There's lots of great high-resolution music available on Blu-ray disc, but you generally have to hook up a surround-sound processor to get at it. Essence, a small company that focuses on panel-type electrostatic speakers, just introduced a more audiophile-friendly way to get two-channel high-res from Blu-ray: the $699 HDACC digital-to-analog converter.
The HDACC is one of the most versatile, fully featured DACs I've seen. Not only can it pull high-res 24-bit/192-kilohertz linear PCM (LPCM) tracks from Blu-rays, it can also play downloaded or ripped digital files in resolutions up to 24/196, using its USB input. An HDMI output passes the video part of the signal from your Blu-ray player on to your video display. Coaxial and Toslink optical digital inputs and outputs are included. There's even an analog input, intended for digitizing analog sources such as records and cassettes.
With XLR and RCA stereo analog outputs, the HDACC can connect to a preamp, an integrated amp, or even straight to an amplifier. A front volume control is provided. And there's a 3.5mm headphone output with selectable output impedance, too. A menu system, using the HDACC's front panel display, accesses its various options.
I'm not aware of many DACs that accept HDMI, but one is the NAD M51 Direct Digital DAC, which runs $1,999. And which makes the HDACC look like a pretty good deal.
Photos of MDACC DAC provided by Essence Electrostatic