Dave Lalin, New Jersey’s Audio Doctor, was here at NYAV12 showing all manner of things. Depending on how you count, this was the second room (with the Scaena room being first) and this one was chock full of KEF.
I first heard the KEF Blade in AXPONA in Jacksonville this year, having missed its annoyingly short one-day début at RMAF last fall.
Here, the room was significantly less wide than in Jacksonville. Not a good thing. Not a bad thing. Just a different thing — and I think it allowed the speakers to be a bit more precise in their imaging, actually.
Of course, there were no Hallographs at AXPONA. Hmm.
Whatever. The sound in this Audio Doctor room was big, enveloping, dynamic and grandly scaled. The Blade is a dramatic-looking speaker, and at $30k a pair, I suppose that’s warranted. Personally, I think the speaker looks as good as it sounds, but then, I’m a guy and an audiophile to boot, so don’t take my word for anything approaching a WAF guarantee.
Check out the $~12k Stillpoints ESS rack stuffed full of gear. On the bottom, there’s a pair of $32k (per pair) of Chord SPM 1400E mono block amps. Mid-bottom is the brand spanking new $23,500 Esoteric D02 DAC and the venerable-but-excellent $8,000 Manley Labs Steelhead phono preamp. One up from that finds the rest of the Steelhead sitting next to a $20k Chord CPA5000 preamp. On the top shelf, the analog signal came courtesy of a rubber-plinthed Merrill-Williams R.E.A.L. 101 turntable ($7,200 with the clamping package, $5,995 base; Dagogo review is here) mounted with the newest $5,800 Triplanar Ultimate tonearm and a $2,800 Lyra Kleos cartridge. Sitting next to that is the massive $25,000 Chord Red Reference MkIII CD player, here (occasionally) used as a transport into the big Esoteric DAC.
Kubala-Sosna provided all the cables. Running Springs did all the power conditioning. ASI Resonators and Shakti Hallographs were used throughout the room.
Maybe it’s just aesthetic, but I do like the angled clamping mechanism on Red Reference. Chord really seems to have mastered the “chunky” look — and that trademark “window” into the machine’s guts is a nice touch. Very definitely a top-shelf item here — that is, it’d be a damn shame to not have it sitting out where you can ogle it.
A rubber-plinthed turntable? Seriously? Well, yes. Pretty innovative, if almost obvious, way to deal with vibration. From the website, the plinth is “R.ubber E.lastomer A.coustic L.aminate”, so the product’s name is R.E.A.L. Real clever. Ahem. So, word-games aside, the value here is pretty incredible. Reference quality for $6k? Yeah, it seems so.
You know the best thing about this room? This setup I’ve talked about above? It was one of three that Dave and crew had setup — in this room. Which was great to see, right up until my last camera battery (this was the second of the backups) gave out. So, out came the trusty iPad 3. With no flash and a lousy ISO, it hung in there, so we’ll celebrate it’s perseverance and just make do with smaller images.
So, here’s the value system! Out in front is a pair of $5,000 KEF R900 speakers. A musical trio from Abbingdon Music Research provided all the back-end magic. In fact, the entire “affordable” line from AMR was on the table, the DP-777 DAC/processor, here used as a preamp, the AM-777 integrated amplifier, here used only for its amplificatory powers, and the CD-777 disc player, used as a transport. ASI cabling was used throughout. So, a total package of less than $25k (with cables), and the sound? Thrillingly good. Bass was stunning — and I mean that, I actually staggered a bit. Big drivers!
On the far end of the room was another reference-class system, starting with the big $20k KEF 207/2.
A $10k Chord CPA3000 preamp was matched to its sibling, the $14k Chord SPM650 amp.
Analog sounds came from a $3k Nottingham 294, mounted with an $1,800 w/12″ Space tonearm and a $1650 Lyra Delos cart. The new $2250 Manley Chinook brought that back to the preamp.
I didn’t get to hear this system, simply due to timing, but apparently the rotation through the three systems was pretty much continuous. My bad luck had me out of synch. Oh well. So, sadly, I had to miss out on the coolest thing in the room — which just happened to be in the rack on that last, unheard, system.
That would be the brand new, just released $15,500 EMM Labs DAC2 SE-X. A quick call into EMM Labs got the scoop. Here’s what Shahin Al Rashid, the Director of Sales over at EMM Labs, had to say about his prize new DAC:
The DAC2X is EMM Labs new reference digital to analog converter. Utilizing all of Ed Meitner’s award winning technologies and proprietary systems previously only available in the EMM Labs flagship XDS1 and implementing our latest generation of:
• MFAST™ asynchronous technology to completely get rid of source jitter
• MDAT™: 2xDSD (5.6Mhz) up-sampling DSP
• Reference MDAC™ dual differential discrete 5.6Mhz digital to analog converters coupled with our MCLK™ high-purity master clock system.
• A new USB and digital I/O implementation that further allows our system to accept high PCM sample rates and DSD streaming over USB.
DAC2X key features:
The DAC supports sampling rates of 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4 and 192kHz at word lengths up to 24 bits on all digital inputs (including USB):
- 1x EMM Optilink (connection to our reference CD/SACD transport the TSDX or to the TSD1 transport)
- 1x AES
- 1x USB
- 2x SPDIF
- 2x TOSLINK
The USB input further supports DSD over USB streaming using DoP 1.0 specification plus the capability in future to support even higher sample rates with a simple software update.
Simple to use. Nothing to configure. Just plug and play.
The USB input works seamlessly with Windows, OSX and Linux operating systems and complies with the USB Class 2 audio interface standard.
The EMM Labs reference DAC2X is currently shipping.