Capital Audiofest 2017: Computer Audio

I always enjoy the Zu Audio room because they play real music and always get good sound (they use turntables as source). Their Omen Dirty Weekend [Mk.II] speakers (the smaller ones) are $999/pair (that's less than a thousand dollars)

Sometimes my focus on all things digital feels, well, incomplete. After all, you cannot make music with Computer Audio; you need other stuff. So show coverage covering just file-based playback is. . . limited. So to speak. And let's clarify something—show coverage is not a review. I've seen product endorsement adverts quoting show coverage and thought to myself, "That's a reach."

"The best 5 minutes of my life!" I read that on a bathroom stall wall.

The Border Patrol DAC ($995/$1350 for SE version) intrigues me because it's a non-oversampling R2R (chip-based) design. Why? In my experience, NOS R2R DACs sound inviting. They tend to make music.

There's also an EZ80 tube rectifier inside that provides power to the USB/S/PDIF and DAC boards. The SE version adds "a novel BorderPatrol twin transformer power supply system (as used in the BorderPatrol EXS amplifier PSU's), ELNA Cerafine power supply capacitor and film and foil signal coupling capacitors"

The Naim Uniti Nova streamer/DAC/Amp ($6995) drove a pair of TAD ME-1K ($14,290/pair) making for a simple system. I like simple systems.

Well Pleased AV had the Aqua La Voce S2 DAC ($3000) paired up with Qualiton tube electronics and the Rethm Bhaava speakers ($3750/pair).

After listening to a track that I heard in Denver in the Well Pleased room, I commented that I enjoy speakers, like the Rethm, that sound faster than the music. It's a good thing.

Bricasti calls their Roon Ready M5 Network Player a renderer ($2400) which makes perfect sense but I always think of a drawing (an unfortunate side effect od my higher education). Basically we're talking Ethernet in and your choice of USB, AES, or S/PDIF out. Brian Zolner, President of Bricasti Design, shared that he finds AES to be the better sounding output.

The Bricasti M12 Dual Mono Source Controller ($15,995) houses a DAC as well as the network guts that trickled down into the M5. In the M12, the internal connection between the network guts and the DAC is via I2 (think ideal). Brian ran a test in his home wherein he compared the M12's output to the M5 feeding the M12 through the M5's various outputs and he found AES from the M5 sounded most like the M12 straight. No chaser. I very much enjoy talking to Brian because he speaks plainly with no garnish. I'll be getting an M5 in for review soon.

I've covered the Prism Sound Callia DAC/Preamp/Headphone Amp ($2750) before and I once again shared my desire to hear one in-barn. Like Bricasti and Mytek, Prism Sound is rooted in the Pro Audio world.

Don't be ashamed. Sure, missing the train on voice recognition was a bungle of Amazonian proportions, but we still love 'ya.

The Wolf Audio Systems Alpha 2 Server (starts at $4000) starts out with 1TB of SSD storage and 8GB of RAM but you can up the ante all the way to 20TB of internal SSD storage.

Spec Highlights:

  • Gen 7 Kaby Lake 3.80GHz Quad core CPU
  • DDR4 RAM 3000MHz
  • 256GB System Drive, 1TB Music Drive
  • Expandable to 20TB internal SSD
  • 240W power supply
  • Best in class galvanically isolated USB audio
  • FLAC / WAV / AIFF / ALAC / SACD (PCM) 16 - 32 Bits, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, or 384kHz
  • DSD64, 126, 256 Native or DoP
  • Control: Android, iOS, Keyboard & Mouse, Web browser, IR remote, Touchscreen monitor
  • 4k HDMI & Multichannel Audio
  • TV and Monitor support - touchscreen capable
  • Serve audio & video around the home
  • Integrate with Home Automation and Remote Control (IR & WIFI) Technologies - Crestron, Savant, URC, Control4

shaynet's picture

Thank you for stopping in the Tenacious Sound room! Like you, I too like simple. We called our Naim Nova/TAD ME-1 system our "svelte super system"

KINGTED's picture

What are the chances of an Audiostream review of the Border Patrol DAC, it has an interesting choice of features? Noting that "show coverage is not a review", can you comment on its sound at the show?


Michael Lavorgna's picture
...the chances are better than good.

I cannot comment on its sound at the show because it was a part of an unfamiliar system in an unfamiliar room. I could pretend to have some magic ability to hear through the haze of unknowns, but I'd rather be honest ;-)