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Merging’s Ethernet NADAC impresses at Munich High-End 2015

  • munich_high_end_2015_logoMerging Technologies have been pro-audio operators for some time – they make the Pyramix workstations found in recording studios – but this year sees the Swiss company edging into the home audio space. Their NADAC’s main point of difference is a biggie: it doesn’t receive data via USB but uses Ethernet, which apparently offers far more accurate clocking capabilities when used in tandem with the Munich-developed RAVENNA network protocol. This ain’t no DLNA/UPnP cop out. Ethernet transmission also makes it useful for those needing to put some serious distance between DAC and host PC.

    Once connected to a network, the NADAC itself dictates data transmission rates instead of the computer. In other words data handling is asynchronous.

    All current digital audio format trends are met head on: PCM up to 384kHz, DXD, DSD64, DSD128, and DSD256. The business end of D/A conversion shows Merging Technologies’ roots: they’ve opted for an ESS’ 9008S chip.


    The front panel sports both 3.5mm and 6.4mm headphone sockets, which can output the same or different musical content to that being piped out of the balanced XLR or single-ended RCA socketry out back.

    So how does a PC or Mac send digital audio to the NADAC when no direct connection exists? Merging have written ASIO and Core Audio drivers so that it appears as a sound output device in either the Windows Control Panel or OS X’s Preferences pane – just as if it were direct connected via USB. Clever!

    Merging supply their Emotion server/playback software free of charge with each unit but pretty much ANY playback software can be used. I’m thinking a lot of users will opt for Roon.


    The news from the NADAC’s official launch at Munich High-End 2015 is that the pricing announced at CES four months ago was “way off” — US$8900 nets you the stereo version.

    (An 8-channel version is also available but that sits outside of DAR’s remit).

    Further information: Merging

    Munich High-End 2015 coverage sponsored by LH Labs:


    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. It remains to be seen how big of a biggie the Ethernet/Ravenna protocol is for home use. After all, most of us don’t deal with 100m cables, multi-channel digital and tens of digital devices on the same line which all need to be sync’d and clocked. That’s a factor in the recording and mixing studios but not the average home. And where USB length limits go, Bel Canto have already transcended that with AT&T glass fibre as in their Black kit. Finally, asynchonous USB accomplishes the same master-over-the-PC-slave thing as Merging’s Ethernet protocol. For home-audio purposes, USB 2.0 has plenty of bandwidth, never mind USB 3.0

      Merging’s solution could well be the cat’s meow and I’m slated to review it. I’d simply hate to have Ethernet/Ravenna painted prematurely as the next big thing and become another fashion hype like 384kz PCM and 256 DSD. “Rendering USB obsolete and passé” would be the implication and I’m not sure I see that as being factual at all.

      • It’s not my intention to over-hype. I’m simply singling the NADAC out as a point of (not insignificant) difference in a world dominated by USB solutions. It could be that USB is perfectly adequate but then again, maybe Ethernet can bring things to another level. Your review will no doubt reveal all in time.

        Ethernet/Ravenna is just another way of tackling dual demons jitter and noise. And yes, async USB runs in a similar fashion to async Ethernet – but how much for Bel Canto’s Black? It’ll run you far fatter cash wads than this fella.

        One thing I do know is that DLNA/UPnP comes up short sonically when compared to NFS-mounted shares. I’m pretty sure Michael Lavorgna found the same way he spent time with the Antipodes DX server. The way I heard it, it’s something to do with increased over-head in the Ethernet receiver. UPNnP data chunks are spec’d as smaller and so the server must deal with their more frequent arrival.

        Oh – and I’m not so sure fashion shifts in D/A converting hardware are comparable to software trends. A good DAC can transform an existing (Redbook) library whereas DSD/DXD is inherently – and therefore *severely* – title-restricted. However, I hear ya on how the market can often get carried away with the promise of the new. Just look at MQA. 😉

      • AES67 is maybe the first standard for audio transport, other than USB, that have the potential to improve on the old SPDI/F. Whether it is good sounding remains to be seen (or rather heard). Looking forward to your review.
        Audio over USB has taken a few years to optimise. We may see the same with AES67. I use USB today, but I would not mind having music stored 100m away in the basement and playing it directly from there with no extra devices in between.

      • Plug’n play anywhere from an already existing network. Free to use any software.
        That sounds biggie convenient to this average house owner. Only the price of the Hapi is more in line with my house

    2. Hi John, thanks for the Merging update. I believe Roon does not support ASIO – yet. I am sure they will at some point.
      Best would be if Roon could talk AES67/Ravenna directly. That would be very much in-line with how Roon wants users to view them. Best interface, now at both ends…

      • I’ll be meeting with Roon’s Rob Darling at the Newport show next weekend so I’ll ask about plans for ASIO support.

    3. My Black mention was simply to point at AT&T glass fibre as a transmission protocol without the 5m USB cable limit. Aqua Hifi for example have it as an option too -:)

    4. USB Audio is fatally flawed – it just sends a data stream without and CRC checksum in the header packet to drive data packet verification and resend.

      And as far as length goes 5m can be a deal breaker for anyone with a computer on the other side of the room, in a network closest (next to a cable modem and/or router). What a manacled tether that is…

      I’ve been waiting for this to start happening. My guess was ethernet or wi-fi. USB 2.0, in general, is becoming the new ADB, RS232, or Dodo bird.

    5. Gotta say the open discussion with yourself and Sarjan are very refreshing. more please.

    6. Thanks John for covering the Nadac,
      the Ravenna protocol is very interesting and will permit easy connection between various equipment as speaker, pre-amp, amplifier…on short or long distance.

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