Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio always manages something new at RMAF and this year was no different. Pictured on the right is the Crimson DAC with the new FPGA-based Q1 DoP/PCM DAC modue ($9000 or $1500 for the Q1 module upgrade for existing owners) which supports up to double rate DSD. The Quotient DSD module is also available for Wavelength's Cosecant DAC ($750).
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.
The new Sony Walkman ($299), pictured with their new MDR-1ADAC high-res stereo headphones with integrated DAC/amp ($399.99), offers 64GB of RAM and a micro-SD slot for memory expansion. The Sony Walkman does not support DSD, alas, but it does support PCM resolutions up to 24/192. From the quick listen I listened, the $299 Walkman will give some other more expensive portable players a run for their money. It's also a joy to hold, the small form factor and super lite weight practically disappear in your hand.
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.
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.