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These are all exceptionally well recorded CDs with a focus on natural sound reproduction. The Scofield disc is exceptionally wide of scale and deep of soundstage (girth comes to mind); Tin Can Trust is intimate and immediate; Mojo was recorded in the Heartbreaker’s former rehearsal space converted to a studio and has a superbly relaxed and open sound. All DACs were plugged in and powered up for months as I dealt with a death in the family. I was careful to keep levels uniform and drove no super-duper power cords, just stock. No funny putty footers or magic glow dust neither. Once again though I did run Locus Design Group’s most excellent Nucleus and Axis USB interconnects. These are a must. You cannot hear the true potential of your DAC without an excellent cable (and I don’t mean money-wasting Kimber USB cables). The Locus easily bested Kimber and any other stock cable I tried. Pricey but worth it. Locus Design is the gold standard in USB interconnects.

Mhdt Mash Up
Listening to the Mhdt with fresh ears—I’ve been vinyl fanatic of late but who isn’t?—the news was good, bland and indifferent. Firing up the Petty disc ("Running Man’s Bible") from my MacBook, the Mhdt’s midrange was full toned but not particularly detailed or especially dynamic. The top end was open and clean, the bass clear if rather powerless. Petty’s shuffling "Let Yourself Go" fared better with fuller bass, decent separation between instruments and exposed a prominently dry cymbal tone. Metropole/Scofield sounded similar to the Petty disc as did the Los Lobos. 'Similar' was not a good sign. A DAC sure can have a signature sound but this wasn’t that. The Metropole/Scofield disc was enjoyable though instruments seemed smudged or cluttered across the sonic sound span. The upper treble was quite open but I honestly regard that as the result of the excellent DeVore Fidelity Gibbon 3XL tweeter. Trickle-down technology from its larger Silverback sibling, the Gibbon 3XL tweeter is one and the same and joined to a 5" paper mid/woofer all enclosed in a solid bamboo box. Providing extraordinary spread and wide-span treble scope, the 3XL created music that was sweet and detailed, with pure and never aggressive tone regardless of DAC partner.

Further Mhdt notes: Tin Can Trust’s "Burn It Down" revealed thick rubbery acoustic bass notes and sprightly mandolin. Food’s electronic bass pulses and layered string machines grabbed me right in my cajones for an otherworldly electronic spewing stew. For today’s purposes, the Mhdt set a bar that was basically enjoyable but not particularly thrilling.

Going Mojo - HRT Music Streamer Pro:  The first shock the Music Streamer presents is lack of girth. In a hobby where size is all the rage, the Music Streamer Pro is a sub one-pound weakling. But it’s obviously been dining on some super secret sauce. Thank God there’s no wall wart that’s usually de rigueur with a DAC this size. You just run a USB cable (from my MacBook) into one end and a pair of RCA out the back end and you’re cooking. The HRT is a balanced unit so I used adapters provided by HRT’s Scot Markwell. They worked a charm.

HRT talk: "Full support for both adaptive and asynchronous transfer modes assures that jitter performance exceeds that of conventionally connected (bi-phase) converters. The Music Streamer Pro provides full support for any application via the native audio path on both Windows and Macintosh operating systems. The Music Streamer Pro … [offers] portability, noise isolation and ultra high performance in a single mission product. If you produce, mix, master or listen to music in a professional environment, then the Music Streamer Pro is an essential component in your digital workplace."

Okay. The HRT revved up my rig beyond happy-meal proportions and more like a macrobiotic spread of my favorite hijiki seaweed, brown rice, squash and steamed kale. With the HRT the Scofield disc produced a larger soundstage with more aliveness (is that a word?), greater sweetness and openness in the treble, pinpoint cymbal definition, better musical flow and detail, a superior sense of air and transparency and wider dynamic range. The disc also felt slightly tipped up, adding or revealing a sonic glow or sheen that wasn’t aggressive but more illuminating. When I first listened through the HRT music sounded simply meaty but not transparent. Drums on the Scofield disc truly popped and kicked while the brass revealed the large concert hall of the recording venue with looooong decay trails and plenty of room ambience.

Similar to the Scofield disc, Petty’s Mojo revealed all manner of new detail like 16th note accents on the ride cymbal, fuller bass, more decay on guitars and greater nuance in the vocal. But there was also a little treble spottiness, a certain splatzy quality that only arose on certain recordings. Yet there was far more weight and drive now so I could boogie. Now I could shout and truly get my mojo working. The soundstage became wider and more layered. I know you so wanted to hear that, all you soundstage haters out there.