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The next recording was more difficult because behind the light voice of Kathleen Battle worked the Berlin Philharmonic under the baton of Herbert Von Karajan performing the Voices of Spring by Johann Strauss. The orchestral dynamics within an open sound space integrate well with the soprano. The Vekian DAC gave a very transparent rendering of the Berlin Philharmonic to allow the soprano to remain constantly in the spotlight without incurring any leanness in her voice despite the massive backing forces behind her. Battle's radiant performance drew thunderous applause and from start to finish, I really felt I'd been there. Such a holistic musical scenery had me in awe.

For context, a few comparative notes are in order. The natural tone of Zanden's Model 5000s seems to arise from the mellow nature of its tubes. Yamada-San ingeniously complemented this nature with his modern circuitry to achieve the desired outcome. The Vekian built upon this foundation without resorting to tubes and filled out everything with even more color. I'm certain that diehard analog lovers will never tolerate violin playback in the digital domain though they might accept piano. The Vekian's digital ways with violins thus came as a personal shock, being warm but very clear and detailed. The burnished beauty of tone was not achieved by artificial smoothing but rather, by sharing deep insights into the tensile strength of the bow work. I heard no high-frequency compression or attenuation in either energy or extension. Credit is also due to Raal's custom-made ribbon super tweeter.

Alfredo Campoli's interpretation of Bruch's Scottish Fantasy is a legendary recording. The melancholic tone of his violin is telling a sad story with the orchestral accompaniment at his back before those forces progressively mature into a massed-string climax that seems to be weeping in sympathetic response while conveying a slight sense of hope. The Vekian followed this plot development tightly and the delivery of the massed strings over the Da Vinci system was truly a remarkable experience.

If you are a big fan of the Reference Recording label, the renditions of these finely recorded symphonic work by the Vekian will send shock waves through your spine to reach your brain. Musical notes evolve from a very silent background without filtering out the very fine ambience. There is a very strong sense of control as though an invisible hand behind the soundspace governed each orchestral section. The very small and fine harmonic details of cymbals remain unbelievably stable even during loud and complex orchestral crescendoes. Such overtone finesse was preserved time and again with ultra stability and fidelity. The delivery of bass weight and impact was both beefy and articulate at once. The bass isn't thrown at you but properly scales in unison with the rest.

For example, you will hear the energy of the timpani dispersed in discrete actions rather than one unified big splash. The combined bass impact is the most flamboyant from among the exalted company of the Orpheus and Zanden DACs. If you choose to focus on the development of one particular section or instrument within the orchestration, you will hear the complete tone development from the leading edge through the bloom into the harmonic decay trails.

The next stringent test was the piano. The Vekian comprehensively displayed the rich depth of tone and gigantic range of timbres of Martha Argerich's Concert Grand Steinway piano. In my listening experience, she dislikes smoothing over angular corners in passages of sharp accents to preserve her expressive melodic emphasis. The Vekian retained her stylings without rounding off the percussive attacks yet preserved the profound nobility of her Steinway's tonality. The transparency of the lower mid-bass and the subsequent harmonic development in the lower registers was very well developed. Additional credits are due also to Da Vinci's newly designed active 16-inch bass modules.

At the end of the day, audiophiles always ask the ultimate question. "Which is better?" For those demanding maximum spatial resolution in a continuous rather than fragmented soundstage (with discrete harmonic events of individual instruments), the Orpheus Labs Heritage DAC remains confidently at the pinnacle of these champions.

In comparison, localization of musical objects within the sound space over the Vekian is less exacting. Its timbres are richer and tonally warmer than the Heritage but the latter has the ability to delineate each string on a violin or cello to serve the excessively micro detail-oriented listener.

After serving me for four years, Yamada's Zanden 2000p/5000s combination still ranks as the top digital statement for live recordings. Perhaps it is due to the vast experience of Yamada-San participating in concert hall activities throughout his audio career but his live atmosphere is one of a kind and neither achieved by the Heritage nor the Vekian. The bass register of the Zanden 2000p/5000s combo (both in weight and dynamics) is on the timid side relative to the Heritage while the Vekian goes yet farther to be the bass champion of this grouping.

Naturally, any good system involves nearly too many intersecting parameters to readily predetermine the final outcome. The judgment of any reviewer is always clouded by a certain degree of subjectivity. I had not listened to CD for almost a year due to my growing interest in vinyl yet the Vekian DAC rekindled my interest in the digital format. Its polychromatic resolution power is what separates it from the competition to sound surprisingly close to vinyl especially on high-quality recordings (I dare not call myself a vinyl expert but I certainly do know what records sound like). The Vekian does everything right across the frequency domain and I remain floored by its superior abilities with all manner of playback material. In my humble opinion, the Vekian DAC by Stahl-Tec is a true breakthrough product in digital high-end converters.

Quality of packing: Very good.
Reusability of packing: Multiple times.
Ease of unpacking/repacking: Easy.
Condition of component received: Perfect.
Completeness of delivery: Power cord, owner's manual.
Quality of owner's manual: Simple and average.
Ease of assembly: None required.
Website comments: More content is needed.
Human interactions: Prompt and forthcoming on all info requested.
Pricing: Definite value relative to other reference digital statement converters.
Final comments & suggestions: Different color options for the chassis.
Stahl-Tek website