The Callia project was something on the works for some time at Prism Sound. They introduced the concept and publicly displayed the first units at the CES 2016 and NAMM 2016 shows. The concept of a compact state-of-the-art unit, designed for use in no compromise high quality home audio systems, was something that the company felt they could and should approach, but it needed a completely dedicated approach.
Now, the British company introduced the new project at the High End 2016 show in Munich, an ideal platform also to establish a dedicated distribution network for this specific market. And the importance of Callia was very clear in the way Prism Sound attended the Munich show, with no other products on display, either from its recording range or even the respected test and measurement solutions for which Prism Sound is also recognized and that could easily impress visitors. After all, Prism Sound supplies measurement equipment used in major manufacturing companies of automotive electronics, headphones and headsets as well as professional audio!
Instead, for the High End show, Prism Sound chose to have a simple display, completely dedicated to the new Callia, with a listening area featuring PMC speakers and Bryston amplification, plus several Callia units available for listening with headphones. All intended to display a clear message that Prism Sound, a respected manufacturer of professional digital to analogue converters and recording interfaces, was now launching a PCM and DSD capable DAC, pre-amplifier and headphone amp, for demanding music enthusiasts.
Every aspect of the Callia was painstakingly studied and engineered to make sure this is in fact a state-of-the-art equipment with no compromises. It offers inherent flexibility with an impressive array of high resolution digital inputs including USB (UAC2 over USB 2 or later), coaxial RCA phono (supporting S/PDIF and AES3-id or AES3 with suitable adaptor) and S/PDIF optical. For analogue audio outputs, Callia offers both balanced XLR as well as unbalanced RCA phono connectors on the rear panel.
Headphone users are also catered for with a very high quality headphone amplifier with its own separate high-quality volume control potentiometer. Flexibility of headphone choice is assured, thanks to the low impedance of the headphone output, making it suitable for use with virtually all headphone types for the best possible reproduction from connected digital sources.
High quality, extensively refined DAC circuits identical to the ones found in the company’s professional Lyra, Titan and Atlas recording interfaces are intended to reproduce music as close as it sounded in the studio or recording location. Since the Callia is designed and manufactured in the United Kingdom by the same Prism Sound team and with the same attention to detail than the equipment so many top artists, engineers and producers rely upon, everything else should also be good sounding and reliable.
Internally, the Callia uses the same analogue circuitry as its professional cousins, with the same fully-balanced-throughout architecture and the same isolation barriers protecting the analogue from digital and computer interference. It also features the same “CleverClox” hybrid digital phase-locked loop (DPLL) circuitry as Prism Sound professional products.
Digital signals up to 32 bit (USB only), 384kHz are catered for, alongside DSD processing (DSD64/128 via DOP), making Callia compatible with all major music releases. Its DSD credentials are also respectable, since Prism Sound’s professional ADA-8XR has long been the DSD conversion tool of choice in many of the world’s top SACD mastering studios, so using a similar architecture in the Callia makes it the perfect choice for DSD reproduction in the home. And we recommend reading the company’s thoughts about DSD and PCM here.
On the outside, the unit follows a similar design to the most recent Prism Sound professional recording interfaces, carefully adapted to the needs of home listening environments. The front panel features input selection LEDs, indicating auto/manual select mode and current input, sample rate/format for PCM or DSD64/DSD128 and even displaying PCM word-length for signals with more than 16 bits (24b LED ON blue) or more than 24 bits (24b LED ON pink) - certainly appreciated by anyone familiar with Prism Sound’s heritage.
The horizontal indicators are followed by a line volume control for the analog line outputs. The output volume can be set via the volume control in order to use the Callia as a pre-amp straight into a power amp, or optionally fixed for use with integrated and pre/power combos. When enabled, volume is indicated by the surrounding illumination. Follows the headphone output stereo jack, with a dedicated illuminated volume control, and a standby/source button, which is also used for manual input selection (momentary press) and to adjust LED brightness (hold and adjust the volume control) - all nice touches. On the back panel we find the DIP switches to enable/disable the line volume control, DSD headroom select, and headphone impedance settings.
According to Prism Sound, the Callia DAC will be supported directly by any Intel-based Mac OS computer running OS X 10.5 or later, as well as Windows PCs running Vista or later, 32 or 64 bit. Callia is a Core Audio compliant device for Mac OS X and ASIO and WDM device drivers are supplied for Windows.
As Graham Boswell, sales and marketing director, says, “For 30 years we have been at the forefront of A/D and D/A converter technology. Our products are found all over the world, with so much of our favorite music and movie scores having been recorded, mixed or mastered using Prism Sound professional converters. We wanted to bring this level of quality and transparency into the home to enable the modern music lover and audiophile to benefit from hearing their recordings in exactly the same way as the original artist, engineer or producer. With a development of the Prism Sound USB audio platform for the Lyra professional recording interface, we are now able to do so. Callia notches the bar higher for digital audio reproduction and we are very pleased to be able to now share our acclaimed studio quality conversion with home users.”
Prism Sound Callia has a MSRP of £1495 (plus VAT or duties and taxes as applicable). The next opportunity to listen to Callia will be at T.H.E. show Newport, California June 3-5 2016.