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WCES 98


    Digital is everywhere even though the promises of an audio only DVD standard(s) will someday be set. Hard to say weather now is a good time to buy a CD only unit. My humble apologies, though then again many of us have a huge pile of great music on CD so if your digital gear is a few years only a new CD/Transport/DAC may be that upgrade your system desires.


Muse Model 8

Muse Model Eight DAD Transport

     Muse Model Eight is the 24-bit/96kHz DAD unit that was being used as a transport during the WCES. In this system was also their Model Two 96 digital to analog decoder. This DAD capable playing front-end was used with their Model 300 amplifiers, Model 160 amplifier (used for subwoofers), Audio Artistry Beethoven speakers and was wired with all Cardas Golden Cross cables. Are you ready for a review of DAD 24/96 vs. 16/44.1 vs. 45rpm vinyl? Well, here it is! The very FIRST review ever! The DAD players/transports also play DVD media too! Normal i've been told that normal DVD units can play the DAD discs, yet at a 20-bit resolution.

Ok, all the source material was by Classic Records which is supplied in their press kit i received during the show. The music was Sergei Rachmaninoff "Symphonic Dances" movement 1 conducted by Donald Johanos and performed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The master tape was recorded by David Hancock directly onto 1/4" 2-track analog tape at 30 ips. (Said like the World Wrestling Federation's Michael Buffer) LLLLLLLLLLLLLet's get READY TO RUMMMMMMMMMBLE!!!!!

     The 16-bit/44.1 sounded, well, like a very good CD (please don't send me flames about using this description). Basically the CD was good, yet the highs weren't as smooth as the 24-bit/96 version and also the inner definition and bass on the 24-bit/96 was excellent. The 45 rpm vinyl had better highs to my ears than the 24-bit/96 yet the bass wasn't quite as tight or defined. The turntable used was the Kuzma Stabi table, Kuzma Stogi Reference (balanced) tonearm, Dynavector 17D2 cartridge, Jeff Roland Cadence phono stage, and a Muse Model 3 line stage. Please remember i only spent about 45 minutes listening to this system with various recordings too (including an 1812 recording, though the Rachmaninoff recording is the one used for this comparison). Here's the basics my slammatocious friend:

     24-bit/96kHz:

Better definition than all the other formats (esp. bass)

Just as smooth (maybe smoother) than 45rpm vinyl

Better bass definition than 16-bit/44.1 and 45rpm vinyl

Extreme high frequencies seemed a bit washed out when it came to the initial attack and some of the sustain of the triangle in the Rachmaninoff recording. Better than 16-bit/44.1 but not better then 45 rpm. vinyl

Better imaging than 16-bit/44.1 CD

     45 rpm vinyl:

Best upper octave attack/sustain than all other formats

Definition was very close to the 24-bit/96 but not equal

A better sense of ease and smoothness

     16-bit/44.1kHz CD:

Worst in definition

Worst in realistic replay of upper frequencies

Worst sense of ease than all other formats

     Pretty please don't get me wrong, the 16-bit/44.1 CD was quite good, yet when you start hearing DAD and 45rpm vinyl... Again, please remember this is a very very very preliminary report though my feelings were that you, my loyal and coolest of the cool readers would be interested in my lame opinion of what my soul, ears, heart, and mind told me. Once i get a player into my main rig more will be revealed. A most humble thanks for your understanding. It is appreciated.

     By the way, those tekkies, not trekkies and no Quataloos accepted :-{)+ , who might wanna know what the cable for transmitting 24-bit/96 kHz is made of. The 13W3 I2S cable comprises of three coax and five twisted pair wires. Two coax are used for the master clock running differentially. One each twisted pair is used for the word clock, stereo channels data, and the emphasis flag.

Pass Digital D1      Pass Labs new Pass Digital D1 digital to analog converter. Using four matched Burr Brown PCM-63 K-series DACs and eight times oversampling is provided via the NPC digital filter with 32 bits internal and 24 bits external precision. Needless to say, this DAC is a fully balanced unit. Retail list price is $5,000

     Conrad-johnson has a new CD player. The DF2 is a basic unit featuring a passive analog filter stage using discrete component parts. A sophisticated reclocking circuitry minimized jitter. This single CD is highly value priced at only $1,699 and if it's like all the other great c-j gear it might be the best unit in its price range. By the way, c-j is one of the best companies on the planet in my humble opinion for customer service, care, and owned by some of the biggest music lovers too! Those looking for a great under $2,000 should definately audition this product!

     Z-Systems Audio Laboratories was in quite a few rooms showing their new 24-bit resolution rpd-1 digital equalizer. This unit uses 40-bit floating point technology to achieve a 24-bit or 20-bit or 20-bit dithered or 16-bit or 16-bit dithered output. This remote control unit has more great features then that old Cello Palette i usedta own ever had and it sounds better too. How do i know. Well, i have on in my reference system at home right now and anyone who desires an EQ and uses it for their digital gear should seek this out. The full review of it by me will be hitting the press shortly. Anyway, it can do steep EQ filtering in four separate frequencies with adjustable gain/reduction and adjustable Q too. You can use it as an EQ or as a speaker to room tonality correction device if you so desire. Built like a tank and can even do HDCD stuff too. A pure digital volume control is also included in this unit. Unlike the junk units that reduce the bits with the adjustment of the volume level, you will always get 24-bit output (when it's set for a 24-bit output). The rpd-1 also has 99 memories. Therefor you can find your favorite settings for 99 digital different source materials and each one of the 99 can have their very own setting! Can't find the retail pricing though if my brains a-workin' it is around $5,000. $2,500 cheaper then the Cello Palette and sounds better in my humble opinion too.


     Oracle had this really radical looking new prototype CD player. It uses a floating suspension system like the one found on their turntable. They guesstimated the pricing will be $4,500 for the transport only version while the full player with DAC will be around $7,000. Ok, it's not available yet though it just looked sooooo cool that i felt you might enjoy seeing it here.
     Sonic Frontiers had a fully working version of that retro-futuristic lookin' CD transport i reported about in one of my earlier reports. Using the Phillips CDM-12i top loading mechanism (same one as in the Levinson 31.5) this unit gets my vote for the most totally slammatocious top loading design. Shown here with the top half-way opened it reminds me of something we'd all see in some sci-fi movie. The chassis of this unit is made from one inch thick aluminum plate. The power supply features multiple potted and encapsulated power transformers while over twelve regulated supply stages insure top quality performance. The new I2S enhanced digital Level B interface is included (upgradable to the future Level C). This unit also comes with this circular remote control too. Priced at $6,995 some may buy it just on looks alone!

     Camelot Technology Inc. was showing two new yummies. First, their Morganna 24 which is not the famous sports kissing bandit here in the USA but a 24-bit CD player that uses the Pioneer stable platter system. This unit recovers up to 24-bits off the from the CD player's optical pick-up with a specially designed digital signal processing (DSP) circuitry. The new Crystal Semiconductor 4390 24-bit/96 kHz compatible chip is employed to receive the data from their DSP optical pickup. Packed to the hilt with very high quality parts and innovative designing helps this unit to achieve a high stability and ultra-low jitter. Dynamic range is claimed at 127db and a programmable analogue attenuator adjust the output volume in .5 db steps. Priced at $1995 for this all-in-one high quality transport/DAC by the way. When you consider the cost of a separate transport, a DAC and a digital cable...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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