Entech Number Cruncher 203.2 & 205.2 D/A converters Entech: The Name Sounds Familiar...
At first glance, the pieces of the Entech puzzle don't quite fit together. There's Monster Cable, a company that truly needs no introduction but that's synonymous with wire, not electronics. Next, the name "Entech Number Cruncher" seems vaguely familiar, but conjures up images of ultra-expensive gear somehow associated with electronics manufacturer Spectral. Finally, doesn't the very notion of inexpensive D/A converters in unique, small packages ring a familiar bell? Didn't there used to be a company—"Alchemy" something-or-other—that defined that market?
I recently had a chance to talk with Peter Madnick, designer of the 203.2 and 205.2 Number Crunchers. Although he's now one the principals of DTG Incorporated, a product-development firm that services a number of high-end clients, Peter is best known for his role as co-founder, Vice President, and Chief Engineer of Audio Alchemy.
It all makes perfect sense, according to Madnick. Monster Cable President Noel Lee wanted to deepen the company's technology in their core product line and expand into affordable, high-quality electronics. Madnick describes the Entech vision as being "the Swiss Army knife of the home-entertainment world. It's all about the proliferation of gear and different formats: S-Video, component video, digital, multichannel, analog...it's all different formats. It makes perfect sense, because Monster's goal is to hook everything together...and if it can't be connected with cable, to supply the format-conversion and multiplexing devices. In fact, the Number Crunchers are the only audio-only products...and they were designed to fill a particular niche: inexpensive D/A converters, the gap that existed when Audio Alchemy closed."
The solution was to mate Monster's marketing and R&D clout with some heavyweight technical talent—the Entech Dream Team. First on board was Demian Martin, co-founder and Engineering Director of Spectral. He later founded the original Entertainment Technologies—Entec with no h—a company known for ultra-high-tech loudspeakers and digital gear, including the original Number Cruncher DAC. Although the original Entec still exists, Martin has moved on to become Director of Engineering at Monster Cable and the new Entech, and has reused (sort of) the names.
A second addition to the Monster/Entech design team was consulting engineer Richard Marsh. In addition to his invention of the internal-bypass MultiCap, Marsh is known throughout the High End as the innovative designer and R&D guru responsible for many of the concepts and circuits incorporated in today's electronics—such as the use of servo-DC feedback circuits on power amplifiers. At Entech, he'll be focusing his efforts on power products.
Finally, Madnick and DTG came on board. The original target was to fill the gap left by Audio Alchemy's demise, but the "Swiss Army knife" vision was such a good match that the little DACs were only the beginning. In addition to the 203.2 and 205.2, Madnick also designed Entech's other initial offering, the $349 DAV 4.1—a very clever audio/video source selector that also comes in the adorable Quonset-hut aluminum chassis. Another bit of synchronicity, according to Madnick, is that "the original Entech Number Cruncher was based on an earlier version of DAC we use, so, even coming from different ends of the price spectrum, our design philosophies are similar."
Entech should have released two more products by the time you read this: the S-Video System Integrator (SVSI 1) and the Component Video System Integrator (CVSI 1). The former unit converts video signals between composite video and S-Video, and the latter between S-Video and component video. According to Madnick, this is just the beginning. Although I couldn't get him to commit to specific future products, he did admit that there was "a prototype 24/96 converter sitting on my test bench." When I pushed a bit harder, he finally laughed and said, "Well, if you look at the models for the Number Crunchers (205.2 = 20-bit DAC, 5-pole filter, two channels), there's a lot of room for growth."—Brian Damkroger