Munich 2015

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Michael Lavorgna  |  May 20, 2015
Che bello. A pair of Electro Harmonix ECC88/6922 front a 70W per channel Class A/B Amp along with a headphone amp and a 24/192-capable DAC/Streamer for a lovely all-in-one package, the Pathos Classic Remix (€3000, non-DAC version €2500).
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 19, 2015
The Mark Levinson No 585 Integrated Amp/DAC (€14,000) houses an ESS Sabre 32-bit DAC capable of passing 32/192 PCM data and DSD. For low resolution files, the 585 borrows its Clari-Fi signal processing from parent company Harman which essentially is meant to make lossy files sound more like music.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 19, 2015
According to Constellation Audio's Peter Madnick, VP Engineering, it's best to keep their Cygnus Digital file player/DAC ($35,000) off of the network and use USB storage instead. The 32/192-capable Cygnus is a two-box solution with a separate network player/power supply which "provides two separate power feeds: an analog circuit based on an R-core transformer to power the analog circuits, and another power supply circuit to feed the digital and control circuitry."
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 19, 2015
The Devialet rooms look as if you've entered another world.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 19, 2015
Chord unveiled their new flagship DAC DAVE (£7995) in Munich to a standing room only crowd. Pictured above are John Franks (left), Chord's Chief Executive/Senior Designer, and Robert Watts, "a digital design genius with 30 years' DAC technology development experience", who has collaborated on many of Chord's digital products since 1996. DAVE (Digital to Analog Veritas Extremus) replaces the Chord QBD76 HDSD DAC with technological advances and performance levels previously unavailable according to Chord.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 19, 2015
The SOtM booth had on display a number of devices and cables meant to combat the noise that can infest our digital systems. Pictured above in-hand in-barn is the SOtM iSO-CAT6 LAN Isolator ($350) which is meant to remove any electrical noise traveling along our Ethernet cables.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 19, 2015
AK380 shown sitting in the AK380 AMP with the AK380 Cradle charging station to the left

I reviewed the Astel & Kern AK240 for Stereophile (see review) and found it pretty fabulous with an equally fabulous price tag. The new AK380 ($3499) ups the price ante by a cool $1k while offering dual 32-bit AKM AK4490 DACs, 256GB [NAND] of internal memory and 1x microSD (Max 128GB), and "32bit/384kHz Bit to Bit Playback, Native DSD Playback, 20 Band EQ/0.1dB steps, VCXO Reference Clock (200 Femto Seconds), Extendible Docking connector, AK Connect App, and a Metal-touch sensor Home button."

Michael Lavorgna  |  May 19, 2015
dCS introduced its new series, Rossini, which replaces the Puccini in the dCS product lineup. Rossini comes in two versions – the £15,000 Rossini DAC and £18,000 Rossini Player. I'm most interested in the DAC (pictured above) since the Player adds a CD transport which falls outside my area of interest. The Rossini DAC is also a network player capable of serving music from your NAS as well as streaming services including Tidal, Spotify, and Deezer. Rossini has inherited its latest generation dCS Digital Processing Platform and the dCS Ring DACTM from the flagship Vivaldi which makes for a very good sound proposition.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 18, 2015
I see Questyle at most Hi-Fi shows showing lots of interesting looking products and Munich was no exception. Their CAS192 DAC caught my eye as did their claim of "True DSD". What's that?
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 18, 2015
The portable audio market is certainly heating up and Alpha Design Labs has added another contender with the A1 (€499). The A1 can connect to Android, iDevices, PCs and Macs and its Cirrus Logic CS4392K DAC can handle up to 24/192 PCM data as well as DSD128. The headphone amp is based on the Texas Instruments TPA6130A2 offering max output levels of 70mW(12 ohm), 80mW(16 ohm), 65mW(32 ohm), 38mW(56 ohm), 9mW(300 ohm).
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 18, 2015
Krakow Poland's Abyssound had their brand spankin' new ASA-1600 (€4500) on silent display. The integrated amp packs 160 Watts (into 8 Ohms) of dual mono output power, an MM/MC phono preamp, 24/192-capable DAC (Coax, Toslink, AES/EBU, and USB inputs), 5 RCA inputs, 1 XLR input, and a headphone amp into one handsome package.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 18, 2015
Aurender had their N10 Caching Network Music Player ($8000) on display along with the company's other impressive servers including the W20, X100, and N100(H). The N10 comes with 240GB of SSD storage for caching playback and 4TB (2x 2.5" 2TB) of HDD storage. There's an Ethernet input for connecting to the Internet and your NAS if you require more than 4TB of storage. Outputs include USB, Toslink, Coax and AES/EBU and the N10 supports PCM playback up to 24/192 and DSD128. Aurender also supports Tidal's lossless streaming service (yeah!).
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 18, 2015
Here's another bug from AQ this time in the form of the small form factor Beetle DAC ($149). This 24/96-capable Digital to Analog Converter (ESS 9010) accepts USB, Toslink, and asynchronous Bluetooth inputs. The Beetle can be powered from the USB bus or from the included linear power supply. That Toslink input is squarely aimed at real-people devices like Apple TV or Sonos Connect and I got to hear a comparison with/without the little Beetle and guess what? The Beetle-endowed Connect sounded better. Much better.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 18, 2015
the Jitterbug fully clothed

We first the laid eyes on the AudioQuest Jitterbug ($49), albeit naked, back at CES 2015. We learned that this little USB dual-function USB line conditioner promises improved sonic performance from your USB-connected DAC for two main reasons: VBUS and line conditioning for data, as well as improvements in S/N ratio and a reduction in jitter and parasitic resonances. There's that darn noise in digital data transmission thing again. Duck and cover.

Michael Lavorgna  |  May 18, 2015
Melco (Maki Engineering Laboratory Company) began as audio company in 1975 producing the belt-driven, heavy platter'd Melco turntable. They proceeded to morph into "the largest computer peripherals manufacturer in Japan, offering advanced products based on rigorous R&D, including Wireless routers, Ethernet Data Switches and storage devices such as NAS drives." Well, Melco's getting back into their audio roots while leveraging their technological prowess.

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