Recording - March 2017 - 38

Prism Sound
CALLIA USB Audiophile
DAC/Preamplifier
Sheer beauty for your ears
REVIEW BY PAUL VNUK JR.

P

rism Sound is a UK company known for digital audio converters
that are best described as "next level"; these products are found in
many of the world's top mastering studios. Prism also offers a line of
no-compromise multichannel solutions for the tracking and mixing studio.
We looked at the Titan, an 8 x 8 mic pre-equipped USB interface in our July
2014 issue. Then we looked at the Titan's smaller desktop sibling, the Lyra,
in November 2014. This is a 2-input unit with 2 or 4 channels of output and
varied mic and instrument input choices, depending on which Lyra model
you choose.
This month we look at CALLIA, the newest product in the Prism pantheon. It's a 2/3-rack tabletop box similar in form factor to the Lyra but
is dedicated to high-end monitoring and listening.
In keeping with Prism's Greek naming scheme, the word "CALLIA" translates as "Beautiful Voice". That's truly a fitting name; CALLIA is a simple
and elegant stereo D/A converter that uses the same high-end components
and technological attention to detail found in the previously-mentioned
Prism recording interfaces.
While it's simple and elegant in design, we should note that the CALLIA is
not a no-frills D/A box as we often see in mastering and studio setups.
It has a well-chosen feature set that befits its place as Prism's first product to
officially target the home hi-fi/audiophile market. You may be asking.
"Why is Recording reviewing a home hi-fi box?" It's because CALLIA
is one of those rare pieces that bridges the gap nicely and will live
comfortably in both worlds without compromise.

CALLIA

As mentioned, CALLIA shares the same chassis as the Lyra, but rather than
offering a meter display or front-panel input jacks, the champagne-colored
front panel of the CALLIA offers just three controls and ten LED lights. On
the right of the unit is the multi-function power switch, which not only turns
the box on and off but also selects between the unit's digital input choices.
These include S/PDIF over Toslink optical or RCA coaxial connections or
USB connectivity. CALLIA can set to auto-sense which digital input is being
used, and this function and the three inputs use the first four LED indicators.
38

RECORDING MARCH 2017

Moving from right to left, next to the power/input
select switch is the 1/4" headphone output and a
headphone level control with a blue backlit glowing
ring. Next to that is a large, smooth, and beautifullyresistant continuous control pot that handles the
unit's main volume. It also has a blue backlit
glowing ring that gets incrementally brighter
around the dial as the volume is turned up.

PCM and DSD

The last six LEDs indicate digital format and sample
rates: 24 bits (vs. 16), 44.1 or 48 kHz, and "2x"
and "4x" lights to indicate higher sample rates. CALLIA
will handle up to 24-bit/192 kHz audio through any
of its inputs; via USB, you can go higher, but a built-in
decimation filter will cut sample rates in half (for
example, 384 kHz becomes 192 kHz).
The final light indicates that CALLIA is playing back
DSD. CALLIA handles DSD up to 12.288 Megabits/
second, but note that DSD is converted to PCM before
conversion rather than converting native DSD. Like
many audiophiles and professionals who have read
about this choice, I was initally concerned by it; if it
concerns you as well, I urge you to read Prism Sound
Chief Technology Officer Ian Dennis' well-written
dissertation on the subject at www.prismsound.com/
hifi/dsdtech.php. I will say that CALLIA's DSD playback sounds amazing, PCM conversion or not!

Connections

On the rear panel are inputs for the optical and coaxial digital signals, as well as the USB 2 jack. CALLIA's USB input runs on Windows Vista, 7, 8, 10, or
later as a WDM audio device. On a Mac, CALLIA
runs on OS X 10.5 Leopard or later and is Core Audio
compliant. All drivers and firmware-update software
are included in the box, preloaded on one of the nicest
USB drives I have ever seen-seriously!
Outputs on the back of the unit are a choice of
balanced XLR (aligned for 0 dBFS = +14 dBu (3.88 V
rms) as well as unbalanced RCA (aligned for 0 dBFS =
+8.24 dBu (2.0 V rms). CALLIA claims THD+n of -106
dB at 1 kHz (96 kHz sample rate). Finally, there's an IEX
power cable jack and a set of 4 intriguing DIP switches....

Taking control

CALLIA has no software control; all settings on
the unit are chosen with the DIP switches. Switch 1
disables the front volume control and sets the unit
to a fixed output level. This is useful if you will be
placing the CALLIA inline in a hi-fi stereo setup, or in
your studio in conjunction with a monitor controller.
Note: if you are not paying attention and you flip
this switch accidentally while CALLIA is connected
to your speakers and playing music, it will get very,
very loud... ask me how I know this!


http://www.prismsound.com/hifi/dsdtech.php http://www.prismsound.com/hifi/dsdtech.php

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - March 2017

Contents
Recording - March 2017 - Intro
Recording - March 2017 - Cover1
Recording - March 2017 - Cover2
Recording - March 2017 - 1
Recording - March 2017 - 2
Recording - March 2017 - 3
Recording - March 2017 - 4
Recording - March 2017 - 5
Recording - March 2017 - Contents
Recording - March 2017 - 7
Recording - March 2017 - 8
Recording - March 2017 - 9
Recording - March 2017 - 10
Recording - March 2017 - 11
Recording - March 2017 - 12
Recording - March 2017 - 13
Recording - March 2017 - 14
Recording - March 2017 - 15
Recording - March 2017 - 16
Recording - March 2017 - 17
Recording - March 2017 - 18
Recording - March 2017 - 19
Recording - March 2017 - 20
Recording - March 2017 - 21
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Recording - March 2017 - 23
Recording - March 2017 - 24
Recording - March 2017 - 25
Recording - March 2017 - 26
Recording - March 2017 - 27
Recording - March 2017 - 28
Recording - March 2017 - 29
Recording - March 2017 - 30
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Recording - March 2017 - Cover3
Recording - March 2017 - Cover4
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