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On the other side of the coin—if one were to talk of archetypal American high-end electronics companies, the ones that always have offered reliable excellence in all aspects of their operations amongst the Audio Researches, Conrad-Johnsons, Krells, Mark Levinsons et al—you’d have to include the Jeff Rowland Design Group (JRDG). Throughout my long audiophile life, JRDG has been a company whose products I both admired and coveted yet for various reasons never owned. JRDG products have also had a point of distinction about their cosmetics. Their trademark solid CNC’d aluminium chassis and extra thick fascias with the ‘3D‘ wave pattern have always separated the company’s products from the crowd, even from equally well-built home-grown competition. There’s an inherent beauty and luxury to a Jeff Rowland component that, in my book, remains just about unmatched.

Receiving their new Aeris DAC for review did nothing but reinforce my admiration. This has got to be the heaviest most solidly built beautifully styled converter extant. In typical JRDG fashion the chassis has been milled from a solid block of 6061-T6 aircraft grade billet which aside from torsional solidity and inherent beauty has the added benefits of shielding against RFI/EMI and suppressing deleterious vibrations. Further EMI isolation, shielding and thermal stabilisation are provided by individual pockets machined via dividing walls into this carved-out billet for the left/right channel output circuits, digital processing and D/A conversion circuits. What’s more, providing yet further isolation from noise, the multi-stage regulated power supply has actually been separated into its own machined aluminium outboard box which connects to the DAC via a lockable umbilical.

JRDG states that the Aeris is "based upon an asynchronous buffer, voltage-controlled crystal oscillators and a 24-bit D/A converter – under the precise control of a FPGA running proprietary algorithms..." and "...delivers bit-perfect conversion and reduces total jitter to less than 10 picoseconds RMS from any input. What’s more, there are two totally independent clocks, one running at the input buffer, the other dedicated to the output buffer using a proprietary clocking system."

The Aeris’ clock and IsoSynch ECS feature are described as being able to eliminate jitter (quoted as less than 10 picoseconds RMS across all inputs) "... because it is capable of preserving the source signal in a bit-perfect form while completely restoring the timing information contained in the original recording. Virtually all timing errors introduced and accumulated from all sources are removed before entering the DAC chip."

The Aeris also provides a volume control feature which allows bypassing/eliminating a preamp should your system be purely digital. The volume control is incorporated within the DAC chip and features a full 70dB of range while being adjustable in 1dB steps. ‘Bit stripping’ or loss of low-order bits is said to be negligible as the unit operates with 24-bit resolution and the losses remain below a quoted 117dB of S/N ratio (A-weighted at 48KHz). All inputs as well as volume of course are controlled via the superb machined-from-solid aluminium remote control.