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



From Hi-Fi World - January  2014 issue
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Audiolab's new Q-DAC promises great performance at a wallet friendly price. Jon Myles is suitably impressed.


The Audiolab brand has gathered a deserved reputation for the quality of its digital products over the past few years. Its M-DAC is one of the sweetest-sounding and most versatile digital-to-analogue converters around at the price.
    But at £600 it’s clearly not within range of all buyers. So enter the Q-DAC – that Audiolab claims gets remarkably close to its bigger brother’s sonic performance at two-thirds the price.
    And for those looking to build a decent system around the Q-DAC, Audiolab also has its M-PWR – a cosmetically matching 40 Watts per channel power amplifier.
    Unsurprisingly, Audiolab has had to shave some features from the M-DAC’s specification get the Q-DAC down to its £400 asking price. Gone from the M-DAC is the rotary volume control (replaced by a pair of buttons) while the power supply arrangement has been simplified.
    The range of inputs has also been reduced – with the new DAC having just single optical and coaxial connections rather than a pair of each.
    The balanced XLR outputs of the M-DAC have gone as well, its little brother having just a single pair of RCA analogue connections alongside digital S/PDIF coaxial and optical outputs for those who need them.
    There’s also no remote control option which may, or may not, be important to some armchair users.
    The Q-DAC is still usefully specified. Internally it’s built around a well-regarded ESS Sabre32 DAC chip while the USB input is asynchronous so data flow is handled by the unit’s master clock rather than your computer. Both the USB and coaxial inputs can accept a full 24bit/192kHz stream while the optical is as usual restricted to 24bit/96kHz material.
    And, crucially, Audiolab’s proprietary range of digital filters are also present and correct.  Seven user-selectable filter options allow the listener to tailor the Q-DAC’s presentation to their personal taste and – unlike some other DACs out there – have a clear and pronounced effect on the sound. You can read more about the way they work, and their sound HERE.
    Other features include a front-mounted headphone socket and a slim display window on the fascia. Fit and finish, if not luxurious, are certainly up to Audiolab’s usual high standards.
Pairing the Q-DAC with a MacBook Pro (OS 10.6.4 and above recommended) was – as per usual – straightforward and hassle-free. For Windows users the supplied drivers have to be installed first but the instruction book contains a detailed step-by-step guide.
    Once up and running the Q-DAC is simplicity itself to operate with the front screen displaying a wealth of information from nominal or exact incoming signal rate to track and time information from a CD.

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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