On A Higher Note

I saw two familiar faces in the On A Higher Note room; the perpetually pleasant proprietor Philip O'Hanlon and the Luxman DA-06 DAC ($5,990) that I reviewed back in June (see review). This time, as was the case the last time I saw Philip at the New York Audio Show, he had a listening comparison up his sleeve (Philip has long sleeves). We were to compare the same track in 24/192, DSD, and LP.

The rest of the system consisted of the Luxman L590X integrated amplifier ($9,500) leashed to a pair of Vivid B-1 loudspeakers ($14,990/pair). The analog front end was the Brinkmann Bardo turntable/TriPlanar 12" tonearm/Brinkmann Pi cartridge (about $20,000 total). I offer this information since our little format comparison reflects as much on the gear we played through as it does on the formats themselves.

The track under scrutiny, "Hard Headed Woman", from Cat Stevens' Tea For The Tillerman. First up was the 24/192 download form HDtracks. And it sounded just great. I'll add at this point there was a gentleman directly to my right and a couple directly behind us. Next up was the DSD download from Acoustic Sounds. After about 10 seconds (give or take) I heard laughter from behind me and the gentleman to my right was chuckling. I imagine I was too in recognition of the fact that the DSD version was clearly....better. It was more natural sounding, smoother, bigger, richer, and more engrossing. And I'm not talking about a subtle difference, I'm talking a butt stomping difference.

Then Philip queued up the vinyl and while there wasn't any chuckling this time around, everyone agreed that the vinyl sounded even better. Hey, I'm just reporting.

christopher3393's picture

Hi Michael. I've read that the North American price has dropped to $5,000. This info supposedly came from checking with On A Higher Note. Good news.

Mike Galusha's picture

i was the one sitting next to Michael and I had to chuckle because as he said, the difference between the 192kHz PCM version and DSD is not subtle. I knew this going in as I bought the HD Tracks PCM version, had a buddy rip my SACD for the DSD and also purchased the Analog Productions vinyl version but it never fails to amaze me just how striking the difference from PCM to DSD can be and how much closer to good vinyl DSD is. Not the same but awfully good. 

Michael Lavorgna's picture

...but it never fails to amaze me just how striking the difference from PCM to DSD can be and how much closer to good vinyl DSD is. Not the same but awfully good.

Well said. Thanks for sharing.

cmonache's picture

I am a proud owner of the Luxman DA-06. 

I was looking for the DSD Cat Stevens download from Acoustic Sounds mentioned above but could not find in their new Super HiRez store.

Could you point me in the right direction?


Michael Lavorgna's picture

...DSD is not yet available. It will be, I'm just not sure when.

jky999's picture

Too bad Phillip didn't use his Korg recorder to make a rip of the vinyl to DSD.  A vinyl vs DSD vinyl rip comparison would have been the most interesting.  That would have normalized for the effect of the phonostage, cartridge, table, arm, phonocable etc.