Sound & Vision’s Top Pick DAC / Headphone Amp for 2014

The high-end audio marketplace is full of great DAC / Headphone Amps, from top manufacturers like Meridian, NAD, Benchmark, Peachtree, and Cambridge, to name just a few.  Every year the world’s #1 AV magazine, Sound & Vision, chooses their Top Pick of the Year in each category from all the products they reviewed the previous 12 months.Essence HDACC hi res HDMI copy

In 2014, a new brand broke into the pack with a value, feature set, and performance proposition that could not be beat, the Essence HDACC. Audiophiles and music lovers agreed and each month HDACC sales have grown larger than the previous month, the great reviews following the word-of-mouth from happy customers.  We are humbled and honored by the Top Pick for 2014 from the industry’s most respected voice.

What makes the HDACC so special? Its the only DAC / Headphone Amp with all the digital inputs; HDMI, USB, Optical, and Coaxial.  None of the others can make that claim except the superb NAD M-51 at 3 times the price.  The HDACC is a digital preamp too, not just a DAC and includes 2 analog inputs with A to D conversion for archiving vinyl albums digitally on your PC or server.  Its headphone amp has user selectable impedance from 16 to 600 ohms so the amp can be optimized to the wide range of headphones on the market.  

Adele blu-raySonically it sounds spectacular, able to make every low res source better.  From the PC or Mac Mini, iPod or smartphone, cable TV, CD’s, DVD’s, and uploads at lower res like MP3 files, the HDACC plays your content back in hi resolution all the time.

Offering 24/192k upsampling is great but what about native sources like Blu-ray and SACD?  That’s where the HDACC pulls away from the pack, with HDMI throughput for the best audio content in history, a one-to-one copy of the original master recording, with full bandwidth and dynamic range.  Audiophiles have been chasing this level of performance since the 1970’s and today its a reality if you have the right playback equipment.

We designed the HDACC for owners of legacy analog preamps and receivers for 2 channel stereo playback. They need a hub for the latest digital sources that can be converted to analog for playback of the latest generation of live concerts on Blu-ray.  Thats the HDACC, the swiss army knife of DACs as one reviewer noted.

HDTV requires HDMI throughput to see and hear the highest resolution audio and video content in history.  Watching and hearing the world’s greatest artists at their craft is much more involving on an emotional level, a sensory experience like no other.  The HDACC is a tool to bring that experience into your own listening room regardless of the kind of preamp or how old your receiver is now, you keep it and dont have to buy a new one.  

An upcoming (Feb) test report on the HDACC by John Gatski on his well-respected website puts it all into perspective:

“The Essence HDACC quickly became a favorite all-in-one, do-it-all, bang for the buck digital converter/HP amp. I found numerous uses for it with my laptop and as a standalone digital distribution device — and it only costs $699 retail. This box really shines.
 From archiving vinyl to computer recording my guitars in hi-res (and feeding a backup recorder with the extra A/D output), to listening to hi-res tunes on the go with my portable players. I could not be more pleased. And it is one of the few DACs that utilizes HDM input and output for use with Blu-ray players and computers that are equipped with the popular interface for audio delivery tasks.
No, it will not best the top-tier DACs in audio quality, but the sonic character is ESS-chip smooth with nice detail, and the feature set is so deep that nothing touches it at 2X-3X the price. Of course, it gets the EAN Stellar Sound Award. And I now have one permanently in my arsenal of digital converters.”
For the record, here is how Sound & Vision put it:
Sound&Vision Top Pick of the Year 2014 001

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