HRT – High Resolution Technologies
Two things make the HRT Music Streamers special – their high performance and low cost. While these are claims you will have heard before, seldom have we seen so many column inches devoted to such diminutive and affordable products. HRT are one of those niche American companies who along with specialist retailers bring you great audio products. For 'desk top' music HRT are hard to beat. HRT stands for High Resolution Technologies and the first thing to note is that we insist on truth in advertising. HRT are what they say. This is a preamble to the introduction of the latest in very cool little products…
HRT iStreamer NZ$ 399
Are you looking to get the best possible sound out of your idevice into your music system? Then the HRT iStream AC (Alternating Current), is your answer. How it works is it’s Apple approved circuitry bypasses the iDevice’s own internal DAC and does a much better job, thus improving the sound dramatically. (As did the well liked NuForce iDo, sadly no longer available.) In terms of operation the iStreamer couldn’t be easier – it’s plug and play. All you have to do is simply enjoy the same level of sound that you would get from a quality CD player. And your iDevice gets charged at the same time.
HRT MicroStreamer USB DAC NZ$ 329
The MicroStreamer is a USB connected and powered, ultra high–performance external sound card for computers, tablets, smart–phones or other compliant devices.
Popular mostly as a headphone amplifier it can also function as a DAC for connecting your computer to your stereo or powered speakers. The sleek aluminium 'micro' design gives you robust portability. The MicroStreamer packs a lot of technology in and your investment in this little baby is protected with a utility for firmware up–grades. Whilst it costs a bit more than the NuForce uDAC it takes you several steps further. Combine it with some good headphones and you’ll be in heaven wherever you are.
HRT Music Streamer III NZ$ 329 & Music Streamer II+ NZ$ 499
Innovative small and affordable - it's recipe that is hard to beat and here is another example - for just $299 you can dramatically improve the sound of music from your computer or laptop.
The HRT Music Streamer - now in Mk 3 form. The music streamer is a simple little box with a USB input and a pair of RCA audio outputs. In other words it is a digital to analogue converter. You simply plug one end into your computer or laptop, the other end into any audio system and play music.
The new versions of the HRT streamers have two critical advantages over many other products. Jitter is a dirty word in the world of Digital to Analogue conversion and while there are many ways to compensate for it, the best way is HRT's use an asynchronous USB connection. In simple terms Asynchronous means the DAC controls the flow (and timing) of the digital audio stream from the computer which minimises jitter and results in better detail retrieval and overall smoothness in sound. The other update is to full speed 96khz/24 bit* capability. Your computer will automatically recognise the MusicStreamer III, allowing it to take control of all data–transfer timing instructions. The Music Streamer’’s power supply is isolated from the that of the computer eliminating nasty computer background noise. MusicStreamer II+ has a higher quality DAC and a more sophisticated output.
*Don't get too caught up in the specification game - 96khz is the maximum rate you can get out of a USB connection - while we have 192/24bit converters, these only operate at this level for optical and coax connections and have to drop down to 96khz for USB streams. And this is still twice as fast as the CD sampling rate.
There are uncannily high levels of quality to be had - I've yet to find a CD player at the same cost as my laptop plus HRT that even comes close. If I ever had to start a system from scratch again, I know that as of now, my source would be a new Mac and the HRT - I could see no reason to get all romantic about vinyl or start buying CDs when they are even more likely to be obsolete than the black record in another couple of years.
As is the case with other HRT devices their 'UpStream' utility allows your Music Streamer to have it’s firmware updated from your computer as improvements become available.
HRT STAGE Music System NZ$ 2,195
HRT designed Stage from the ground up although the clarity coming through the DAC is recognisable if you’ve heard their Music Streamer II+. Quite simply you’ll hear detail coming through that previously you had no idea was there. HRT really do put to bed the fallacies about lack of definition from digital sources. Add to this the depth of sound that their proprietary STAGE speakers put out and you’ve got a pretty spectacular sounding desk top system worthy of many applications, personal and professional.
Two parts make up the STAGE music system – the STAGE Control Center and the speakers. The Control Center looks like a discreet and compact piece of computer hardware. This houses a asynchronous USB DAC, an analogue pre amplifier and a Class AB power amplifier. The companion STAGE speakers also have a small footprint yet punch well above their size. Their unique shape reflects their bespoke design. Clearly HRT had a goal in mind with these speakers they deliver spectacularly well. Black or white finish options
STAGE "It is also the first product that has successfully combined serious high–end audio sensibilities with the architectural, operational and price dictates of the computer–driven music market, a natural extension to the integrated functionality a new generation of connected users expect." The Audio Beat
Why Stream Music with HRT from Totally Wired
Now some will ask the obvious question of 'why' thinking that there is something inherently flawed in the digital storage of music, especially if under the impression that all MP3 or downloaded material is of dubious quality. The present day reality is completely at odds with this - a computer can store music at a considerably higher quality level than the CD standard, music recorded off CD and saved in an efficient format such as Apple Lossless is every bit as good as the original disc, and higher quality downloads are becoming the norm rather than exception. We are quickly getting to the point where many music enthusiasts of all ages will use a computer as their primary means of storage and playback. Personally I think this is a great thing - we have an explosion of interest in music, the ability to easily play and transport and share vast libraries. And in an impressively short period of time, both sound quality and cost issues have been solved.
If you still have any reservations about iTunes I suggest you read this. - the latest version of Itunes is easy to use, rich in features, sounds great and its FREE! Why wouldn't you…?
If the concept of the HRT MusicStreamers is hard to grasp, think of it in analogue terms: A good moving magnet phono cartridge like an Ortofon will cost around $175-$350 and give you much better sound than some scuzzy old stylus. There will be less background noise and you'll hear stuff that was fuzzy before. That's the basic Music Streamer. If you opt for an entry level Moving Coil Cartridge - the Dynavector 10X5MK2 at NZ$670, you'll be up at another level with much more clarity at all parts of the frequency range, and there will be real depth and scale with the music - that's the MusicStreamer+ version. They really are just todays version of a transducer - rather than turning squiggles in vinyl into music, the take data from your computer. Simple and highly effective
With the Music Streamers you’ll need a set of audio interconnects to connect these - we can happily recommend the Kimber 'Tonik’ (from $120) or SlinkyLinks (from $400) depending on which HRT model you opt for and how good you fancy the rest of your system is. And while you have have spare USB leads, we also have better breeds of USB cables like the Kimber USB and QED.
Totally Wired support World Wide Fund for Nature and Save Animals From Exploitation. Your purchase will help the survival of New Zealand’s special Hector Dolphins. Find out more here.
Reviewer Steven Stone called the Music Streamer "The biggest bargain I've heard in a long time... Try it and prepare to be amazed".
In the Music Streamer + review Steven wrote "I was floored by how good it sounded. No, not good, stunning."
"One area where the MS2 easily surpasses the previous model is in the bass. There’s an incredible precision and focus to bass sounds...it was easy to hear the differences in bass guitar tone between the Wrecking Crew musicians, McCartney’s Rickenbacker on a Beatles track, and that Peter, Paul and Mary’s Leaving On A Jet Plane has both an electric bass and an upright underpinning the song. Excellent stuff!" Mike Jones - Audioenz.
"Holy Cow! This thing sounds so good I might even stop hating music-via-computer!" Ken Kessler Hi-Fi News April 09
"You plug your laptop into the Streamer, plug the streamer into your system, play music and the your first comment uttered just a few bars into the recording is ‘cor!’" Alan Sircom Hi-Fi + Magazine issue 64
"If you’ve been holding off giving the rip-and-download scene a go due the cost, check out the High Resolution Technologies MusicStreamer. It may open up both your ears and your living space." Soundstage.com May 09
"It’s completely seamless, with a whisper-quiet background that will shock you, highlighting how noisy your on-board system really is. Sounds are easily delineated from one another and sit in an expansive plum-pudding of a soundstage." Hi-Fi+ Magazine, Issue 64
HRT MicroStreamer USB DAC NZ$ 329
HRT iStreamer IOS DAC NZ$ 399
HRT Music Streamer III NZ$ 329
HRT Music Streamer II+ NZ$ $499
HRT STAGE Music System NZ$ 2,195
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