The new 4th generation Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV devices are improved over previous versions; they’re faster and support Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 channel sound for higher fidelity sound and in the case of the Fire TV support UHD 4K video. However both devices have dropped their Optical Audio Output in lieu of a single HDMI output. This is going to create problems for those of you who want to hear the improved audio but lack an HDMI input on your current audio system.
Essence For Hi Res Audio is the only manufacturer that makes two HDMI DACs, digital to analog audio converters, that will enable you to gain access to the improved audio performance of these two TV devices. The Essence HDACC offers you a combination of 4 digital inputs including HDMI, USB, Optical, and Coaxial plus 2 analog line inputs with A to D conversion. Notably, the HDACC is an “upsampling” audio converter, it can take the standard resolution audio from the Apple or Amazon device and improve the sound to “hi res audio” at 24/192K, the highest resolution for audio in history. It outputs the audio in analog stereo from either its RCA or XLR outputs as well as its headphone jack for personal listening. Retail price for the HDACC is $499 including free shipping in the USA. If you own an older stereo receiver or pre-amplifier, or powered speakers on your desktop system, the HDACC enables you to improve the sound of any standard resolution digital source such as CD or DVD to 24/192k hi res audio, adding richness and detail not heard on the standard res versions of those sources. Older analog sources such as vinyl and tape can also be digitized and upsampled so they sound better than the original versions.
If the HDACC is more than you need, Essence makes the Evolve at $199 retail including free shipping in the USA. The Evolve has one HDMI input and up to 7.1 channel analog output for those interested in surround sound. For owners of legacy or vintage audio systems looking to add the latest digital media to their analog based systems, the Evolve is the perfect add-on, it can bring you access to both the new Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV, as well as from Blu-ray players capable of delivering the highest resolution audio in history, a one to one copy of the original master recording from a library of live concerts and older classic albums now out on Blu-ray Pure Audio Discs.
The Evolve also offers an Optical Output interface that can replace the now discontinued Optical output from the Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. While not an upsampling DAC, the Evolve will pass through all lower resolutions at their native sample rate as well as native hi resolution audio content from HD Tracks downloads and Blu-ray, the best audio content in history.
The Essence HDACC received Top Pick of the Year 2014 from Sound & Vision magazine in the DAC / Headphone Amp category and the Evolve is unique in its class and price point as a bridge device for bringing HDMI delivered content into older analog systems without the necessity to replace the receiver or preamp just to get HDMI. Owners of vintage audio products in particular will find this product useful to improving their listening pleasure for a modest price.