As a result of the terrorist attacks last week, the Audio Engineering Society (AES) has decided to postpone its AES 111th Convention until November 30. The annual audio event, which was to have been held this week in Manhattan at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, will now be held Friday, November 30–Monday, December 3, 2001. The AES says that the convention will use the same exhibit, demo, and conference space as would have been used next week.
Shown above is the new Pandora DAC which has three slots on the back for a variety of input options including AES, USB (asynch) and SPDIF, and tube analog stage and both balanced and unbalanced outputs and an optional volume control. Retail is $6k.
The Pandora is a tube-based DAC with one USB and three SPDIF inputs, which also forms the basis for the Romulus CD player that I reviewed favorably a couple years back. Aesthetix has now updated both products with what they call Eclipse upgrades, which include StealthCap capacitors, improved chassis damping and isolation, and upgraded grounding design in the power supply. The Pandora DAC is now $12,000 with the Eclipse updates.
When I reviewed the Romulus DAC/CD player last year, a reader quickly noted in the online comments "Can't play pure DSD files. That seems absurd for a player targeted at the audiophile market. Pity - I like the design."
Ask and ye shall receive. The Company's Jim White has updated the product with the ability to accept and process both DSD64 and 128 natively over USB. In fact, the entire DSP processing section has been updated with an Xilinx gate-array to allow for the pure DSD.
Customers with current Romulus or Pandora DACs can also upgrade their products at the factory starting mid January. In addition to DSD, the upgrade also adds a new analog board, Vishay Z-Foil resistors, and Dynamicaps.
Century-old technology embedded in a modern digital design?
I realize that Aesthetix's Saturn Romulus is not the first disc player or D/A processor with tubes, nor will it be the lastbut does combining these technologies even make sense? Are audiophiles working at cross purposes to themselves, looking for modern perfection but preferring a little old-school sweetening here and there?
There are several easy ways to start arguments among music fans: ask for a list of the most significant albums of all time, or who the greatest songwriters are, or the best bands, or ask which albums sported the all-time greatest covers.
These are perilous times for the independent audio dealer. With customers being siphoned off by large megastores and, eventually, the Internet, success will favor the dealer with a few clever tricks up his or her sleeve. One of those tricks for dealers in Dallas, Texas is a new group formed by Stephen Slaughter of The Audio Consortium.
Also new in the AMR (Abbingdon Music Research) room is the DP-777 DAC/Preamp SE (special edition) which features a "Quad Core Digital Engine", NOS GE 5670 Tubes and "Ultra Premium" coupling capacitors. The DAC handles PCM inputs up to 24/192 and pricing is still to be determined, but it will be somewhere north of $5k.