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March 2012
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
World Premiere!
Brunoco Audio DiVA Integrated Amplifier With DAC
Good sound, versatility, low price and good looks!
Review By Alfred Fredel

 

Brunoco Audio DiVA Integrated Amplifier With DAC  Many of us are fortunate enough to have space in our homes to establish dedicated listening rooms. This is where we can "play" and set up all manner of audiophile goodies that make the hobby so interesting. What do you when you are an apartment dweller or only have a small room with limited space to set up your vision of an audio oasis? Well, you have to get creative. You look for components that are appropriate for the listening area that fulfill your needs without taking over the designated space. If you are like me, you also look for products with the best price to performance ratio, since money is probably an important issue as well. It is always great to find products that meet these specifications that offer solid performance at a good value.

The Brunoco DiVA is a product that was created to precisely fulfill the requirements listed above. Kiho Kim, the owner and designer of the company, is an avid audiophile and a lover of tubes & horn speakers. He decided to develop the DiVA as an alternative way to listen to music more frequently within any environment. He prefers the sound of LPs but realized that in this day and age, one may not have the time to park in front of a main listening room system and spin records. He wanted to create something that was convenient for the listener to use without sacrificing sound quality. The result was the DiVA, which stands for "digital integrated versatile amplifier".

The DiVA is a Class D digital integrated amplifier that pushes out 40 respectable, clean and stable watts per channel. It is a highly efficient unit for all of you eco-friendly folks out there and does not draw a lot of power nor does it generate high levels of heat. The unit is relatively simple to operate and its small size allows it to be placed almost anywhere. It boasts a 24-bit/192kHz onboard digital to analog converter with three digital inputs (USB, coaxial, and optical) and an analog to digital converter for the analog stage with a pair of RCA stereo inputs. Because of its asynchronous design, the component is free from jitter from source equipment. The DiVA utilizes pulse width modulation technology to allow it to achieve zero negative feedback. The folks at Brunoco Audio believe that this allows the unit to have a more natural and musical sound. The small chassis is made from sand treated, brushed and anodized aluminum and the finish is of top quality. The unit comes with an external power supply where the transformer itself is a hefty 120V / 60Hz unit. Binding posts on the unit are solid and of good quality. The digital display on the DiVA is clear and functional. Supplied with the unit are all manner of wires to connect any conceivable source component to the DiVA as well as a run of copper speaker cables. To get the unit playing music, they will work just fine but for best results, it is wise to use better cables to maximize the performance of the DiVA.

 

The Setup
I chose to set the unit up in my dining room where I actually spend a lot of my time. It is a medium sized rectangular room with pretty good acoustics. Having ditched all the supplied cables, I turned to what I consider to be a strong cable solution. I connected the unit to sources with UltraConductor 2 series analog interconnects and a coaxial cable from JPS Labs. For speaker cables, I also used JPS Labs Ultraconductor 2 series cables. Add to that a pair of Aperion Audio Verus Grand Bookshelf speakers and I was "good to go".

 

A Versatile Listening Experience the DiVA Sings
I let the unit burn in for 36 hours while connected to my iPod touch running through a PURE i-20 dock. This nifty little gadget allows me to run a coaxial cable from the dock to an external D /A converter, extracting the raw digital information from the iPod. I wanted to take advantage of the onboard D/A converter that was much better than what was in the dock as well as in the iPod. I listened and found the sound impressive for such a small piece of gear. My initial impression was one of a very relaxed and comfortable presentation of the music. I sat in my dining room for hours, playing all manner of files off of my iPod, from classical music to hard rock. "Oye Como Va" off of Carlos Santana's Abraxas album sounded full and lively, where the percussion had that familiar punch and Santana's guitar sounding melodic and present. To me, this was not a bad setup for a temporary listening situation, not bad indeed.

Brunoco Audio DiVA Integrated Amplifier With DAC Rear PanelKiho had stressed that he uses the DiVA with his computer and was able to play high-resolution files through his laptop that were better than CD quality and that I should give it a try. As I generally do not use my computer as a source component, I had to borrow a high-end USB interface to connect to the DiVA. My choice was a relatively affordable Cardas Clear 1 meter USB cable. When I have used my computer as a source, I have downloaded files from HDTracks, a service that allows me to listen to files at up to 24-bit/192kHz output. I played "Lucia" by Marta Gomez with this configuration and her voice was rich, the guitar was present and the gentle percussion was pleasant. The accordion was also lilting and soothing on this recording. I was very satisfied with the playback in this setup. The onboard d/a converter performed well and the DiVA again demonstrated that it was a very musical device. I listened to many tracks on my computer and the DiVA did not disappoint me.

This product is clearly geared towards digital formats, but I wanted to get a sense of how the analog stage would perform. I plugged in a CD player that I had just taken out of one of my systems. The NAD C515 BEE is a great little CD player for the money. I paired it with the DiVA using the RCA analog output. It has a 24-bit/192 kHz d/a converter and performs way beyond what is expected at its price point. I popped in Stevie Ray Vaughan's The Sky is Crying and went to my favorite track "Little Wing". The combination of the DiVA and the NAD C515 BEE turned in a respectable performance with smooth sound and little grain, but it was not as sharp as the digital files that I played before switching to the analog input. I switched the output on the NAD machine to the digital coaxial and there was a clear and unmistakable improvement. Going straight into the DiVA's onboard d/a converter was definitely the way to go with this combination. Stevie's guitar just came to life allowing me to really enjoy my listening experience.

To be thorough, I hooked up a Moth Alamo X turntable to the DiVA through a Musical Fidelity V-LPS phonograph preamplifier. This proved to be a decent listening experience where playback was solid and musical. My LP of choice was Herbie Hancock's Maidien Voyage, an album I have had in rotation for years. As I am intimately familiar with this recording, I can say without question that the DiVA delivered sound that had the familiar timbre and bounce of the album and did not disappoint. The dynamics were good and soundstage was there with strong attack and believable imaging. My only minor criticism was that it sounded just a little too laid back for my ears.

 

Final Thoughts
The Brunoco DiVA is clearly a strong effort to bring good sound to the listener with versatility all at a reasonable price. One feature that I have not mentioned that makes this unit unique is its preset equalizer. There are 24 settings that will allow you to mold the sound to your taste including 6 bass focused, 6 bass/midrange focused, 6 near field focused and 6 vivid "enhanced" options. The firmware for this equalizer was created based on musicality as the ultimate goal and the settings sound quite good. As I prefer no equalization, I did not really use these settings all that much but it may prove useful for those in difficult spaces or for folks who want a little extra punch. The sound is truly uncompromised and it makes for an excellent option for a small to medium room. Add to that, the reasonable price of $800 and I think we have a winner. It wins with good sound, versatility, price, and good looks; but the true winner is you because you can simply sit back and enjoy the music.

 

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear  
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

Specifications
Type: Integrated stereo amplifier with DAC and 24 band preset digital equalizer
Power Output: 40 wpc, two channels 
Output Impedance: 4 or 8 Ohms
Inputs: Three digital (optical TosLink, S/PDIF coaxial & USB) and 1 pair analog RCA
Output: high quality speaker binding posts
Dimensions: 200 x 66 x 231 (WxHxD in mm)
Weight: 9 lbs.
Price: $800

 

Company Information
Brunoco Audio Inc.
1290 West King Edward Ave.
Vancouver, B.C. V6H1Z7
Canada

Voice: (604) 263-9095
E-mail: diva@brunoco.ca
Website: www.brunoco.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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