Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Lampi Golden Gate , Nagra HD, Aqua Formula, and SGM server

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Lampi Golden Gate , Nagra HD, Aqua Formula, and SGM server

    I'm exhausted.

    Ed Hsu from SGM arrived last Wednesday and I've been going full bore since then; 4 hours Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights, then 7 hours Saturday night (and 15 local audio club members until 11pm), then Sunday for 8 hours. and I worked Wednesday thru Saturday. I'm still running on fumes. it was a great time but I'm too old to push this hard.

    I spent Wednesday and Thursday night (and Friday morning) with the $30k Nagra HD dac in my room along with the SGM server. this Nagra HD has the added power supply, plus the added transformers on the analog outputs (when using XLR outputs). the Nagra has a 128dsd dac which up samples all PCM to 128dsd.

    the way Ed from SGM had it configured was to have the HQ Player inside the SGM up-sample all PCM to 128dsd and all dsd to 128dsd. we played things mostly this way, but at the end we also played things with the SGM outputting bit-perfect data and allowing the Nagra to do it's own upsampling of PCM and not have the HQ Player do it.

    the SGM with HQ Player was quite a bit better than the Nagra on it's own, really not close at all. it was still nice sounding but lost much of it's refinement and nuance.

    as far as my impressions; I preferred the Nagra HD with SGM to the GG with the SGM. the Nagra was more liquid, refined and weighty, and had more apparent detail to my ears. the GG still did great with vocals and horns and pianos, but had slightly less relative detail and did not separate instruments as well. the GG might have been slightly more open on top. the GG can sound a slight bit rough in direct comparison with the Nagra HD. (this is with the KR242 output tubes, I'm going to try the Elrogs again soon to see how this might change this part). the DHT tubes of the GG have their attributes and their limitations. on some systems maybe they might be preferred. but not in mine. the Nagra HD seemed a net gain over my GG in my system.

    I preferred redbook on the Nagra HD with SGM to the GG when using the PCM RTR dac. both are good, but the Nagra HD got closer to the overall musicality of my vinyl. of course; the Nagra HD dac with the power supply is twice the cost of the GG, so that must be considered. at some point if the Nagra HD gets dsd512 then that might push the Nagra HD even higher.

    on Friday morning I again listened for about 90 minutes. then went to work and was thinking about what I had heard. it occurred to me that what the Nagra was doing was placing a beautiful, lovely 'glaze' of liquidity over everything. which in some systems is exactly what is needed. but in my system it is revealed as an artifact.

    which then leads to Friday night.....when the $14k Aqua Formula dac showed up. I preferred the Formula with the SGM to either the Nagra HD or the GG; and honestly in my particular system it's not close. the Formula simply sounds more like my vinyl; specifically, like my Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement cartridge. it is also reasonably priced around 13.5k euros. it's a solid state PCM only ladder dac; very, very open, natural and detailed. did I say it does space? it has the most decay of any digital product I have heard. possibly not quite as weighty as the Nagra HD. Ed had the SGM set up to upsample all dsd to dxd, 384/32. and even though it was not native, I preferred the dsd on the Aqua Formula to the other 2 dacs, on my particular system.

    http://www.aquahifi.com/formula.html

    http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews2/aqua2/1.html

    over the weekend the Aqua Formula opened up more; and it has great tone and is very micro dynamic. it plays more to the strengths of my system. whereas the Nagra and GG both get exposed as somewhat colored in my system when directly compared to the Formula.

    for this comparison all the dacs were sitting on my Acoustic Dreams rack, sitting on Wave Kinetics A10 U8 footers. finally on Sunday afternoon Ed and I moved things around to place both the SGM and the Formula on my Adona rack. the Formula was placed on top of a Symposium Svelt Shelf, which sat on my dart preamp, which sat on my Herzan active isolation platform. I was not prepared for the degree of additional information that we heard when listening to the Aqua Formula getting the advantage of the Herzan. now it was even closer to the vinyl.

    I think anyone considering the $14k Aqua Formula should instead look at it as the $24k Aqua Formula/Herzan TS-150.

    then last night I connected grounds from the Tripoint Troy Signature to the SGM and Formula. now I hear more body and weight and naturalness. the Formula has been more natural each day I've listened to it. now it's been on since Friday night.

    ultimately you should choose a dac that plays to your system and tastes. I could live with any of these fantastic dacs, but the Formula fits best.

    and the SGM with HQ Player is a game-changer to my ears. each of the dacs was optimized with the SGM; and the support and degree of customization is remarkable.

    http://soundgalleries.com/product/sgm-2015/

    so how good is the Formula?

    I cannot exactly say how the Aqua Formula compares to the $56k Trinity dac I had; too many changes in my system to be definitive. my guess is that they would be similar.......might the Trinity be a little better? maybe. I know I prefer the Aqua Formula-SGM combo to my recollection of the Trinity dac--CAPSv4......for whatever that is worth.

    $90k MSB Select II????

    good question.

    the new $74k CH Precision 3 box Mono dac????

    don't know.

    my guess is that the combination of the Aqua Formula and the SGM server is right up there with anything. and add the Herzan active isolation and you are living large.....assuming you have a system which likes the 'all the truth' approach.

    I tried to listen to the Nagra and Aqua Formula on my CAPSv4 server to see what the SGM delta would be for those 2 dacs. Ed and my son Steve tried for 90 minutes on Sunday to load the drivers, but the Audiophile Optimizer on the CAPSv4 made it impossible to do it. it would have required a re-format and re-load and I did not need to know that anyway, some others had asked me about it. I did my best.

    all three of these dacs are wonderful; I could live happily with all of them and could see each of them being ideal for particular systems.

    https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/615

  • #2
    Mike, thanks for the lengthy review. I found it interesting that you compare stuff to vinyl and not tape. Does that mean that you consider you vinyl setup to be the finest music producer in your system? Just curious.
    Speakers: Vandersteen Model 7s, 4 M&K ST-150Ts, 1 VCC-5; Amplification: 2 Vandersteen M7-HPAs, CI Audio D200 MKII, Ayre V-6xe; Preamp: Doshi Audio Line Stage v3.0; Phono Pre: Doshi Audio V3 Phono Pre; Analog: Wave Kinetics NVS; Durand Telos and SME 3012R Tonearms, Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement v2; Miyajima Zero; Reel to Reel: Technics RS-1500; Doshi Tape Pre-Amp; Studer A810; Studer A812; Tascam BR-20; Multi-channel: Bryston SP-3; Digital: Custom PC> Lampizator Pacific

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi Mike and fellow Nirvanians -- Thank you for the amazing review, which I'll be studying more as time permits. The frontiers you're exploring seem to highlight a large issue that I've thought about for a while. Analog (vinyl for me) is about retrieving and hearing the highest fidelity (true to source) reproduction of the recording. Pretty obvious, right? Detecting, amplifying, and transducing that precious, original squiggle on vinyl. But as digital moves ahead, it appears there's a totally different concept at work. Does it seem to you that the digital frontier is about "choosing" the flavor one wishes to experience via the original recording, which ends up serving as rough template but not final product? There's some of this going on in analog, but more (and potentially LOTS more) of it in digital. ProTools manipulation in the studio is evidence for that side of things moving away from analog "authenticity." Fidelity would seem not to be the central goal of digital music, given all the up-sampling and DAC tweaking out there. For now, digital wants to be like analog, but increasingly it would appear that digital will want to be a series of choices, of which vinyl or tape analog-like sound will be only one of several or many flavors.

      Hope this line of thinking makes sense, and my apologies for asking such a stone novice digital question from the lower tiers of audio dabbling.
      Last edited by Goheelz; 01-18-2017, 05:16 PM. Reason: punctuation
      Lyra Kleos SL, Dynavector XX-2MKII, VPI JMW 10.5i, VPI Aries, VPI SDS, ModWright PH-150 Reference Phono, Sony HAP-Z1ES server, McIntosh MR80, McIntosh C2300, McIntosh MC352, Vandersteen 5A, PS Audio P10, Bright Star Audio Rack of Gibraltar. Cables: Shunyata Cobra Ztron IC, PS Audio Statement AC, Synergistic Research AC, Harmonic Tech Silver Phono, Cable Research Labs Silver IC, Audioquest Gibraltar bi-wire.

      Comment


      • #4
        Mike, Thank you for having a few of us up to your listening room last week. The digital setup was absolutely amazing. It seemed to blend seamlessly into your system. It really was a treat hearing a system so well tuned. Of course, in the end I had to come home and listen to mine. I still smile when I make my tubes glow, but wow, it's something to listen at your place. I don't know if you have pipes in your walls feeding power to your equipment rack. If you do, you should have Joe put together a feed of Gary's cable if possible. It may bring a whole new layer of resolution.
        PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Audion Black Shadow monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI Paramount preamp,
        Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, STST Motus II TT, Vertere SG1 arm, Hanna ML, Allnic H1201 Phono pre, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, LPS to Modem Router and Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cabling throughout network, Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire.10 awg dedicated branch circuits to amps bolted to power cords. Significant upgrades to 120 volt main power panel. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects. ADDPower Symphony and Electraclear.
        www.kingrexelectric.com

        Comment


        • #5
          I was lucky enough to hear Mike's system again a couple of days ago after he had moved the DAC onto the Herzan active table. This is what I said at Mike's thread at WBF:

          "Mike, the system with the new digital gear is simply amazing. Listening to Simon and Garfunkel was like they were right there, I could reach out and touch them. Classical music was so natural and effortless, it was unnecessary to raise the volume level, dynamics were so realistic. Contate Domino was over the top, massed vocals you could hear individual singers each with three dimensional separation, all while the organ was playing full tilt and the ambience of the venue... It was intoxicating."

          My words cannot adequately describe what I heard, you would have to experience it yourself.

          I discussed the server with Mike a bit and he and I suspect the server is quite special. I've heard quite a few DAC's over the last few years and the server plus Herzan has to be a big factor in the combo's (server + DAC + Herzan) net performance. Maybe a game changer.
          Speakers/Amps: Genesis G2.2 Jr with Powered Servo-Sub Bass, Genesis GR1440 Mono Amps, 5,000 watts total power
          Preamp: SMc Audio VRE-1C Preamp (fully balanced inputs and output)
          Phono 1: VPI Signature 21 Belt-Drive Turntable with 10” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Windfeld Ti Phono Cartridge driving Lehmann Decade Phono Preamp
          Phono 2: VPI HW-40 Direct-Drive Turntable with 12” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Anna Diamond Phono Cartridge driving Genesis Gold Phono Preamp
          R2R Tape: Studer A810 with Bridge Console
          Digital: Lumin Network Player with Lumin NAS
          Cables: Genesis Advanced Technologies/Absolute Fidelity Interface Interconnects, Speaker, Phono and Power
          Power: Audio-Ultra Power System, IsoTek Super Titan Passive Power Conditioning for Amplifiers
          Accessories: Custom Acrylic Equipment Stands, Klaudio Ultrasonic RCM

          Comment


          • #6
            Nice review thanks, way outside of my scope of purchase. I've heard the GG, about the best digital I've ever heard.
            Chris
            ----------------------------------------------------------------
            Kef 201/2, Pass xa30.5, W4S STP-SE, Manley Chinook, VPI Classic, Dynavector DV20x2L, ExaSound e32, Acoustic Zen cables. (Office): Vincent SP331 Mkll, Quicksilver Pre, Lumin D1, (Ken Lau Signiture Edition PSU), Bryston BCD-1, Vapor Audio Breeze, WooAudio W6se,Questyle Audio CMA800R LCD-3,HD800s, HD600, Mr Speaker Ether C Flow,

            Comment


            • Musica
              Musica commented
              Editing a comment
              Just adding my 2 cents a year later - I have the Aqua Formula which, btw now offer an upgrade for better sonics (which I will do in a few months). Simply an outstanding DAC without the hassle of having to roll tubes.

          • #7
            Late to the show, but I wanted to say thanks to Mike for his review of the Aqua Formula and PM/email advice. I ended up buying an Aqua Formula and it's everything he described. Looking forward to getting the XHD upgrade which supposedly brings it up another level..
            4x20A circuits | Audioquest Niagara 3000 | Paul Hynes SR4T + HDPlex HD500 PSUs -> Music PC w/JCAT Femto nic, HQPlayer, Roon, Tidal / Qobuz | HDPlex HD100 PSU -> OCX clock + EtherRegen | Aqua Acoustic Quality LinQ streamer | Aqua Acoustic Quality Formula xHD Rev. 2 DAC | Purity Audio Silver Statement preamp | Audionet Max mono blocks | Vivid Audio Giya G2 Series 2 | 4 JL Audio Fathoms | Echole ICs /SCs / Siltech Classic 550L jumpers, Shunyata PCs | Stillpoints -> components, Isoacoustics -> speakers + subs | Custom baltic birch rack and amp stands | Fully treated and dedicated 2 channel room

            Comment


            • #8
              Mike or anyone, have you heard the Rockna Wavedream Signature DAC. Made by the designer of MSB and with the MSB ladder.

              http://www.rockna-audio.com/products/wavedream-dac
              PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Audion Black Shadow monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI Paramount preamp,
              Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, STST Motus II TT, Vertere SG1 arm, Hanna ML, Allnic H1201 Phono pre, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, LPS to Modem Router and Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cabling throughout network, Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire.10 awg dedicated branch circuits to amps bolted to power cords. Significant upgrades to 120 volt main power panel. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects. ADDPower Symphony and Electraclear.
              www.kingrexelectric.com

              Comment


              • Mike Lavigne
                Mike Lavigne commented
                Editing a comment
                Rex, not heard it.

                this Rockna company was started in 2013.

                I had heard that a former designer from MSB had went out on his own some years ago, but did not know much about it. this guy might have been involved in the early days of the original Select dac, but not the Select II. that was extent of my info and never knew the guys name.

                but calling him "the designer of MSB" might be out of date at this point.....as there are a few years separating him and the current crop of MSB dac models. how much of the current MSB dac's dna is his design I have no idea.

            • #9
              This is a Romanian company that has absolutely NOTHING to do with MSB today. They used to purchase MSB DAC modules, back in the DAC IV days, and build their DACs around it. No one from MSB designed their DACs, past or present. They just purchased the DAC module, like a few other companies used to do as well (Thrax, ReQuest, etc.)

              Disclosure:
              Alma Music and Audio - La Jolla, CA
              Aqua Hi-Fi - Audio Research - Audioquest - Audionet - Audiopax - Auralic - Aurender - Bergmann - Brodmann - D'Agostino - darTZeel - Devialet - DEQX - ELAC - Evolution Acoustics - Hegel - iFi - Innuos - IsoTek - Kii Audio - Koetsu - Kronos - Kubala Sosna - Kuzma - Larsen - Linn - MSB Technology - Music Hall - Ortofon - Solid Steel - Technics - Wharfedale - Wilson Audio - YG Acoustics
              [ http://almaaudio.com ]

              Comment


              • #10
                I heard a very picky dealer say he had the DAC and server as demo and though they were very good. I only asked if Mike may have heard one.
                PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Audion Black Shadow monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI Paramount preamp,
                Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, STST Motus II TT, Vertere SG1 arm, Hanna ML, Allnic H1201 Phono pre, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, LPS to Modem Router and Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cabling throughout network, Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire.10 awg dedicated branch circuits to amps bolted to power cords. Significant upgrades to 120 volt main power panel. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects. ADDPower Symphony and Electraclear.
                www.kingrexelectric.com

                Comment

                Working...
                X