It is early March as I write this and Iím in a glum mood. The weather is crappy, with the umpteenth snowstorm of the season, Iím waiting for my third PurePower PP2000 unit to return from its update so my system is not completely isolated from the electrical gremlins that destroy great playback, and I just got off of the phone with Clark Johnsen. While I usually look forward to talking with my first high end guru, his news has certainly not improved my mid winter blahs, as he notified me that one of the best high end engineers, a friend, and developer and maker of my two monoblock preamps and four monoblock 300B tube amps, Allen Wright, had recently died. On contacting his wife, it turns out he had been suffering from cancer for a couple of years.
I first met Allen about 10 years ago through Clark, who brought him and his wife Hanni, up to my house for a listening session. Allen, a New Zealander by birth, an Australian by upbringing, a German through his earning his livelihood for several years in Munich, and finally a manufacturer of his equipment in Switzerland, was a meticulous engineer who produced superb high end tube electronics and silver interconnects and speaker cable.
Over many years he had developed various ideas on both electronics and wire construction and had recently moved from Australia to Munich, Germany to open Vacuum State Electronics to sell his products. He had brought along some of his interconnects and speaker wire as written in AA Chapter 5 made of silver foil that could be constructed as a home project for a very reasonable price, and they blew the pants ( or should I say shielding) off of the wire I was using at that time. Thus, sight unseen, I commissioned him to build a combination preamp-phono stage-electronic crossover for my main speakers (see AA Chapter 13. As the unit was superb, and replaced three pieces of equipment and interconnects, it remained in my system for about 10 years until I no longer needed the phono stage.
About four years later I received his first-off-the-line DPA 300B amplifiers for review and immediately ordered two more to run my main speakers. These still hold center place in my system. Unhappily, I never did get to evaluate his SACD and Blu-Ray player modifications. Allen was a true gentleman and superb audio engineer and I and his many friends and associates will miss him. His bio. can be found at this link.
Romy the Cat, Audiophile
Well, the system was superb, filling his entire space with some of the cleanest sound Iíve ever heard, replacing the natural room acoustics with the original concert hall on the recordings. The only thing lacking for me was a roll-off in the low bass area due to his horn woofers only going down to 40 Hz. He does have some superb Dunlavy subwoofer towers, but he prefers the clearer sound with them off. I preferred them on, but can understand his preference as in their present position; they did muddy the mid bass a little. Anyway, the sound was superb, and considering he designed both the speakers and amplification as a hobbyist, it is actually amazing. Today, he wrote in his blog that after some experimentation he has solved the problem through time alignment, and the subwoofers are now functioning to his expectation. Guess Iíll be driving down for another listen in the near future.
Pure Power PP 2000 Regenerator
In the words of Richard Janzen, their spokesman:
So if you think you have one of the units built during that period of time, please contact Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org for possible return and repair. Itís really worth the effort for the improvement.
Mapleshade USB To S/PDIF
One can use an internal sound card for D/A conversion or transmission of a high grade digital signal through its S/PDIF output, a decent pro soundcard can cost several hundred to a couple of thousand dollars. Or one can either use the SPDIF, Firewire, HDMI or USB output of the computer to an external D/A unit, saving the expense of the soundcard. Each has it inherent problems and jitter, and except for HDMI, will only carry two channels of digital information.
Until now, Iíve used the HDMI output of my Asus Xonar 1.3 Soundcard as it allows transmission of 7.1 channels of 24-bit/192kHz audio and high definition video and really does sound excellent. But Iíve heard through the grape vine that HDMI has inherently high jitter levels for two channel audio. While Firewire was originally developed for professional audio applications, I know of no high end D/A converters with FireWire input for home use. SPDIF would therefore be the obvious choice, but not all computers have a decent electrical SPDIF output. Finally, typical USB outputs and their interconnects have inherently high jitter rates, and most D/A converters donít have good USB inputs.
So whatís an audiophile to do? Several manufacturers have come out with USB to S/PDIF units that allow direct digital transmission from computer to D/A converter. The problem is that they do not decrease the jitter. Thus a couple of companies have produced units that do whatís called asynchronous transmission by reclocking the digital signal. One such is the M2Tech hiFace USB-SPDIF Converter, previously reviewed by Ron Nagle here and also the Evo version reviewed here.
This unit has some major advantages over other units out there in that it directly connects to the computer USB output without intervening USB cord, saving further jitter and expense, and will put out up to a 192 kHz 24-bit stereo signal that can be passed to a normal digital RCA or BNC cable. At $199, effective March 1, and the fact that Ron Nagle recommends it, I decided to go ahead and make a purchase.
But then I got a catalog from Mapleshade Audio, purveyor of high end wire, tweaks and equipment modification who has modified these units. Iíve been using their AC cords on some of my equipment for at least 10 years, and love the CDís which they record with their own modified equipment. They have taken the hiFace and added a vibration controlling low dielectric absorption maple enclosure which replaces the plastic shell of the original, and perform a cryogenic treatment of the unit, all for an additional $39 to the price. (At the time of this writing, Mapleshade was still charging $189 for their unit, but it will probably be higher soon.)
But come on audiophile! Splurge on the Mapleshade unit at $189,( original purchase price probably to go up with the price increase from the manufacturer), keep an American company in business, and you certainly wonít be hurting the original manufacturer and distributor as the units that Mapleshade mods have to come from them anyway.
Next month I hope to have at least one or two more re-clockers in for review which should make for an interesting review.