While walking home from the office the other day I passed a gleaming, perfectly detailed Harley-Davidson, lightly customized, as many are these days. I didn't stop and drool, but I couldn't unsnap my eyes from it. As I drew parallel to that hawg, a Ricky Martin look-alike threw his leg over the saddle and thumbed the starter. No, you don't have to be a tattooed, beer-gutted redneck anymore to rear up and slam down on a kick-starter of one of those beasts. These days, it's all done with the push of a button. Dude.
As an audio journalist "servicing" the High End (ouch!), I surf the Web waves to see what's going on on the various audio newsgroups and bulletin boards. Sometimes the Net resembles the Concorde going down, the crash video'd by a passing French motorist: Ashen faces pressed against car windows driving slowly by to check out the carnage.
What's it take to compete on the bleeding edge of digital? Foresight, commitment of resources, and lots of money. Of course, it's all fundamentally about money, so we shouldn't be surprised that the audiophile's emotional needs aren't paid much respect by the large international manufacturing and marketing concerns stalking the earth today. Megaglom vs Cockroachacus. [Sigh] Where are those pesky miniature princess twins when you need 'em?
The dCS Purcell is named after Henry Purcell, the English composer, organist, bass, countertenor who was born in 1659 and died in, alas, 1695. It's a digital/digital converter intended for consumer use, as opposed to the less elegantly packaged pro-audio version, the dCS 972, that I reviewed in February 1999. Both devices increase the sample rate and/or word length of the output from linear PCM digital audio sources like CD or DVD up to a maximum sample rate of 192kHz and a word length of 24 bits. According to the extensive documentation, this is achieved by "using extremely powerful and accurate digital interpolation filters, which yield an output signal having negligible levels of distortion."
If you search for "DVD-A" on this website, you can get the whole confusing story of the format, which has been the subject of one of the strangest format launches of recent years: First it's on, then it's off. The watermark is audible. No, it's not. Oops, it is—back to square one. There's software, there's no software. (There's not—only one demo disc officially available in September 2000, when I wrote this review!)
Not too long ago, the word "convergence" had everyone in the High End ready to duck'n'cover. Asia was on the ropes, and a shakeout was thinning the ranks of high-end audio manufacturers. Some US companies were marketing and selling most of their output to the Pacific Rim. The writing was on the wall: High-end was dead, and we'd all just better get used to listening to music on our computers.
The subject of audiophile-grade AC outlets, which I have been discussing in previous Fine Tunes" columns is more contentious than I'd ever imagined. In August's episode of "Fine Tunes," I forwarded you an e-mail from audio worthy Glen Bartholomew, who waxed poetic about the inexpensive and therefore (he felt) oft-overlooked hospital-grade devices from Leviton. He found the Levitons to be the equals of, if not better than, the Hubbell, Bryant, and Eagle units I'd previously recommended.