First blood on digital audio streamer news for 2019 (and we’re not even there yet) goes to the Stack Audio. The UK company’s forthcoming WiFi/Ethernet-connectable Link is a network bridge; it will drop into any UPnP/OpenHome (powered by Volumio), Shairport-powered Airplay, Roon (TBC) or Spotify Connect streaming system to output via USB (and USB only) to a neighbouring DAC. The Link also features a Bluetooth input for when convenience is more important than sound quality.
Up the Link’s sleeve sits a trio of party tricks: 1) the Link is a CD ripper with a second USB port allowing for the connection of an external optical drive ; 2) the Link is a USB pipe cleaner where its Type B USB port will play catch on any other USB source to clean up its signal before sending it on the DAC; 3) an HDMI display port for big screen display of the Link’s Volumio interface.
If this sounds somewhat reminiscent of the Pro-Ject StreamBox S2 Ultra streamer, know that the latter’s product developer John Westlake (ex-Peachtree, ex-Audiolab) was also contracted by Stack for the Link’s development, specifically for his research into the effects of phase noise on digital audio streams and their timing accuracy (aka jitter).
Stack’s press release has the engineering specifics:
“At the core of the detox system is an ultra-low phase noise USB audio clock circuit. The Ethernet input is synchronised to the audio clock to reduce the small variations in the timing of the digital signals. A dedicated USB audio output buffers the signal to purify it and EMI filter circuitry removes remaining interference. The Link is powered by an extremely low noise, multi-stage power circuit.”
“Three independent switching regulators are synchronized to the audio clock ensuring that the fluctuations of the switching circuit are in time with the clock, reducing fluctuations and noise. The Link’s bank of 9 low ESR capacitors and triple-linear regulated circuit that further help to ensure the power source is clean.”
The Link’s chassis is machined from a single piece of aluminium to reject airborne electrical noise (EMI) but also to minimise airborne vibrations.
Stack’s Link will begin shipping in late January / early February. Pre-orders are available now for £695.
Further information: Stack Audio