In my opinion, Audioengine has the give me good sound at a great price and skip the crap thing down. Their new HD6 active speakers ($750/pair) carry on this fine tradition. Interlude: I've told this story way too many times so I'l tell it again. Many years ago, we bought our daughters each a pair of the Audioengine A2s. I was working on a review and I wanted to use the A2s so I asked Nicole if I could borrow hers. She said no. Jessica said no too. The reason? They use 'em.
Rob Robinson of Channel D was showing off the company's newly minted Pure Music 3 by playing some vinly rips (ripped using Channel D's Pure Vinyl) of outrageously great music, loud. I mean, really, really fun music at realistic levels. Here's my top 3:
Mark Lanoogna "Pretty Colors"
Zeppelin's "Hearbreaker" from the original "hot mix" pressing done by Bob Ludwig (yeow!)
"Vamos" from The Pixies Surfer Rosa (my notes read, "Killed it!")
Of course there was more music played but I didn't write it down. Rob also played "Electric Ladyland" which he got from my USB stick. This is a rip of the Japanese import CD with the original UK album cover art and it happens to sound simply fantastic. There was also a mystery afoot....
People either love the Auralic Aries Mini or they really, really want to. I want to review it which will happen...shortly. In order to drive home a major raison d'être for the Mini's existence, Auralic is including one full year of Tidal Hi-Fi with every Mini sold for US customers (the rest of the world is already hip to Hi-Fi). This new deal brings the Mini's price up (or down depending on how you look at it) to $549. Since one year of Tidal Hi-Fi will normally run you $239.88, the Mini's original price announced in Munich of $399 would make the combo $638.88. You can say you're getting the Mini for $309.12 or feel free to be thrilled about getting a year of Tidal Hi-Fi for $150.
The Serious Stereo room (see Herb Reichert's coverage on Stereophile) was using the elusive (at least in terms of an AudioStream review) highly praised Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC Series 2 ($4,995)/Alpha USB ($1,895) combo with some Serious down-home sound enhancement devices.
Before you get too excited, the exaSound UPnP/OpenHome PlayPoint Network Audio Connector ($1,999) is only for exaSound DACs..."at present". The PlayPoint has a nice one-two punch "Ready" list that includes Roon Speaker and MQA, while also supporting AirPlay, Tidal (also via AirPlay), and HQPlayer. Of course, this being exaSound, the PlayPoint supports PCM and DSD resolutions beyond anything being sold (up to 32-bit/384kHz and native DSD256 up to 12.2MHz) so you are present and future proof. If you want to take advantage of that native DSD256 support, you'll need to run MinimServer on your NAS.
that slot on the right side lets you peak through to the tubes
Digital Audio Review's John Darko said, and please don't quote me quoting him since I may have the exact wording wrong, the Aqua Hi-Fi La Scala MKII D/A Converter ($5,600) was, "lovely". La Scala is designed and handmade in Milan, Italy, a lovely place filled with lovely people. La Scala is a non-oversampling multibit R2R discrete ladder DAC (4x Burr-Brown PCM-1704K) and a pair of a ECC81(12AT7) vacuum tubes share the analog output stage with some Mosfets. La Scala supports PCM resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz via asynchronous USB, 2x coax S/PDIF (RCA and BNC), AES/EBU, and "AQlink Pro" an I2S serial bus port for connecting to the Aqua La Diva CD transport.
Do you see a theme developing? I see a theme developing. The activeDynaudio Focus 600 XD ($13,500/pair) are rated from 20Hz – 24kHz and include a total of 600W of power per speaker (2x 250W for each subwoofer and 2x 150 for the Midrange and Tweeter). The digital coax S/PDIF input supports PCM resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz as does the coax S/PDIF output. There's also an analog input for your turntable and if you add the Dynaudio Connect ($450) you can send up to 24-bit/96kHz data to your Focus speakers over WiFi, look ma, no wires. The Connect also adds Bluetooth (A2DP, apt-x, and AAC compatibility) connectivity.
The diminutive Apogee Duet DAC ($649) sat between a MacBook and the Red Dragon Audio 250W (8Ω) S500 Class-D Stereo Amplifier ($1,999) powering the intriguing 93dB Spatial Hologram M4 open baffle speakers ($1,295/pair). I mention all of this up front because I thought this was a nice, simple system that I wish I had more time to listen to.
Holy dueling Bose radios Batman! DEQX pulled out all the stops (again) showcasing their flagship HDP-5 Preamp Processor's ($6,499) DSP prowess through a pair of Magnepan MG1.7 loudspeakers/JBL Fathom Sub driven by Parasound monoblocks and a stereo'd pair of Bose Wave Radios. I'd like to say that the Bose Wave Radios sounded amazing when DEQX'd but I'd have to add some sort of qualifier which would effectively null that noise. Yes, the DEQX made the Bose sound more like music, no doubt, which is a very impressive feat. But let's be clear—never, ever, buy a Bose Wave Radio unless you are prepared to spend over $6 grand to make it listenable.
The Concert Fidelity DAC-040BD Vacuum Tube Digital-to-Analog Converter ($12,000) has been around for a while but this battery-powered, non-oversampling, filterless, 16-bit/44.1kHz max DAC sporting NOS Philips multi-bit 16-bit DAC chips makes it perfectly en vogue. The DAC-040 employs a pair of 12AU7 vacuum tubes for gain and a 6CA4 for rectification, checking off all of the items on the "I want analog-like sounding digital" checklist.