STYLE AUDIO HD1V USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier
Computer sound card - bad. Outboard USB DAC - good. For happy wallets, to South Korea go. That neatly sums up Styleaudio's proposition for their Carat HD1V cigarette-pack audio extrusion. Think 9V 500~1000mA optional wall-wart power injector; USB in; analog out (and Toslink digital and 1/4" headphone); output select (1/4" or RCA/optical); volume control; and no batteries since this isn't mobile but desktop audio.
The HD1V's board houses MKP-level Wima and Sanyo Oscon silver mica, polypropylene and polyester film capacitors, Dale RN60 precision metal resistors, Burr Brown's OPA2350 chip amp and 32/44.1/48kHz 2704 DAC and a 1.5ppm TCXO temperature-compensated crystal oscillator for a claimed 98dB S/N ratio and low-jitter performance.
The unit derives its power from the USB interface unless the optional AC power injector is used. Styleaudio claims no drivers need to be installed on your PC or laptop to shake hands with the Carat via USB. Unless you run powered speakers of course, you'll still need an amplifier or else this is merely a headphone amp.
It is the firm's contention, however, that the premium goodies populating their board make this most gussied up of the Carats a bona fide audiophile proposition. Ever since Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio strapped a Macbook to a tube-powered USB DAC at a long gone CES, the concept has gained legitimacy. Imminent is the day when sources or preamps without universal serial bus will be considered hopelessly passé.
Styleaudio is a Korean creative design group developing hifi and PC audio products where personal computers are viewed as digital music sources. Founder and Hi-Fi enthusiast Ted Lee explained:
"Our mission is to provide the best bridge solution between fine audio and the personal computer. We introduced our first model exclusively in the Korean market. After the launch, the market reaction was very high on our product and thousands of users talked about Styleaudio to where we're now No. 1 in Korea for USB DACs. We are planning that all our products will maintain the current design concept and identity."
Here's what the Press has to Say:
As a USB DAC to feed powered speakers, the 200 euro clams Styleaudio wants for the Carat seem more than commensurate with the greater refinement and smoothness their gizmo brings to PC audio sessions. Contrary to expectations, I personally could not detect audible benefits to the wall wart to be hesitant recommending it as essential to this package. But the Carat solo seems excellent value and nicely put together. The Styleaudio Carat continues to prove that music and passion for good audio are global; and that fine specimens of the audio arts can be found anywhere. In fact, I'm presently talking with Emillé to show that Korea makes hifi contributions also at the very high end. Let the politicians do their thing. Music lovers and audiophiles can practice their own grass roots politicking by shopping across geographical and language barriers to bypass that other sad form of harmonic distortion. Here's to Korean audio ambassadors. While The Klezmatics are cranking out "Eyliyohu Hanovi" for a live bit of Hassidic Gospel Rock over the Carat HDV1, cheers!
Srajan Ebaen 6Moons Review
A note about Power Supplies:
The Carat HD1V is supplied without an external power supply unit as the HD1V is capable of operating taking its power from a PC / Laptop etc via the USB connection.
While the Carat HD1V performs best when using an external PSU over taking power in via USB Styleaudio took the decision not to include a PSU because they felt that anybody wanting to take the Carat to a higher level of performance would want to choose their own PSU. This decision has also kept the cost of the unit down by not supplying one. The HD1V accepts a standard 9 volt external PSU.
The Style Audio Carat Range Size comparison
CARAT-UD1 : 75 mm (W) x 30 mm (H) x 109 mm (D)
CARAT-HD1V : 75 mm (W) x 30 mm (H) x 109 mm (D)
CARAT-PERIDOT : 75 mm (W) x 30 mm (H) x 126 mm (D)
CARAT-TOPAZ : 75 mm (W) x 30 mm (H) x 126 mm (D)
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