It is hard to believe that USB DACs are a relatively new group of audio components. One can hardly peruse a stereo-related website or magazine without seeing a multitude of new USB DACs, each promising to offer the best performance, flexibility, ease of use or some combination thereof.
• Read more reviews in our Blu-ray Player Review section
The standout feature of the PlayGo USB is its unique industrial design. Both the transmitter and receiver units are made of Corian. Both the receiver and transmitter are about one-and-a-quarter inches high, with a groove horizontally bisecting the units. The transmitter is circular with a four-inch diameter and the receiver is four inches square. The horizontal groove lights up with different colors from hidden lights to display status. A combination of solid and pulsing red, green and blue lighting are used to confirm key presses, power and connection status (solid red: units on but not paired; solid green:-on and paired; pulsing green: music is playing; alternating pulsing colors: the units are connecting). I never found the lights to be distracting, but they can be turned off if you do.
The transmitter plugs into a USB port on both Windows
and Macintosh computers and shows up as an available audio output device. Everything else is automatic. Basic transport and volume controls can be found on top of the receiver unit, but I left the PlayGo in fixed volume mode and used Apple's remote app to control my iTunes playback.
PlayGo's parent company is BICOM, which has its roots in telecommunications. PlayGo is also related to Zoet, the company that is working with Thiel to create Thiel's wireless audio system. Accordingly, I was not surprised to learn that the PlayGo utilizes its own proprietary wireless transmission system. While the system utilizes an 802.11 b/g transmission chip set, it is modified to a real-time transmission protocol that can connect up to four receivers. The PlayGo USB DAC utilizes an asynchronous sample rate converter that converts all audio from 16 bit/48 kHz to 24 bit/96 kHz before converting the signal to analog digital output, which can also be configured to 24 bit/192 kHz.
I did most of my listening through the PlayGo's analog outputs set to fixed volume mode, although if I had a pair of powered speakers handy, I would likely be utilizing the variable volume mode quite a bit. The PlayGo compared favorably with the USB input on my original Cambridge Audio DacMagic. The PlayGo did a good job reducing jitter-related artifacts while presenting a lively sound.Read about the high points and low points of the PlayGo USB Wireless DAC on Page 2.