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AudioTrak Optoplay

AudioTrak Optoplay


*lowest price date of review www.tigerdirect.com

 

The AudioTrak OPTOPlay rejuvenates the audio experience in a laptop or PC with 24-bit 96 kHz professional quality audio. OPTOPlay is a USB device to enhance a user’s listening experience including Dolby Headphone Technology**. It’s small and easy to pack away in a laptop bag.

**with additional software.

optoplay_ws_box

optoplay_ws_device

Specifications

  • Interface: USB Spec Ver 1.1, USB Audio Class Spec Ver 1.0
  • Output: Analog & Digital Audio 2 channel output
  • Output Format: Analog Line or Headphone output, SPDIF Optical Output(TOS-Link)
  • Sample Rate: 32 kHz, 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 64 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz
  • Bits Resolution: 16 Bits or 24 Bits
  • Analog output Level: 1.0 Vrms Maximum
  • Headphone Amp power: 50 mW Maximum
  • Power: USB Bus powered – 100 mA

 

optoplay_cu_top

The AudioTrak OPTOPlay is an uncomplicated device; plug it into an available USB port and connect headphones or powered speakers and it’s good to go. (One-time software installation prior to use.) It has a 5-foot USB cable which is more than sufficient length. The electronics housing is under 3 inches long by 1 inch wide by 1/2 inch high; about the size of a disposable lighter.

optoplay_and_screwdriver

The OPTOPlay jack pulls double duty sending both analog and optical (TOS link) signals.

optoplay_cu_bottom

The adapter for optical interface is, well, a mistake in progress.

optoplay_jack_protector

This little device is supposed to “shove” into the end of the OPTOPlay. It actually doesn’t insert like an 1/8 inch headphone jack. It, sort of, is pressed into place like an overweight gopher too large to make it down the hole. It’s more cork than jack. Light from the TOS link is transmitted through this plastic “doohickey” to the actual TOS link cable. It does work but it is held in place so loosely that the slightest bump dislodges it. A redesign is much overdue.

OPTOPLay: Up close and naked

optoplay_guts

The PCB features four main chips that are the heart and soul of the OPTOPlay sound. First is the AK4353VF. This is the 96kHz 24-bit DAC (Digital to Analog Converter).

optoplay_akm_chip

Next to the DAC is the IP1117 LDO regulator. It’s a power regulator device designed to change the input power. In this case the input power is 5 volts from the USB port and the IP1117 converts it to 3.3 volts on average. Drive deep into the chip specifications and here is how the AK4353VF performs. It’s the chip that gives the OPTOPlay its specifications. The following specifications are based on a 3.3 volt input from the IP1117.

Analog Characteristics (fs = 44.1 kHz)
 
dB (typical)
S/(N+D)
86
Dynamic Response (-60 dB input, A-weighted)
97
Signal to Noise Ratio (A-weighted)
97
 
Analog Characteristics (fs = 96 kHz)
 
dB (typical)
S/(N+D)
84
Dynamic Response (-60 dB input)
92
Signal to Noise Ratio (A-weighted)
92

The AK435VF chip is capable of accepting a 5 volt input which the USB port does supply. At 5 volts the specs would bump up 4-5 dB across the board but in the OPTOPlay it is 3 volts and therefore lower.

The Texas Instruments TAS1020A chip is the USB streaming controller and is USB 1.1 compliant (up to 12 Mb/s). This chip is the core of taking data from the USB connection and delivering it to where its needed. In this case it is the DAC.

optoplay_ti_chip

On the back of the PCB is the MOSA MS6308 chip which is a stereo headphone driver.

optoplay_guts_back

Interpreting audio specifications is like learning Greek in Chinese translated by a Russian as told to by a Scotsman. There are many ways that facts can be lost in translation. Remember that the DAC will eventually supply this chip. The DAC SNR (44.1 kHz) is approximately 97 dB but this chip has a lower dB of 70 for S/(THD+N) than the AK4353VF which is 86 dB.

Analog Characteristics
 
dB (typical)
S/(THD+N) (Total Harmonic Distortion plus Noise)
70
Signal to Noise Ratio
110

Now here is where it gets goofy. There are many ways to present the audio specifications for a device. Manufacturers always choose what will make their product look best. Even at the chip level. To say that the Texas Instruments stereo headphone processor adds noise to the DAC would be presumptuous. Each may have been measured differently even though the specifications look very much the same Texas Instruments uses S/(THD+N) and the AK4353VF uses S/(N+D).

The only assumption that can be properly made is to ask questions. What voltage was each of these devices fed? What was the input frequency for the test? What measured it? The questions go on and on and the only true way to determine if one chip adds noise to the signal is to test each as identically as can be done.

Unfortunately there are no industry standards on testing audio devices. Understanding how these specifications can be “massaged” and what it all means once put together is another matter in itself. For now…if there appear to be anomalies …ask. That goes everywhere including a trip to the local electronics store to pick up that new home theatre system.

For a more detailed trip into the wonderful world of audio, specifications and what they mean, look to Part 3: Audio of our complete Home Theatre PC 5-part guide.

So what does all this dB mean? As a general rule of thumb the higher the number the better. The AudioTrak OPTOPlay compares well, at least on paper, to the “big boys” of PC audio that come at twice the price. The Dynamic Response and SNR are pretty close but things go astray in the distortion area on how the specs are presented.

AudioTrak OPTOPlay (fs = 44.1 kHz)
 
dB (typical)
S/(N+D)
86
Dynamic Response (-60 dB input, A-weighted)
97
Signal to Noise Ratio (A-weighted)
97
 
M-Audio Revolution 7.1
 
dB (typical)
THD (Total Harmonic Distortion)
92
Dynamic Response (-60 dB input, A-weighted)
106
Signal to Noise Ratio (A-weighted)
107

The software

optoplay_cd

Okay. There’s no software to install to begin using the OPTOPlay. Once the PC has detected the USB device it’s ready to go. (WindowsXP) This CD is designed for all AudioTrak consumer products. Pick the product of choice.

install_01

The disk comes with bundled software and trial versions.

install_02

install_03

 

Conclusions

optoplay_cu_top

AudioTrak’s OPTOPlay works and works well. CPU usage during MP3 playback in Windows Media Player averaged 2-4% and WinDVD 4 averaged 35-40%. The nearest competition to OPTOPlay is M-Audio’s Sonica USB retailed for $69.95 USD when we reviewed it. That’s $20 more expensive. M-Audio now have Sonica’s replacement, Transit, available for $99.95 USD. OPTOPlay is a much better device than the Sonica.

OPTOPlay delivered more headphone volume than Sonica which was not recommenced for headphone use whatsoever. OPTOPlay delivered more than adequate volume through our Sony CD walkman buds. This makes OPTOPlay a good combination with a laptop in a noisier environment such as on a train or an aircraft when watching DVD movie content. We all hear differently so the listening experience is subjective. Audio quality was very good through headphones or amplified speakers at all volume levels. There was very little to no distortion that intruded on the listening experience. WinDVD4 provided a few more audio tricks to further enhance DVD content through headphones.

Every product is not without its lessor points. OPTOPlay is no exception. The optical (TOS link) interface is in dire need or redesigning.

OPTOPlay is for music and DVD audio. It isn’t for gamers as a first choice but will probably be better than most stock laptop audio options. The absolute handy bonus of OPTOPlay is that it’s plug and play. Take it to any WindowsXP PC or laptop with an available USB port and plug it in and it’s ready to use with no additional software. WindowsXP recognizes OPTOPlay and immediately sets it up ready for use. For 2-channel 24-bit 96 kHz capable audio AudioTrak’s OPTOPlay is a smart choice at a smart price.

optoplay_ws_box

Our thanks to AudioTrak for
their support of this and many other sites.

Highs

  • Inexpensive
  • Very good quality 2-channel audio
  • Highly portable

Lows

  • No game audio chip

Scores Breakdown
Attribute Score Comments
Bonus items & software 7 WinDVD4 is useful software but the rest are trial versions or audio play-toys.
Design & layout 9 It’s very small and compact. The fact the USB cable is hardwired to the OPTOPlay is a good thing. It makes the OPTOPlay harder to lose.
Documentation 8.5 90% of the manual is for non-XP/2K users.
Features & options 9.5 24-bit 96 kHz audio but most of us know that we listen to CDs and movies in 16-bit 44.1 or 48 kHz.
Performance & stability 9 Very good performer. No complications with hardware.
Presentation 8.5 OPTOPlay is simplistic. The packaging does 90% of what it needs to do…except boldly tell the consumer the device is plugnplay with WindowsXP/2K. It’s easy to use! A very strong selling point for this device.
Price / value 9 It’s $49.99 selling price is very affordable.
Total score 60.5/70 86.4%

Comments

  1. Unregistered
    Unregistered The issue about the Tos-link adaptor. The author did not notice about this point. Actually the adaptor has a soft plastic transperant protector cap at the top of the adaptor so if you remove it the tos link will plug into the jack perfectly.

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