It is certainly more expensive than my humble OPPO player, and you need to add the Nausicaa DAC and base to do the same things. It will set you back around 100k$, but promises you to be the best, albeit the most expensive, CD player on the Planet. It will certainly qualify as top vintage gear in thirty years time!
I have not had a chance to listen to this newest version, but did listen to the previous incarnation at the Paris Hifi Show and then more privately at Point Musiques. And it did sound fine to me...
Besides whether or not it sounds better than an OPPO or any other high-end player for that matter, you have to recognise Dominique Giner's resilience and perfectionism, as he has been at it since 1987, right at the onset of CDs becoming mainstream. What fascinates me is that he is using some of the same principles as high-end turntables manufacturers, like Clearaudio, or to stay French, Pierre Riffault. All are trying to prevent vibrations to corrupt the fragile signal that is engraved in metallised plastic or vinyl which we entrust to keep a record of our musical endeavours. all rely on mass and precision mechanical engineering to transform an analog signal into music. I hear you say to yourself "but CD is digital". Well, not really...
You see, once the laser picks up the "ones" and "zeros" from the disc, it then transmits an analog signal to the DAC, and the job of the DAC is to accurately transform this signal into a digital word of 16 bits at 44.1KHz sampling rate, or in this particular case, at an upsampled 96KHz. The quality of this original analog signal is linked to the stability of the disc in regard to the laser beam which reads it. The quality of the conversion relies on a very low level of noise in the electronics of the DAC AND a very stable, jitter-free clock. Hence why companies like Antelope use a rubidium clock to drive their DACs and ADCs.
I encourage you to read this article here that will demystify a few generally badly understood facts about CDs.
And we wrongly assume that this has been taken care of properly during the mastering process of the CD.
Nobody ever talks about that though...Hence the reaso why I mention Antelope, as their products are used as ADCs in all good recording and mastering studios around the World. I even know one here in Melbourne...
It is ONE reason why a copy of a CD might sound different from the original, by the way...
I will leave the last word toJohn Bamford and Paul Miller of Hifi News, who just reviewed the whole system:
"As much works of sculpture as high-end audio components, the Kalista transport and Nausicaa DAC sound as striking as they look. The combo delivers a richly textured and sumptuous sound, with fabulous three dimensionality when playing fine recordings". As Ivor Tiefenbrun would say "garbage in, garbage out"..., so you might have to throw away a few CDs if you can afford this beautiful machine...
For the last twelve months, I have been involved in designing speakers again after a 30 years hibernation!
I can't tell you just yet what I have been up to, but give it another month and I will able to reveal what kept me busy in my spare time: as they say, if you want something done, talk to a busy person...
A side effect of the research I have done on this project, commissioned by one of my day job client, is that I had to do a lot of research on which drivers are available today. One area where I found an interesting improvement
is tweeters. Well, obviously we have all heard of diamond, beryllium, various other metals but interestingly enough, the more mundane silk or "plastic" variety has been completely revamped with the view of extending the frequency range beyond 20KHz and often also extending the range at the bottom of the range, with resonant frequencies lowered as low as 1kHz and with a often a very low raise in impedance around that frequency. The result is that, even though I like to use a cut-off frequency around 5kHz, the resonant frequency is now two octaves below that cutoff and then in theory 24db down, basically not audible anymore.
The proprietary Audax boomer we used in the Microphase SATs is basically flat to 10kHz, so any breakup modes would be at least one octave over the cutoff frequency and then 12 db down let say around 15 to 20kHz, way beyond what most people can hear.
Another interesting new parameter is the consumer demand for a much better sound in their cars, right from the start and with the manufacturer's pre-installed gear. This new market has driven a lot of research by Tymphany (Vifa+SEAS+Peerless) to produce very affordable tweeters with a very small footprint.
The next challenge was to find a driver that would work without modifying the existing filter. I wanted the potential client - you, dear reader - to be able to unsolder the current Audax TW51 and fit the new driver in minutes and be assured the results would be consistent with my tests here in Sydney..
I then had my new speaker cabinet supplier to make me a quantity of new flanges that would "simulate" the flange of the TW51. This was achieved with a 3mm birth plywood CNCed to fit both the original flange and the new VIFA tweeter. Final touch is the replacement of the rather "cheap" screws on the original product with cap screws similar to the one used on the boomer. Et voilà!
The procedure is quite simple: unscrew the 4 Philips head screw with the appropriate screwdriver. Use the supplied Allen key or a thin blade to extract the tweeter. Unsolder the wires. Note that the negative wire (normally black or blue) is connected to the positive lead of the tweeter. This is very important to respect, as we are using a 2nd order Linkwitz-Riley filter.
Unpack the new tweeter and unscrew the cap screws almost entirely and rest the tweeter on them to protect the dome during the rewiring process. Rewire the black wire to the positive terminal of the VIFA (marked in red and the wider one as well) and the yellow wire to the negative terminal. Note that the back of the unit is quite messy as we have chosen to use silicone instead of glue to attach the tweeter to the flange, so you could change it later if you were to blow it...yes, shit happens! Also note that I cannot guarantee that all units are wired with the same colours. Some might be blue and red for instance, but it should be quite obvious.
Once the wiring is done, flip the tweeter over and screw it in place using the Allen key provided. You will have to use some strength about halfway through, as the screw needs to make it way into the timber. The new screws are longer and slightly bigger than the original ones. Be careful not to touch the dome or scratch the timber edge of the boomer baffle. Also, hold on to the Allen key firmly to prevent the very strong magnet to attract the key and possibly crash it on to the dome. If this were to happen, just wait for the dome to come back to its original shape and you should be OK, but don't try your luck unnecessarily! Repeat on the other unit.
Et voilà! you are ready to listen to your favourite music with renewed interest and a much better pair of Microphase SATs. Our next step will be to upgrade the SWS subwoofer. but in the meantime go to our brand new shop and...
A bit of valves indulgence...
Let me say first that as most of us geeks and idiophiles we love looking at valve amps and we carry that romantic notion that they sound better than solid state. Being an electronic engineer by trade, and looking at test results alone, I will have to disappoint a lot of people by saying that there is NO technical way they can sound better. I will try to prove my point in a minute.
But before I do, let me recount an experience that let me in doubt of that statement.
A few years back, I have spent an afternoon listening to Tosca valve amps teamed up with Ocellia speakers and I have to admit that I did throughly enjoyed myself, almost missing my plane back to Sydney.
You read the whole story on my "Interviews" page.
Now, you will find below some very troubling comparisons that I have extracted from the Australian Hifi Magazine. I don't recall anybody doing such a comparison before. And let me state that what I am about to present is NOT intended to belittle or promote the chosen products. Neither is it a reflexion on the reviewer(s) involved. Some might think so when they see me using Bryston as a solid state reference, and yes there is a certain level of bias here (sic) as I know very well and use a Bryston 3B in my system. These two products have similar usage and pricing and both are very well engineered and built, and the Audio Space looks almost like a Nagra on steroids - very sexy indeed!
So here we are:
Audio Space Reference 3.1 (300B) - price in Oz 5.480$
Transient response is very limited by the high frequency roll off of the circuitry and the limitations of the output transformers, the bass response is truncated due to the necessary coupling capacitors between stages and the harmonic distortion is quite high, all these factors contributing to the rather mellifluous sound, a trademark of valve amps. These results are fairly typical of most valve amps. This is just an example of one which is actually very well built and deemed excellent on listening tests.
Read the whole review here: http://www.avhub.com.au/images/stories/australian-hifi/reviews/2013/2013-09/audio_space_ref_3p1_amp_review_test_lores.pdf
Bryston 135-SST2 - price in Oz 5,999$
On the the other hand, solid state gives you near perfect transient response throughout the usable bandwidth, with some ringing only on a capacitive load. Note that on a such a load the valve amp is actually working better than on a resistive load, hence the reason why they are deemed to work so well with electrostatic panels.
Harmonic distortion on the solid state amp is buried in the overall very low noise of the amp.
Read the whole review here: http://www.avhub.com.au/images/stories/australian-hifi/reviews/2013/2013-05/bryston_b135sst2_amplifier_review_test_lo-res.pdf
Both amps were deemed to be excellent on listening tests and the jury is still out there on which technology is better.
My particular taste in the way I like music reproduced is one leaning towards "realism" and "accuracy", rather than "musicality". In most cases I find the rendition of the music I listen to more satisfying on a good solid state amplifier.
But, as a journalist, I am interested in both technologies, and as a photographer, I am much more inclined to shoot valve porn than surgical solid state - although Dan D'Agostino gets my photographic juices flowing...
So without further ado, here are a few of these pictures taken at the Show
I hope you have enjoyed the journey through this Show review. Stay tuned as I am about to make a major announcement in the days to come. And yes, it might be a Christmas present for the lucky owners of Microphase speakers - hopefully some are still alive!!!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.