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MBL
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 14, 2015 2 comments
What a delight it is to sit and listen to music in the MBL room where we were treated to a number of great tunes including a remix of Falco's "Der Kommissar" sung in German through the company's Noble line. I noted the sound was at once delicate and effortless with a natural ease while delivering heart-stopping stunning dynamic contrasts. Nice. On display and pictured top left is the new MBL N31 CD-DAC ($18,000) which is capable of handling up to 24/192 data as well as DSD using the ESS Sabre 9018 DAC chip. There's a boat load of in-house technology wrapped up in all of MBL's products and the N31 is no exception which includes a custom developed filter which avoids "intersample overlook" (or inter-sample overs) according to its designer Jürgen Reis which can cause non-harmonic and non-musical distortions.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 14, 2015 0 comments
I'm a fan of the entire Bluesound lineup including the original Pulse (see review). For CES 2015, Bluesound was showing the upcoming Pulse Mini (targeted retail price $499) hitting stores in April. The Pulse Mini includes the Bluesound networking capabilities, so it can play up to 24/192 music from your NAS, stream music from the Internet, Bluetooth, and through the recently announced deal, you can now stream from Tidal's lossless streaming service.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 14, 2015 1 comments
Ayre also had a Pono player on display since it houses their digital and analog circuitry. Alex Brinkman of Ayre suggested I give the Pono player a spin comparing single-ended and balanced operation through a pair of Sennheiser HD650 cans. So I did.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 14, 2015 1 comments
In a surprise move, Ayre Acoustics has come out with the Codex headphone amp /DAC/Preamp with a projected retail price of $1500 (that's the surprising part). The Codex supports PCM playback up to 32/384 and DSD128 using the ESS Sabre ES9018 DAC chip. Inputs include asynchronous USB and Toslink, while the outputs consist of a 1/4" headphone jack, 2x 3.5mm headphone jacks (configurable as balanced), and pairs of single ended RCAs and balanced XLRs. Like all of Ayre's products, the Codex is a fully balanced zero-feedback design and contains Ayre's custom digital filter as found on the QB-9 DSD DAC.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 14, 2015 1 comments
While Boulder calls their new 2120 ($55,000 - $60,000) a DAC, shown in prototype form at CES 2015, it's really a DLNA/UPnP compliant network player complete with a Boulder-developed control point app. The 2120 is a four-chassis built like a tank beast, modeled after the matching Boulder 2110 Preamplifier. The separate chassis house the power supply, the logic and user interface, while the top two contain the left and right channel analog stages. Each analog stage and the logic chassis has it's own dedicated power supply, "in addition to a fourth which handles only a low power consumption standby mode".
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 14, 2015 1 comments
The Mola Mola Makua Preamplifier/DAC ($13,450) is one very interesting piece of technology and its designer, Bruno Putzeys, is one very intelligent and affable person. I wish I'd brought my recorder to record everything Bruno told me about the Makua's DAC because my hand could not keep up with his mind. What I can tell you, with some help from the Mola Mola website, is that the discrete D/A conversion process in the Makua DAC is completely homegrown, designed from the ground up by Bruno using no off-the-shelf DAC chips. All incoming data is passed through a three layered board. First, all incoming data is upsampled to 32-bit/3.125MHz "and converted to noise shaped PWM. The two remaining boards are mono DACs, in which a discrete 32-stage FIR DAC and a single-stage 4th order filtering I/V converter convert the PWM into analogue with a breathtaking 140dB SNR."
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 14, 2015 0 comments
I'd heard tale of an "audiophile NAS" years ago coming out of Asia. Rumor had it that electronics and NAS manufacturer Buffalo had started an off-shoot brand called Dela to support this effort. Alas, nothing ever officially showed up in the US. That is until now. Melco is that company and they offer two "High End Source Component for High-Res Music", aka Network Attached Storage. Pictured above are the insides of the N1Z ($8000) which houses, as you can see, two 2.5" 512GB SSDs.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 13, 2015 0 comments
North Carolina's Cary Audio was showing a number of new digital products including the fully balanced TL-300d tube preamplifier ($7995) which includes a 32/384 and DSD256 capable DAC. The TL-300t utilizes four 12AX7’s and two 12AU7’s carrying on the Cary tube tradition. The TL-300d includes 4 analog inputs and 5 digital inputs including Asynchronous USB, aptX Bluetooth, 3x Coaxial S/PDIF, Toslink, and AES/EBU. Outputs include balanced XLR and single ended RCA pairs.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 13, 2015 0 comments
The new Aavik Acoustics U-300 Unity Amplifier ($30,000) is actually a full function integrated amp and DAC. The U-300 offers a phono input, 3x analog line level inputs, and 5 digital inputs (2x RCA Coax S/PDIF, 2x Toslink, and 1x USB). The Coax and USB inputs are capable of handling up to 24/192 data while the Toslink maxes out at 24/96. On the amp side, we're looking at 300W of Class D power ("not ICE") into 8ohms, and double that into 4. Aavik is a joint project between the designer of the wonderful Raidho Acoustics speakers, cable manufacturer Ansuz Acoustics, Michael Borresen, and "some of the best analog and digital designers that the world has to offer."
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 13, 2015 6 comments
While you could write a doctoral thesis on the technology behind Meridan's MQA (Master Quality Authenticated), I'm going to take the easy way out and point you to John Atkinson's excellent article in Stereophile for a thorough introduction. Essentially, MQA is an encoder/decoder that claims to losslessly compress high resolution digital audio files down to much smaller file sizes (about the size of uncompressed CD-quality) with no loss in sound quality. As a matter of fact, Meridian claims MQA processing actually outperforms regular old high resolution audio formats.

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