47 Laboratory 4704 PiTracer CD transport Page 3
A Cardas-sourced star-wired extender powered the Krells from one of our separate runs of 30-amp metal-jacketed copper house wiring, back to a separate breaker in the box with nothing else on the line. We thus have dual-quad outlets on this line, and an equal length of slightly smaller-gauge, metal-jacketed copper wires in a separate conduit running back to another high-quality breaker in the box, also unused by any other socket and sprouting the same dual-quad, hospital-grade outlet setup as the amp side, and good for 20 amps. (I never tire of telling the story of K-10 pulling both lines of cable through the roof/ceiling crawlspace.) All duplex sockets are grounded nicely to a cold-water pipe, and there's no plastic coupler from the building's water supply to the street mains. Lots of local businesses pull the electricity down during the day and spike it good, but we run a happy and stable 117V in the evenings, 118-120V on weekends.
Could this baby ever sing.
My immediate impression of the PiTracer, later backed up by many hours of contented listening, was of sonic clarity. It was so transparent that I simply loved listening to music with it. The extra-wide, -deep, practically Olympic-sized soundstage made me want to dive in!
I've heard this kind of presentation so far only from SACD: The backgrounds were blacker than black, resulting in an enhanced sense of imaging. And running direct from the Elgar Plus to the Krells gave me more of that special ease I crave, and which I associate with high-bit-rate, high-sampling-rate machines.
The PiTracer sounded very linear from the bottom: stygian depths to the highest of highs. Sweet, detailed, and oh-so-right there—the immediacy made me gasp with pleasure. Very much like the Linn's presentation—fast, pacey, taut, transparent, and fast off the mark.
I was surprised. I'd assumed that, with so much processing going on in the following stages, the contribution of the transport to the overall sound of today's separate digital components was becoming less significant. Was I ever wrong!
Let's start with some stylish new music: the French band Air's new 10,000Hz Legend (my sample, bought at La Fnac in Paris, is Source 8 10332 2; it's available on the Astralwerks' label in the US). Track 1, "Electronic Performers," sets the stage for listening to this album: A terrific driving bass line about a minute and a half in leads to less, not more, wall-of-sound histrionics, so stay with it. The male vocal that enters 30 seconds later from the center of the soundstage sounded to me like a genie coming out of a bottle—sound fine enough to be sipped and savored by audiophiles everywhere.
Track 2, "How Does It Make You Feel?," is a love song voiced like a Mac computer. It starts out rather maudlin, then, suddenly, at 1:20, you're in Sgt. Pepperland! How'd the Beatles get in here?! Then you're jerked back to the present. The musical references are eclectic and very Soylent Green? The song ends with a hysterical twist: The music stops, and a male voice croaks, "So how does this make you feel?" After a moment of silence a processed female voice replies, "Well, I really think you should quit smoking." But that's so it! The atmosphere was perfectly created, the sonic clarity tremendous, the bass tremendous, and the midrange was to die, with magnificent highs.
There's something about the sixth tracks of CDs—they're invariably my favorites. On 10,000Hz Legend, it's "Lucky and Unhappy"—a great piece of music and very "audiophile." If it doesn't sound utterly fantastic—you don't even have to open a zipper to step into the large, tent-like acoustic set up in front of and around your speakers—then you need to check out my "Fine Tunes" columns in our on-line archives and get hip!
"Don't Be Light" on this CD is aimed right at all of you aging-rockers-at-heart still secretly in love with Joan Jett and who think that, yeah, it's only rock'n'roll, and I like it! It's also a great track for revealing a system's speed and coherence. On the PiTracer it sounded clean, glistening, and appealing in the midrange, with tight transitions through an attractive upper midrange and treble over very deep bass. Plus the recording was as sweet as hell in the highs via the PiTracer, no doubt aided and abetted by the Krell 350MCs, which I've come to regard as extremely powerful but fundamentally sweet-sounding amps. Who'da thunk it?
Whenever the PiTracer was in the system, vocals were finely drawn and tightly focused, with just the right level of chestiness for the boys and perfect, lit-from-within sweetness for the girls. Everything sounded flat as can be frequency-wise, no particular part of the audio spectrum exaggerated or pumped. Transitions from the bass and up through the mids sounded seamless.
Listening to Peter Epstein + Scott Colley + Peter Erskine (M•A Recordings M058A), I was struck by the PiTracer's rendering of cymbals and other high-frequency instruments: magnificently and sparkly, dying out in a perfectly acoustic way, with air, dynamics, and impact as fine as I've ever heard. That includes hearing this disc on the Forsell Air Bearing CD transport and the Accuphase DP-100—if not the Linn Sondek CD12, which still gets the award for dynamics and speed, even though it's a player, not just a transport.
An Accuphase moment
Until this point, all of my listening had been to the PiTracer into the Purcell/Elgar Plus: sometimes direct to the amps, sometimes not. Feeding the 'Tracer Driving to the Accuphase DC-101 upsampling DAC, with its sextet of 24-bit/192kHz-capable MASH converters doing industry-standard 8x oversampling (not upsampling, as dCS would have it) into the Lamm L2 preamp, I found that while I appreciated the Accuphase DC-101 at 16/44.1, I appreciated more the way the Purcell/Elgar Plus did it—and by a country mile. I'm not talkin' SACDs here—just "Red Book" CDs. But when I wired the Accuphase DP-100 into the Purcell/Elgar Plus and upsampled to 24/192, the SACD transport sounded just as great as I've been telling you—a touch more round, warm, and sexy, not quite as clear and fast. I thought I'd miss the PiTracer's clarity more, but the DP-100 ain't chopped liver!
PiTracer for you, Sir?
So who's the PiTracer for? Who's gonna plunk down 25 big ones plus another $1800 per Humpty power supply, and why? Well, you're rich, that's for sure, so you can have pretty much what you like. You like intricate, unique, sculptural forms around you. You also have a huge collection of CDs Dang it all, you want the best there is, and you can afford it.
Well, here it is, in black or silver! Enjoy...