State-of-the-Art Digital

microstrip

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HiFi Critic June 2012 Review of Audio Note DAC 5th Element. Found it. Enjoy!


Conclusion from Martin Colloms:
"When this review was first proposed, my first reaction was hysterical laughter. UK houses cost a similar amount on average. How would a CD player like this sound in a complete system made up using comparably priced components? And what would such a system cost? A million pounds? I have tried to answer these questions by extrapolation and with an extensive set of listening sessions with a variety of audio components and listeners. But my basic task is to observe and report, and my finding is that this CD ‘transport’/DAC is outright marvellous, newly defining the inherent quality of Red Book digital audio, which can be so much better than we had imagined was possible. It poses the question: “Why has it taken a specialist valve audio manufacturer to achieve this after 30 years of highly informed digital engineering by the audio industry as a whole?” While there is some hi-res audio material now, it is also clear that CD has been potentially ‘hi-res’ all along, but we never truly experienced it. Instead we’ve suffered the distortions and masking of digital filters, op-amps, and accompanying digital noise, for all these years. While very few examples will be made and sold at such extravagant prices, we owe a debt to the Audio Note UK team for showing just what is possible. Here is a CD player which really can give high end analogue a run for its money."

This review was one of my disappointments with Martin Colloms - it was carried with a pair of Wilson Audio Sophia III. I owned a pair for some months and IMHO it is not up to level of being used in a review of a 2x96k GBP digital system. BTW, I also deeply disagree with his bizarre rating system. As always YMMV.
 

morricab

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This review was one of my disappointments with Martin Colloms - it was carried with a pair of Wilson Audio Sophia III. I owned a pair for some months and IMHO it is not up to level of being used in a review of a 2x96k GBP digital system. BTW, I also deeply disagree with his bizarre rating system. As always YMMV.
So, you think the Sophias are inadequate to hear the differences in DACs? Isn’t that a 20k speaker? Does this mean Wilson speakers below 50k are a bad value because they can’t reveal differences in DACs when IME many, many speakers from other brands at the price of Sophias can do so easily?
Or are you saying that DACs above a certain price are too high end to be evaluated on anything less than 100k speakers because one doesn’t hear “all” the DAC can deliver? Is that then relevant for a review where the reviewer is trying point out the salient performance features and sonic character. Do you think lesser speakers would mask this so thoroughly? That has not been my experience at all.
Your comments smack of a certain arrogance about what is good enough to be a reviewer’s tool.
 
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acousticsguru

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So, you think the Sophias are inadequate to hear the differences in DACs? Isn’t that a 20k speaker? Does this mean Wilson speakers below 50k are a bad value because they can’t reveal differences in DACs when IME many, many speakers from other brands at the price of Sophias can do so easily?
Or are you saying that DACs above a certain price are too high end to be evaluated on anything less than 100k speakers because one doesn’t hear “all” the DAC can deliver? Is that then relevant for a review where the reviewer is trying point out the salient performance features and sonic character. Do you think lesser speakers would mask this so thoroughly? That has not been my experience at all.
Your comments smack of a certain arrogance about what is good enough to be a reviewer’s tool.
Agree wholeheartedly: what’s most important is that the speakers are a known quantity. One of the reasons I don’t read audio reviews is that critics tend to make absolute statements about new gear when, paying close attention, it normally turns out the review component isn’t the only one swapped out in the system since the last review in the same category.

Greetings from Switzerland, David.
 

bonzo75

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This review was one of my disappointments with Martin Colloms - it was carried with a pair of Wilson Audio Sophia III. I owned a pair for some months and IMHO it is not up to level of being used in a review of a 2x96k GBP digital system. BTW, I also deeply disagree with his bizarre rating system. As always YMMV.

Why did you have Sophia's when you had the much bigger brethren?
 

microstrip

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So, you think the Sophias are inadequate to hear the differences in DACs? Isn’t that a 20k speaker? Does this mean Wilson speakers below 50k are a bad value because they can’t reveal differences in DACs when IME many, many speakers from other brands at the price of Sophias can do so easily?
Or are you saying that DACs above a certain price are too high end to be evaluated on anything less than 100k speakers because one doesn’t hear “all” the DAC can deliver? Is that then relevant for a review where the reviewer is trying point out the salient performance features and sonic character. Do you think lesser speakers would mask this so thoroughly? That has not been my experience at all.
Your comments smack of a certain arrogance about what is good enough to be a reviewer’s tool.
While you are commenting on prices I addressed sound type and sound quality. As usual you build your posts making abusive argumentation type "Or are you saying that ... " and make conclusions on it.

Some audiophiles seem to live on differences. They want to evaluate differences , not the global sound quality. Direct comparisons are their sport. I prefer a global approach on sound quality.

I have lived with the Sophia's a few months in an intermediate situation. They were not an easy speaker to match and for example, much inferior to the Watt/Puppies that could easily sound excellent. Although having punch their bass was very limited and in this review they were paired with a Krell/Audio Research preamplifier. IMHO the system would easily sound aggressive with such system in his room.

Well, I do not consider arrogance finding that in my experience a particular system was not adequate for evaluating a particular DAC. However I find arrogance when the people who pretend to know it all try to make abusive generalizations on my comments on a particular situation.

I have often praised Martin Colloms work in this forum. As always, I agree and disagree with him in many aspects.

I also appreciate a lot the new Sabrina, that has a very different sound balance than the Sophia's, but would also object if the Robert Hartley review of the Wadax Reference DAC was carried with them - fortunately he used the XVX with the subs.
 
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microstrip

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Agree wholeheartedly: what’s most important is that the speakers are a known quantity. One of the reasons I don’t read audio reviews is that critics tend to make absolute statements about new gear when, paying close attention, it normally turns out the review component isn’t the only one swapped out in the system since the last review in the same category.

Greetings from Switzerland, David.

We disagree on this point - I think that the speakers must have agreed sound quality and wide bandwidth to carry reviews of top equipment. BTW, I read reviews for information and entertainment, this is mostly an hobby!
 

microstrip

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Why did you have Sophia's when you had the much bigger brethren?
At that time (too many years ago...) I was selling a pair of Wilson Watt/Puppy as I was getting another used speaker for a nice price. A very good friend dreaming about my Wilson Watt's owned a pair of Sophia's and we made a nice deal. :)
 

morricab

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Apr 25, 2014
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While you are commenting on prices I addressed sound type and sound quality. As usual you build your posts making abusive argumentation type "Or are you saying that ... " and make conclusions on it.

Some audiophiles seem to live on differences. They want to evaluate differences , not the global sound quality. Direct comparisons are their sport. I prefer a global approach on sound quality.

I have lived with the Sophia's a few months in an intermediate situation. They were not an easy speaker to match and for example, much inferior to the Watt/Puppies that could easily sound excellent. Although having punch their bass was very limited and in this review they were paired with a Krell/Audio Research preamplifier. IMHO the system would easily sound aggressive with such system in his room.

Well, I do not consider arrogance finding that in my experience a particular system was not adequate for evaluating a particular DAC. However I find arrogance when the people who pretend to know it all try to make abusive generalizations on my comments on a particular situation.

I have often praised Martin Colloms work in this forum. As always, I agree and disagree with him in many aspects.

I also appreciate a lot the new Sabrina, that has a very different sound balance than the Sophia's, but would also object if the Robert Hartley review of the Wadax Reference DAC was carried with them - fortunately he used the XVX with the subs.

Now you are being absurd, Mirco. Martin Colloms makes his living (or at least part of it) on evaluating differences in gear...as well as global sound quality. He is a reviewer...that is what they are supposed to do (he is better at it than most). The evaluating differences is certainly possible with speakers like the Sophia (they aren't great but they are good enough for that purpose from the times I have heard them). For the global sound quality, well that is Martin's opinion on the where they fit into the global sound quality scheme of things and you are free to disagree with him on that. This will fit into his hierarchy and is somewhat dependent on his gear and experience with a wide range of gear in various circumstances...still it is only an opinion of his about their overall sound quality.

Yes, I stated prices because you state the price of the DAC first and obviously did so to indicate that Sophia speaker was "beneath" reviewing such expensive components...why else state the price?? I pointed out that the Sophia, while the entry of Wilson speakers, is by no means an entry level speaker. An owner should be able to upgrade components well beyond the price of the speaker and expect to hear the sound quality they have paid for. Thus my questions: If the Sophia isn't good enough what price in the Wilson structure will get you adequate resolution to hear what a very expensive source component will do? 50K? 100k?

From my experience, the speaker, if it has adequate resolution and low self-noise will be able to reveal the quality of gear way beyond it's own price. People would be amazed at what can be achieved from relatively modest speakers and top notch components/power control behind. It's only on this forum though that something like the Sophia can be considered a "modest" speaker. It would be considered expensive to most people I know in this hobby...affordable but a serious investment, nonetheless.

Neither it, nor anything in the Wilson line is my cup-o-tea, but I am at least well aware that a lot of differences can be easily heard when swapping components with them and probably a good idea on the overall sound quality is achievable as well. If this DAC left him gobsmacked compared to every other DAC he has tried in that system, it is a pretty good indication that it did something quite right. Now, would it be too soft in a less aggressive system (you are claiming his system could be aggressive, btw., not me)? Perhaps, but at least you get a good idea of the characteristics from his descriptions.

It is arrogance because I don't think you have heard that PARTICULAR system in his room to make the claims you are making. It's sad that you find someone challenging your assertions as abusive because this what you do with practically every post you make. If you don't like challenges then probably you should dial back on your own challenging posts.

Let's be clear, you claimed a system that was well over 50K was inadequate to perform a review on a DAC because in your view the speakers weren't good enough. I challenged this assertion by saying if 20K Wilsons weren't good enough then what was? Maybe Wilsons in general aren't good enough (so much for Michael Fremer's reviews then...)for reviewing? Where do we draw the line? The same designers were involved in Sophia as other models, right? It suggests they don't know their stuff if a 20k speaker can't perform at a high level. I simply point out to you the obvious implications of what it means if you are right and the Sophias are not good enough at that price level to be used as a reviewer's tool. It calls into question value and also sound quality further up the line.

A friend of mine had Wilson Duettes...they were horrible. He couldn't get them to sound right no matter what he did. Those I would definitely question their value but I can imagine that once one knew what they did you could still review with them as to relative differences you hear...judgements on absolute SQ might be out the window but they were still resolved enough to hear clear differences in gear, cables and power treatment (cords, filters, regenerators).
 

morricab

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Apr 25, 2014
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We disagree on this point - I think that the speakers must have agreed sound quality and wide bandwidth to carry reviews of top equipment. BTW, I read reviews for information and entertainment, this is mostly an hobby!
Agreed sound quality? Agreed by whom...? Surely you're joking Mr. Microstrip...
 

morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
4,877
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Switzerland
We disagree on this point - I think that the speakers must have agreed sound quality and wide bandwidth to carry reviews of top equipment. BTW, I read reviews for information and entertainment, this is mostly an hobby!
Top equipment? Judged how? By price...at least that is your clear implication from the Audio Note review...
 

Steve Vu

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Oct 26, 2020
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I do not need the speakers have the wide bandwidth. I only need the speakers have good sound quality from 30hz-20khz. That's enough that I can assess equipments.
 

audio1

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Jul 5, 2016
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Innuous Statement + Lampizator Pacific

Innuous Statement + MSB Select

SGM Extreme + Lampizator Pacific

SGM Extreme + MSB Select

What are some other state-of-the-art combinations of streamers and DACs?

How does one decide?

How did you decide?
Chord Dave, Mscaler and intel NUC running Roon Rock with optical connections and separate digital and analogue power supplies. Rob Watts is the only person doing digital correctly imho. The Dave and Mscaler use a long tap length reconstruction digital filter to reproduce transients correctly. The optical connection and separate power supplies prevent RFI causing noise floor modulation in the DAC and a bright fatiguing sound.
 

microstrip

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Now you are being absurd, Mirco. Martin Colloms makes his living (or at least part of it) on evaluating differences in gear...as well as global sound quality. He is a reviewer...that is what they are supposed to do (he is better at it than most). The evaluating differences is certainly possible with speakers like the Sophia (they aren't great but they are good enough for that purpose from the times I have heard them). For the global sound quality, well that is Martin's opinion on the where they fit into the global sound quality scheme of things and you are free to disagree with him on that. This will fit into his hierarchy and is somewhat dependent on his gear and experience with a wide range of gear in various circumstances...still it is only an opinion of his about their overall sound quality.

Yes, I stated prices because you state the price of the DAC first and obviously did so to indicate that Sophia speaker was "beneath" reviewing such expensive components...why else state the price?? I pointed out that the Sophia, while the entry of Wilson speakers, is by no means an entry level speaker. An owner should be able to upgrade components well beyond the price of the speaker and expect to hear the sound quality they have paid for. Thus my questions: If the Sophia isn't good enough what price in the Wilson structure will get you adequate resolution to hear what a very expensive source component will do? 50K? 100k?

From my experience, the speaker, if it has adequate resolution and low self-noise will be able to reveal the quality of gear way beyond it's own price. People would be amazed at what can be achieved from relatively modest speakers and top notch components/power control behind. It's only on this forum though that something like the Sophia can be considered a "modest" speaker. It would be considered expensive to most people I know in this hobby...affordable but a serious investment, nonetheless.

Neither it, nor anything in the Wilson line is my cup-o-tea, but I am at least well aware that a lot of differences can be easily heard when swapping components with them and probably a good idea on the overall sound quality is achievable as well. If this DAC left him gobsmacked compared to every other DAC he has tried in that system, it is a pretty good indication that it did something quite right. Now, would it be too soft in a less aggressive system (you are claiming his system could be aggressive, btw., not me)? Perhaps, but at least you get a good idea of the characteristics from his descriptions.

It is arrogance because I don't think you have heard that PARTICULAR system in his room to make the claims you are making. It's sad that you find someone challenging your assertions as abusive because this what you do with practically every post you make. If you don't like challenges then probably you should dial back on your own challenging posts.

Let's be clear, you claimed a system that was well over 50K was inadequate to perform a review on a DAC because in your view the speakers weren't good enough. I challenged this assertion by saying if 20K Wilsons weren't good enough then what was? Maybe Wilsons in general aren't good enough (so much for Michael Fremer's reviews then...)for reviewing? Where do we draw the line? The same designers were involved in Sophia as other models, right? It suggests they don't know their stuff if a 20k speaker can't perform at a high level. I simply point out to you the obvious implications of what it means if you are right and the Sophias are not good enough at that price level to be used as a reviewer's tool. It calls into question value and also sound quality further up the line.

A friend of mine had Wilson Duettes...they were horrible. He couldn't get them to sound right no matter what he did. Those I would definitely question their value but I can imagine that once one knew what they did you could still review with them as to relative differences you hear...judgements on absolute SQ might be out the window but they were still resolved enough to hear clear differences in gear, cables and power treatment (cords, filters, regenerators).
Thanks for such a long post to answer my points - unfortunately you are not addressing the audio points and focus on building conspirator theories against people and brands you do not like.

BTW1, inaccurately summarizing other people points is a poor strategy that can result in politics, not with me. My point was simple - IMHO the Sophia's were not adequate to perform such review of a top digital system, particularly considering the hyperbolic conclusions of the review. It is an opinion, only supported by my direct experience with the speaker in my and other people systems.

BTW2, why do you insist in debating in WBF like you are in a court aggressively trying to persuade the judge and jury?
 
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morricab

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Apr 25, 2014
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Thanks for such a long post to answer my points - unfortunately you are not addressing the audio points and focus on building conspirator theories against people and brands you do not like.

BTW1, inaccurately summarizing other people points is a poor strategy that can result in politics, not with me. My point was simple - IMHO the Sophia's were not adequate to perform such review of a top digital system, particularly considering the hyperbolic conclusions of the review. It is an opinion, only supported by my direct experience with the speaker in my and other people systems.

BTW2, why do you insist in debating in WBF like you are in a court aggressively trying to persuade the judge and jury?
Funny, if you bothered to read, I was actually defending the Sophia, in so far as it has adequate resolution to judge the quality of DACs...not exactly a conspiracy theory for a speaker brand I don't like (in your words).

Your point was clear and obvious...I didn't inaccurately summarize anything...I extrapolated what it means when you are correct that the Sophia is inadequate to review a top digital system (and you bothered to list the price of the DAC not me...clearly implying that it's price had something to do with being "top digital"). That's something different altogether.

I debate on WBG like a lot of others...I don't see you shying away from debate or controversy...
 

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