Brian Zolner of Bricasti Design is on something of a tear. Last year at AXPONA, Zolner introduced a new stereo amplifier and a new preamp/DAC — the latter earned a Best-in-Show nod. This year, to continue the roll out schedule, Zolner has introduced the Model 5 Network Player ($2,000US). It’s compact, it’s elegant, and most importantly, it works — really well.
The Bricasti M5 network player is a network interface and media renderer that connects to your server via a local area network. With wide support for DNLA and other popular network protocols, the M5 delivers pristine lossless audio from your network to your Digital to analog converter; your music server can go anywhere you choose. Connects to your LAN via Ethernet and Wi-Fi, with SPDIF, AES outputs supporting sample rates up to 192k PCM, DSD 64 and DSD 128 over USB.
Rumor has it that Roon support is on the horizon.
The M5 is clearly a corner-case product for Bricasti, and is targeted at those that are looking specifically for tech that will let them level-up their existing gear. Got a DAC you like, but it has no access to the network? No problem — the M5 is here. To be honest, the M5 reminds me quite a bit of the old USB-to-S/PDIF converters that computer audiophiles got very excited about 8 years or so ago, all cranked up to 2017 standards. Where things get interesting for Bricasti owners is that the tech is also available as an upgrade for M1 DAC owners — that is, send in your DAC and your check, and Bricasti will embed that M5 functionality (and a new input) into your M1. Check with Bricasti for details.
The M12 “Dual Mono Source Controller” ($15,995) continues to impress. The device includes the network functionality, which is Zolner’s favorite way to demo, as well as a DAC and an analog volume controller. Most DACs use a digital attenuator, and there are many purists that question whether this is the optimal choice. The main benefit of having the digital conversion elements separate from the volume control is two-fold: 1) there can be analog inputs that don’t need to be converted to digital and back again; 2) you can run DSD native decoding through it, without the need for a destructive ΔΣ chipset conversion. See the note from last AXPONA, above, about how flipping glorious that signal path can sound.
In the rack at this year’s AXPONA, I saw an M1 Limited Edition DAC ($15,000), easily recognizable from its gold face plate, above the “regular” award-winning M1 Special Edition DAC ($10,000). The newly updated M28 monoblock amplifiers ($15k each) framed the recently released M15 stereo amplifier ($18,000).
Loudspeakers were a pair of gorgeously dipped-in-liquid-ink diamond-tweeter Piano Diacera G2 from Tidal. Cabling was from Oyaide. Stillpoints provided the isolation.
This room was truly excellent, both in form and in function. One of my favorites. The inviting warmth, the clarity, the precision and impact of the system left me with chills.