Although it was introduced at the January CES, SSI was my first opportunity to hear Wadia's cute 151PowerDAC mini amplifier ($1200). It combines a DAC, digital preamp and 25 Wpc power amp, and is housed in the same tiny package as Wadia's iTransport shown to its right. The PowerDAC was being used to drive ProAc's new floorstanding Studio 140 Mk..II speakers in the M-HiFi room at SSI, with XLO cables.
The following morning, Friday March 8, the line of Showgoers formed at the will-call booth at least an hour before the official 1pm start of AXPONA. More than 2000 tickets had been presold and the exhibit rooms were full until the end on Sunday March 10.
I've recently been rereading Mark Lane's and Donald Freed's 1970s screenplay cum novel, Executive Action, which develops the theory that John F. Kennedy was assassinated by a conspiracy between organized crime, expatriate Cuban Batistists, and Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex." Long predating Oliver Stone's JFK, the book is fascinating, convincing stuff, from authors who had done considerable research into what really happened in November 1963. But, like all conspiracy theories, it falls down on the hard rock of reality: the more people and organizations are involved in a conspiracy, the less likelihood there is of anything happening at all, let alone going according to plan.
I left you last month 104 miles from Santa Fe, New Mexico, heading east on I-40 accompanied by a dog and two cats, with 1946 miles to go to reach Stereophile's new editorial home, New York City. To cut a long story short, I did arrive in New York (covered in dog and cat hair). After a nerve-wracking delay, so did our furniture. We will be living out of boxes for a while chez Atkinson, but that's a mere inconvenience compared with the Great Adventure of setting up a new listening room.
I was surprised not only by the ease to the sound of my hi-rez audio files played on the system in the Wavelength room, but also by the resolution. Surprised, because I am not naturally a tube guy, and not only is Gordon Rankin's gear tubed, it is unshamedly single-ended.
I am always intrigued by Wavelength's combination of cutting-edge digital technology and tubes. Their room at RMAF featured new developments in both areas. Shown in the photo are the latest HS 24(32)/192 version of the Cosecant asynchronous USB DAC (left, $4000), which features the new Denominator D/A module with 9016 ESS converters, and the new Royal preamp (right, $7500). Wavelength's Gordon Rankin walked me through the design of the minimalist preamp. The input signal is taken to a transformer hat inverts the polarity and feeds high-precision Penny & Giles two-channel attenuator. The wipers of the attenuator are connected directly to the grids of two 71A triodes and that's it! (The third tube is a rectifier.) Because the single tube stage inverts polarity, the preamp output is again in correct absolute polarity.
A close-up of the Wavelength Cosecant v3 DAC ($3500) that I used for my hi-rez dems. Using a single 6GM8/ECC86 dual-triode to drive the single-ended, transformer-coupled output, this is one of a very few USB-input DACs on the market that runs the USB link in "asynchronous" mode, whereby the DAC controls the flow of data from the computer and not vice versa, thus drastically reducing word-clock jitter when those data are fed to the DAC chip. I was impressed by its sound, playing 24-bit/88.2kHz files from my laptop, so I have asked for a review sample.
As I write these words, it is exactly 15 years to the day since I left the English magazine Hi-Fi News (then Hi-Fi News & Record Review) to take the editorial helm of Stereophile. What has driven my editing of both magazines (and, Carol Baugh, p.10, I certainly do "edit" them) has been the view that the traditional model of a magazine—that it dispense and the readers receive wisdom—is fundamentally wrong. Instead, I strongly believe that a magazine's editors, writers, and readers are involved in an ongoing dialog about their shared enthusiasms. Stereophile's involvement in Shows stems from this belief, and it is in this light that its "Letters" column should be regarded as the heart of each issue.
One of my mentors, John Crabbe—my predecessor as editor of the English magazine Hi-Fi News—used to insist that a magazine's soul is its "Letters" column. If a magazine was able to publish a lively collection of readers' letters, said John, it would enjoy a lengthy life. Conversely, if its letters column was dull or nonexistent, then no matter how much advertising it had or how many readers it could boast, it was just a matter of time before it had the lid shut on it. In the 28 years since John told me this, I have not found an exception. The kicker, of course, is that there's no easy way of ensuring that a magazine has lively letters to publish.