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I started the listening tests using my MacBook Pro complete with SSD hard disc. Beginning in a high tempo mood, I clicked on an EAC-ripped WAV version of Skunk Anansie’s ‘Hedonism’ with the dinky E-DAC plugged into the USB port of the laptop and a pair of Sennheiser HD650s attached to the Line Out port.
    The sound of the new generation of MacBooks is generally pretty good, being quite solid and dynamic with no hint of brightness from the headphone output. Adding the E-DAC into the chain just lifted the music onto a whole new level.
    There appeared to be a drastic reduction in distortion; the overall presentation was far smoother. Whether you’re talking vocal, guitar or percussion, there was a new sense of clarity that improved any song, removing the smog factor from the front of the stage.
    That lifting of the sonic haze put a sense of air and space around the performers, along with a new and more effective instrumental separation. As such, Skin’s double tracking vocal was more evident, while the percussion enjoyed an effective degree of reverb. Bass was rounded in form, giving it dimensionality, while also sounding more destructive and heavy in terms of sheer mass.
    On Stacey Kent’s vocal track, ‘Les Eaux de Mars’, this small ensemble piece emphasised the romance of the French language song. Kent’s own delivery oozes with an exotic delicacy and it was a little distressing to hear the Mac hardening her vocals. With the E-DAC in the chain, this hardening was removed. Indeed, it now sounded like Kent was able to venture even closer to the mic to provide a more intimate rendition.
    Backing guitar was easier to follow too, despite its close micing, because it lost a bloom in the upper mids. Treble also improved, cymbal work shimmering and appearing more delicate, while the piano was both flowing and rhythmic.
    Meanwhile, Dexter Gordon’s jazz piece, ‘You’ve Changed’, was positively moody. This ballad charmed itself into my ear. The E-DAC opened up the sax and provided enough information to suggest that there was a real person on the end of it. Human touches provided imperfections that injected realism while the bass was now a full part of the mix and not stuck on as an afterthought. Midrange was spacious and this expanded the soundstage, giving each musician room to perform.
    Keeping the portable theme going, I decided to include the Audio Pro Porto luggable iPod dock which features a decent speaker system. Connecting the E-DAC’s Line Out socket to the Porto and retaining the Gordon jazz track, the resultant lower distortion encouraged me to increase the volume on the Porto which, of course, introduced more detail to the sound. Midrange was a delight, the drum brushes sounding textural while the sax was now positively seductive. It didn’t need to try as hard to get its point across while, at the same time, offering a reedy delivery that was more vibrational in its effect. Trumpet also displayed individual elements that gave it a more complex presentation.
    Onto Skunk Anansie’s ‘Hedonism’ but arranging the Porto as a near-field monitor, the rock track didn’t swamp the space, retaining the necessary quality to keep the experience an enjoyable one. The clarity maintained the delineation of the individual aspects of the mix while secondary percussion, such as tambourines, were clear and present and were never masked by the strong lower frequencies.    
    Epiphany also offers an alternative USB cable with the addition of a ferrite ring along its length. I recommend it as a simple upgrade for just £4.95 as it managed, at least on my system, to lower noise a tad further. The result was that the subtle acoustic guitar accompaniment on the Hedonism track was slightly more detailed with feather light strumming to add a sense of fragility to the mix.



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