Friday, September 10, 2010

Furutech GT40 USB DAC with Phono Stage

The Furutech GT40 USB DAC with Phono Stage is a very intriguing looking new product. I'm wondering if anybody has heard one of these? The GT40 combines several essential functions for those of us who still listen to LPs, but also like to digitize (or "needledrop") vinyl, as well as use a computer or other music server as a source for high quality music. It combines a phono pre-amp, DAC (digital-to-analog converter) with USB input, ADC (analog-to-digital converter), plus a headphone amplifier into one package. I have no experience with Furutech products, but I know they are a highly respected audio manufacturer.

Currently, the top shelf of my stereo system is a tangle of cords and equipment. I have a Grado PH-1 phono stage, an Edirol UA-1EX USB ADC, and a Valab NOS DAC, along with all the cords necessary to power and connect them. I am always switching connections back and forth because my integrated amp has a limited number of inputs. While this arrangement is kind of cumbersome, each component does its job well, and I am happy with the way everything sounds (and that matters to me more than convenience). That said, if I could combine all these functions into a single box without taking a step back in sound quality, it would be nice. Really nice.

People often ask me for advice about digitizing vinyl and unfortunately I have no recommendations for them beyond assembling a hodge-podge of components as I have done. All-in-one USB turntables almost universally stink (with the possible exception of a Pro-Ject table I wrote about a while back). But even the Pro-Ject unit is limited to 44.1 kHz/16 bit digital audio output, and in my experience you need to capture the signal from the vinyl at a higher resolution than that before doing any processing to get really good results.

The Furutech GT40 is the first product I am aware of the combines all these functions, and also allows up to 96 kHz/24 bit analog-to-digital conversion. If you've heard or used one of these, I'd be very interested to hear your feedback. I am especially curious about in the sound quality of the phono preamp itself and digital to analog conversion. Kudos to Furutech for introducing such a forward-looking product. This is exactly the kind of component audio manufacturers should be creating if they wish to survive in our constantly evolving media environment.

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