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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: 2TB iMac 27" quad-core with 16GB of RAM (AIFF) running OSX 10.8.2 and PureMusic 1.94g in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM, Audirvana 1.5.5 in direct/integer mode 1, Metrum Hex, SOtM dX-USB HD with Super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2s, AURALiC Vega, Apple iPod Classic 160 AIFF-loaded, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pure i20, RWA-modifed Astell&Kern AK100
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Bent Audio Tap-X, Esoteric C-03
Power amplifier: FirstWatt S1 monos, SIT2; Crayon Audio CFA-02, Bakoon AMP-12R, Goldmund/Job 225 Clones 25i [on loan]
Loudspeakers: German Physiks HRS-120, AudioSolutions Rhapsody 200, Zu Audio Submission
Headphones: ALO Audio recabled Audez'e LCD2/LCD3, beyerdynamic T1 & T5p, Sennheiser HD800, AKG K-702; HifiMan HE-500 & HE-6; Ortofon eQ7; Mad Dog aka modified Fostex T50rp [on loan]
Headphone amps: Eximus DP1, Burson Conductor, Wyred4Sound mINT, Bakoon AMP-12R, April Music Stello HP100MkII [on review]
Cables: Complete Zu Event loom, KingRex uArt and Light Harmonic Lightspeed split USB cables, Tombo Trøn S/PDIF, Van den Hul AES/EBU, AudioQuest Diamond glass-fiber Toslink
Powerline conditioning: GigaWatt PF-2 + Vibex Two 1R on amps, Vibex Three 11R on front-end components
Equipment rack:
Artesania Exoteryc double-wide three tier with optional glass shelf, Rajasthani hardwood rack for amps
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review component retail: $599

AMI Musik from Japan
made quite a splash in our moon pool with their first product, the DDH-1. Our British colleagues at Hifi Pig were equally smitten and sales manager Ryu Takahashi's email about their second model suggested the first was selling well: "I cannot thank you enough for your review. Many buyers purchased a unit from us after reading about it without hearing one for themselves first. Now we have the DS5 ready."

To quote from my first review for a refresher, "this $549.99 component from Japan with 12V/2.5A outboard power supply is a 24/192 DAC with asynchronous XMOS-based USB input plus coax and optical digital inputs. It runs a PCM1795 converter and TI DIX9211PWR digital receiver. It works as a 24/192 DDC via its Toslink input; as ADC with an AKM AK5386VTP-E2 converter; as analog preamp with its analog 3.5mm stereo input; and as TI TPA6120A-based headphone amp. Three discrete TCXO clocks for USB and the 44.1/48kHz sampling frequency families claim less than 2.5ps of periodic jitter. Internal parts include Panasonic ECH metalized poylphenylene film and Nichicon audio-grade caps plus conductive polymer aluminum solid electrolytics. There's also an ESD protection varistor and USB surge protection. Then there are 5 socketed opamps - 2 x National LM49860 and 3 x NJM2114D for the I/V, low-pass filter and buffer circuit (4) plus analog input (1) respectively. Quad-level LEDs indicate sample rates from 44.1 to 192kHz. 2Vrms line and 100mW/32-ohm headphone outputs may be used simultaneously. The line outputs can be configured for fixed or variable gain."

If you've paid attention to the first photo you already knew that the DS5 adds DSD64/128. But that's not the only diff. USB remains async 24/192 but replaces XMOS with a new Combo384 module from Amanero Tech which handles USB to I²S and native DSD. The Burr-Brown DAC becomes a Cirrus Logic CS4398, the Texas Instruments DIX9311 S/PDIF receiver a Wolfson WM8804. The TI TPA6120A on-chip headphone amp morphs into the newer TPA6120A2. Housekeeping chores are handled by an Atmel SAM3 Cortex-M3 micro controller.

Both models side by side at the Fujiya headphone festival, autumn 2013 Tokyo.

Like the stable mate the line-level outputs can run in fixed or variable modes to give DAC or digital preamp functionality. The on-chip digital volume control over 56 steps is associated with the sample-rate indicators whereby each 7 steps light up the next LED. Coax and optical both handle 24/192 and DSD is automatically gain-compensated to generate the same 2.2V max out as PCM. On features the DS5 eliminates the discrete 3.5mm headphone and stereo line-level input jacks but keeps the faith with visual sample rate and format confirmation. Perhaps this suggests the intended target audience is more of the audiophile persuasion than...

... this forthcoming model whose VRK prototype—to become the DDH5 in production—shows far simpler cosmetics. It's as though its intended punter didn't shop with kilo or mega hertz currency but simpler wantz coin signified by that big knob.

What's interesting about the first two models isn't just their different cosmetics but different key parts. The recipe here doesn't so much seem old wine in new bottles as a new and different vintage. Should one presume different flavor? Or was it primarily about DSD as the current digital craze? Hitch a ride on the fastest moving train?