“The Essence HDACC quickly became a favorite all-in-one, do-it-all, bang-for-the-buck digital converter/HP amp. Its got that rare DAC HDMI input, and I found numerous uses for the HDACC with my laptop as a standalone DAC and A/D, and as a digital distribution device. And it only costs $699 retail. This box really shines.”
“A veritable Swiss Army knife, this is where the HDACC pulls away from the competition….the Essence™ offers both singled AND balanced outputs. It’ll also serve as a remote controllable, digital pre-amplifier…..Headphone enthusiasts get to tap a quarter inch socket. User-selectable impedance values (16, 32, 64, 200, 300 and 600 Ohms) sees even reference-level models like the Sennheiser HD800 driven to more than adequate levels (and beyond)….. You get a LOT of D/A converter for your money with the Essence™ HDACC. At time of writing it’s one of the keenest priced entry points into the world of third party hi-res Blu-ray LPCM decoding. Well worthy of further investigation”
“The Essence HDACC is everything a good headphone amp and DAC should be, and then some. The addition of HDMI may be transformative for those looking for a way to get high-res Blu-ray soundtracks into a legacy system. But don’t ignore its other talents. The HDACC is the only headphone amp in this roundup to offer selectable impedance matching, and the only DAC with selectable sample-rate conversion and bypass. It also performs admirably with a variety of headphones.”
The take home? Irrespective of data stream choices, the Essence will likely lend an audio upgrade to most budget Blu-ray hardware solutions. The sound is more open, with better separation, more dynamic and more elastic. This alone is justification enough for the Essence DAC. If you’ve a budget disc spinner but don’t want to go all the way to an A/V receiver, holding tight to your existing amplifier, the HDACC provides the missing digital link. If your Blu-ray player is one of the increasing number to feature only an HDMI output (thanks to 2013′s analogue sunset) then again the Essence piece could intercede.