Marc Mickelson

Sunday, October 12

One final turntable, and another I'd like to hear in my own system. Ayre Acoustics may be well known for its solid-state amps and preamps, but I predict that the company's DPS turntable will begin to change this. The DPS, "der Plattenspieler" in German, features a zero-clearance spindle bearing that, contrary to conventional thought, provides resistance for the motor, ensuring constant rotational speed. Disparate materials make for more effective isolation, so the multilayer plinth of wood, foil and cork sits on three elastomer pucks, with a granite base below that. The acrylic top plate supports the tonearm and main bearing. The external three-phase power supply is a zero-feedback design -- one of Ayre's professed design goals.

The DPS comes standard with a specially modified Rega 250 tonearm, although it can also be ordered without the 'arm. Projected prices are $9050 with the tonearm and $8250 without.

Saturday, October 11

Computer audio is commonplace at the RMAF. When you see an audio system that includes a video screen, it's far more likely to be displaying a listing of music titles than a movie or concert video. Yet, for a budding new way to listen to music, computer audio is woefully underexplained. I have worked in IT and have much more than a rudimentary understanding of computers, peripherals, and operating systems, so perhaps I'm an especially tough audience to please. Still, the display of some technical understanding in articles would be nice, if for no other reason than to back up the notion that computer audio deserves all of the attention it is getting.

I'd like to see a cogent explanation of why computer-based audio is better theoretically and sonically, not statements that it simply is better. How about some research and consideration? I'm not saying this doesn't exist, but I am saying that even modest bits of it are missing from most articles I've read. How is reading digital music from a hard drive or from memory different from reading it off a CD? Are there inherent advantages and disadvantages of USB and FireWire connections? Is wireless streaming superior or inferior to a cabled connection? Is a Mac or PC the superior music source? Why? What about the plentiful RFI that computers emit? How does that affect sound?

There is an abundance of snap judgments -- "It's the best I've heard!" -- and a scarcity of useful, convincing explanation. There is great expertise among the people who design and build the products covered, so asking those people some questions would be a natural place to begin.

Friday, October 10

Fall is definitely in the Denver air, turning a music lover's thoughts to the upcoming indoor listening season -- known to others as winter. As I walked around the Fest, my eyes were drawn to turntables, including two interesting new models I know I'd like to hear in my system this winter.

Dr. Christian Feickert is a well-known analog personality because of his effective protractor for cartridge setup. Most recently he has introduced a software suite that aids in precise cartridge alignment and a turntable, the Twin (above, $8000 without tonearm), which is bursting with innovative features, including a motor controller with a built-in world clock and the use of a Kevlar drive belt that should never stretch or wear out. The Twin also feature something called MARC (mechanical anti-resonant circuit), so it must be special.

Equally new and interesting is the Artemis Labs SA-1 ($7800 without tonearm), whose plinth is a three-layer sandwich, with each layer comprising three layers of bamboo -- so nine layers total. The platter is machined from aircraft-grade aluminum, and the spindle doesn't contact the record. The 'table's pulley system keeps the belt from slipping, and the belt is made from reel-to-reel tape, so an owner can make new belts himself. Artemis is working on a second 'table that will accommodate 12" tonearms.


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