Doug White of The Voice That Is is a perennial all-star in this industry. As a dealer he’s exemplified what it means to be a curator of sound. To have his own stamp of approval on a product (meaning Doug carries it) is to say something profound about your abilities as a product designer. As an exhibitor, there are are less than a handful of people who can tackle the hostile architectural environments of hotel spaces across the country, and end up with the same show winning sound at every single one of them.
History unfolded, we’re back at it. Capital Audio Fest wouldn’t be what it is today without The Voice That Is showing us how it’s done, and no different are we witnessing it again at Capital Audio Fest 2021. Along with the help from Michael Vamos of Audio Skies, the duo have assembled a showstopper of a system, built from the master works of brands such as TIDAL, Ideon, Siltech, Computer Audio Design (CAD), Equitech, and Ictra Design
The anticipation for an upcoming audio show usually builds somewhat blindly a month or so out from the actual show date. Different as this two years has been since our last Capital Audio Fest, with audio shows on hiatus or fading away all together, our excitement is duly informed several months in advance as Doug White and Michael Vamos had originally planned to put on this exact exhibition in the confines and comfort of Doug’s The Voice That Is showroom in Philadelphia PA.
Unsure at the time if Capital Audio Fest 2021 was even going to take place, as the date neared so did the logic of holding a press only event on site at the show. The big to-do all about Ideon Audio‘s new flagship Absolute ε (Epsilon) DAC suite of complementary components, which include the Absolute Stream server, and Absolute Time re-clocker.
The Voice That Is system was dialed in on Thursday night, with a full day of Friday’s audio show attendees dropping-jaw under its belt, Doug’s system was primed and ready for Saturday’s pre-show listening event. All that had to be done was make sure there was no remaining drool on the floor from the day before. Michael Vamos given the stage, he guides us through the philosophy of design that embodies the Absolute ε stack at every corner of its build.
The first being about Ideon Audio itself, a boutique digital audio manufacturer, using proprietary in-house designs — the goal being to rebuild the absolute best musical performances possible. The Absolute Suite as it’s called, is based on accuracy and time.
Starting with the Absolute ε DAC, an eight channel conversion path, a 15-Ohm output impedance followed by an insane -140dB signal-to-noise ratio. It’s own available internal reclocking and dedicated clock PSUs. Proprietary active bridging circuits to cut down on noise infiltration, alongside discrete power throughout 16 regulators, with a capacitor-free direct coupled output stage. Everything about this feature set and build screams “coming through, now get out of the way.”
Absolute Time represents in the suite an upgraded everything. Billed as a no-holds-barred USB and S/PDIF reclocker (and reviving platform). Taking the idea of re-clocking that much further by separating inputs, overbuilding control devices that monitor and correct phase, jitter, and noise. Firmware for this device is entirely in-house from Ideon. Power is sizable, low noise, and tiple-staged for reserve. Low ESR silk capacitors throughout, meaning less power loss and heating issues. One can get carried away with specs, but it’s worth diving into when talking clocking.
Absolute Stream, the middle box in our showroom stack, is all about rendering. More than a computer tweaked to play music, it comes with its own playback software and can operate with most popular program-players. Real-time core playback is bolstered by Ideon’s future proof phase correction and femtoclock (found in all of the Ideon Absolute boxes), again with discrete power and active bridging circuits, more low ESR caps, and power control for days. It’s also Roon (and more) ready.
All of this digital goodness would be for nothing if not connected to a stereo system built with the same fanatical attention to detail and problem solving. The Voice That Is supplied the rest, and most notable were the still young TIDAL Prisma preamplifier (reviewed by Dave McNair, linked here) and the decidedly new TIDAL Intra amplifier which shares the same size cabinet as the Prisma preamplifier and TIDAL Camira DAC.
The new TIDAL Intra was being shown in North America for the first time at Capital Audio Fest, and in some ways, probably went unnoticed by some and possibly even fooled a few listeners, but I’ll dive into that deception later. Built the same as any of TIDAL’s amplification devices, it aims to provide the purest amplification of the musical signal without adding color or concealment of details. A successor of the TIDAL Impulse, this small wonder might come across as a multi-channel amplifier. It’s more.
The new Intra is a stereo amplifier, that contains two physically divided stereo amplifier modules, built like a dual mono power amplifier. Configured for stereo operation, the listener is using only one channel per module, per speaker side. Dedicating each module and power supply for that module, to just one channel of music. Other configurations for this amplifier could be implemented to use two channels per speaker for passive or active bi-amping. Currently this amplifier is under review by Dave McNair, so more insight and eye-popping details are to come.
Speakers were of the TIDAL Contriva 20th Anniversary limited edition make, featuring TIDAL diamond tweeters and much of the same driver technology from across the model range above in the TIDAL speaker line. To buy TIDAL is to buy the right size speaker for your application, and expect the same delivery of sonic magic at each level.
Rounding out the exhibit system, cables from Siltech sourced from their Classic 880 series. With the support for the system coming way of Ictra Design Proto-AS rack, and power and ground handled by Computer Audio Design GC3 and GC1 ground controls, with an Equitech 2RQ Balanced Power Conditioner (a pro industry must have) taming the wall-born signal.
It’s TIDAL — what do you want me to say? Pure from end to end, the character of the Siltech Cables and Ideon Absolute ε DAC are the only thing shining through. What’s amazing is that I’ve heard TIDAL systems installed by Doug White at audio shows for many years now, and this system left nothing behind from past visits. New entry level electronics from TIDAL at play, with what could be considered the state-of-the-art in DAC design at the helm, and it was as gorgeous and complete as ever.
If you were there this past weekend you know, and you also know how difficult it is to describe systems that toil in absolute perfection. What’s more, the fact that the new Intra amplifier is based on modules and not the traditional topology TIDAL is known for, speaks volumes about the abilities of the company to achieve near perfection at every attempt.
TIDAL Contriva 20th Anniversary LE Speakers
TIDAL Prisma Preamplifier
TIDAL Intra Amplifier
Ideon Absolute ε (Epsilon) DAC
Ideon Absolute Stream Server
Ideon Absolute Time Reclocker
Siltech Classic 880 Series Cables
Computer Audio Design (CAD) GC3 and GC1 Ground Controls
Equitech 2RQ Balanced Power Conditioner
Ictra Design Proto-AS Rack
Contact: The Voice That Is for pricing and availability information at www.thevoicethatis.com
For more Capital Audio Fest 2021 coverage—CLICK HERE!