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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: 1TB iMac (AIFF) running OSX 10.6.6 and PureMusic 1.74 in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM, Antelope Audio Zodiac Gold with Voltikus [on review]
Preamplifier: Bent Audio Tap-X (remote-controlled AVC passive), Esoteric C-03 (transistor), ModWright LS100 with Synergy Hifi valves
Amplifier: FirstWatt F5 and J2 and M2, Yamamoto A-09S, Trafomatic Audio Kaivalya, ModWright KWA-100 SE
Loudspeakers: ASI Tango R, Mark+Daniel Fantasia S
Cables: Complete Zu Event loom, ASI LiveLine, Crystal Cable Ultra
Stands: 2 x ASI HeartSong 3-tier, 2 x ASI HeartSong amp stand
Powerline conditioning: 1 x GigaWatt LF-2, 1 x Furutech RTP6
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: $800 as reviewed

Converting smaller hifi components to battery drive has become a turnkey affair thanks to Vinnie Rossi's Black Lightning range under the Red Wine Audio umbrella. Benefiting from the same LiFePO4 battery pack and smart charging circuits as his amps, preamps and phono stage, owners of Black Lightning presently include listeners with Squeezebox products like the Squeezebox 2 and 3, Squeezebox Duet and Squeezebox Touch; digital-direct iDocks like the Wadia i170 and Onkyo ND-S1; converters like Antelope's Zodiac+, Altmann's Attraction DAC, Metric's Halo, 47Labs' Shigaraki and units from Playback Designs and Amarra; amps from Virtue Audio; preamps from David Berning and Nuforce (ZOTL and HDP respectively); phono stages from Graham Slee, 47Lab and Nagra; CD players from Nagra and NuForce; headphone amps like Blossom's BLO-0299; active crossovers from Linkwitz Labs; and D/D converters like the M2Tech Evo and Audiophilleo 1 and 2.

"There's also full-on custom stuff like the Black Lightning I made for Dean Hovey of Soundwell. His Soundwell Bike generates music as you pedal and has an onboard speaker, a microphone and a DJ mixing console so you can ride and make your own beats in real time. "It was pure hitsville!" Dean said.

"You can play and charge at the same time if you wish. In AC mode there is no time limit. For pure battery listening flip the switch to BATT and your attached component runs purely from the internal battery pack even though the charger is plugged in. Our SMART board internally disconnects both + and - charger connections. I also have a custom firmware option to the board that will automatically switch to AC power to play/charge for those who want this feature for computer music servers. You wouldn't for example want a Mac Mini to abruptly shut off when battery charge expires. That feature prevents it. Doing split supplies—e.g. +/-24V for say the Dayens Ampino—can also be easily done. 

"Then you bypass the AC/DC converter and feed much cleaner higher current to the amplifier stage.  Ultra low impedance battery power like our LiFePO4 packs are not just about blacker backgrounds. It's about skipping the entire AC/DC conversion process which chokes instantaneous current via step-down transformers, rectification and regulators.  DC direct gives all the instantaneous current you could ask for because our supply's output impedance is way down in the 0.02Ω range. The Black Lightning LFP offers a big improvement over what I have been able to do with SLA batteries in the past. Our LiFePO4 pack is 10 x the cost but its performance easily justifies the added expense. Deep discharge cycling does not reduce the life span of our new LiFePO4 battery packs either as it does with SLA." 

Whilst powerful amplifiers are obviously out, many source components and preamps can be accommodated. With one or two batteries inside, the Black Lightning supplies can be configured for numerous output voltages (including split voltages to power two low-draw components simultaneously). These custom-configured battery supplies include an ALO Audio-built umbilical cord with the proper connector for your component. Obvious prime candidates for battery conversion are hifi components with outboard switching power supplies as are in the catalogues of Firestone Audio, KingRex, NuForce, Trends Audio, Virtue Audio et al. But even components of Nagra caliber are fair game and have their first professional reviews. Today's report uses the top-line Antelope Audio Zodiac Gold D/A converter in a triangulated scheme of stock SMPS, optional Antelope Voltikus power supply and Black Lightning battery.