Charles Hansen of Ayre with their QB-9 asynchronous USB DAC, Stereophile's 2009 Product of the Year
Ayre Acoustics makes a complete line of electronics including amplifiers, preamplifiers, integrated amplifiers, disc players, DACs, ADCs and more. Our focus today will be on their digital side and specifically look at issues that affect file-based playback. The idea for this Q&A came about from a series of email exchanges I had with Charlie Hansen, Ayre's Founder and Designer, related to my recent post which contained a list of NOS DACs. You'll see that we touch on this topic and it was my hope that we could come to a better understanding of some of the underlying issues involved in the D/A process in general which might lead to a better understanding of why a list of NOS DACs is about as useful a grouping as four-legged animals when looking for the ideal DAC or pet. I'd like to thank Charlie Hansen for his time and very informative and detailed answers.
Blue Coast Records is one of a few companies to have fully embraced Direct Stream Digital (DSD) recording and delivery. Five-time Grammy nominated producer/engineer Cookie Marenco is the Founder of Blue Coast Records and we recently exchanged some emails and had a conversation about the increasing visibility of DSD in audiophile circles in part sparked by the introduction of the Mytek Stereo 192-DSD DAC at last year's RMAF. With companies like Playback Designs, EMM Labs, Fostex, and even Pioneer offering DSD-capable players, the next piece of the puzzle to fall into place is...the music.
Remastered for Pono? According to Patrick Flanary in Rolling Stone, you betcha:
Pono's preservation of the fuller, analog sound already has the ear of the Big Three record labels: Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and Sony Music. WMG – home to artists including Muse, the Black Keys, Common and Jill Scott – has converted its library of 8,000 album titles to high-resolution, 192kHz/24-bit sound. It was a process completed prior to the company's partnership with Young's Pono project last year, said Craig Kallman, chairman and chief executive of Atlantic Records.
Lions and Integers
Last May, I wrote about a pre- release beta given to me by Damien Plisson of Audirvana Plus. It was Damien’s creation of a music program that would support integer playback for OSX Lion/Mtn. Lion. Many of you will remember that OSX Snow Leopard supported native integer playback for many DACs. A number of us felt at that time that integer playback, a more direct form of playback with less processing, sounded better. Unfortunately, with the release of OSX Lion, native integer playback was no longer supported by the operating system. While I was disappointed with this change in OSX support, I was thrilled with the improved sound of OSX Lion. Lion sounded less dark, had a bigger soundstage, and better definition in the low end than its predecessor even though it could not utilize native integer playback.
Andrew Ashong's Flowers EP is the perfect end-of-summer treat with just enough heat to make you want to move real slow. Theo Parrish helps out and the duo weave a relaxed, beat-infused, rhythm and hues house party over three tasty tracks. Even though the title track was the summer's stunner, the B-side's "The Way She Moves" has me smiling and moving right now.
This wonderful recording is a blend of jazz and folk with Norwegian songs sung by Norway’s top vocalists including Helene Boksle, Sondre Bratland, Unni Wilhelmsen, Tomine Harket and Cecilia Vennersten. Now I have never heard of any of these singers, but the album fits together beautifully. As the title suggests, this is quiet reflective music with a touch of melancholy that is very well recorded. A large acoustic space with deep bass. And yes, this recording has dynamics; an overall DR13. Another 2L showpiece.
A Fluent DAC
The Sonore/exD DAC represents a group effort between Simple Design and exD. Exactly who did what, when and how is as relevant as knowing what DAC chip is inside any given DAC which is to say it matters as much or as little as you care to imagine since what really matters is how the finished product sounds. This aspect—how it sounds—will be our primary focus and if you want a teaser I'll admit right here up front that I did all I could to prolong the review period.
This past Sunday's NY Times magazine featured an interview with Neil Young that focused on his new autobiography “Waging Heavy Peace”. We all know about Mr. Young's outspoken stance for better sound quality but he's taking matters into his own hands with his own technology called "Pono":
The book, like today’s drive, is a ride through Young’s many obsessions, including model trains, cars like the one we were touring in and Pono, a proprietary digital musical system that can play full master recordings and will, he hopes, restore some of the denuded sonic quality to modern music.
Vanatoo is a new company and the Transparent One Powered Speakers are their first product. Five years in development, according to Gary Gesellchen one of two Vanatoo founders, the Transparent Ones arrive packing some interesting technology including a USB input that's not connected to a DAC but can handle up to 24/96 data (more on that in a minute), an A/D converter, a 1” silk dome tweeter, and a custom 5 1/4” passive bass radiator that assists the 5 1/4" XBL™ woofer/midrange driver in reaching down to a claimed 49Hz (±2dB) in a 10" x 6 1/2" x 8 1/8" box. If that's not enough for ya, there's a subwoofer output if you feel the need to reach beyond the 40s, bass and treble controls, an AC power inlet so you can plug in your powered devices like an Apple Airport Express, and Coax and Toslink inputs. And if you stick with basic black, that package will run you a hair under $500 for the pair. Vanuatu is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean and was selected as the happiest place on Earth by the New Economics Foundation and its also where Vanatoo got its name. Don't worry, be happy.