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Inline Magic

Meridian Explorer

The Meridian Audio Explorer ($299) is a portable USB DAC designed for the Jony Ive age that transforms traditional computer listening into a hi-fi experience with minimal fuss. It’s small, incredibly easy to set up, and designed to blend seamlessly with other high-end electronics you already own. It also retails for a reasonable $299, despite being made in England using the same exacting standards Meridian applies to gear with price points that make car dealers blush.

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Small Wonder

Meridian Explorer Headphone DAC/Amplifier

Terms like all-metal enclosure, analog, and hand-made may conjure up thoughts of exorbitant price tags — most often you’d be right — but Meridian proves that occasionally pigs do fly. The British audio stalwart, known for stratospheric priced speakers and components, has unveiled the Meridian Explorer ($299), a pocket-sized USB DAC and headphone amplifier, and we got to try it out.

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Turn on the tube(s)

Woo Audio WA7 Fireflies

Looking more like a miniature robot monolith than audio componentry, the WOO Audio WA7 Fireflies ($999) is a convenient (ideal) solution to poor desktop sound. As both a high-grade vacuum tube headphone/speaker amplifier and a state-of-the-art USB digital to analog converter, the Fireflies puts everything serious audiophiles crave in a 5-inch cube.

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Keep the Hi-fi, ditch the high price

Fiio E17 Alpen USB DAC Headphone Amplifier

Anyone on a budget looking to wade into the world of portable headphone hi-fi should take a good Pei Mei stare at Fiio. In the audio community, the upstart brand is known for providing unbeatable value, and their latest E17 Alpen USB DAC Headphone Amplifier ($140) is no exception. Boasting inputs for mini USB, AUX,…

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Force Factor

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Buying a great pair of headphones is a big first step in upping your audiophile cred. Many of the models we’ve covered before can be an ear opening experience to what music is meant to sound like. That said, most of us listen to music in digital format these days, whether it be from out laptop,…