An Instagram post surfaced yesterday that seemed to show a prototype Audio Note UK ladder DAC. Having had exposure to R2R DACs previously, I was familiar with how impressive, and immensely human their sound was, so naturally I had to find out if what I was seeing was indeed an Audio Note prototype.
I shot a quick note to Audio Note UK’s main man Peter Qvortrup this morning to see if he could give us some more information, and he very kindly got back to me with some answers. Here’s our conversation, and I will be following up further with him in the coming weeks with more details.
RA: Peter, I’ve just seen a photo of what’s been described to me as an Audio Note discrete ladder DAC … This is something that has been whispered about and claimed to exist for more than two years, and would seem as rare as hens teeth, what can you tell me?
PQ: Rocking horse shit more like, we are still investigating, prototyping and listening, the R2R ladder technology is throwing up a number of interesting possibilities and I want them all thoroughly investigated before we launch anything, as you know we always work this way.
RA: Can you quickly tell me if this prototype is indeed destined for production?
PQ: No, this prototype is unlikely to end up as a finished product, it is much too early to say what the actual finished product will look like.
RA: I’m somewhat familiar with the expense involved not only with parts, but with the time-consuming labor in R2R dac production, is it true you’ve been able to automate part of this process?
PQ: It is correct that we have developed a resistor-matching machine, which, when fully operational, will be able to match pairs of resistors to a 0.0001% tolerance, now whether this close a tolerance proves necessary remains to be seen.
RA: I’d heard the 3.1x level would be the lowest model that could be equipped with an R2R, is that accurate?
PQ: The plan is to bring the sonic benefits of the R2R ladder technology as far down the product line as possible, I was actually hoping to make a DAC2.1x Signature/R2R but I am often too optimistic!
RA: What’s the thinking behind this possible move to an R2R for higher-end DAC models in the AN UK lineup? Is the sound quality increase just that good?
PQ: So far the improvements possible with a properly designed R2R ladder have proven to be very considerable, so yes all the better DACs should be equipped with an R2R ladder once we have got a proper overview of the various quality to cost relationships the technology offers.
Many thanks to Peter for his time.