The Power Chord
Let DAVE show you the way
The beginning of the year is a good time to get a little aspirational.
Remember the 2003 remake of The Italian Job? In one scene the crew share what they're going to do with the money from the latest heist. Jason Statham's character, Handsome Rob, wants an Aston Martin Vanquish. Seth Green's character, Lyle "Napster" meanwhile wants a dream audio system built around an NAD T770. Now, nothing against NAD, but I'm sure even they will agree that if you have millions of dollars to spend, you can dream bigger than a $3,000 receiver. (Rounding up the adjusted-for-inflation $1,700 retail.)
It's funny how in popular culture we are allowed to spend tens of thousands of dollars on watches, cars, and even clothes, but high-end audio systems remain invisible and utterly misunderstood.
Over the next few Saturdays we're going to cover some aspirational equipment that deserves to be on the same wish list as that hand-crafted mechanical Swiss timepiece or highly tuned English grand tourer.
The Unassumingly Named Chord DAVE
In many ways, Chord Electronics' flagship DAC is a jeweled timepiece for your home instead of your wrist, bringing together everything we love about ultra-high-end audio.
Though it sounds like your best bud from school, DAVE is an acronym for 'Digital to Analogue Veritas in Extremis,' and like its name, there's a bit of flash, and more than a sprinkle of sass. Yet, there is empathetic design in every button, bezel, and corner. Inside this chunk of high-grade alloy is audio design so extreme that designer Rob Watts is having to tinker blind beneath the noise floor of his laboratory equipment, squeezing out more and more improvements with every increase in processing power.
DAVE's FPGA (a programmable chip) is loaded with over a million lines of code which it blazes through with 1,000x the processing power of a regular DAC chip. This custom, high-speed engine allows extremely high-resolution and time-correct digital filters. The actual analog conversion is not done on a chip but uses discrete components fed by a separate power supply. The strongly engineering-based design is backed by "thousands and thousands of listening tests," as Rob Watts, the digital designer, says.
The result is a soundstage that feels like going from iMax (as most good DACs can offer) into a planetarium.
The Upscale team has never forgotten the Chord demo from a couple of years ago, which felt more like synesthesia than musical playback, for we could practically see the highs crystallize and the lows coalesce before our eyes.
The DAVE can also deliver so much detail that even your most familiar albums will sound new. We have DAVE hanging out with us in the store, so give us a call and set up an audio demo that will feel just visual as it is aural.
Why Would You Clean—Okay, Okay, Restore—a Brand-New LP?
Kevin Deal and Charles Kirmuss in our video studio.
Charles Kirmuss is very clear on this. His patented ultrasonic vacuum device does not merely clean records; it restores them.
By having the record at an opposite charge from the cleaning solution, all of the crud dislodged by the ultrasonic waves makes it out of the groove. This is how you hear improvements with even new vinyl. By plumbing these depths, the Kirmuss is able to dig out traces of cleaning residue in cleaned records and, in new records, is able to free traces of mold release agent and dust acquired during cooling at the pressing plant.
Last November, a demonstration at Capital Audio Fest bravely started with a brand-new pressing of the highest quality: Anne Bisson's 'Be My Lover,' mastered by legendary audio engineer Bernie Grundman and pressed at RTI, a boutique audiophile pressing plant.
The record was played before and after cleaning, with its frequency levels monitored by Charles (the videos are on the Kirmuss Audio YouTube channel.) The cleaned LP showed a 1.3 dB gain and an 8% increase in frequency response, clearly visible as greater density and horizontal and vertical extension on the display. Records with more dirt and less pedigree can show up to a 4 dB gain and as much as a 14% increase in frequency response.
More recently, Charles conducted a similar demonstration in Mexico City in front of Billboard magazine. There, he was able to show similar improvements with a record that had been previously cleaned by a high-quality vacuum system.
Start the year with a clean slate and a clean LP collection! The Upscale Audio edition of the Kirmuss cleaner comes with $475 worth of free upgrades over the stock machine. In stock and shipping now.
New Video: Go Deep into the Abyss
Grover Neville unboxes a set of the overbuilt, over-the-top Abyss AB 1266 Phi TC Audiophile Reference Headphones. He then demonstrates how those intriguing earpads are set up and optimized. Additionally, he recommends a few appropriate headphone amps.