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Part-Time Audiophile

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  1. Hey there, Barrows! Always good to run into you. As for the 1x DSD over Ethernet -- it has to do with their (custom) renderer, apparently. 1x DSD is what they were able to get stable, but won't be their last word on it. As development progresses, more progress on sample rates will be made and then become available.
  2. It is, unfortunately, not straightforward. To get levels matched, mutes on fades in and out, mutes on stop -- all that gets handled by a PCM DAC no problem (well, the problems have all been ironed out), but here it has to fall to the ladder attenuator, as this cannot be done digitally on a DSD stream. In fact, if you don't do these things and just wing it with the DSD signal, you risk sending some seriously nasty crap directly through to the rest of the electronics -- high-frequency snaps and pops, all the way to fuse-blowing surges. It's a problem. I remember the old Lampi DSD DACs had some issues like this -- and I blew several fuses before realizing it was the gorgeous-sounding DAC. Whoops. Anyway, the M12 combines these 2 streams (PCM and DSD) seamlessly with no noise, ticks etc when playing any source sample rate from 44.1 to DSD 128 on the USB, but does so by altering the circuit and path. The argument goes: if you don't need it, you're probably better off without it. Which is why there are two products, and not just one. The M1, which does PCM (and like all delta-sigma DACs, converts everything to PCM, including DSD) and does it really, really well, doesn't need any extra stuff. The M12 does that too, but inserts an active (I think) attenuator after the DAC. It's an extra step that the M1 doesn't have or need. Is that difference audible? Dunno -- haven't had the two to compare here at home, but based on the demos I've heard, it's close. What's not close is the DSD path on the M12. That's different. But that's why you need that late-stage attenuator, to keep the two paths user-friendly. Given that it also gets you the analog inputs, I tend to think that the M12 is a better trade-off, even if it might trail the M1 in terms of "pure performance". I don't know that I'd chain preamps together. If you have or want to keep your pre, I'd probably recommend a "regular" DAC like the Bricasti Goldfinger (the M1SE that's been electroplated in gold. Yes, the plating matters. God help me, it does. I have absolutely no idea why. Increased mass? I'm baffled, but there you go). This may be counter-intuitive, but sample rates don't really matter all that much to the final sound. Well, below a certain level at least. Sure, it's entirely possible that you might be able to perceive them or even prefer the higher rates, but pretty quickly there are other things that weigh more heavily. Said another way, it may be important, but that list of important things is pretty long and sample-rate beyond a certain point may not matter as much as "noise", "reflections", "setup", or "amplifier power delivery". In this case, Bricasti assures me that the Ethernet interface produces the cleanest and most engaging sound -- that is, it is their preferred interface. Is it because it has a better clock (lower jitter)? Less electrical interference? Better signal reconstruction circuitry? No idea. But whatever the reason, they really like it. Me? I haven't had the pleasure -- my Goldfinger doesn't have that interface, though I'm told they can add it. I'm also told they're going to be offering an off-board unit soon, too. Don't think Bricasti is looking at Roon-Ready, however, which is a bummer. As for the technical limits on the Ethernet interface, no idea. I suspect it's the limit of the circuit they're using. Whatever. I'll check. Sure.
  3. I disagree: if you don't want the linestage (or want to bypass it), just get the M1. It's cheaper and better. At least, better for most digital playback file types -- I'll come back to that. One reason why the "linestage version" of their DAC (that is, the M12) is in the lineup is that not everyone is only-digital. Take me, for example. I love my digital, but I also have a turntable and a reel-to-reel machine. With the M12, I can use those analog sources without fussing with an A-to-D on top of a D-to-A -- the analog sources just "pass through" and hit the attenuator. Another reason -- the output of that alternative one-bit modulator path (for DSD only) is at unity. Which means that there must be an attenuator somewhere downstream. Given that there must be one, I suppose that Bricasti might have concluded that they'd better not leave that to chance. Sure, they could have made another converter product that has no attenuator at all, but remember that the M1 routinely gets used as a DAC + attenuator, or "DAC-direct" into their amplifiers. That's how they demo. Given that their M28 amps have the clever feature of a high-quality analog "attenuator" built into their input, that means that you can run the M1 (or any DAC or pre or source) directly into the amps and not have to use the digital volume control for anything other than "fine tuning" (<12dB, say) or muting. This arrangement is extremely transparent, and "up there" with the very best and most revealing I've heard in any demo anywhere. But that alternative one-bit modulator path makes that arrangement untenable. The digital volume control is not available here. So, they'd need an off-board analog attenuator (which tends to sound better than digital volume controls, most especially when we're past the "fine tuning" stage). Given that one box is almost always better than two, they combined the M1 with the best attenuator they felt like making into a single box, the M12, which let them do both "traditional" DAC and that alternative one-bit modulator path at the same time. Ta da! If that sounds like a lot of effort, it's because it is. Which is why the M12 is more expensive. But for those that have heard it, that alternative one-bit modulator path is extraordinary. Even with "only" 1x DSD. A back-to-back demo of the M1SE and the M12 was eye opening. For all DSD material, the M12 was clearly superior, with more 3-D depth and tonal richness. Now, for everything else, I'm pretty sure that I prefer the M1SE direct into the M28 amplifiers, though I'll have to get that gear in-house before I can do more than wave my hands at it.
  4. No, I think I screwed that up. The M12 plays 2x DSD over USB and 1x DSD over the new Network feature. Not quad.
  5. I'm working on getting The Formula from Aqua Technologies in. That one is under $10k. Every time I've heard it, I've been very impressed.
  6. I think the "Gold" Edition (I think it's referred to as the "Limited Edition") has the latest tweaks, adjustments and upgrades, too, and yes, large portions of the chassis are gold plated. At the demo in the Chicago, Brian played the M1SE and the M1LE back-to-back. And yes, the gold seems to matter. I have both the LE and the M1 (I don't think it's SE) here, and the M1LE is one of my current all-time favorites. It's also not under $10k. To make matters more complicated, I actually prefer the M12 over either one, if only for DSD-based playback (the M1LE sounds better for the "everything else" playback). Again, the demo in Chicago was very convincing. Makes me think that using JRiver (or whatever) to auto-convert all my files to DSD might be worthwhile. I'm told, but have yet to test, that the network interface is the best-sounding on that box, too. Good news is that the network input can and will be retrofitted into existing M1 boxes, and there will also be a stand-alone version coming from Bricasti Design. Good times.
  7. Well, that is the question, isn't it? There are quite of few of us fans-of-vintage-tech around (I have a wonderful reel-to-reel player I use almost as much as my turntable), and for those that know, SET amps pretty much are impossible to beat. Given that most new speaker-makers don't bother with high sensitivity, that means that perhaps some dumpster diving is in order. Failing that, some gently used or reconditioned speakers might do you right. I had a pair of Model 17 Altecs, for example, that I had every intention of using with my favorite amp, a 7wpc tube amp from BorderPatrol. But alas and alack, after unpacking them and setting them up, I started sneezing. The sneezing continued every time I entered the room, and I quickly added some uncontrollable eye-watering and a hacking cough. So much for the Altecs. Caveat emptor -- and watch out for mildew. Anyway, I would say that there's probably no need to fuss. Unless you're after a particular sound, most amps pushing more than a handful of watts will probably be just fine for most listening and with most speakers. I've happily said that "you can't have too much power", and I stand by that. The opposite is not true; some speakers need power, and under-powering speakers can be quite bad (and possibly dangerous to the lifespan of the speaker). But since I can still hear, I tend to listen at levels less than 90dB (average), which means that I just don't need 1kW to drive a 86dB speaker along just fine. Not all 86dB speakers are the same, however, and that's why home auditions are important. But, again -- all that said -- the Fritz use a very simple crossover. Reference3A does too. Single-driver speakers use none, obviously. Simplicity here means a higher degree of low-power-friendliness, but as always, YMMV. I say all this not to mansplain or whatever -- I know that posts like these tend to be read by lots of folks, and for quite some time, so I wasn't trying to just skip-to-the-end in case someone was curious. Okay? Okay. So, for me, I'd probably go look at another set of Altecs. Or maybe some Klipsch. But those GoldenEar, with the powered woofer section and overall 90dB sensitivity, will probably do just dandy with a low-powered amp. But if you're looking for jump factor, slam, and dynamic wow, Tekton and Zu top my current list for budget-priced speakers. I do like horns, though. They're really fun, and while they might not be "perfect", they're entertaining. And isn't what this is supposed to be about? Anyway, I like what Volti is doing. Klipsch is really fun. I hear that those old Altecs can get you there, too. But I'm always on the lookout for a great high-sensitivity speaker at a reasonable price. The Auditorium 23 Hommage Cinema is a bit beyond my reach, as is a Volti Vittora. Maybe that new Rival will be the thing. In the meantime, I've been hugely impressed with Joseph Audio and Harbeth and DeVore. They all just sing with 20 watts -- counter-intuitive, perhaps, but true.
  8. I think it (as always) depends on your taste. Is that too wishy-washy? Fine. Here's three that I think might appeal to various folks: You can get some spectacular mini-monitors from Fritz Frequencies, which are great for the space-challenged. Audiophile all the way, with great sound and great (if traditional) fit and finish. You can get some shockingly great panels from Magnepan (the 1.7i are $2k, IIRC) -- these need space, but the cool thing is that, aside from bass, the 1.7 sounds remarkably like the flagship 20.7. You can heap extra spoonfuls of "holy moly" on the "remarkably like" as needed for emphasis. It's a thing with the Maggies -- you get a bit more of this and that as you go up the line, but the "house sound" is on full display at the entry level -- and the separation of sound quality between model lines has always been vanishingly small. But I think the best bang-for-the-buck is still probably the GoldenEar Triton 3+. Dynamic speaker with a powered bass that can slide easily into the sub-30Hz region means "no external sub required". Skadoosh.
  9. You may be right. But I heard that Moffat mentioned this in the CanJam talk 2 weeks back.
  10. Congrats. Those are my favorite in-ear monitors too! As for the ZX2, I don't think the support for TIDAL is full-res, is it? Gotta be honest, WiFi on my portable isn't really on the Top 10 list for me. Interesting, maybe, but that starts crossing over into territory I kinda have already covered with my iPhone. As for the Pono, not sure the form factor matters all that much. Sure, you're not going to swing it in your pocket while you workout. But to be honest, not sure that's exactly the place to enjoy high-quality sound. When you're sitting down, at your quiet desk, the triangle shape lets me see the screen while I type. Not too shabby, actually. Almost like they planned it that way. ;-)
  11. Yggdrasil is still a couple of weeks out, I hear. I also hear that it's pretty great. I have a few pics, but at this point, only plans to get one. I will offer that I'm not entirely sure how a non-high-res DAC (or one with suspect capabilities) will fare with the technorati (Yggy is 20-bit, innit?). IMO, and FWIW, it always comes down to the implementation. I have a 16-bit DAC that is absolutely stellar, and for streaming TIDAL, it's outstanding.
  12. Anybody found out the output power on the Pono yet?
  13. I cannot agree more thoroughly than I already do. There is no "best". 'Good', 'better', 'best' are all relative terms, reflecting value on a scale that is anchored to an aesthetic. That is, by definition, it's all subjective. The fact that Chris finds the DAC to be the best he's heard in house is a mile marker. Give the phrasing, he's implying that he likes it, and likes it more than a little bit. He's not, however, saying that it is the best DAC made nor that it is the best DAC he's heard, or heard about. Given Chris' library of experience, some of which we've been privileged to walk through here on CA, this is rather interesting. Whether or not his judgment means anything for anyone in particular will rest entirely upon whether or not Chris' taste lines up. Chris loves steak. He loves it so much, he created a website about finding the best steaks in the world. He's invited all of us to come and share our experiences about steak, both with him and with each other. The site is successful, and now Chris travels the world in search of the best steak. After several years, and several hundred pounds of steak tasting, Chris happens to note that a particular steak he's been lucky enough to have delivered, is the best he's had delivered. It might be the best he's had but he doesn't say that. All he's shared is that it's the best he's had delivered. To his home. Where he prepares it his certain, special way. Now, we know a bit about that. Chris, as a steak aficionado, is all about the slow warm up just as Cooks Illustrated tells us is right and proper. Chris finishes his steaks, as all proper home cooks do, in a cast iron pan to create a delicious crust. Unfortunately, however, Chris happens to be a barbarian and prefers his steaks cooked to well done. This is, of course, a Crime Against Nature and knowing that Chris regularly commits such atrocities in his home and asks others to participate in the travesty while abroad, The Steak Righteous can now safely condone everything Chris says about steak to the rubbish bin. Unless you happen to be a barbarian and apostate, too. In which case, it's all good and Chris' experience is suddenly extremely relevant and wildly useful. As with steak, so with audio. Amen.
  14. "How about your opinion and what you like?" <== Money Quote We do this a lot, defer our preferences to those we respect or admire. It's silly, really, and we know it is but we all seem to do it anyway. Priaptor has got it exactly right, IMO. If you're buying this because of a review, you should cancel the order, buy something cheap and wait for the Greatest DAC Ever Made. In the meantime, invest that money in music, family, friends, the stock market or whatever. It'll be a bit of a wait. Another approach would be to use the reviewers you read and admire as something of a litmus test. Find the reviewers that you not only admire, but that line up to your own aesthetic preferences. Those are the opinions you should cleave to. The others? Feel free to read and enjoy in the spirit they were intended -- as signposts to alternative views.
  15. For my part, I'm still not sure why an off-box USB converter is the best solution, nor why there's such an allergy to on-box DSD conversion. I get the arguments -- both are compromises that are best addressed elsewhere in the system. But that argument feels a bit long in the tooth.
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