Constellation Audio was showing off their prototype Cygnus Media Server/DAC ($32,000) which features an outboard power supply and supports resolutions up to 32/192. There's a host of digital inputs including AES/EBU, 2x Coax S/PDIF, 2x Toslink, and USB (optional), as well as an Ethernet input to play back from network attached storage. Outputs are comprised of balanced XLRs and single-ended RCAs. There are a number of user selectable filters including minimum-phase, phase-perfect, Bessel and Butterworth. Production units are expected to ship within 60 days.
The Antipodes DX "The Reference" Music Server and DLNA streamer (NZ$ 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 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 McIntosh MB100 Media Bridge ($6500) supports up to 24/192 data while providing access to multiple streaming services including Pandora, SiriusXM, Spotify, Rhapsody and TuneIn. The MB100 sports a 1TB drive for music storage while a SSD takes care of OS and music player software. You can attach additional storage via eSata, USB, and Ethernet. The MB100 offers balanced XLR and unbalanced outputs as well as a COAX S/PDIF, Toslink, and USB audio outputs.
The production LH Labs Geek Pulse ($3499 + $899 for linear power supply) DAC and headphone amp was shown in the Canjam room. Offering four inputs including Coax S/PDIF, Toslink, AES/EBU, and USB, the Pulse can process up to 32/384 PCM and 6.144 MHz DSD. The Pulse includes both unbalanced and balanced headphone outputs as well as RCA and XLR output pairs.
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.
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.
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 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.
Vinnie Rossi of Red Wine Audio fame has branched out with a entirely new brand, Vinnie Rossi. Their first product LIO (starts at $3180), an integrated amp/heaphone amp/DAC (optionally), was on display at RMAF 2014 and one interesting aspect of its design is its powered by two banks of ultracapacitors. The 25 WPC (into 8ohms) LIO's design is also modular allowing buyers to build their own adding MM/MC Phonostage, PCM/DSD DAC capable of handling up to 32/384 and double rate DSD using dual AKM4399 DACs, Tubestage, Autoformer Volume Control (AVC), and more. The DAC module offers Coax BNC S/PDIF, Toslink, and USB inputs. Production models should begin shipping by the end of November.
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...
Dr. Jeffrey Barish, founder and president of 3beez
The 3Beez Music Management System incorporates the company's music management software into their custom music server the Wax Box 2 ($5400). The software demo proved to be very interesting as the 3Beez system is very flexible in terms of metadata. Very flexible. For example you can view your library according to different values so that a Composer field will show up when viewing classical music then you'll just get Album and Artist when viewing pop or rock. All of this is up to you of course and you have the ability to add new metadata fields you define.
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.
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.