DarTZeel. For me, the name screams “high-end”. The gear is bespoke in the highest degree — big gold face plate and crimson sides. A honking big knob, some big oh-shit handles, and a sound that is universally praised. The prices are eye-watering, but if you can play at that level, you’re getting top-shelf performance.
So, it’s always fun to run across DarTZeel at shows. Here, Sound By Singer‘s Andrew Singer assembled his second audio den, this one centered around the $22,500 CTH-8550 integrated amplifier. With nine inputs paired to a dual-mono preamplifier, this wünderkind is good for 200wpc into 8ohms (330 into 4ohms).
The front end of this system was another unit from Playback Designs, this one, the $8,500 MPS-3. This is one of the few DACs (or SACD players) that can successfully convert DSD files into analog sound.
File playback and storage came courtesy of a rather unassuming music server, tucked away on the bottom shelf. Yep, just a vanilla Mac Mini with a firewire-attached drive for storage. There are many “out there” on the wild Internets that will swear to the efficacy, or rather, the requirement for esoteric file servers as necessary for good audio playback. I’ll address this later, but a five-minute conversation with digital audio pioneer Dr. Rob Robinson of Channel D will put to bed an entire encyclopedia of misinformation.
The speakers in the room are from Kudos, the Cardea C30. These $11k speakers are from a British brand that is relatively unknown in the US, but is making something of a beachhead. I expect we’ll see and hear quite a bit more of this brand over the next year or so.
Nice custom phase plug. 😉
Timing being everything, I didn’t get as much time in this room as I might have wanted. What I was able to hear was delicate, refined, and quite detailed. Nice punch. Good dynamics. I liked it, but I really got to hear it cranking away only once — this room was not playing music when the Verity/VAC demo was running in the room next door.
But I did get to chat with Dr Rob, who is something of a whiz. Something. Well, what he is, is a fountain of information — and he will happily hold forth. More interestingly, he really seems to want to help us understand how to get our computers sounding good. Luckily, it’s not as hard as you might think — but that’s an entirely different and separate conversation.
Rob pushed tunes to the system by way of a laptop wirelessly connected to the Mac Mini in the rack, and so was able to show off the various features, and impact of those features, found within his Pure Music computer playback software. He’s pictured below, discussing computer playback with a show-goer.
Andreas Koch, the designer of the Playback Designs hardware, posed (below) for this nosy interloper’s impromptu photo op. He participated in the seminar on high res audio, which I missed, so I have to take Michael Lavorgna’s word for it that his head didn’t explode when Rob confessed that he prefers to listen to vinyl.