High Resolutions Technologies Music Streamer II
In this era of convergence devices, there are electronics that require volumes to be written on what they do versus what they do well. Then there are rare products that deserve the praise “performs as advertised.” High Resolution Technologies' Music Streamer II ($149) is one of those uncommon items worthy of recognition for doing one thing well: providing a USB-to-stereo-RCA digital-to-analog (D/A) converter. Tested on a MacBook Pro running into both an Integra receiver at home and JBL powered speakers while DJing an event, this compact buss-powered interface used low-jitter asynchronous USB to output a warm, authoritative sound.
The Music Streamer II's bass had satisfying density, and midrange/treble exhibited heightened harmonic presence. Supporting resolutions up to 24-bit/96 kHz, this unassuming block didn't so much apply a sheen as remove a film on MP3, AAC, FLAC and WAV files played through iTunes, Audiofile Engineering's Fidelia, and Native Instruments Traktor Pro 2. Compared to the built-in sound card, soundstage was improved, though more in depth than width. Texture and transparency married proportionally to the foundation, perhaps due to isolating the signal from the integrated card to reduce potential noise.
HRT also makes the Music Streamer II+ ($349), offering a higher grade of D/A chips, and the Music Streamer Pro ($499), featuring balanced mini-XLR jacks for a more permanent club installation. For those not needing the bells, whistles, headphone amps, or extensive cable routing, the Music Streamer II is an affordable on-the-go D/A converter that's easy to plug in and forget, but that produces a detectable upgrade for computer audio that's hard to ignore.