The music comes from the laptop (JRiver) and runs via pure USB silver cable to a digital-to-digital converter (DDC). The USB power supply from the laptop is cut and generated by a low-noise power supply unit. An Audioquest Jitterbug in parallel and one in the signal path reduce Jitter. The DDC is integrated into JRiver via a driver and converts the USB signal into SPDIF using bulk transfer. From the DDC it goes via pure silver cable to the Audio Optimum NOS-DAC, from there via pure silver cable to the Symphonic Line RG10 MK IV Reference amplifier. The Martion Bullfrog speakers and the Meier Corda Classic headphone amplifier are controlled via high-quality copper cables. A Sennheiser HD 660s is currently used as headphones. The power supply for the system was laid separately via special fuses, and the system is filtered using different methods such as a filter strip, filtered power cable and isolating transformer.
For things that are very important to me, I like to take it to the extreme within my means. For me it is mainly two things, music (listening) and photography. I count filming with photography because the basic things are the same. Film is nothing more than a series of pictures, and a child's face sparkling with joy during a performance is just as important to me as a picture as it is with an event film. Both have their own charm and complement each other wonderfully, e.g. at a wedding.
Other hobbies came and went, but were never so important that I could not imagine life without them. Photography developed early on into a kind of addiction and from my first good camera I rarely left home in my free time. But this is supposed to be about music.
Listening to music has been with me since I was born. As the youngest of five children and three teenage siblings, our Grundig music box ran a large part of the day and played the typical music of the 1960s. The music box also had a record player and my siblings were happy to invest their pocket money in new records. I was particularly influenced by the second phase of the Beatles, which I still enjoy listening to today.
Many LPs and singles accumulated over the years and my youngest sister (3.5 years older) wanted a "good" turntable from Dual for confirmation. The old records were of course no longer allowed to be played on it. At the age of 10 I inherited about 60 LPs and a lot of singles, which I then heard about the music box as I wanted. It was mainly music from the 1960s and I never really got used to the latest hits at school.
When I was 16, I put together my first "better" system. Turntables and amplifiers from Universum and DIY speakers. Then I could afford the first "good" speakers from Pioneer (used HPM-70) and in 1984 the first CD player from ITT - I was pretty well positioned and the first with a CD player in my circle of friends.
Now I started to sit down in front of the system and listen music. A few years later, I invested in an amplifier from Sony (TA-707 ES) and Focal (Onyx) speakers. Through my second path of education I could not afford anything new for many years, just buy CDs as far as the funds were enough. In my time in Berlin shortly after reunification, listening to music developed as my favorite hobby and many cheap CD shops and flea markets enabled me to stay on the ball even with little money. I was also very lucky with my two-person flat share, my landlord was often not at home and the house had very thick walls. Listening out loud wasn't a problem and it sounded pretty good to my ears.
After my education as technician in Berlin, I was back in wages and bread and after a few years things went up financially. I had my key high-end experience in the late 1990s. My wife received a visit from a former work colleague and her boyfriend saw my system, wanted to listen and said that you could get more out of it in terms of sound. He had been dealing with high-quality hifi for quite some time and luckily the visit lasted a few days. The next day, with the blessing of my girlfriend (and today's wife), we completely changed the living room to create ideal conditions for the stereo system. In the course of this, the cable lengths for the loudspeakers could be significantly reduced and the system sounds much better. I invested money in better cabling (MIT) for the first time and every step was easy to hear.
Then I thought I had to have new speakers and spent weeks walking through the hifi stores until I found my dream speaker at that time, Hales Revelation 3. I was able to listen to music on my favorite CDs for an hour undisturbed in the "HiFi Mile" in Hanover and was completely surprised - I had never heard such a sound before and now the high-end virus had finally attacked me.
Luckily, my work went very well at that time and so the Hales R3 were at home a few months later, the Focal Onyx was bought by a friend. Only it didn't really sound better and I had to painfully realize that loudspeakers can only reproduce what comes in at the front. In the HiFi Mile, the Hales ran over a sinfully expensive chain by Mark Levinson with cabling for the price of a small car with the best room acoustics and power conditioning (isolating transformers). At that time, late 1990s, CD players mostly sounded very sterile and cold, which is why "real" high-enders have stayed true to record players for a long time. At that time, Mark Levinson was one of the few manufacturers who built CD players close to the sound quality of high-quality record players.
My next investment was a high-quality CD player from Sony (CDP-50 ES), which Haegermann Audiolabs continued to tune over the next few years and sounded pretty brilliant in the end. Moving opened new possibilities in terms of room acoustics, since I now had my own music room in the basement. Things got really good in terms of room acoustics after spending several hours at Phonosophie in Hamburg and Ingo Hansen sketching out how he would set up the system. Actually, I was interested in an amplifier, but then only new NF cables became. In the HiFi Mile I bought a used Mark Levinson power amplifier (ML 27). After a few months with this amplifier from Mark Levinson, who never really got me excited, I tried my Sony TA 707 ES again and found that it came very close in terms of sound. Now the ML was only connected via the controllable output stage of the Sony CDP-50, with a pre-stage from ML the whole thing would certainly have been significantly better. Well, I sold the ML and after many listening sessions in various hifi stores I bought an RG 10 MK III from Symphonic Line. That was a different number and my system made a big leap in sound.
The next on my plan were better cables, I was still listening with the cables from Phonosophie and MIT. Then I drove into the HiFi Mile and as a good customer I got four sets of high-quality (well-rehearsed) NF + LS connectors. But none of the cable sets sounded so much better and internally I pushed very expensive cables into the voodoo corner. But it didn't leave me in peace and in a STEREO (magazine) I came across cables from Jürgen Hensler (JH88) and so I made contact with Jürgen and was able to compare his skillful cables with those of the HiFi Mile. Even the above-mentioned set from MIT had no sound against the JH88 and I brought the cables back and ordered the JH88 (NF + LS). Also expensive but incredibly cheap in terms of performance. From this point on I would call my system a high end system and I had reached the level I had heard in the HiFi Mile years ago with my Hales. At any rate at various hifi trade fairs, I could no longer hear any system that matched my sound at home. Good, under fair conditions. At home some of the systems would have played much better and surely surpassed my system.
I was pretty happy and listened to this system for years. An update of my amplifier by Rolf Gemein brought another significant boost and in 2005 we bought our house, also from a sound point of view. The living room had very good room acoustics, but two levels, so I had little space for the speakers in terms of listening distance. It sounded better than in the previous house but the hales were actually too big and very bass-heavy when placed close to the wall. I spent a long time tinkering with the speakers and got a good grip on the Hales.
At the "World of Hifi" 2007 in Hanover I listened to a lot of chains with a friend, but I was only impressed by an invaluable system from MBL (radial radiator) and a small, cheap system with speakers from Martion called Bullfrog. Even though we were only at the back in the completely overcrowded room, it sounded like a live concert. Holger Barske from STEREO magazine demonstrated tube electronics and records and Johnny Cash suddenly sat there and gave "One" to the best. I then went to Mr. Martion and we talked for a while. Actually, I wanted to put money into a new CD player again, but Mr. Martion advised me to deal with hi-fi via computers. I did and at that time I had contact with the newly founded online magazine fairaudio based on a reader report from me (topic room acoustics), which offered me a test.
For fairaudio I tested one of the first USB converters, the PS Audio Digital Link DL III, and in fact it came very close to my CD player from Sony. After comparing several DACs, I decided to buy an Aqvox DAC that I listened to for a long time and the CD player was sold. Then I read about the JRiver audio software, which made my computer hi-fi jump again and a first better USB cable from Wireworld brought further clear advantages in terms of sound. It got even better with the MyDDC (SE) from Aqvox, which performs a reclocking and passes the signal on to the DAC via coax. This works so well because the MyDDC is integrated into JRiver using special drivers (ASIO) via the Musiland software and generates a very pure signal. The converter thus receives an exactly clocked signal, almost jitter-free. It was already clearly audible on the Aqvox and I also operated the iDSD Micro from iFi because it sounded much better than directly via USB.
In 2012 I borrowed high-quality headphones from Audezé, the LCD-2. A friend of mine brought the Sennheiser HD800 and we compared for hours, the Audezé was better, so I bought this great headphone. Now I almost only heard through headphones and my speakers felt too unbalanced, probably also due to the small distance to the wall and listening distance. A multi-way system, where the speakers are not in a central point, always needs a little more distance so that all sounds from the different speakers arrive at the ears at the same time. The human ear perceives irregularities in the timeliness was very quickly negative.
Since the Bullfrog never got out of my head, I made an appointment with Mr. Martion. As a coaxial system, the Bullfrog are a point sound source (timely reproduction) and are considered to be very uncritical of the installation. The appointment was still a few months in the future, so I looked in parallel for used Bullfrogs and found something after a while. I drove there and they sounded nice on a really not very high quality system. I dared to take it with me. After a few hours of correct alignment and warming up, they just sounded stunning and I didn't think such a sound was possible in our home. In the first few times I compared the LCD-2 again and again, both were identical in terms of tonality, only the speakers brought much more space. At some point I hardly heard any more with headphones, I sold them again in 2015 and put lots of money into my system over the years. Another better USB cable, a better coax cable, a new DAC, two more updates of my RG10 from Symphonic Line. Every step could be heard significantly.
I still met the appointment with Mr. Martion and wrote a reader report on it at fairaudio (2012). At trial hearings in Berlin, I met the extremely likeable Mr. Martion, was with him again two days one year later, and in 2017 I met him at a house fair in Lemgo with Klangmeister. After the house fair there was the opportunity to speak with him and Joachim Gerhard (Audio Physik, Sonics, Suesskind) for an hour. Very nice!
At the end of 2018 I read a report in one of my online hi-fi newspapers about a "Non Oversampling Digital-Analog-Converter" from Audio-Optimum, the NOS-DAC 2. I have been reading about this type of converter again and again for a few years I had a mental check mark in my head: If I win the lottery ... Well, the company Audio-Optimum is based in Recklinghausen (Germany) and its main business is the construction of active studio monitors. The developer Stefan Wehmeier was not satisfied with the sound of conventional converters and developed his own DAC based on the Philips TDA1543 converter chip, the NOS-DAC. This chip is also used in other highly praised converters, such as the CAD DAC 1543 from Computer Audio Design.
The NOS-DAC 2 from the test has several inputs, a headphone jack and preamplifier to drive your own speakers excellently. An interface is also required between the PC and the DAC so that the converter receives a signal that is as jitter-free as possible. I already had that and so the NOS-DAC (1) without preamplifier and headphone jack seemed to be ideal for a test in my system. I got in touch with the company CM-Audio, which distributes the products from Audio-Optimum and offers non-binding tests. Big praise to CM-Audio, it doesn't get any better and after a short vote, the test package was at home. First of all function test - iFi off and NOS-DAC on = running. A brief auditory impression of the DACs, which were delivered when the temperatures were clearly below zero, was not yet a revelation, but it sounded different from the iFi. So fire up two hours with input signals and then listen again. Oh, a new world is opening up! After a few hours of intensive listening, it was clear to me that this small, heavy guy had to stay - there can no longer be a return to the iDSD Micro.
The next day I had the opportunity to listen to an hour in the evening and the sound got even better. With components or cables that have already been imported, I always count on three days until they have completely "arrived", with new devices / cables it often takes a long time to reach the final level. For the coming weekend I was able to schedule a long evening of music because my wife had "girls evening". In the meantime, I just left the DAC on and on Saturday morning I started warming up together with the other components. I only switch off the final stage anyway, the preliminary stage always stays on.
What is a NOS DAC? This DAC works without the usual oversampling and avoids the problems that arise, which should lead to a more natural sound comparable to the record, so the advocates of this principle. Why and how the up-clocking of the signals was created can be read in great detail on the homepage of Audio-Optimum.
The decision was actually made on the first evening but now after three days the NOS-DAC should pass its baptism of fire. The ifi iDSD Micro was controlled with low jitter via SPDIF and was really good with an external power supply and top cabling, but only the NOS-DAC from Audio-Optimum shows what can be done from a profane office PC without any modifications. Well, the PC is original, but the distance from the PC to the DAC alone (together with the Jitterbug) costs almost exactly a thousand euros.
First, I would like to go back to the chain idea. A stereo system can only sound as good as the weakest thing in the system allows. Even if I don't see any weak things in my system at the moment, there will definitely be "things" that are even stronger. I want to make it clear that the NOS-DAC currently only shows what is possible under the current conditions.
If I had won the lottery and bought the CAD DAC 1543 for € 9,000, I would have been anything but disappointed with this performance and would have had the € 9,000 seen as an excellent investment. In forums I found hints that the NOS-DAC should even sound superior to the CAD DAC 1543.
The first thing you notice about the sound is the significantly higher differences between the recordings. Some recordings sound similar to what I know, but in no way worse. Significant differences can be heard in most recordings. I just ran my favorites list in random order, I know all the recordings very well and I listen to these songs partly since I was a child. At first I deliberately did not play "reference recordings" to hear it "beautifully", but simply crossed it. Depending on the image, the spatiality increases even more with a sharper localization. I have not yet noticed many small set pieces in the individual songs in the form and the music fills the space with playful ease. Next, I chose songs that I rarely listened to beforehand due to tonal reasons and sometimes experienced real (positive) surprises. Reference songs are then a dream and I almost imperceptibly stop breathing so that I don't miss a tiny nuance.
Now the NOS-DAC does not make any difference and of course it cannot make a reference sound out of a bad sound. It should actually not do anything with the recording, but rather reproduce it in a genuine way. He does that and it leads to significantly less stress, even with poorer recordings, which happens at certain volumes and I like to hear loudly. This stress arises, I guess at any rate, when sounds no longer correspond to reality due to unnatural change. Have you heard a live concert (without amplifier) very close to the musicians and the trumpeter almost blows your ears away? Or a saxophone player in the pedestrian zone? A violinist in the station hall? Even if you stand very close and it is quite loud, the sound does not annoy. Quite different with live concerts of typical bands with amplifiers and loudspeaker towers, at some concerts I just wanted to run out screaming and preferred to stand back. Especially at small concerts in pubs, the amplifiers are often overloaded and after a certain time the sound becomes unbearable. I think our perception quickly reacts with stress if sounds are not reproduced naturally. The NOS-DAC scores here and probably brings it as close to the sound of excellent analog reproduction via turntables as only a few converters can. Due to the lack of comparison, I can of course make no statement, but I would not be surprised if the "CD" with this DAC has overtaken the record in terms of sound. We were promised that back in 1982.
Here's a little anecdote: my only high-resolution recording is The Velevet Underground's debut album. I burned a CD of it in JRiver and then read it in again. I know the record very well but have never seen it in this splendor of sound. Any questions?
I did a real listening marathon on Saturday and experienced a difficult bath of feelings to describe. I wouldn't have thought this increase possible on my actually perfect system. Congratulations to Recklinghausen! And many thanks to CM-Audio for the test option and the smooth purchase process - I couldn't possibly send it back.
After some time I then tested my existing and also the DAC-associated SPDIF cable against the Oyaide in use. The audio optimum was of course not recorded, but mostly you can at least recognize the potential with fresh cables - even if they sound rather harsh. The other two 75 ohm KOAX cables were from Aqvox and Hensler. Each string fell more or less clearly and so the oyaide remains in the system. However, it shows that there is definitely still sound to be got in the area of the cables. The only question is, at what price?
My amplifier was on Ceraball's feet from Finite Elements until the last update. After the update and weeks of playing on my own feet, I put it back on the ceraballs and found no differences. The NOS-DAC also did not reveal any differences and now it can stand on its own two feet again after many years. More like that, I put the NOS-DAC on the ceraballs, which looks very strange and is pretty shaky. There are no worlds but after some comparing back and forth they are quite audible. It draws even more accurately and cleanly with a bit more air between the instruments. I unscrewed my own feet and fixed the ceraballs to the case with a tiny piece of power strip, so it stands securely on its 3-point bearing.
With the new listening experience I was now "fixed" like I hadn't been for many years. The positive experiences with the storage of the DAC on the ceraballs again showed how the sound can be increased by supposed little things. What I have read about several times but never actually followed is the "high-end" ripping of the CDs. Well, every CD is cleaned with cleaning gasoline before ripping and then freed from electromagnetic interference with a Black Forest duster. I have always left the speed of reading to JRiver and in fact the software throttles the speed down considerably and reads difficult parts several times. In the end, the comparison of the read data with online databases where missing information may be obtained and supplemented - it couldn't be better, right?
In an old hi-fi digital newspaper I found an article on the topic "How to get everything out" that made me think. At the same time as my new DAC, my wife expressed the wish to have our CDs available again so that I could take them back into the car. Since my "new" car only has a CD changer, I was enthusiastic about the idea and we had a friend make two custom-made CD shelves. Shortly before the first shelf was finished, I let the above Article and delved deeper into the topic. Actually, I just wanted to rip a CD as a single speed comparison and save it as a WAV instead of a FLAC to determine any sound differences. However, the article also talks about sound differences between PC drives and so a comparison with only a lower reading speed did not seem expedient to me. From memory I knew that Aqvox always had a drive in the program that specializes in high-end ripping. In the meantime, they have two drives in the program. At that time, one was on sale on eBay, but when I bid, I got out at € 300.
Of course, the topic did not leave me alone and after some searching I came across a video from an event in 2018 of the High End Kolleg. Here Manfred Diestertich (Audio Physic) reports on his experience with ripping CDs and also gives tips on a drive from Pioneer. Since the costs are manageable and an external Bluray drive has been on my wish list for a long time, I ordered it. Since he also spoke of the influence of the power supply, I ordered an external power supply and also an adapter cable to use one of my existing Aqvox power supplies.
I tried everything possible, different software and drives, drives decoupled, different USB cables ... After a week I gave up, I couldn't hear any differences. At some point I will send two CDs to Aqvox to rip them - I'm curious. But the whole thing was not in vain, for one thing I now have a nice Bluray drive for my laptop and the whole back and forth did bring some sound in the end ...
To decouple the drives, I got my Blotevogel ST-R5 out of my junk box. When I had stopped all attempts and just wanted to put them back in the junk box, I put them under the power supply of the preamplifier as a test. Well, no worlds either, but in contrast to my ripping test run an audible difference. The heavy power pack from the RG10 stands next to the stove on a glass plate and seems to really benefit from the decoupling. This impression was manifested in the following weeks, very nice and "All's well that ends well". But it never ends ...
In Celle there is a shop called Gajah (Indian = elephant). In addition to many beautiful things, there are also regular small concerts. There are about 50 tickets per concert, there is no more space and if you get there early enough, the best seats. Many are "afraid" to sit two meters in front of the musicians, but from a tonal perspective it is of course awesome. Since the groups play without amplifiers, I can always really put my ears there. At the Di Chuzpenics (from Kiel) concert in February 2019 (great) I couldn't have said with my eyes closed whether I was listening live or sitting in front of my system at home - that's fine! After the concert we spoke a bit with the musicians. Thank you for the CD and best regards to Kiel.
Due to the good effect of decoupling the power supply from the amplifier, I looked for used Blotevogel CD-STR5 and after a few weeks came across a set at Ebay classifieds at a reasonable price. The amplifier itself has an internal power supply for the power amplifiers and why shouldn't it also benefit from the decoupling? The Ceraballs could not convince me after tuning the RG10 and so the string coasters got their chance. At the time, I bought them for my Sony CDP-50ES where they also left a very positive impression. As far as I remember my first DAC from Aqvox on Ceraballs felt more comfortable and the Blotevogel wandered into the junk box.
Since my amplifier is at the bottom of the shelf and there is not too much space around it, I had to glue on the feet and then carefully lift the amplifier in. Since the feet of the amplifier are a bit too short, they were extended with felt adhesive pads. Felt is said to be very good for decoupling and so the STR5 remains undamaged in the event of a dismantling. By the way, these feet look weird ... and that is probably the main reason why they never prevailed over a large area. For me, optics only play a subordinate role and I like to sacrifice optics for better sound, especially since I always close my eyes when listening to music. The STEREO (5/2002) had given the CD-STR5 top marks at the time and especially the tracing increased significantly according to "Show your feet" and in the upper area the last roughness (eg with strings) disappeared - especially on the floor Coasters literally stand on their feet, says Matthias Böde at the time.
The first impression of my system is a bit slimmer with more tracing and creamier on the bottom. Consistently positive, I will let that have a little effect on me ...
After a few days the first intensive listening and I was very amazed. So far I had thought all the discussions about the sound differences of high-quality components due to various documents as exaggerated. Of course, I was always able to identify differences and in the past I even built bases with mixtures of quartz sand and air rifle bullets and these were also audible, but statements such as "High end is not possible without good bases" were very exaggerated. But now I had to find out how big the influence on the sound is. Ceraballs did a lot at DAC.
I love really big bass and my two 15'' bass speakers in the Bullfrog can move a lot of air. But significantly less bass, just because my amplifier was decoupled from the ground via a cable system? Well, with the new DAC it was often a little too much of a good thing but I had got used to it and now this rather slim sound image ...
Why I didn't remove them right away and throw them in the junk box is the clearly audible increase in detail resolution and this nice creamy high-frequency range. I just have an absolute favorite of Jay-Jay Johanson's CD Opium: "I can count on you" - I usually hear that very loudly and the house seems to be about to collapse. Well, the bass range is still violent but no longer overwhelms you so clearly. I can hear it even louder and these snippets of sound spreading around the room without even a hint of sharpness and insane resolution make me completely rethink the topic of "placing components". I let time go in the country, STEREO wrote at the time that a softer setting of the Blotevogel CD-STR5 shifts the fundamental range towards warmer and stronger. Due to the heavy weight of my amplifier, the cables will probably become a little softer and the sound may shift to "bass" again in the near future - then it would be perfect. I know I always say ...
Since I have the new DAC from Audio Optimum, there have been brief problems with the sound transmission. The signal was totally distorted and the song was barely recognizable. When unplugging and plugging in all the cables, I discovered a loose socket on the Aqvox DDC as a supposed source of error and disassembled the converter and fixed the socket again. Unfortunately, the error remained after the repair. Curiously, everything went quite normally on the ifi and the DAC at the output of the Bluray player (Sony) also ran normally, albeit far from the sound via PC. A phone call to Norman Lübke (Aqvox) made me check all the cables again, but unfortunately it stayed that way. He also mentioned that the PC itself may be causing the problem and so I installed the JRiver software and the Aqvox driver on my Huawei Matebook X, connected my hard drive with the music backup - and everything runs as if nothing had happened!
In terms of sound it was close to 100% "my" sound. I bought a 500GB SSD from Samsung, connected directly via USB-C using the Oehlbach Evolution CC50, the only high-end USB-C cable that I could find. Despite the fact that the music is constantly loaded from the external hard disk into the main memory, small sound advances are noticeable. The DDC is connected to the other USB-C output, here I bought an adapter from Audioquest. So USB-C output Matebook, adapter to USB-A, then Aqvox Low Noise and finally the USB cable to the DAC from Oyaide. It got better but really good when I swapped the pages, i.e. the USB outputs for hard drive and DAC. I actually only did that because it was more practical, without any tonal ulterior motives - now it suddenly sounded as if liberated and now, after a few weeks in no way worse than before - rather better! A positive side effect - listening to music is now possible without waiting. My previous PC didn't have an SSD and 10 minutes was normal before I could listen to music. With updates, it could take an hour or more. The Matebook X is fanless, very fast and has a battery life of approx. 10 hours without a screen. Operation runs as usual on the iPad using JRemote.
How did the slimmer sound thing develop? Well, I've heard a lot and yes, I remember some bass in some pieces but ... many pieces go so low that more bass is hard to imagine. The bass has become more precise and only really goes into the basement where the recording dictates. There was probably a small increase in the frequency response before, which has now disappeared. Hearing gets used to it and now I like it a little bit slimmer.
A few impressions from the DAC directly at the exit of the Bluray player. Let's say I expected worse but the sound was well below the usual level. In the frequency cellar it was rather a grumpy mud, the space was very narrow and there was much less resolution on top. In connection with this, I once again noticed that even the best record player was not for me. I love the variety of listening to music and hardly ever hear two songs on a CD / record in a row. It is these changes in hearing that make the appeal of a successful listening evening (in addition to the sound).
Many weeks later with only occasional listening, I listened to music a little longer. I can no longer perceive any of the leaner sound described above, depending on the recording and listening volume, the draft is not for the faint of heart and the house vibrates with the bass response of "The Acid" for the opener "Animal". Even far less bass-heavy music does not sound slim and either I have got used to it or the above-mentioned "setting" of the amplifier leads to more emphasis below. No matter because perfect!
I had taken the Audioquest Jitterbug out of the system since using the Matebook X because there were no parallel free USB ports available. On the other PC, he had liked me a little better in parallel than in between. Although I think each contact point is too much poison, before the last listening session I stuck the Jitterbug behind the audioquest adapter, i.e. between the PC and Aqvox Low Noise power supply. I actually wanted to hear a song or two and then take out the jitterbug again for comparison, I couldn't. I was so fascinated by the music ... I couldn't interrupt the magic. It is a pity that Audioquest does not yet have the Jitterbug in the program as a USB-C to USB-A version (instead of an adapter).
Since I sold the Audezé LCD-2 headphones, I had bought the Beyerdynamic DT 235 for occasional listening. The NOS-DAC (1) has no headphone output but the ifi iDSD Micro is still in the game and takes care of the sound of all devices connected to the TV. When my wife goes to bed early because of shift work, I put on my headphones to watch TV, which is really good with the ifi and no comparison to the sound directly from the headphone jack on the TV.
Music via the new DAC was no longer possible, but the ifi iDSD has a 3.5mm blade connector input. So I tested a cable from the tape out on the amplifier to the ifi and lo and behold, there is music. I started looking for a high-quality cable and mostly found only standard goods or very expensive ones. But luck was holding me and I discovered one of Oyaide above the Neo series at an affordable price, which makes a very high quality impression. The cable is still in the warm-up phase, but it's pretty good for occasional listening through headphones. So I use the ifi iDSD Micro as a pure headphone amplifier and it is now an integral part of my chain. However, since I am just as limited when listening to the ifi as I am through my speakers and the sound worlds between the two, I will rarely use it. I took off the cable after a few weeks, but I prefer to listen to my Fiio X1 and Soundmagic E50 in the garden. The cable will find its destiny at some point ...
And then a certain Jörg contacted me by email:
"Dear Mr. Sender, in the search for opinions, reviews about the Audio Optimum NOS DAC 1, I became aware of your interesting page" My Hobby High End ". I thought that it would be best for me to write to you directly for your opinion on the to hear NOS DAC. Apparently you are the proud owner. Is it really so good that it can keep up with high-end DACs in the 5-digit range? I find the small device visually and technically fascinating. Before I order one, however, I would like to have one an independent opinion belongs to the NOS DAC 1.
I would be very happy to receive an answer from you. "
I had replied to him in writing first and then we made extensive phone calls. He ordered the NOS-DAC for testing and sent the following message a week later:
the NOS DAC is awesome !!! Just rediscover my music💪
And you were right, the right cables make the sound even better.
Mr. Wehmeier sent me digital and analog cinch - apparently they are optimally matched to the NOS DAC👍.
The music sounds wonderfully ANALOG. You don't want to go back there. Called Mr. Wehmeier today: the NOS DAC remains, the cables too.
In the older model, cheaper cables were still included. Is no longer today, but a high quality linear power supply.
Will still compare this with my power supply.
Since my NOS-DAC is still equipped with the standard power supply, I got in touch with Mr. Wehmeier on the advice of Jörg. He immediately offered me a free update, which significantly improves the jitter suppression of the integrated SPDIF / I2S decoder. I will use my Cobra power cord to connect the linear power supply to a power connector for digital devices using the fish power strip. I wanted to have sold the power cord for a long time, it belonged to a McIntosh device and I bought it on eBay. With my first DAC from Aqvox it has brought a clearly audible improvement to the original cable, now it is used again. Maybe I'll test the cable sometime from Audio-Optimum, for this year there is an end to new nerd stuff.
A few days later, both were here, the new power supply and the revised DAC. First a small function test - running. Then I got an idea about the ceraballs, which were previously connected to the case by three small pieces of power strip. I had that removed before shipping to Audio Optimum. Since the storage via felt pads on CD-STR5 had such a great effect on the amplifier and power supply and felt is often used for decoupling, I have now done the same. Three felt stickers each under the DAC, three felt stickers each on top of the Cerballs and now these two felt pads are connected using 2-component adhesive. This holds "bombproof" after a few hours of drying time and can be removed at any time without leaving any residue. For CD-STR5 the DAC is too small and probably too light, my first own DAC from Aqvox (light) also liked the Ceraballs rather than the Blotevogel and the CD-STR5 was better with the CD player (heavy).
So much has changed that it is difficult to make a statement about the effect of the individual steps. Power cable power supply - power supply - tuning DAC - storage DAC. Honestly, I don't care if it sounds like it sounds. Sure, miracles are no longer to be expected! It's these small, subtle changes that bring tears to high-end nerds' eyes because it's so emotional again.
Despite an internal temperature of 86°F (and an outside temperature of 96°F), I had to risk an ear after a day of playing. I just let my favorite songs run by chance and, well, I couldn't get away from the system for two hours. I can hardly say what exactly has gotten better, somehow everything. As I said, miracles are no longer to be expected, but it best describes it as "sovereign". It all sounds even more grounded and holographic. Not so great recordings blossomed a little more and I was blown away by two pieces by Jack Johnson that I haven't heard in this intensity. In other songs I thought I discovered little things that I hadn't noticed before.
Summer was very hot again and so I rarely listened to music. This year 2019 I was looking forward to the autumn and rain, which then came again very quickly. From September 2019 the summer was over and the rainy season began. Finally another opportunity to sit in front of the system more often ...
The impression of sovereignty described above has further consolidated, the three-dimensionality of the sound image has intensified and everything has become a lot more involving and the addiction to sound is once again satisfied. Also at the risk of repeating myself: Especially older recordings, "actually" not so good recordings, benefit immensely from this NOS-DAC artwork.
In the near future there will be tests regarding the power supply (filter / cable) of the DAC and with audible effects, possibly also with the pre- and final stage. Furthermore, I deal with NF cables from Oyaide (AZ-910) and am currently browsing the used market. My very good experiences with the two pure silver cables from Oyaide in the digital transmission link make me at least think about trying between the DAC and the amplifier. I read over a silver cable from Oyaide that you can use them to get to a playback level where you can salt your soup with the slightest mistake (hifi & records 2/2011). Silver cables serve everything on a silver tray and there shouldn't be anything on it that doesn't belong there. Trying makes you smart.
On the used market, I found only a few months old ad on eBay and contacted the seller. The cables are still available ... they were here two days later. First connect it and let it play in for an hour, then a first listening check. Oh ha, clearly different from my beloved Hensler JH88 NF cable. The room grows in all dimensions, depending on the recording, voices are now so close to me that I involuntarily flinch. The figure increases one meter in width, similar in depth. But ...
The first listening check was an ups and downs of impressions. The cables are not yet audible and quite harsh in the upper layers. Due to the overemphasis in the upper area, everything looked very high-resolution, but unnatural and not pleasant with some pieces of music. On the web I found on the website of a well-known manufacturer that silver cables take about 80 hours to record, which is in line with my experience, especially with the coaxial cable from Oyaide. It also took a long time for the last roughness to disappear. Then it was and remained divine!
A day and many hours later, the cable felt much darker to me and this hack was almost completely gone. In terms of sound, it was now very close to the Hensler, especially since the room dimensions had shrunk significantly again. I know that too and patience is required ... more to come soon. In November I will get a tourmaline-based line filter specially made for the NOS-DAC, until then the Oyaide NF cable should have been burn in. That was actually the trigger for my search for an even higher quality NF cable, I wanted to push it even further before testing the current filter in order to be able to better assess the effects of the filter. Of course, you can also spend far into the four-digit range for an NF cable, e.g. an Audioplan Maxwell U. Certainly the Oyaide AZ-910 is not the end but I consider their products priced very fairly and it is not cheap either.
Day three and total enthusiasm. A short audio check has turned into two hours again. I can no longer discover anything harsh and even recordings that I previously avoided for tonal reasons now make me really happy. An example is Impala of Songs: Ohia. A CD that I liked to listen to before. Now I stay stuck in front of the system and soak up every song. This crazy space, even more tightly nailed than with the Hensler-Strippe. It sounds clear as a bell without (as at the beginning) annoying aftertaste in the upper registers. I am very excited to see what will happen next. Thank goodness winter is coming ... The recording remains a bad recording compared to many other CDs.
I've been thinking about an acoustic curtain behind my listening position for a long time. This should reduce the reverberation times and thus ensure a more pleasant sound. But who wants a thick, heavy curtain across the room? My wife plays the guitar and the guitars are right behind my listening position. For tonal reasons, I banished them to the kitchen before listening to music. Before she bought a third guitar, I made a deal with my better half and got my acoustic curtain. You can push it back and it is not too noticeable. Of course, the curtain also benefits the sound when making music and so we both benefit from it.
The Oyaide NF cables have now worked well and I don't expect any more changes. The level is very high and tops the Hensler JH88 quite clearly. However, the JH88 still remain very high quality NF cables and will certainly find their place in my system. They do not dissolve quite as well and are spatially narrower than the AZ-910 from Oyaide. In other setups, the Oyaide may also be too much of a good thing, as I said: silver tray. The topic of headphones doesn't let me go completely and I could well imagine the Hensler as an NF cable between amplifier and headphone ampflier. First of all, they can take care of the TV sound behind the ifi iDSD.
The acoustic curtain was made to measure by Molton Discount, about 2m high and 3m wide. The price was extremely cheap and they delivered very quickly. A big recommendation! How does it sound compared to before? Since we already had a well-damped room before, the differences are not huge but audible. The sound image rests even more in itself and radiates greater sovereignty. I haven't really had time yet and have listened to a few pieces. More coming soon ... However, my wife recently heard a few pieces from one of your favorite "Neon Golden" records (The Notwist) after hanging the curtain and was very impressed. We are both big fans of The Notwist and very much regret the departure of Martin Gretschmann (Console). There is hardly a listening evening without at least one piece from Notwist or 13 & God.
First listening evening with a curtain. Yes, the differences are significant! I first heard a song without a curtain and then with. Madness! Voices and instruments are much more precise in the room, the localization of the individual phantom sources is easier. A very good investment for less than € 100 and highly recommended. What can come now? Oh yes, the line filter for the DAC has arrived ...
I plugged it in exactly the same socket with the same phase where the Cobra power cable for the DAC is otherwise. From my experience with new components, I gave the line filter a few days to load. I then did a long listening evening with a filter and after about two hours took out the filter and heard a few songs again. Well, differences? I couldn't really hear a difference and would rather see it in the "imagination" direction. But if my imagination did not deceive me, a bit more space could be heard with a filter, but the sound was somewhat more diffuse and brighter. All in all, the differences are insignificant. Basically, I think that such filters with tourmaline in connection with ferrite can already achieve good interference suppression. For me the starting point is probably "too bad" to hear any differences here. I also read in forums that such filters should bring significant improvements in front of the entire system. I also tried that and here the difference was heard more clearly. With the filter, the space decreased and the reproduction became more aggressive in the upper area. Overall not a huge difference, but audible. Apparently it pays to run a coherent filter concept from Fisch-Audio.
Audio Optimum has recently had a complete solution in its program, which I find very exciting (direct distribution). However, the fun is not cheap ... I'll wait and see what the trade press will write about it in the next few months. The filter goes back the days, thanks to the builder.
And then the topic of headphones, somehow it doesn't let me go at the moment. I then connected the iFi again via the Hensler JH88 NF cable using an adapter from Audioquest. It didn't sound particularly good on my InEars, even with the smallest gain (good control range). I know that the iFi sounds good when it is connected normally, and I have long heard it highly satisfied with my Audezé LCD-2. This path is blocked by the new DAC and I can only connect the iFi via the 3.5mm input. According to the operating instructions, the DAC is switched off when plugged into the socket and only the KHV is used. More on that later ...
Of course, a portable solution would be nice, which I can also take with me for sports or on vacation and which is not that far from the sound of my normal chain. You can spend a lot of money on digital audio players (DAP) these days. I read through many tests, watched videos and came across Plenue D. This player is very attractively priced, nice and small and has no frills that I don't need and don't want at all. In terms of sound, it should be close to the expensive solutions, which I cannot understand due to the lack of comparability. He is currently playing on my SoundMagic E50 and when he first listens to it he cuts a fine figure. After a few days of playing in a nice combi with a lot of pressure in the bass. In the end, I switched off all sound influences, so I left it at "Normal". It sounds best to me at the InEars and really puts me in a good mood while doing sports.
Now the SoundMagic E50 is a good in-ear but definitely not a "high-end" and always ideal if you want to isolate yourself from the outside world and enjoy music. If I want to listen to headphones as high as possible, a large "OverEar" would of course also be an option. The offer has become so confusing, but as so often in life, fate played into my hands. In the meantime I have a few Sennheiser employees in my area and during a chat it turned out that someone offered me headphones at the purchase price. After some research, I decided on the HD 660S because I had to make a quick decision before the turn of the year and no longer had the opportunity to listen. Back in 2012, I also had the HD 800 and HD 650 at home for a few weeks in parallel to the Audezé. The HD 800 was very close to the LCD-2 and the HD 650 dropped a bit, but was still a very good headphone. The new HD 660S is said to be close to the HD 800 and I couldn't say no at the price to be paid.
Then I started looking for a cheap but good headphone ampfliers. I still have the NF cables from Hensler (JH88) and could connect an external headphone amplifier via tape out. First I tried to use my ifi iDSD again, but it only has a 3.5mm input and so the JH88 would be out. The Oyaide cables that I once bought for the iDSD have been hanging on a Bluetooth receiver for some time - ideal for music on Amazon by the way. I connected the cable to the iDSD again via tape out and it sounded good. However, the plugging is a bit annoying and I would like to use the JH88 directly. So searched for days again and again for affordable headphone amplifiers, partly on eBay with offers but not really found anything. I didn't want to spend a lot of money ...
Then someone offered an iFi Nano iCan on eBay, which I didn't even know and they offered exactly what I was looking for. It has inputs for NF cables and 3.5mm at the back. At the front is a 6.3mm headphone jack, two switches for influencing the sound and the volume control with on / off. I didn't find much about the device online. What I read sounded good. The small part cost 170, - € and I actually couldn't find a second used one on the net. The Nano iCan was apparently not built long and there is still a big brother that is said to have more power. In terms of sound, this was assessed more critically and is said to have problems with interference. Since the little one should drive really difficult headphones according to forums and test reports, I dared to buy.
It came a few days later and looks like new, with all accessories etc. So first charge the battery - yes, it should actually be a mobile headphone ampflier. A first listening check ... it has power, the little one. I let it play for a few hours and then set the gain settings on the bottom to zero the next day. Now I had a good range of control and the thing is playing louder than my ears would go along with it. It sounds very natural, nice spatial and has good pressure from below. I leave all tone controls at zero, otherwise it will be too much. You can amplify the bass with two toggle switches and activate a kind of crossfeed. Sennheiser does not need both. I will now listen to headphones more often and will soon be reporting more about the little nano.
A few weeks later and headphones heard CDs ... Not bad and quite nice for relaxing lying on the sofa. The sound is very clear, natural and spatial. The bass is nice and full from below but by no means fat, low bass recordings can be tuned very comfortably with the bass boost. Old Genesis recordings from Peter Gabriel's time just become a little nicer. I have no comparison of what a much better headphone ampflier can get out of it.
The difference between the sound from the headphones and speakers is so immense and can not really be compared. Of course, how you are used to hearing also plays a role. If you mainly listen to music via InEars and / or headphones and have never had a good stereo system, you may even prefer this sound in your head, especially since many people do not have the opportunity to set up a good stereo system perfectly and operate it at an appropriate volume. And let's leave the church in the village, with a 400, - € headphones on a 170, - € headphone amplifier, I can't and will not allow myself a real judgment. There's still a lot of room for improvement ...
New topic: Software JRiver
I have been listening to the JRiver MediaCenter software for almost 10 years now and have updated to a new version from time to time. I noticed earlier that a newer version (usually I skip a few versions) also brings a better sound. Now I "had to" update from MC 25 to MC 26 yesterday, I spare the details for the readers but it was a mixture of my own stupidity and ignorance. Probably won't happen to me again. Well, in any case, I saw no other option than to completely delete the old version (including all the folders in the corresponding Windows folder) and to download version 26 and reinstall it. This is quick, but it takes half an hour until all settings are correct again and the iPad is also integrated. Just a short soudcheck and I will verify it at the next listening evening but if I haven't totally misunderstood, the version 26 seems to have put a shove on the sound. MC 26 has not been around long but after a little googling I found a note in the JRiver forum:
The 26 upgrade, after comparing it to 25 back to back, however seems to go much further, at least on my HRT HD DAC, it seems to make a deal of windows system changes? The sound is overall bigger as though the DAC is getting more voltage? The sound also seems a good deal cleaner with less digital glare much in the same way you get with a power supply upgrade.
Overall a great result and $ 30 well spent!
Different people talk about the topic, my hearing doesn't seem to have deceived me.
Due to the corona pandemic, I had a lot of time and was also a "straw widower" for a few weeks. It was still cold outside and so I used the evenings to listen to music intensively. In the past I had never switched off my devices, for a few years now I had only left the pre-stage in continuous operation and the final stage as well as the DAC. When I wanted to listen to music, I usually turned both on a few hours beforehand. So far, so good! However, my devices require very little power when idle, so I simply left everything on permanently. The first time it sounded dreamy as usual, but after two to three weeks there was a certain magic that I don't want to do without. An AB comparison is of course not possible, but also not necessary. I often let my favorite titles run by chance and surprise me. There were always songs that surprised me tonally - they just didn't sound that magical before. We have had green electricity for many years and no other large electricity consumers such as aquariums etc. - I can agree with my conscience!
In March, Image Hifi 02/2020 appeared with a report on the NOS-DAC 2 from Audio Optimum. It beautifully reflects my experiences with the NOS-DAC. I pick out two statements from Heinz Gelking that actually express everything:
"Everything is really there. Without a filter, so to speak. And not only, so to speak, the NOS-DAC immediately captures me."
"Even a CD rip with only 16 bit / 44.1 kHz can fulfill audiophile dreams, at least when a NOS DAC is involved"
The entire test report can be downloaded as a PDF from Audio Optimum.
I also had contact with Mr. Gelking via email and he referred to the power cables and distributors presented in Image Hifi 3/2019. This report can also be downloaded as a PDF from Audio Optimum. Maybe I will try the system at some point, at least it seems to have "hand and foot", like everything with Stefan Wehmeier.
In May 2020 a report about a NOS-DAC from Switzerland appeared at www.fairaudio.de, interesting can be found under "Comparisons". Dr. Mertens wrote the following:
"I can only think of one converter that has so far inspired me in a similar way to the Merason DAC-1: the NOS-DAC 2 from Audio Optimum (with reclocker in a set of 4,400 euros). In terms of oversampling, it goes in a similar way otherwise completely different in concept, it stops at 16 bit / 88.2 kHz and therefore cannot even meet the new hi-res quasi standard 24 bit / 96 kHz - and it does not have a USB input, but would like to received its I²S signal from an external relocker. So fed, the Audio Optimum may play a little more exciting with Redbook data than the Merason - but he does not appreciate higher resolutions as far as he can process them at all. "
An Audioquest Jitterbug has been doing its job faithfully and well for some years now, and he is currently sitting behind the USB-C adapter on the laptop. Recently the music stopped suddenly after a few hours and I started troubleshooting. The error was the defective USB-C adapter and after the exchange everything went fine again. Since I initially suspected the Jitterbug, I also removed it and after the test with the new USB-C adapter the Jitterbug was still out. Music came back now but where did the usual magic go? Jitterbug interposed again and there it was again, my sound! At that time I actually wanted to buy two Jitterbugs, Audioquest expressly recommends this. I made up for that and connected it via my Huawei adapter parallel to the hard drive. It is definitely worth it and again it is these little things that make me sit in awe in front of the system. The differences are not as big as one or none, but still understandable. The spatiality in particular increases somewhat and voices sound even more real.
How does it sound when the Jitterbug is directly in the signal path to the external hard drive? Cruel to my ears !!! The space collapsed significantly and the sound became aggressive. Quickly repositioned and the same song was unrecognizable. Well, the little things ...
Then I discovered something great on Ebay, but in America. My esteemed Blotevogel CD-STR5 in the last version with the spring element, which I had been looking for for a long time. Due to the spring elements, the standing height increases significantly, which is ideal for my amplifier and also simply looks better. With the previous ones, I had to adjust the height with felt pads so that the edge of the amplifier did not touch.
I bought them for sound reasons, of course, what do they bring compared to those without a spring element? It's amazing how much such small changes can do. The sound is somewhat slimmer and therefore a little higher resolution. The deep bass remains, however, and appears more differentiated. Since the CD-STR5 were new, they will stretch slightly in the early days and presumably shift the sound image towards more fundamental tone heat. I let go a few weeks in the country ... I liked it very much after a short listening session after a week and I am looking forward to the first real listening evening.
During the summer of 2020 I didn't really listen to any music intensively, only towards the end of the first real listening evening. As written above, I always leave all components on. It sounded fantastic and I probably need this time out to really have fun again.
For the occasion I measured the power consumption of the entire chain again = 70 watts. That's OK. And with us, the sound from the television runs through the system, so it would be switched on and off often anyway and the savings over the year will be rather small. On eBay someone offered a Plixir Elite BAC 150 that I could win for a good price. Actually, I would need the BAC 1000 to supply the entire chain, but the small BAC 150 can easily supply the preamp and the DAC. For the time being, I bought a cheap one from Groneberg as a power connection cable. After a day on the network, I did the second listening evening in the same week, this time with the line filter or isolating transformer.
The differences were rather small, but easy to understand and consistently positive. A little bit more three-dimesional with even more pinned sound sources with an overall slightly more relaxed sound. Since the power cord for supplying the Plixir was new, I would allow another couple of weeks to go into the country. Incidentally, the Plixir is in the filtered fish bar for bulk consumers.
Some time later I would describe the differences as clearer than at the beginning, particularly a further relaxation (black background) is positive. That led me to slightly increase the angle of the speakers. This makes the sound image even more direct and holographic. I had tried that every now and then and usually took the angle back after a few songs, because it was too stressful when listening to loud. That is different now and after a few days of intensive and rather loud listening, I am absolutely thrilled. The sound image clearly gains in resolution and plasticity. The lower area also seems to be more voluminous and better defined. This may be due to the fact that the bass speakers now radiate more energy to the listening position due to the higher angle. I like it very much! In addition, the coupling of the horn is around 950 Hz, so the "bass" is also a midrange driver and that would explain the further gain in homogeneity. Both loudspeakers work together as a point sound source and have a clear broadband character. By further angling, you can presumably radiate the sound events more homogeneously to the listening position.
All in all, the Plixir Elite BAC brought me a clear benefit. For now, I will continue to focus on the power supply ...
After a few evenings of listening over the last few weeks, I am extremely enthusiastic about the sound gain. The sound has continued to improve and meanwhile I can no longer perceive hardness even with difficult recordings. Did the Plixir and the power cable have to import themselves first? Seems so! In any case, this shows once again that quick AB comparisons rarely make sense. New devices and cables simply need a lot of time to import, which should be allowed and only then allow a final judgment.
If the financial means allow, I will definitely test a Plixir Elite BAC 1000 in order to also connect the Aqvox power amplifier and power supply for the USB converter. The added sound value compared to my current solution could be significantly lower and the investment would be too high for that. Another idea is to swap the power cord from the power amplifier for a more highly filtered one. As luck would have it, a Performance 5 from Fisch Audiotechnik came up for sale through my search requests on Ebay classifieds. The new cable costs € 585 and should have a significantly better filter effect than my previous P1. The price was okay and two days later the postman was at the door with the parcel, perfectly packed.
In the course of this, I swapped the Groneberg power cable for the Plixir for the Cobra and the DAC got the P1. The output stage of the RG10 is now connected via the P5 and a first short listening check was positive but no significant difference. As usual, I will leave the country for some time to allow myself to judge.
I didn't have to wait long, the next day changes were immediately understandable with a short sound check. Since we were on vacation and didn't leave because of the lockdown, there was always the opportunity to hear a few songs. I would most likely rewrite the changes with a clear increase in sovereignty. Everything seems even more firmly in place, the three-dimensionality takes another leap, it sounds more complex and draws me even more into the music. One morning I was able to randomly run my playlist for an hour. What I was suddenly able to discover in the finest micro-details in songs that I have heard very often made me sit in front of my system in disbelief and left me with deep satisfaction and joy.
Now I have not only swapped the power cord of the power amplifier, but also the cables from the DAC and Plixir. It will probably be a combination of measures and shows how extremely important a good power supply is. Certainly the last word has not yet been spoken, I'll stick with the topic of electricity, but a further significant increase is difficult to imagine.
As mentioned above, there is still a lot of room for improvement when it comes to sound through headphones. Now and then and for certain albums I like to lie down on the sofa and let myself be showered. Now, over Christmas 2020 in a tough lockdown, there was another opportunity. In contrast to listening through speakers, I love listening to an entire album through headphones. For example, I never actually hear "Into the Labyrinth" from "Dead can Dance" over my speakers. I like to listen to old Genesis albums like "The lamb lies down on Broadway" through headphones. In terms of the sound, I am always totally disappointed at first and need some time to get used to. My weak point will probably be the KHV amplifier, which does not pass on the existing potential. My Aqvox DAC at the time had a very good KHV and conjured up a fantastic sound on the Audeze LCD-2. My current NOS-DAC is a class better and the Sennheiser HD 660s certainly not significantly worse than the LCD-2, but not much of it is received. So I've been looking for used KHV for a long time, but I don't want (and can't) spend a lot of money. Actually, I had fallen in love with the HDVA 600 from Sennheiser, which are used around € 700, but rarely offered. For the price there is also a new Cuffino from Abacus, which is not yet available in used condition. So I kept looking in old test reports and forums and kept stumbling across Jan Meier's KHV, which is said to have a very good price / performance ratio. The Meier Audio Corda Classic should sound very good (for the price) and has two things that I find very attractive from experience: bass boost and crossfeed in different levels. The Sennheiser KHV doesn't offer that and maybe the Classic is the better choice for me regardless of the new price? Well, what does Ebay offer? Surprisingly little that I take to be good drawing. But then a Classic turned up at half the original price and I couldn't resist :)
For a long time I haven't been looking forward to something new for my hobby "listening to music". I used the time to create space and to untangle my cables behind the system. The Classic came last day 2020 and when I was unpacking I was positively surprised, I hadn't expected it to be so massive and accurately processed. First skim through the function test and operating instructions, then let it warm up for a few hours. With me it stays on permanently, just like the other devices. Jan Meier also expressly recommends this in the instructions. So, after a few hours the first serious hearing and it caught me right away. If these are still the same headphones, they can do high-end :) I am writing these lines on January 2nd, 2021 and yesterday evening (i.e. 1 day of continuous operation) it increased significantly again and today it sounds like a dream.
Before I digress further, a few facts about the "Meier Corda Classic" (without ff): It offers inputs for two sources via cinch and an output for 6.35 jack. It is connected with a normal power cable, here my retired Groneberg is used first, a later upgrade is not excluded. I run it at full power, so my HD 660s sounds much more grown-up and also (very) loudly completely effortless. Otherwise it can be lowered using the "Gainswitch". The volume is regulated by means of a relay circuit and even at the lowest volume I cannot detect any channel deviations. I have the crossfeed on the highest level and for most of the recordings I will leave the bass boost off. Crossfeed and bass boost can each be switched off or looped in in two stages. The crossfeed is awesome and implemented extremely well. Here the other channel is not simply fed in with a time delay and crossed over at a low volume, but depending on the position of the sound source. This means that the crossfeed can always be left on and it does not interfere with recordings with a narrow stereo width. With recordings where sound sources are completely on one side, the sound is much more natural and hearing is not strained. Good examples are the beginning of "Wish you were here" (Pink Floyd) or "Am Fenster" (City). In many newer pieces, too, there are sound sources on one side, which, embedded in the music, nevertheless unconsciously cause stress and a good crossfeed works wonders here.
I have now heard a lot and also consciously included bad recordings. For many years now, I've been really enjoying listening to headphones again and it's a good alternative to listening to speakers. It sounds different because the sound sources are perceived differently through headphones, but not worse in and of themselves. Of course, in a direct comparison, the feeling of a live concert in the living room is not comparable to listening to headphones and can (for me) never replace it. However, there are now albums that I will rather listen to through headphones in the future. An example is "Kind of blue" by Miles Davis, I wouldn't hear that through my loudspeakers because I'm too bored sitting on the sofa. I now search through my collection specifically for albums that I haven't heard in a long time and may come back into my focus through headphones. The perception of KH is also different for me because I hear with KH lying down and through my autogenic training, which I have been practicing for decades, I immediately fall into a kind of trance, which intensifies the hearing impression.
What's next? After a while of listening I will try one or the other tuning and then report here.
In December 2020 the German band "AnnenMayKantereit" presented their new album "12" on YouTube. The whole record was presented live as a stream and I watched the concert on my PC on TV. It was a really great concert and the sound wasn't bad at all, but it was miles away from the sound of the CD that was ordered immediately. Recently my absolute favorite band "The Notwist" released their new album "Vertigo Days" and you can find a nice clip of their song "Into Love / Stars" on YouTube, recorded in a record store. I first watched the clip on the iPad and then wanted to watch it on TV with my wife. Since I no longer have an extra PC on the system due to the purchase of the headphone amplifier, we could have connected the music laptop via HDMI and watched. But we also have an Amazon Fire Stick and I installed YouTube over the Fire Stick and was very pleasantly surprised at how good it sounds. The sound runs digitally through the television, is picked up by a fiber optic cable and converted in the iFi iDSD (DAC). Then it goes to the amplifier via "good" audio cables. Where can I get more out of the sound? How good can it get?
First I looked for affordable IR cables and decided on the "Forest" from Audioquest because of the many good reviews. It would be much more difficult and expensive to replace the Audio-Optimum NF cables with cables with superior sound quality. Then it occurred to me that I still have a single JH88 in the cable box, which I bought as a digital cable and used it for many years. Jürgen's digital cable is identical to the NF cable (75 ohms) and so I looked for a single cable 1 m in length. I found what I was looking for on Ebay, both cables were here a few days later and I let them go into the country for a few days to proof them. Is it worth the effort for the TV sound?
For the TV sound, i.e. everything that comes via the t-online box, rather less. The differences are audible, but not fundamental. Although, recently at the film scene, music started in the background and I was amazed at how far the music separated from the voices. Perhaps the HDMI cable would have to be swapped for a better one in order to make the subsequent improvements more audible. Or I have to hear a concert on t-online. Quite different with the Amazon Fire Stick, YouTube videos sound terrifyingly real and almost high-end, depending on the recording quality. We watched a lot of concerts and music videos and it's really fun now. Films on the Fire Stick also benefit significantly, of course, but that wouldn't be so important to me. All in all, it was definitely worth it.
I currently hear as follows:
House connection fuses (the 3 separate phases) high-purity copper fuses from AHP
Separate fuse in the fuse box for the AHP system
Separate supply line with power socket from HMS
The electricity installations were carried out by the electrician after buying the house
AFL power strip from Fisch Audiotechnik
Performance power cable for amplifier preamplifier (P1) and power amplifier (P5) from Fisch Audiotechnik
Plixir Elite BAC 150 Power Conditioner in front of preamplifier and DAC, Cobra power cable from McIntosh
Birch multiplex rack
Huawei Matebook X with JRiver music software
Music stored on Samsung SSD T5 500 GB
Oehlbach Evolution CC50 USB cable between SSD and Matebook
Audioquest Jitterbug parallel to the SSD
Audioquest Jitterbug between PC and DAC
Aqvox low noise power supply (feeds the Aqvox MyDDC SE USB converter)
USB cable Oyaide Continental 5s (pure silver) between PC (behind low noise power supply) and MyDDC
Aqvox MyDDC SE USB converter with Musiland software integrated in JRiver via ASIO driver (very precise data transfer via bulk transfer)
Oyaide digital cable DR-510 (pure silver) between MyDDC and Audio-Optimum NOS-DAC
Digital-to-analog converter Audio-Optimum NOS-DAC, mounted on three Ceraballs from Finite Elements
Linear power supply from Audio-Optimum for the NOS-DAC, P1 power connector from Fisch Audiotechnik
NF cable AZ-910 (pure silver) from Oyaide between DAC and amplifier
Amplifier RG 10 MK IV Reference (2018) from Symphonic Line, power supply and amplifier stored on Blotevogel CD-STR5
JH88 LS cable between amplifier and speakers
Speaker Martion Bullfrog passive - the older version with optimized crossover through Martion (deeper coupling of the horn)
Optimized room acoustics (acoustic curtain), as well as loudspeakers set up exactly to the millimeter (wall clearances, angulation)
Sennheiser HD 660 S headphones
Headphone amplifier Ifi Nano iCan, connected via tape out using NF cable Hensler JH88
General information about high end:
In the eyes of most people, are we considered, let's say "whimsical", to invest so much money in a profane stereo system? It is certainly an addiction and an expensive one if you want to build a high-end system. For me, this addiction lasts almost my entire life, I was fascinated when I was 10 years old and heard Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells through headphones on my sister's turntable and I was thrilled.
The addiction factor is due to this fact. What sounded incredibly good to me then would probably give me a cold horror today. Hearing gets used to beautiful sound very quickly and the better the system plays, the more subtle it reacts to the finest changes. Unfortunately, the air is getting thinner and the last percent are usually no longer affordable or you have to search very meticulously to find affordable solutions. This keeps the hobby so exciting and I hope my hearing will continue to play with it for a long time.
High end is a lonely hobby since there is only one seat in normal living rooms where the sound is ideal. Apparently there are bitter "trench battles" in countless Internet forums, which is the best thing, since everyone can only judge the sound of his system subjectively. Similar to photography, many believe that they always have to buy the newest and supposedly the best. They often find that the new camera does not take better pictures or that the new amplifier does not sound nicer. I tick a little differently and for me the (subjective) perceptible quality is always in the foreground. It is still very easy with pictures, if my customers (and I) are enthusiastic about the pictures, the equipment seems to serve its purpose. When it comes to music, my ears are the yardstick and only my feelings count. I had a friend at home years ago who wanted to hear the new Bullfrogs. I will not forget his comment and it shows that there cannot be "the" best system: "If I had such a system, I would sit in front of it every night and listen to music. However, there will also be people for whom it is too much , you are literally struck by the sound. "
In my opinion, real audible advances have mainly occurred in digital technology in recent years. USB and SPDIF cables, reclockers, ASIO drivers, converters etc. are constantly being developed and are also more affordable. Here it is actually worthwhile to look for affordable alternatives from time to time. Unfortunately, there is no turning back, the sound literally burned itself into your mind over the years and so supposedly the finest differences suddenly become huge for your own perception. Only that counts! For an outsider who does not know the system and the music or does not know it well, these differences may be completely irrelevant or imperceptible.
I still read a few hi-fi magazines online, browse forums, visit trade fairs from time to time and keep up to date. I only buy new ones after a thorough test in my system. I don't let myself be persuaded, just "trust" my ears. Everyone feels music differently and their own sound should come as close as possible to their own sensation, so how does it sound best to me. The seller can present Kabel XY as much better than the one I use, if I don't like it, it's not for me.
I recently had a long (04-2020) phone conversation with someone from the developer scene, where exactly those things came up. "Silver cables make sound and do not sound natural" It is quite possible that not everyone will be able to cope with the extremely high resolution of pure silver cables or that the rest of the system will reveal all of their problems. In any case, with me they have completely integrated into the system and play without any hint of hardness or artificiality. Everyone has to find their ideal, you can't argue about that either. On my wish list (after winning the lottery) there are also pure silver cables for the speakers, e.g. the KS-6068 from Kimber.
How do I feel about music?
I prefer to listen in the dark with my eyes closed. With a fine drop, the whole thing becomes even more intense. Logical, right? Then a film starts to play in front of my eyes, I see the right video clip for almost every song and if everything goes well, so the right music for the right mood with the "right" sound, it becomes magical. I fall into a kind of trance and am in another world. This has always been the case and whoever recognizes himself here can understand it. For many people, listening to music is something to be done on the side. I also listen to the radio or music suggestions from Amazon to discover new music. My "listening to music" is different, it is celebrated and only works when I am alone. We are lucky to live in a small house where I can still hear loud at night. There is also my wife's shift work, which creates space for my hobby. Behind the devices, cables and accessories there are always people who created them. I am absolutely certain to hear this passion in the products. Anyone who knows a Heiner Basil Martion personally knows about the passion with which these people develop their products and, more importantly, continue to refine them. It is never primarily about money, but rather about realizing your own ideal ideas. I am neither "married" to Martion, Wehmeier or Gemein, but I would always look there first if I wanted to buy new speakers, a new DAC or a new amplifier. In a small group Mr. Martion once said the following sentence: "My job in life seems to make people with good sound happy". It worked out Mr. Martion, yes and at some point I'll listen to the "Einhorn". Just wait for the lottery win.
What criteria do I use to invest in my hobby?
First of all, of course, according to the resources available and how important the hobby is to me at the moment. Over the years I have heard very satisfied for a long time, but then there was a kick and I was back in this spiral of addiction for an even better sound. I always try to think of the source or the stream: the earlier in the playback chain everything is done correctly, the more I will hear improvements in the middle and at the end. The beginning is the electricity, the end is the placement of the loudspeakers and the room acoustics. When it comes to room acoustics, the ideal loudspeakers for the room are extremely important, as relatively cheap, small two-way speakers often sound better than much too large (expensive) speakers in rooms that are too small or when listening distances are too short. There is a lot of potential in electricity and unfortunately an ideal power supply for all components is not cheap. Prices of power cables at the top of the shelf are sometimes in the five-digit range and filters / isolating transformers or even battery power supplies for the entire chain require the correct numbers on the lottery ticket.
I always think very carefully about where I could make an audible profit with "little" investment. Lately it has been mostly in the electricity sector and I've bought almost everything used. Many people replace their devices and speakers over the years because they are not satisfied. This is usually rather expensive and often unnecessary, as the components usually play well below the possible level. Often the chain idea is neglected and then in forums or on YouTube people grumble that "everything is fraud with expensive cables". The chain only sounds as good as the weakest link allows. Of course, I can't really judge a really good LS cable, but it's not because of the cable. My tip is to invest evenly with a special focus on power supply and cabling. If components at home that have been rated as good in the trade press do not sound good and the room acoustics are correct, better cables (including power cables) can work wonders.
Another weak point is often the source and that's where I touch my own nose. What else could a really good music server get out of it? How would a NonPlusUltra CD player sound directly over my NF silver cables? A good drive over my DAC? OK. - I won't go back to the CD, it's just not my way of listening to music. However, that would be helpful for a classification of my source. In general, whatever information is not supplied at the source can never be retrieved again later. What the two jitter bugs alone bring is hard to put into words and there is a lot to do with music on a PC. By the way, music servers are only computers!
What am I hearing. The order is not a ranking and of course I hear a lot more, just my evergreens. To be continued regularly ...
Deep in the 1980s, a friend played a song by Tom Waits (CD Raindogs) and asked me how old the singer was. At the time, Tom Waits (born 1949) was in his mid-30s and I totally misjudged myself. I bought the CD and from then on it was all about me. My girlfriend and todays wife liked him too and we attended a concert in Hamburg in 1987 and in Berlin in 1999. Both were an unforgettable experience. For me, his music is an integral part of my life.
Gravenhurst (Nick Talbot)
I had just discovered his music and learned to love it when I heard about his death on the radio. He lives on in his songs ... thank you Nick.
Portishead & Massive Attack
We lived in Celle in the mid-1990s and my girlfriend and her best friend were away for a few days. They took our car and the car from her and her boyfriend stopped at the door, I was allowed to use the day. Tiddi had a CD changer in the car and when I drove off Portieshead ran - the music immediately caught me and when I was back home I took the magazine with me and discovered Massive Attack there. In the mid-1990s, we had a system well above average and it was a great listening evening. To date, all the records from these bands are evergreens in my collection.
I loved it as a teenager and still like to listen to the older things again and again. My favorite record is "On the Beach". Back then I bought "After the Goldrush" on a record, in the early 1980s and this record still stands out for me today. I am particularly looking forward to "Homegrown" and have pre-ordered it right away.
"Is a woman" has accompanied me since its release because of this incredibly intense mix. I bought many more records from Lampchop, unfortunately none of them comes very close to my favorite album for my taste.
I discovered the band around mastermind Mark Oliver Everett in 1996 with the release of "Beautiful Freak" and immediately fell in love with the music. I was looking forward to the release of the next record and "Electro-Shock-Blues" didn't disappoint. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm waned a little with each record and after "Daisies of the Galaxie" and individual songs from "Souljacker" I still love "Useless Trinkets". But there are individual pearls on each CD.
I discovered "Come from Heaven" shortly before my high-end addiction in 1997. This record thrills me again and again even after countless listens and it almost puts me in a trance. From a sonic point of view, the record offers more and more to discover with every improvement in the playback chain. Unfortunately I could never make friends with "The Impossible Thrill" and just ordered "Stargazing". We'll see.
Most probably better known as Bonnie "Prince" Billy. I started with "Master and Everyone" and some records followed. Partly extremely well received but also the not so good sounding CDs exude a nice analog flair. An example is "Ease down the road" with the clear list in the direction of low tones. Mr. Oldham is very hardworking and from time to time I expand my collection of pearls from him.
Genesis until the late 1970s
I discovered Genesis on the radio in the 1970s and had tapes. In 1980 my brother gave me "Duke" for my birthday and I immediately fell in love with the record. Then I looked for further LPs and quickly landed in the phase with Peter Gabriel. In the 1980s I heard a lot of Genesis from the early years and still love this music today. I also like the first records with Phil Collins as a singer, in the 80s it got too pop. Of course I also have Peter Gabriel's solo records, at least the earlier ones. Timelessly beautiful music and truly amazing, in which young years Genesis already realized this music. Many years ago my wife and I watched a few concerts by The Musical Box, which are said to come very, very close to the original concerts from the 1970s. It was really an experience and a dream of my youth was fulfilled.
King Crimson (early years)
If you like Genesis at the time of Peter Gabriel, King Crimson is not far in the early line-up. Sometimes they were a bit too violent for me and I like the worn pieces. But e.g. "Islands" is such a record that I just have to listen to it really loud and from start to finish, at least every few years. Oh yes, tonight ... my wife is not home. Incidentally, the King Crimson recordings unfold a sonic magic that the Genesis recordings unfortunately lack.
Mark-Almond (Jon Mark and Johnny Almond)
In the mid-1980s, I was on a course for a quarter of a year with the Bundeswehr in Bremen (MatNachwUffz Part 2). As luck would have it, friends lived in a shared apartment near the barracks in the middle of Bremen. Christian in particular had a very nice record collection and so I took my (very good) Technics tapedeck with me to Bremen and kept listening to my collection. There I also discovered Mark-Almond and later bought everything on CD. The music is beautiful, often sad and tonally just adorable like so many early 1970s recordings. Thank you, Christian. While writing these lines I looked at which CDs I don't have and ordered two - I'm happy!
I also discover his music with Christian and still love Van Morrison's 1960-70s. Especially "Veedon Fleece". I quote Ulf Kubanke: "If the old thesis is correct, that great pain usually results in equally great art," Veedon Fleece "is your best key witness. The Belfast takes all the pain and pours it into a shape as sinister as it is as green as the hills of Ireland. The result is one of the best records from Van the Man. " The remastered CD from 2008 still has bonus tracks, so for me "Twilight Zone" is an absolute asset to the original CD.
The documentary "Searching for Sugar Man" was a tip among friends: "The music could be something for me". We saw the really nice film about the search for the missing musician and I was immediately enthusiastic about the music from the early 1970s. After the film I immediately ordered the CD and listened up and down at the beginning. Also a very interesting record in terms of sound, with extreme spatiality and the typical, wide stereo panorama that makes many recordings from this time so unique.
Simon & Garfunkel
When I'm at the old camels ... the music has been with me since I was born and I bought all the studio albums on CD ages ago, after which they were remastered. Sonically all the first cream and I like to pick out a song for an audio evening. The bonus tracks are also nice.
Iron and Wine
I love Sam Beam's early solo albums, which are now evergreens to my ears. The album "Our endless numbered days" is very interesting and I am really blown away every time. A little overproduced in a positive sense and I think I can be there live in the studio. That´s high end!
Similar to Genesis, I rarely hear the Beatles anymore, but I still love the music and from "Revolver" I actually like everything from the Beatles. When I was still in the children's cart, my mother and siblings happily pushed me in front of the running music chest and I was happy. Of course there was a lot of "The Beatles" on the radio and they influenced my taste in music very much. I still remember very well how I sat with my buddy Udo as a teenager and we heard the white album on his brother's system, which I thought was fantastic at the time. At that time my sister had the two samplers "Rotes" and "Blaues" album. The blue 1967-70 went up and down for me after I took over the record collection.
I'm talking about Jim White with records like "Wrong-Eyd Jesus" and "No such place" - not the drummer. Here too, as so often, I like the rather early phase. Very nice tricky alternative country music that makes the heart of every high-end beat faster. Very exciting, what things are suddenly to be discovered after a few updates to the system.
Sometime many years ago my wife heard a song by "The Notwist" on the way home from work one night and said the next day it could be music for you. Of course I bought the "Neon Golden" first and was completely thrilled. Gradually all the albums followed and I don't want to miss a single one. Contrary to my preference for CDs, I had to download the last EP "Ship" from the homepage, as it was not available otherwise. In 2015 we also went to a concert in Hanover, the sound of which was of course horror for my ears, but still nice to see the guys live. I ordered the new album "Vertigo Days" straight away and I'm really looking forward to it. What makes the music so special for me? First of all, the voice of Markus Acher, which casts me under its spell like no other. The music itself has been very electronic and extremely experimental, at least since the album "12", and recorded so well in terms of sound ... Crazy! At this point in time at the end of 2020 I would call this band my absolute favorite band and the nice thing is, they are still there! By the way, the album "Vertigo Days" fits in seamlessly with my favorite records.