Steven Stone is the former editor of AudiophileReview.com. He a longtime audiophile and home theater writer, as well as a musician and recording engineer. Steven has written for publications like Stereophile, as well as HomeTheaterReview.com, AudiophileReview.com, and The Absolute Sound.
Steven is plays guitar, mandolin, and Ashbory bass and is a collector of fine musical instruments.
All of High Resolution Technologies previous products have been USB digital-to-analog-converters (DACs) under the MusicStreamer moniker. Their latest is a slight departure, it's called an iStreamer, and as you've probably guessed by now, it's for iPods and iPads only. The list of acceptable units include all generations of iPod, the iPod Classic, all generations of iPod Nano, all generations of and both the iPad and iPad 3G, iPod Photo, Video, Color, and other earlier units won't work with the iStreamer.
Visually the iStreamer is the most elegant looking HRT product so far. It's a shame that its clean lines are slightly obscured by all the wires and cables that must be connected for it to operate in most audiophile systems. When I first heard of the iStreamer I had visions of a double/duty unit that could be part of a portable as well as home system. But the iStreamer is completely home bound by its multiple cables and power cords. I was also hoping the iStreamer would supply a digital output so it could be paired with any DAC, but it only has analog outputs. Too bad about that.
I used several high-end headphone rigs for evaluating the iStreamer. First I hooked it up to my venerable Stax Lambda Nova earspeakers driven by the Stax SRM-1/Mk2 amplifier. I also listened to the iStreamer through the new Musical Fidelity M1 HPA Headphone amplifier driving Grado RS-1s, Sennheiser HD 580s and the new Audez'e LCD-2 headphones. In every case the sonic superiority of the iStreamer over both the iPod Touch 4G and iPod Classic 160's built-in DACs and headphone amplifiers was obvious. There wasn't a single sonic parameter where the iStreamer wasn't sonically superior. The iStreamer had superior resolving capabilities, greater macro dynamics, actual dimensionality, more bass extension, less electronic grain, and a far quieter background. Unlike the stock headphone amp, which gets muddy anytime the dynamics exceed a medium volume level, through both the Stax and Musical Fidelity rigs the music remained clean regardless of the volume levels.
Read The High Points, Low Points and Conclusion on Page 2
• The High Resolution Technology iStreamer offers excellent, audiophile grade sound for a very reasonable price as compared to other DACs and digital iPod devices on the market today.
• Despite the fact that the iStreamer plugs into portable devices like
iPads and iPhones - the component itself is not really portable.
• Oddly, there is no digital output, only analog present on the iStreamer.
• The iStreamer will not work with older "classic" Apple iPods.
The iStreamer is an extremely good sounding plug and play unit that can bring many iPod and iPad
owners a far higher level of musical fidelity than they ever thought
possible. Its unintimidating form factor and plug and play usability
also makes it an ideal "first DAC" for those who are just beginning down the road of high-quality digital music
from their iPods. Advanced computer audiophiles may be disappointed by
the iStreamer's lack of digital outputs, and unruly cables, but as an
entry-level product, the iStreamer accomplishes its goal - high-quality
music for the masses.