Disclaimer: nextDrive sent me the nextDrive Spectra for the purposes of this review. I paid nothing for it. It goes for 129$ USD. You can find out all about it here: nextDrive Spectra.
Note: this review, which was stuck on my office iMac through a 24-hour flight delay thanks engine failure, was supposed to be out yesterday. [Unfortunately], my wife and I and our little daughter had to spend an extra night in beautiful Okinawa. Many thanks Lieven and nextDrive for your patience. A special note to nextDrive: I’m sorry for slagging off your logo.
At this point, I feel it useless to get into the nitty gritty. Spectra is a 129$ product that fixes your onboard audio. It’s not a hard-sided dongle. It’s a USB-plugging tail with a fat head. In that head is a single-ended 3,5 stereo jack. Way below that jack is one of the prides and joys of Canadian audiophilia, the ESS 9018Q2C DAC. It’s a low-powered piece in a range of high-powered desktop and portable DACs. Despite its size, Spectra decodes DSD up to 11,2MHz and 32-bit audio up to 384kHz. Not only that, it pumps out volume roughly just south of an Astell & Kern AK380 (RMAA: AK380 24-bit).
Again, Spectra goes for 129$.
It’s 129$ dressed in finely anodised aluminium, which goes end end to end. At one end is a USB-A plug. At the other end is the thin, ladies-cigar amp/DAC. Between the two ends winds tight, protective nylon. Spectra comes pretty much naked in a cheap cardboard box. Rather than Spectra, nextDrive’s mixed-weight logo is the only typographical thingy found on Spectra. At the USB end is the USB legend. Why’s Nathan making a point of this? Simply put, Spectra is impressive where it counts. But it’s got a ridiculously easy-to-forget, diddy of a name. In the course of writing this review, I’ve called it Vectra, Spector, Spectre, and Vactor, almost interchangeably.
It’s called Spectra. It’s called Spectra. It’s called nextDrive Spectra.
And as far as I’m concerned, its biggest selling point is a point I hate to labour about: its 129 bones- a diddy of a price if I’ve ever seen one. 129$ and finely anodised. 129$ with beefy stress reliefs. 120$ with a hard-weaved, bendable nylon cable sheath. 129$ and all aluminium. 129$ and packing the ESS 9018Q2C DAC. 129$ and about as powerful as a mid to high-end DAP.
It’s called Spectra and it’s a beast. A beast finely scrawled with one of the most forgettable, low-end-1990s-IBM-compatible-grey-box-esque logos in the industry.
Sound and more after the jump: