wotan VIII floorstanders; for personal listening I turned to Oppo’s PM3 headphones. Primary sources were a Windows 7 PC (running Foobar2000 and configured for DoP) and a Cambridge CXN streamer (connected via coaxial digital). 

The first thing I noticed was just how much detail can be plucked out of a recording. My first musical selection was a DSD64 album of 1996-vintage acoustic jazz - Piltch, Davis and Friends’ Take One'.

   I got real insight into this intimate performance. Each instrument was beautifully-defined, occupying a definite space within the stereo image; the Callia bestowed upon this 20-year-old recording a living presence. Particularly noteworthy was a cover of the Steve Earle composition 'My Old Friend The Blues" - the melody of which stood out here in its beauty. And when drums entered into the equation – as they do in the Piltch-penned 'Horizontal Blue' – the various percussive timbres and their sense of timing were palpable.

 

 

 

A neat and practical layout of rear-panel connectors, given the limited real estate

available. The four DIP switches set up DSD headroom, configure headphone

sensitivity and determine whether or not the volume control is active.

 

 

Yes, I’m deliberately using ‘hi-fi’ terminology here. And that’s the thing. Remember when you’d collect records that showed off the full potential of your audio equipment? The Callia is its hardware complement. It’s very transparent, with no character of its own and although it allows fine recordings to shine, it lays bare mediocre ones. In all honesty, this is what you should expect from a DAC descended from studio gear. After all, musicians and recording engineers want to hear everything – warts and all. 

   So if you want above all else the ability to get inside a piece of music, the Callia should be on your shortlist - for it is gifted with an analytical prowess that will be hard to match in its sub-£2k price range. It cuts through the most complex of mixes, as was discovered when playing a variety of sophisticated studio efforts from the likes of Bowie, Radiohead and ELO. I could hear what each musician is doing. I’m convinced a gentle creak from the drummer’s stool would present itself if the recording made it audible! I particularly recommend using headphones for this sort of activity; on which subject the Callia’s superb headphone amp is a good match for the DAC section and has plenty of drive.

   The only downside is a lack of absolute warmth. The Stranglers’ The Gospel According To The Meninblack' was conveyed with filigree detail but the sheer punch of the synth bass line seemed somewhat subdued. 



 

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