Best of the year 2012-2013 - page 11

Because my best DAC inside the Esoteric/APL Hifi
UX-1/NWO-M has no volume control, I ended up
with it and a Bakoon BPS-02 battery-powered
Audiophilleo 2 running into my trusted Bent Audio
Tap X autoformer volume control. That's a passive
of the highest caliber. Even so, make no mistake.
Between my four sources the sonic window of
variability or shift latitude was quite narrow. I
think that's because the amp/speaker interface
the dominant determinant on final sonics.
Here Manger not only fixed it for you but
optimized it beyond anything a passive speaker
with your choice of amp could duplicate. The
upshot is crystal. Should you not fancy the MSMs1
sound, any attempts at changing direction with
strategic source and preamp selection won't jump
the built-in track. Kismet, predeterminism and the
lot. But the inverse is just as true. Fancy the
MSMs1 and concerns over 'properly ambitious'
ancillaries are seriously alleviated too. The degree
of possible change or flavoring is quite small.
Again you won't jump tracks. That's why the name
of this game is
End game!
The end game reality is a function of engineering. At €13.200, the
intrinsically bi-amped actively filtered and equalized MSMs1 can't be trumped
equivalently priced combination of passive speaker and amps you
might come up with. Period. That's a very hurtful thing to audiophile pride
with its silly insistence on arbitrary mixing & (mis)matching without global
impedance standards. But it's a perfect thing for those who want guaranteed
turn-key success at a very high level. And one mustn't completely abstain
from audiophile tweaking either. While the whole active concept and XLR
interface spells pro audio and we-know-better attitude (on what really
matters), quick experiments with power delivery show that audiophiles know
a thing too. When I replaced Daniela Manger's long generic Swiss power cords
jacked directly into the wall with Crystal Cable equivalents tapping a GigaWatt
PC-3 SE Evo conditioner instead, bass weight, tone color intensity and general
The same audiophile know-how on preamps however—which in a traditional
passive speaker system can be surprisingly determinant—had to accept the
wisdom of saving money and kissing the breed good-bye*. This gets us to a
second end-game aspect. If one means to cap total system expense with a
pair of Mangers at €20.000, a €3.000 DAC like the Eximus with a €2.000 iMac
with Audirvana in integer/direct mode leaves about €2.000 for cabling and
sundry. With such elevated performance plus built-in flexibility to compensate
for placement, room conditions and listener tastes, that's very high value.
Twenty large
serious coin. But here are very significant returns too and
serious mitigation of the usual insecurities on whether goodness you heard
This is mere conjecture but musing why my preamps which usually are so
good with FirstWatt's SIT1 monos made such a bad showing here, I predict
that the built-in amps are quite complex multi-stage circuits with high
feedback. If more is less, such 'moreness' on the part of the amplifiers would
explain why preamps weren't welcome; and why a simple buffered attenuator
in a very good but not excessive D/A converter performed so much better.
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