Monday, October 9, 2017

Press Release - Nagra HD Preamp

Audio Technology Switzerland is proud to announce it is releasing its most ambitious preamplifier ever: the new NAGRA HD PREAMP.

Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, Denver, USA - Friday the 6th October 2017. The Swiss company announces it is releasing a new preamplifier to compliment the HD range, that will be simply called the HD PREAMP.  

Nagra is demonstrating the new HD PREAMP at the RMAF in room 1030.
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World announcement of the NAGRA HD PREAMP, almost twenty years after the NAGRA PL-P preamplifier was released on the high-end market.

In 1998, NAGRA Audio division introduced its very first high-end consumer product after more than 40 years of continuous success in the professional recording market. The PL-P preamplifier was a class A triode-based line and phono preamplifier that immediately set new standards in sound reproduction.

In many ways, the HD PREAMP’s design started from a white page. Every aspect and step in the design process involved research to find the most elegant solution to accurately and faithfully convey the music from your sources to the amplifier. As a result, the HD PREAMP includes several patent pending technologies that are taking the music listening experience to new height.

Nagra unique approach to designing audio products takes advantage of 65 years of experience in the field, a large and skilled R&D group as well as extensive listening sessions; the result is often very organic and natural sounding. In order for the final product to be faithful to the theoretical work, custom made high-end components are carefully selected. The unit includes in-house custom-made components like audio transformers.

The volume control is a patent pending technology that allows perfect level matching with a much more transparent sound compared to potentiometers and switch resistor technology, because there is no attenuation of the input signal, just an automatic selection of a tap on the Nagra custom output transformers.

As expected with such high quality electronics, the sophisticated power supply will be located in a separate chassis. Like the audio circuit, it uses utmost quality components that are specified for extreme applications. Very much like the PL-P made use of batteries to isolate the unit from external interferences, the HD PREAMP’s power supply uses a unique virtual battery technology that offer superior result to a conventional battery, without the inconvenience of dealing with charging time and battery life. Consequently, the noise floor level at the preamplifier reaches uncharted territories; it is the lowest ever measured with a NAGRA product (See attached).

The construction of the chassis of the HD PREAMP and its power supply gets rid of the influence of external disturbances (vibration and electrical) and drastically reduces proper resonances. As a result, the HD PREAMP promises to set new standards for preamplification as did the PL-P twenty years ago.
First units will be delivered by the end of November. The suggested retail price list in the USA is 59’500 US$.


Contact
Matthieu Latour, Marketing Director, matthieu.latour@nagraaudio.com

About ATS - Audio Technology Switzerland
Founded in 1951 by Stefan Kudelski, NAGRA has been designing some of the most influencing equipment in the audio industry. From the Oscar ® Awards winning NAGRA professional tape recorders to the rewarded NAGRA HD electronics, the company has continuously perpetuated the utmost excellence in electronics design and manufacturing. In 2012, Audio Technology Switzerland S.A. formerly Nagra Audio division is created. Still largely owned by the Kudelski family, Audio Technology Switzerland designs, manufactures and market NAGRA professional, high-end audio and security products. It is continuing the tradition of sophistication and originality that has established the prestige of the NAGRA brand all around the world for over 60 years.








By the way guys, if that didn't get you all excited, you should get professional help from your nearest audio clinic or dare I say, Nagra dealer.

Acuhorn - New products from Poland


Acuhorn RATE class-D amplifier  2500 EUR
www.acuhorn.pl/rate.htm

Features


Monolithic class-d stereo amplifier chip by texas instruments
total harmonic distortion + noise 0.005%
signal to noise ratio 111dB
dynamic range 115dB
protection of both amplifier and speakers
the audiophile selection of each component is a listening session
stepped attenuators are the most preferred solution in high end audio
high quality precision 0.1% thin film Nichrome chip resistors
the amplifier input is isolated high impedance input Lundahl transformers
extreme audio path high quality and transparent sounding
power supply is the best Vicorpower modules
DC-DC converters high frequency Mhz switching
autoranging 90-264Vac network voltage, for worldwide use

Acuhorn R2R hi-tech streamer 3600 EUR
www.acuhorn.pl/r2r.htm

Features


R2R ladder 28 bit resolution 384Khz dac
loaded FPGA Spartan 6 technology oversampling up to 3.072Mhz
signal to noise ratio 127dB
automatic input selection I2S or SPDIF
R-2R direct output and buffered output for headphones
server runs on Raspberry Pi for I2S interface
compatible with all formats music: MP3, FLAC, WAV, AAC, ALAC, DSD
UPNP\DLNA, Airplay, Spotify and Web-Radios, etc
controlled wifi from remote running on smartphones, tablets, notebooks
MoOde web interface to control playback and settings
power supply is the best Vicorpower modules
DC-DC converters high frequency Mhz switching
autoranging 90-264Vac network voltage, for worldwide use









For more information, please contact :-

Acuhorn
Krtuska 243A
Gdansk 80-125
Poland
phone 0048 737476346
www.acuhorn.pl
email: info@acuhorn.pl

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Denafrips Pontus R2R DAC

Introduction

You just can't stop the onslaught of discrete R2R DACs. The Denafrips Pontus is a R2R DAC with separate resistor networks for both PCM and DSD. Really solid build, a lot of nice ideas and a price tag that will not break the bank - S$2,200. 

Denafrips is a China manufacturer with a line-up of 4 DAC models, ranging from the very budget friendly base model, Ares (retailing for the very auspicious sum of S$ 888) to the top of the range model, Terminator (no Arnold jokes please ! This retails for S$ 5,860). At the time of writing, the exchange rate was about S$ 1.35 for US$ 1.

The model on review here is second from the bottom.

Description

Pontus was a sea god in Greek mythology. This Pontus is a rather petite landlubber. Measuring just 320 x 330 x 80 mm, the Pontus weighs 8.5 kg. It is very well equipped with a total of 7 digital inputs (coaxial RCA, coaxial BNC, twin AES / EBU inputs, Toslink, I2S (my sample uses HDMI, but RJ45 can be specified), and USB.

The output stage is fully balanced, and both XLR and RCA outputs are provided. 

The front panel buttons from left to right are for the power switch, inputs, phase (called Reserval (sic)), oversampling, mute and the digital filter mode. A plethora of pin-prick indicators show the active input, sampling rate and DSD mode. In my bat-cave, the wording was so small that I couldn't really see anything.

Denafrips may want to have a re-think on its ergonomics and the quality of it's user manual. I found it very odd that the Reserval (spell-check guys !) light indicated normal phase, while the OS/NOS light indicated that no over-sampling was selected. The manual simply explains that the mode button toggles between slow / sharp filters and advises that, "You are fine with either selection should you hear no difference."

Otherwise, the Pontus is all good. The build quality is outstanding, especially considering its price tag. I liked the cut-outs at the rear of the top panel. They look artistic and bring some variety to the otherwise monotonous box. Practically, the cut-outs were probably necessary to avoid blocking the push tabs of the XLR sockets.

Looking at the pictures on Denafrips web-site, parts quality is outstanding, with a Furutech AC inlet and other premium parts from manufacturers like Nichicon, Neutrik, etc. 







The Pontus uses double toroidal transformers for its power supply and dual mono FPGA decoders. The R2R ladder network uses 0.01 % precision resistors and is capable of 24 bit resolution. DSD is decoded natively by a separate resistor network. 

Looking at the comparison chart on Denafrips website, Pontus is separated from its elder siblings by a number of features. The Terminator sports a far larger power transformer, while both the Terminator and Venus get higher precision R2R resistors (0.005 % tolerance), Femto clocks and a 26 bit resolution R2R ladder network.   

All inputs are capable of DSD64, while DSD 128 and 256 are only available via USB and I2S. PCM sampling rates up to 352.8 kHz and 24 bit resolution can be decoded.

I tested most of the inputs including the I2S and USB inputs on both PCM and DSD 64 - no issues were encountered. The I2S output from my Singxer SU-1 did require a bit of leg work to get the settings right though. No surprises there, since there is no real industry standard for I2S pin outs. I did not use the I2S input much. I only had a stock HDMI cable on hand, and this probably curtailed performance.

I spent most of my time listening through the AES input with a Viard Audio Silver HD Digital cable. This had the best balance amongst the cables at my disposal. To ensure a fair comparison to my Totaldac D1-six, I set up the Pontus the same way, using the balanced outputs of the Pontus, converted to single ended using my Totaldac XLR to RCA transformer based adapters. 

Sound Quality

I will go right out and say this - the Pontus offers outstanding sound quality for the money. I would be hard pressed to suggest another unit with competitive performance at the price bracket. 

The Pontus would best be described as sounding very cohesive. It has a very composed sonic presentation with a good even balance. Resolution is very good, with commendable retrieval of micro-detail.

Tonally, I would put it as sitting somewhere to the subtly warm side of neutral. In comparison, the Vinshine DAC or the Holo Audio Spring DAC (Level 3) have a warmer balance.

Bass notes are reproduced in a tight, clean and rhythmic fashion. There is no bloat, fullness, or overhang here, and some may find the low frequencies to be somewhat dry and lightweight. This tended to give the Pontus a reduced sense of scale and dynamic restraint.

Initially, I found the midrange to be overly laidback. Out went the excellent Blackcat Tron coaxial cable, and in went the Viard Audio Silver HD Digital AES cable. The Viard has a very neutral tone and a drier balance than the Tron. While the midrange remained on the laidback side, it was nicely detailed and expressive. 

High frequencies are great with the Pontus, with good extension, refinement and nice reproduction of acoustic space in recordings.  

Soundstaging and imaging are also a strong point, with very precise placement of instruments both laterally, and depth wise. Sonic images were always kept tightly in focus, without any wavering even when things got busy.

Suggestions though that the Pontus is the one DAC to rule them all are misplaced (why do all audiophiles get all excited by these possible David vs Goliath stories ?). You can get much higher performance than the Pontus, but by spending at least three or four times more money. My Totaldac D1-Six has superior dynamics, more powerful bass, and a dimensionality to the sound that makes the Pontus seem flat in comparison. However, I could buy a Pontus for each of my three bedrooms, my two toilets, kitchen, dining room and still have a fair amount left over.

Conclusion

Great performance at the asking price. Probably not the best choice for bass heads, but otherwise, the Pontus has very little flaws. Makes you wonder how good Denafrips top model is ? It's never been better for audiophiles on a tight budget - Highly Recommended.

A big thank you goes to Alvin Chee of Vinshine Audio for arranging this review. Vinshine Audio is the global dealer for Denafrips.

Denafrips Pontus DAC
Price - S$ 2,200

Denafrips
http://www.denafrips.com

Vinshine Audio
http://www.vinshineaudio.com