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This is the 23rd in a series of reviews dedicated to the concept of 32Ohm Audio as embodied by the store of that name in downtown Portland/Oregon and described here - Ed.

Glen Wagenknecht
Financial Interests: click here
Sources: Luxman Brid CD Player modified by Audio Upgrades to be a now tube-less, zero oversampling machine with integral volume control
Audio Space CDP 8A CD Player
Preamplifier: Audio Space Reference 2S
Amplifier:Bel Canto 200.4
Speakers: Apogee Duetta Signature, Paradigm Servo 15 subwoofer
Headphones: Denon AH-D950, Audio Technica ATH W1000 [on loan], Grado SR125, Sennheiser HD650          
Cables: Signal Cable Silver Reference interconnects and speaker cables, digital optical and coax cable, Audio Art SE cable loom
Resonance Control: Solid Tech, EquaRack Footers, Weizhi Precision Gold Glory footers, Boston Audio TuneBlock2 footers, Superspikes, and Black Diamond
Powerline conditioning: Noise Destroyer power filtration
Accessories: TrueHarmonix Black Magic CD Mat
Room size: 12' x 17'
Review Component Retail: $699

TrueHarmonix continues to branch out in new directions. Now they introduce Taiwan-based DA&T products, a name new to North American audiences but with an apparently proven track record in China where DA&T offers an extensive and well regarded line of audio product which includes speakers, some heavyweight class A amplifiers and preamplifiers as well as integrated amps. The DA&T line is produced by Yatsu Audio—formerly Su-Sound—in Dali City, Taichung County. Designer and founder Mr. Zhang Yatsu brings some 15 years of R&D to the audio game as well as 10 years of manufacturing experience.

TrueHarmonix is introducing two products from DA&T’s U series, the U-2 DAC headphone amplifier and U-1 DAC slash integrated amplifier, two compact products which stuff a fair bit of technology into relatively small boxes. Both mark a departure from the traditional role of the preamplifier as a switching source for analog sources to instead reserve the majority of their inputs to service digital. They also incorporate onboard non-upsampling DACs capable of 24/192 via optical and coax and 24/96 via USB. The U-2 being reviewed is aimed more at the headphone crowd with the side benefits of line-level DAC outputs as well as full preamp outputs on RCA or stereo mini. The U-1 integrated is cosmetically similar, retains all of the U-2 features then adds a 50-watt class AB power section. These products are designed and priced to appeal to the audiophile who is firmly in the digital camp and wants to explore the world of headphones. Although sized as desktop pieces, they seem poised to perform a few notches above.

Mr. Yatsu has chosen a non-upsampling approach, entrusting conversion duties to the Cirrus CS 4398 decoder and CS8416 receiver chip sets. These accept full 24-bit 192kHz signal with a specification of 120dB of dynamic range. The USB input shakes hands with a Galaxy TE70222 receiver and is limited to 24/96. The non-upsampling approach has sonic merit and makes for an interesting alternative to the school that opts for higher and higher levels of upsampling. Having experienced both camps I can vouch for the validity of either.

The package arrived in a cardboard FedEx Express ‘Large Box’ and although not lightweight, was considerably more manageable than the monster amplifiers and speakers that have passed through the door before. The product container was a deep red box befitting jewelry with the DA&T Three Tree logo and a list of the current product line emblazoned in gold lettering on the top. The hinged lid was held in position by a ribbon strap and inside the U-2 was nestled in form-fitting cut gray foam. TrueHarmonix also supplied a gold-plated USB 2.0 cable in the package and a power cord.

The U-2 DAC/Pre is a fairly heavy 7.7lb (3.5kg) long-body design with minimal front panel controls that measures 2 x 6.46 x 9 inches HxWxD (5.3 x 16.4x 22cm). The top/side panels are folded sheet metal finished in brushed black to give an anodized appearance. The front plate is an attractive and deceptively simple 3/8-inch thick Acrylic with a touch-sensitive power switch on the left, a center-mounted distinctive large semi-conical red-anodized volume control and two full-size headphone jacks labeled L.D. and H.D. Fit and finish were excellent employing a thick base plate and countersunk screw holes fastened with anodized Philips screws for precision workmanship. The internal layout was clean and compact centered around a massive transformer.

The on/off switch was unique in my experience. When the unit is off, it is actually in standby mode and the visual indicator is a blue-lit Three Tree DA&T logo. In standby the preamp/headphone functions along with the volume control are disabled but the fixed DAC outputs remain live. When you touch the acrylic panel over the ‘switch’, the logo changes to red signifying full operation.

The rear panel contains the real action and attempts to cover most digital bases. It supports coax, optical and USB inputs selectable by a three-position toggle switch. There is a second toggle to choose between digital or single analog source available through a pair of RCA inputs. The U-2 can be a dedicated DAC feeding a preamplifier or a full-fledged DAC/linestage feeding an amplifier.