Product Type: Bluetooth Speaker | Manufacturer: Libratone | Price: £199 | Where to buy: Libratone | [et_social_share]
The DiGiGrid Q is the newest headphone amplifier from UK premium audio manufacturer DiGiCo.
DiGiCo has garnered quite a reputation over the years for creating premium quality audio mixing consoles. The company recently partnered with waves to launch a new line of products dubbed ‘DiGiGrid,’ which combine the hardware of DiGiCo and the software from Waves. Utilising the SoundGrid networking and processing platform, it allows users to create an interconnected sound installation comprising everything from interfaces to amplifiers and instruments.
While the technology is typically used to connect large-scale setups for venues and live applications, it’s also started to trickle down into the consumer market. The DiGiGrid Q is a perfect example of this, functioning as a standalone headphone pre-amp which can also be connected as a node within a wider network.
In terms of design, the DiGiGrid Q is very small at only 9cm square, yet manages to pack in plenty of inputs and two headphone outputs. The choice to provide both 3.5mm and 1/4-inch jack outputs is obviously in relation to the consumer focus that DiGiCo has taken with the product, as many users may not necessarily use a big pair of over-the-ear cans. On the back, you’ll find a pair of analog line connectors, an AES EBU XLR connector for backwards compatibility and an Ethernet port for hooking it up to the SoundGrid network. The company has also thrown in Bluetooth for good measure, operating on a relatively short range to reduce interference and improve sound quality.
Since we’re focusing this review on how it works as a typical day-to-day consumer product, most of these features probably won’t mean much to most people. What we’ll be primarily focusing on is the Ethernet and Bluetooth inputs.
Connecting the DiGiGrid Q to your computer via Ethernet requires a bit of effort and preparation, as it’s likely that most people won’t be able to use the internet unless they have a WI-FI card built into their computer. You’ll need to register the product first and download the relevant drivers/ software from the Waves website. From here, the auto-setup should be able to set things up without any intervention… though just remember to power down the DiGiGrid Q after the firmware update. We sat there for roughly 30 minutes wondering why there was no sound, until we realised it just needed turning off and on again.
You’ll need an ASIO deiver to get things moving (we recommend ASIO4ALL) but once it’s set up and ready to go, you should be hearing sound from your PC coming out of the DiGiGrid Q. Ethernet has many benefits for transmitting audio, mainly thanks to the fact it is a digital signal. You’ll get zero interference, imperceptible latency and easy discovery of other devices thanks to the fact it uses the standard network protocol.
We tested the sound quality of the DiGiGrid Q using two different premium cans, the Beyerdynamic DT-880 and Audio Technica ATH-CKR10. The DiGiGrid Q uses a Current Feedback Circuit Design, which differs from the Voltage Feedback Circuit usually implemented in most amplifiers. Current Feedback designs are notoriously difficult to implement and many companies use the latter simply because they know the circuitry better. For DigiGrid to choose a Current Circuit Design is a testament to the engineering team they have on board, as results are largely excellent.
The first thing we noticed with both was a substantial improvement in bass depth and detail, which is commonplace when using a dedicated amplifier. A benefit of the Current Feedback Circuit Design is ultra-low noise, which the DiGiGrid Q exemplifies with only 0.005% harmonic distortion. This thing can comfortably drive headphones all the way up to 600Ohms with very little noise and our Beyerdynamic cans exuded far more detail than any other off-the-shelf amplifiers have managed thus far.
When using Bluetooth we were equally impressed with the sound quality, as the wireless technology has something of a stigma for compressing audio and ruining it’s flair. DiGiCo seem to have opted for broadcasting Bluetooth over much shorter range, presumably to help maintain audio quality and integrity. We never encountered any of the issues usually associated with Bluetooth, though the range is incredibly short. Moving the device only a meter away introduces noticeable dropouts, meaning you’ll want to keep it quite close to whatever is broadcasting the signal.
It sounds fantastic and has a tiny desktop footprint, making it the perfect companion for audiophiles and home studio hobbyists alike. Throwing in Bluetooth seems like icing on the cake, as it means that anyone can take advantage of this premium amplifier without even needing to install the SoundGrid software.