I like digital audio—the small (yes, compressed ) files stored on my phone and various hard drives as well as the digital streaming services integrated into nearly every component in my home. You’ll never find me picking through bins on Record Store Day. I like the convenience, the small size, the unlimited access, all of it. I know my analog friends would like to pummel me with tonearm counterweights, but I believe we’re in a golden digital age for audio enthusiasts.
Yet, I’ll admit that sometimes there’s something lacking. I understand the science of digital music (I just usually ignore it), and agree that there are qualities lost when low-fidelity data flows though lesser-quality electronics, even if your loudspeakers are monuments.
When my scrambled eggs are feeling a bland, I douse them with a little salt and pepper to bring the zing back to breakfast. AudioControl has a device to do similar magic to your digital music. It’s the Rialto 400.
The Rialto 400 is a smallish device that includes the two most important elements for spicing up digital music. The first is a quality Digital to Analog Converter, or DAC. In this case the DAC is a Wolfson audiophile-quality DAC, not the run-of-the-mill DAC that you find in cheap iPod speaker docks or low-end A/V receivers. After the audio signal passes through the DAC it hits the Rialto 400’s amps, which are no slouches. The system packs 100 watts per channel into 8 ohms or 200 watts into 4 ohms.
The size and shape of the unit is reminiscent of the Sonos Connect (it’s actually closer in size to the Sonos Connect Amp). That’s because AudioControl had Sonos in mind when designing the product. As cool as the Sonos system is, some users complain about the lack of power, so the Rialto 400 offers a nice option for people who want all the streaming ease of the Sonos but need more muscle behind it. It offers almost twice the wattage of the Sonos Connect Amp, and much higher-quality connections (such as the 5-way binding posts).
On the back you get both optical and coax digital audio inputs, plus analog inputs (RCA ports), a subwoofer out, gain control, AccuBass control, a priority switch for analog or digital inputs (it has auto sensing), a 12V trigger for a control system (nice) and a set of robust-looking speaker binding posts.
Of course you don’t have to hook it up to a Sonos system. If your smart TV has Pandora and a USB jack for media files, that will work perfectly too, as will an Apple TV, Roku or, in my case for this review, a Voco V-Zone music streamer.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.