Fun. Listening to music. Fun. What more do we have to ask of this wonderful hobby of ours? Listening to music is not only fun but it's a damn lovely and fortunate way to spend time. We are truly privileged to take part in such a hobby. That said, let me complain...
Once again, Ayre succeeded in transforming their room into something other than an emptied out hotel room. This year, it was a swanky night club, complete with vested and tie'd attendants, candle lit tables, and of course live performances courtesy of Ayre Acoustics.
I had an opportunity to meet with (from left to right) David Solomon, Director of Sales and Marketing USA, Pal Bratelund, Strategic Partnership Manager, and Peter Tonstad, Chief Commercial Officer of Tidal. Tidal is the new name for the Oslo, Norway-based WiMP and their very exciting losslesss streaming service. That's right, another CD-quality streaming service is gearing up for a launch in the USA.
After RMAF on Friday night, David Robinson of Positive Feedback Online and Andreas Koch of Playback Designs organized a field trip to Boulder's Super Audio Center. Run by recording engineer extraordinaire Gus Skinas, we were treated to a live, through the booth, performance by jazz pianist Don Grusin, some lovely multi-channel DSD recordings, some with associated video, food and drink. I have to say that if you've never heard DSD, you've never heard DSD. There's an uncanny sense of dimensionality and naturalness to dynamic swings that seems to me to be handled extremely well by the format.
I sat in on Steve Silberman's of AudioQuest excellent intro to computer audio held in the AudioQuest room at RAMF2014. Steve covered many topics including how to set up iTunes and JRiver Media Center, the importance of good quality RAM and Solid State Drives, his preference for the AIFF file format as compared to lossy formats, and of course a brief but convincing demo of WiFi versus Belkin cable versus AudioQuest's own Pearl Ethernet cable ($29). Disbelievers beware—each change, from WiFi to Belkin to AudioQuest, brought increased clarity and resolution and generally a more musical sounding system.
The new T+A PDP 3000 HV CD/SACD Player/DAC ($20,000) supports up to 32/384 and DSD 512 via USB. There's also an AES/EBU and 5x S/PDIF inputs. The 3000 HV is built like a tank ("it is constructed entirely of pure aluminium"), you could probably stand on the CD drawer, but what's even more interesting is the PCM and DSD processing is handled completely separately and each has its own separate output stage via RCA or XLR. That's right, you'll need a preamp, like one from T+A which automatically switches between PCM and DSD inputs, with a pair of inputs to accommodate the PCM and DSD output from the PDP 3000 HV.
Constellation Audio was showing off their prototype Cygnus Media Server/DAC ($32,000) which features an outboard power supply and supports resolutions up to 32/192. There's a host of digital inputs including AES/EBU, 2x Coax S/PDIF, 2x Toslink, and USB (optional), as well as an Ethernet input to play back from network attached storage. Outputs are comprised of balanced XLRs and single-ended RCAs. There are a number of user selectable filters including minimum-phase, phase-perfect, Bessel and Butterworth. Production units are expected to ship within 60 days.
While Channel D, makers of Pure Music ($129) (which I'm listening to right now) and Pure Vinyl ($299), wasn't showing anything new, its important to note that they are one of the only software companies to have a room of their own. This commitment to keeping a public face is nice to see.
The Antipodes DX "The Reference" Music Server and DLNA streamer (NZ$ 6,395.00) supports resolutions up to 32/384 and double rate DSD. You can stream to the DX via Ethernet, play music from its up to 2TB of SSD storage, and rip your CDs using the internal drive. There's an internal DAC as well or you can output to your favorite DA converter via USB.
The Bel Canto REFStream ($2495 pictured on the bottom) is a network streamer capable of handling up to 24/192 data. Outputs include AES/EBU, Fiber, BNC and RCA S/PDIF. For the demo, Bel Canto was using their e.One DAC2.7 ($2495) and JRiver/JRemote for the control point.
Arcam was showing their prototype CDS27 CD/SACD player UPnP streamer ($1100). The CDS27 houses the TI/Burr Brown PCM1794 DAC and can handle resolutions up to 24/192. The network-ready CDS27 can stream music from your network attached storage, from USB storage, and spin your discs.
The Simaudio Moon 380D DSD ($4900) DAC can also be turned into a streamer with the addition of the Moon MiND (+$1200 see review) as well as a balanced preamplifier (+$600). The 380D DSD supports file formats up to 32/384 and double rate DSD via USB using the ESS SABRE32 Ultra DAC.
The pre-production Cary Audio DMC-600 (Digital Music Center) server ($TBD) supports resolutions up to 32/284 and double rate DSD via USB. There's a CD/HDCD drive, user selectable solid state and tube analog output sections, two Coaxial inputs (24/192), Toslink (24/96), AES/EBU input (24/192), and CSR aptX lossless Bluetooth input. Production models should be shipping "later this year".
The sleek Wadia 321 Decoding Computer ($3000) was on silent display in the McIntosh room as both companies now fall under the Fine Sounds brand. The 321 supports resolutions up to 24/192 and offers two optical, two coaxial and one high speed USB digital input. Outputs include balanced XLR and single ended RCAs.