Baun Audio, Ideon Audio, and JMF Audio

My second press day at Munich High End began with an intimate press conference at the Ideon/Baun loudspeaker booth in Halle 3. Benno Baun Meldgaard, former speaker designer for Gamut, Raidho, and Gryphon, was not on hand to discuss the latest developments in his forthcoming speaker line. I first encountered Baun speakers at the 2023 Pacific Audiofest. The first speaker in the Baun line-up is due by the end of 2024. Designed to sit very close to the rear wall, the speakers will range upward in price from about $23,000/pair.

Happily, Ideon’s design team was on hand. Ideon’s designer has been creating DACs since 1992. Feeling that a highly musical, dynamic, open sound wasn’t available from digital devices, Ideon began to build DACs with power supply transformers, hand-manufactured to Ideon specs, were designed the same care one would (or should) put into designing an amplifier (and could, Ideon claims, be used as a “good amplifier”). As a close collaborator and beta tester for ESS—Ideon has written thousands of lines of code for ESS’s for ESS’s DAC chip and USB receiver, ensuring a 147dB dynamic range—Ideon considers ESS DAC chips “the best when utilized with Ideon’s in-house software, firmware and extreme power supplies.”

Ideon’s new Absolute Streamer ($25,000) includes an internal 4TB drive and uses either Roon or Ideon's own software to play back from a Linux core. Ideon claims that the streamer loads files to cache with zero latency and noise. It also says that its CPU only does one thing at a time, while Roon has 100 things happening at once. As much as Ideon feels that streaming services like Qobuz and Tidal have inferior playback quality to playing one’s own high-res downloaded files from a HD or NAS, both Tidal and Qobuz should be integrated into Ideon’s software application by the time you read this. The streamer’s reclocker further address noise and phase issues of files by regenerating, redriving, and reclocking the signal prior to playback.

Ideon’s new Absolute DAC ($49,900) has a completely redesigned analog stage, with new firmware and two new “over-engineered” transformers. Ideon favors delta sigma DAC architecture over ladder DACs. Eight years in the making, the Absolute DAC comes with a 7-year warranty.

There are two other new products. Ideon’s USB Isolator (€5900) uses a big transformer, combined with a clock, to “fully isolate USB input and output and eliminate all noises that are concentrated in the ground (coming from various sources within a network). This way, Σigma Wave ensures complete isolation of data lines, power, and ground lines from input to output. Additionally, a special femto clock in the output section addresses timing issues. Isolating from electrical noises, it is a must for any digital user,”Tounas said.

Finally, the Ideon LAN Optimizer ($5500), which accepts signal via Ethernet and outputs signal via USB 3.0, replaces the internal LAN card of the server/streamer. Ideon claims that the Alpha Wave LAN optimizer uses a femto clock as a master timing device and “guarantees uninterrupted gigabit LAN performance.” It also utilizes a multiple regulated linear, ultra-low noise power supply complete with a custom-designed “oversized” toroidal transformer. Tounas said that if you already have an audiophile network switch, the LAN optimizer will have less of an effect, but it will still make an improvement.

There wasn’t much time for listening, but what music I heard sounded extremely clear. In a system that also included the JMF Audio HQS 6002 dual mono power amplifier ($45,000)—I reviewed the 7001—and JMF Audio PRS Dual mono preamplifier ($39,000), bass was fabulous. We ended with an excerpt of the late Dave Wilson’s fabled Brahms recording with my friends David Abel (violin) and Julie Steinberg (piano). The sound was gorgeous.