In Barn for Flashback-Fi: California Audio Labs Alpha Tube Analog Processor (DAC)

Vintage digital! The California Audio Labs Alpha DAC was the third digital device I owned from CAL, preceded by the Icon and Tercet MKIII CD players. So this Flaskback-Fi hits home.

The unit under Flashback-Fi was manufactured in 1995, which predates the Alpha’s 24/96 ‘upgrade’, so we’re looking at an 18-bit/44.1kHz d/a processor, preferred by some for its supposed smoother presentation as compared to the upsampling upgraded version (based on the Burr-Brown 1728). A Cirrus Logic Crystal CD8412 low-jitter receiver hands off the bits to a Cirrus Logic Crystal CS4328-KP 18-Bit Stereo D/A Converter, while a pair of 12AX7s sit in the analog output stage to round things out.

Digital inputs include Coax S/PDIF, Toslink, AT&T Glass (used by companies including Wadia), and balanced 110-ohm XLR which could be used between the Alpha and matching CAL Delta Transport (I owned that too). A single pair of RCA outputs, rocker type power switch, and IEC receptacle complete the rear panel.

Around front are a pair of push buttons for StandBy Mode and Input Selection and four geen LEDs showing the active input. The Alpha’s stout 8.5″ w x 4.75″ h x 12.5″ size was a nice change from your standard 19″ hifi box.

I remember enjoying all of the CAL players, but my favorite was the Delta/Alpha combo for its smooth operator sound. I’m very much looking forward to hearing how it and I have aged.

Twittering Machines’ Flashback-Fi gear is provided courtesy of High-End Audio Auctions and StereoBuyers