RMAF 2018: Wavelength Audio, Vaughn Loudspeakers, AudioQuest

Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio continues to be innovative and a much sought-after designer.  This year’s Wavelength room at RMAF was sublime.  There were two big news items but I want to talk to one device in particular that is still in development but it is one that I believe can have a big impact on the current world of computer audio.  This is Gordon’s latest device, the “Spacelator.”

To set the context properly, think of a typical modern home today.  You have all sorts of noisy devices from computers to NAS drives to TV to wifi on the network.  On top of this, your power itself has high-frequency noise everywhere.

According to Gordon, there are basically two potential fixes: create a better ethernet hub or a better ethernet switch.  Gordon made up some samples of a design for each but found they just did not do enough to isolate the noise.  Gordon had actually designed the first 100MB ethernet while working on a project with Western Digital.  At Western Digital, they had problems linking between four buildings on the campus.  The solution for that was to build an ethernet repeater where the input and output (both sides) of ethernet were isolated.  Gordon figured that would work well in the Spacelator.  To do this, however, it has to be a powered device because you need two very low noise power supplies.  Then you can reclock the ethernet signal and have two sonic advantages: lower noise and lower jitter.  So the Spacelator will help “squash noise” on any ethernet card by acting as an active filter of sorts on the ethernet cable coming from a router.  I am really looking forward to trying this on the PS Audio Network Bridge I have at home.

The second big new item was Gordon’s update of his Cosecant and Crimson DACs.  Gordon has done a couple of improvements.  He’s moved the chip from an ESS9018 to an ESS9038 which he feels is a vast improvement in sound quality and it also allows DOP automatically.  Second, he has made some board changes to move the USB and DAC modules closer together for optimal design.  Gordon has created a $3,500 Cosecant that weighs around 8 lbs and a $9,000 Crimson which weighs 35 lbs.  The Crimson has direct-heated triodes which Gordon says noticeably improves staging and dynamics.  Gordon is also using a new XMOS chip, the MU200, which is faster, lower in noise, and has better output.

These digital sources were heard with the plasma tweeter speakers sounded just wonderful, a true show highlight.  Gordon added a third subwoofer this year which he felt fleshed out the sound very well.  Very musical from top to bottom and very good sound-staging.  Wavelength Audio yet again, for me some five or so years in a row, had a great sounding room.

The system as heard:

  • Computer Audio Setup: MacBook Pro Retina 15 16G/480GSSD Thunderbolt to a 4T Drobo SSD 4T RAID array library and Qnap 4T SSD NAS
  • USB DACS: Crimson 71A ($9000 msrp) or Cosecant HS3x Quotient FPGA DoP/PCM DAC module ($3500 msrp) connected using the Curious USB cable and the AudioQuest Diamond.
  • Preamplifier: AudioQuest Sky analog cables from the Crimson output to the Sine v6 directly heated triode line preamplifier, fully tube regulated. Showing with all silver transformers ($7500 copper, silver as shown $15,000 msrp).
  • Amplifiers: From the output of the Sine we use the AudioQuest Sky interconnects to the new limited edition all silver Napoleon Ag Silver $35,000 pair (or the new Duet v5 stereo 300B amplifier $5000 standard, deluxe wood front with inlay as show $5500). These are connected via the AudioQuest K2 speaker cables.
  • Speakers: The Vaughn Loudspeakers Plasma Signature use the historic Dukane Plasma tweeters with a Fostex Dipole midrange and powered subwoofers rolling in under 60Hz. $20,000 pair.
  • Extra subwoofer $3000. MJ Acoustic Kensington dual 10” Subwoofer with IOS Bluetooth remote with presets $3995.
  • Power by AudioQuest Niagara 7000 and Niagara 1000.

New Wavelenth Audio products that were introduced at the show:

  • Duetto v5 – Stereo 300B amplifier 8W
  • Cosecant HS3x – 32/384 DoP/DSD64/128 ES9038 USB DAC
  • Crimson HS3x – 32/384 DoP/DSD64/128 ES9038 USB DAC
  • Ethernet Spacelator – Hybrid NOS latter 24/96 USB DAC Ethernet active triple isolated reclocker.

About Lee Scoggins 118 Articles
A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Lee got interested in audio listening to his Dad’s system in the late 70s and he started making cassettes from LPs. By the early 80s he got swept up in the CD wave that was launching which led to a love of discs from Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs. Later while working on Wall Street in the 90s, Lee started working on blues, jazz and classical sessions for Chesky Records and learned record engineering by apprenticeship. Lee was involved in the first high resolution recordings which eventually became the DVD-Audio format. Lee now does recordings of small orchestras and string quartets in the Atlanta area. Lee's current system consists of Audio Research Reference electronics and Wilson Audio speakers.

1 Comment

  1. Wavelength DACs are, in a totally unexaggerated use of the phrase, some of the most underappreciated DACs out there. The new Brick should be on anyone’s list of things to try in that price range.

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