CAF 2013: Merrill Audio, Sanders Sound Labs, Channel D

Merrill Wettasinghe, the eminently affable man behind Merrill Audio, was showing off a quartet of his Veritas mono blocks ($6,000 each), driving a pair of Sanders ESL loudspeakers, obviously biamping them. The Veritas amps feature the new Ncore modules from Hypex, and as far as this writer is concerned, these amps may well define the high-water mark for Class D audio as it stands. The amps make a very linear presentation, with tons of detail. Interestingly (perhaps?), there’s also air and deep bass. In fact, the presentation is pretty consistent across the band. There’s not a lot of bloom, however, so if you’re a fan of Dan D’Agostino’s work, this may be totally your cuppa. Very interesting work here, and some of the most interesting going on in audio’s high-end today. Me? I like ’em.

Not sure about the pairing with the big Sanders panels, which always tended to the lean side of things as it is, but I can certainly appreciate the speed, precision and detail this room was putting out. Again, if this is your thing, you were in for an electrifying ride (and yes, I mean that in a “good way”).

Dr Rob Robinson of Channel D was running the demos through Pure Vinyl and a Lynx Hilo mulit-channel DAC into his brand-new Seta Buffer stage, an ingenious device that radically tackles what I think may well be the biggest oversight in DAC manufacture today — the output stage. With a vanishingly high input impedance and a vanishingly low output impedance, the Buffer not only can sort out some grievous oversights in component design (much more common than you’d think), it adds a very clever twist — extremely high-quality analog attenuation. But setting a fixed resistor in the signal path, you can enable your DAC’s digital volume control to stay in its “sweet spot” and not drop any necessary, valuable, audible bits in its function. Suffice it to say that a 24bit file, played through a 24bit DAC chip, has already lost all manner of bits (and therefore, lost detail, pitch and tone) at your normal (non-unity) listening volumes. With the Buffer, you can stay much closer to “home” where the DAC chip is dropping the fewest bits possible, and hopefully keeping that loss well outside of your audible window. The new model also has the option to set that resistor to “zero” for a “bump on the wire” implementation, if you’d like to completely pass on the attenuation. Another new feature — the Buffer can take balanced inputs and pass balanced out, but it can also send that signal on via single-ended RCA outputs. High-end DAC into your SET amps? Guess who’s going to try that trick as soon as I can arrange it? Anyway, if you’re running your amps DAC-direct/”preamp free”, you need to check out the Buffer. Do it. Do it now.

About Scot Hull 1063 Articles
Scot started all this back in 2009. He is currently the Publisher here at PTA, the Publisher at The Occasional Magazine, and the Executive Producer at The Occasional Podcast. There are way too many words about him over on the Contributors page.

1 Comment

  1. Dr Rob was very helpful in explaining some options and features of my Pure Music player that I wasn’t aware of – already being so happy with the incredible improvement I had achieved with memory play on & all other options blanked out. He was naturally cautious of any major release reveals, but let’s just say exciting things still seem to be in the works! They don’t sit on their laurels. Learning more about Channel D software in general, and the conversation with the good doctor, we’re alone well worth the trip. So sorry windows guys – the answer to that seemed to be a pretty emphatic no – emphatic here being a polite smile and head shake.

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