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The machine comes with its own Kimber Kable power cord and was tested with it. The review had the character of A/B comparisons with A and B known. Music samples were 2 minutes long but whole albums were auditioned as well. The player sat on the active Synergistic Research Tranquility Base platform, which in turn was placed on the Base Audio Solid VI rack with wooden shelves.

Design. XDS1 SE player  The XDS1 SE player is based on the earlier EMM Labs CDSD. They both share a very similar enclosure, the same drive and again very similar electronics, especially the use of discrete MDAC-1 D/A converters, MCLK-1 clock and MDAT data processing system. When it comes to differences, their website asks "how did we make the XDS1 the best player we've ever created? In general by simplifying. We decreased complexity. Shortened critical signal paths. Reduced parts count while increasing parts quality."

Front and back panel. The unit is housed in a solid aluminum enclosure made of well-fitting panels. The front is the most generous and even thicker around the drive tray. After opening the case you can see a large two-sided circuit board right inside the top panel. It serves both as vibration suppressor and screen for the circuitry inside. The enclosure is silver, the drawer graphite black. The sled is very precisely cast aluminum with no need for the usual grill serving to mask inaccuracies in the mechanics. Above the drive is a large blue LCD display. It does not boast a high contrast but its large digits are easy to read and can be turned off. Smaller characters show the type of inserted disc—2-channel CD or SACD, multi-channel SACD—drive status and absolute phase. Unfortunately the player does not support CD text to show track titles and album name, goodies we've gotten used to in this era of network players. Slightly recessed on the right we have buttons to control the drive and for absolute polarity control and layer change. On the left is a single standby switch.

The back panel presents us with widely spaced RCA and XLR analog outputs (the device is fully balanced), digital AES/EBU and optical ST outputs plus Toslink and AES/EBU inputs. The EMM Labs OptiLink ST output is used to send DSD signal to their DAC2 converter exclusively. There is also an IEC mains power inlet with a mechanical switch as well as a USB port for software upgrades and a RS-232 port for wired remote control.

Interior. In the middle we see the solid metal VOSP drive with its cast tray. Its control mechanism is located nearby under a screen. The X Drive system is manufactured by Esoteric on their boards using a full battery of DSP chips. There are two boards. The smaller top one houses two chips from Sony—the CXD1885Q and CXD1881—which are signal decoders for CD and SACD. The bottom board is even more interesting because it sports a very large DSP chip and another not much smaller Yamaha YSS-994. The latter is a complete home-theater decoder for lossy Dolby Digital and DTS signals. It is clear that Meitner buys a ready-made package in the transport drive and control system that Esoteric uses in their multi-format players. On the other side of the drive along the whole depth of the player runs an extended SMPS called the X Power System SMPS V.3.

It seems that the most important part is an audio circuit mounted on a high-end printed circuit board apparently made from Arlon, a ceramic-based sintered composite developed for military and medical applications and many times more expensive to manufacture than conventional fiberglass PCBs. This board is shielded from the bottom with a thick plate. In the center sit three shielded modules, two m.dac-1 converters and one m.clk-1 clock. Both are Ed Meitner's custom creations. The m.dat-1 is unique in that it does away with oversampling. Meitner abandoned it for its very poor time domain behavior which distorts the analog waveform with errors in the form of pre and post ringing. The solution employed eliminates either! In the words of Keith Howard, Ed Meitner, although he does not boast of it, designed a three-stage adaptive filter system described in US patent N°. 5,388,221 entitled Adaptive digital audio interpolation system and filed on May 5th, 1992 [Keith Howard, "Changes the ringing", Hi-Fi News & Records Review 57 N°. 07, July 2012]. The system works differently with a signal rich in transients than with one slowly changing.

After D/A conversion the signal is fed to classic mid-power transistors in a single gain stage working in class A. Right adjacent we see vertically oriented voltage controller modules. The outputs are relay switched. Most parts are standard grade except for a few Wima capacitors. Beneath the audio PCB is a slightly larger ordinary fiberglass circuit board for the digital input and output systems. It contains a large Xilinx DSP to upsample all signal to DSD 5.6MHz/1bit at twice the standard SACD rate. Originally Sharp used this solution while Accuphase for years has developed a similar system known as MDSD (multiple double speed DSD). Current professional recorders like the Korg MR-2000s allow recording of DSD at either the classic sampling frequency or as here at twice that.

Let’s mention one more acronym – MFAST or Meitner frequency acquisition system. This is another Meitner patent for the signal receiver. Typically digital signal is received by phase lock loop circuits as a good inexpensive method that's burdened with relatively high jitter. Ed Meitner developed his own receiver that does away entirely with PLL.

Remote control. The wand is aluminum and quite handy. We get an input selector, direct access to tracks, display off, absolute phase and transport control. There’s also a mute button. The machine is manufactured in Canada and ships with a very good Kimber Kable PK14 power cord with WattGate plugs.

Technical specifications according to the manufacturer:

Output impedance: XLR 300Ω, RCA 150Ω, output voltage XLR 5V (+15.5dBu), RCA 2.5V (+9.5dBu), dimensions of 435 x 400 x 145mm WxDxH, weight of 17kg.

Synergistic Research Tranquility Base. This platform is manufactured with unique attention to detail. It is not very high and its outer edges are trimmed out with aluminum banding. There are no conventional corners because all edges are rounded like an Apple Mini to which the platform makes explicit reference. The top is black and made of a nine-layer laminate. Below we have an active layer with EM Cell modules and a shielding layer at the bottom. The platform has three connectors at the back – one for the module with a blue LED, one for the ground cable which plugs into a wall socket and one for the wall-wart power supply. The plug is high class. The platform is not as much concerned with controlling vibration as it is with reducing RF noise.

Together with the platform we get two sets of three  footers each called MIG or mechanical interface grounding. The acronym corresponds nicely with the shape of the cones which look like a jet fighter’s nose – rounded and hollow on the inside. One set of cones supports the audio component; the other the platform itself. The manufacturer suggests various configurations with two cones up and one down or vice versa.
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