The music software on the PC was itself an adventure and anyone in the PCfi world continues to earn my admiration for unflinching patience. Reproduction of high-resolution files is still not the simple 'select and play' it should be and generally enforces more très geek than très chic. Luckily that situation is slowly evolving. I chose a number of 'bit perfect' programs because they have the potential to introduce the least signature. The universally accessible and configurable Foobar remained my stalwart backbone although two newcomers saw some time. The Hysolid freeware is ergonomically close to ideal for most casual music lovers. It operates beneath Windows, bypassing its OS in elegant fashion. The program handles all formats into DSD territory and has a simple operational learning curve due to almost total auto configuration around the detected DAC and even does basic categorization of chosen music folder. Access is via free phone/tablet app. It may be simplistic but was very user friendly.


The third program was recommended by George Ligerakis called MusiCHI, a comprehensive, attractively priced suite that splits the difference in complexity, offers vast library management versatility but thankfully adopts a relatively easy configuration setup. The program also claims exceptional documented number crunching. All three got their turns at the helm, showing specific virtues that will appeal to different users. Hysolid was quickest from download to play, with the blessed advantage of remote control. Foobar demonstrated why it is a proven fallback, delivering excellent configurability and sonics. Tops in the fidelity department was MusiCHI which served up reference quality in all parameters. Detail level, dynamic swing, gradation, soundstage dimension and placement, were superior to the other two programs. With the front end sorted, it was time to assemble the rest of the team. Where the Apogee Duetta Signatures would normally have done primary speaker duty, I chose to go with the Mark & Daniel Maximus Monitor Mini for the bulk of the review augmented by the Paradigm Servo 15 subwoofer, with only later audition through the Apogee. The M&D hit full stride in resolution and dynamics and put the Ideon products under a proverbial microscope. Tortuga passive preamp and Bel Canto EVO 200.4 amplifier anchored their respective points. For speaker cables I stuck with the Arkana Physical Research. For interconnects I swapped between the Arkana, Signal Cable Silver Reference and Audio Arts IC3-SE to see the latitude of system balance the Ayazi DAC preferred. For digital cables, the Audio Sensibility Statement S/PDIF and Impact USB cables took turns. For power cable on the Ayazi, I went with the Audio Arts Classic Rhodium.


For my combination of musical mayhem, trusted Reference Recordings in regular and higher resolution as well as Dorian material saw a fair bit of air time but Redbook standard, especially via Tidal, constituted the bulk. DSD came on tap less for extensive listening but rather to confirm decoding ability. I'll highlight newer material here because a closed circle of music selection represents a mausoleum, not an exploration of musical diversity and enjoyment. "Human" from Human(deluxe): Rag'n'Bone Man hails from Uckfield/England whose Rory Graham is a big man with a powerful voice who can belt out soul and blues with the best of them. There are some superb vocals here supported by nuanced background work with a modern electronic drive that makes this one eye-opening and fresh. "Human" from Head or Heart: Christina Perri was the same title but a different human entirely that made a great segue. Talented female artist Christina Perri shows good range on this cut from a pretty strong album. "I believe" was featured to advantage in the soundtrack for Pan and makes a great companion piece. This is a modern recording with some good clarity and only occasional electronic enhancements. "Concerto grosso in G Minor Op. 6 No. 8 (Christmas Concerto) from Telemann Corelli Bach: Höör Barock/Anna Paradiso/Dan Laurin is a short piece from a stylish recording on the BIS label that's quick, lively and intricate. It is considered by some critics to be "blistering" fast paced. It epitomizes the joy of interplay and dynamic complexity in Baroque music. This whole collection is a dazzling recording of the talented Swedish group and a cure for staid classical snore-fest boredom.


"Giving up the Gun" from Giving up the Gun: Vampire Weekend is extremely bouncy pop that hits rapid fire with surprising depth of lyrics. Give credit where credit is due. How many bands can pull off an engaging, fast paced pop song concerning the Samurai abandoning Western armament to go back to the sword? It's nice to see well recorded pop have some philosophical meat on its musically infectious bones. "Another Day of Sun" from La La Land, The Complete Musical Experience was written by composer Justin Hurwitz and is the soundtrack from the musical motion picture of the same name. This immediately hits stride with an infectious swing and dynamic bounce that's quite well recorded, with good instrumental timbre and a generous hand on dynamic range by current standards thanks to the engineering efforts of producer Marius Devries and team. In short, it's fun, it's approachable Jazz and highly listenable. "Forget the Miracle Ever Happened" and "A Paper Town for a Paper Girl" from Paper Towns, Original Motion Picture Score: Ryan Lott are where sometimes a whisper communicates more than a shout. There also exists a well received separate pop and alternative music soundtrack crammed with great modern vocal groups from the motion picture. This is not that album. The music on this CD from composer Ryan Lott is distinctly reverb heavy atmospheric soundscaping, embracing a group of haunting leitmotif pieces punctuated by some interesting indie pop. It appears to be a subtle combination of live instrument and synth that makes a fitting background for one of the most intelligent coming-of-age movies since the heyday of John Hughes. The trick here is to separate the music from the haze without losing the voluminous intent. There's a lot of beauty when you penetrate the fog. From highbrow masterworks to independent noise, I'll sample everything to see where the pulse of the music is. That was a small smattering. Now it was time to see if our Greek guests would enjoy their musical visit.


The tonal character in the early stages of the Ayazi was very warm, descending from the lower midband and upper bass and graduating to rotund in the lower bass. Luckily, this excess gradually lessened although ultimately remained a touch voluptuous. The Ayazi overall presented a tubular/vinyl style firmly centered in the mid and lower midrange, giving proper acoustic weight on vocals and instruments. Handoff into the midrange required a bit of delicacy in setup due to the predisposition to richness in the lower regions. Get it wrong and the midrange lost a bit of impact. Get it right and the midrange had wonderful density and inner illumination that gave it palpable presence. Highs were non-fatiguing with no overbite but also a little laid back and forgiving. In vinyl terms, the presentation was more moving magnet or moving iron in the top end than evincing the snap and sparkle of a moving coil. Interconnect choice made small changes in the presentation of the mid to upper frequencies. In all situations the Ayazi's comfort zone was firmly on the organic side of the ledger: big, bold and with high density throughout the spectrum. It honoured the acoustical over the recorded event. Handling of soundstage information and instrument placement was exemplary. Classic audiophile check marks of width, depth and specificity were done with precision and style. Depth information was uniformly handled to the far rear edges of the soundstage and projection was ample in near tubular fashion. The tonal balance-enhanced dimensionality gave images a palpable density and the DAC successfully separated individual instruments and vocalists in space, placing them (where appropriate) in a large well-defined venue with abundant ambient cues. The handling of space between instruments favoured density over transparency. Think of the atmosphere of a smoky jazz hall rather than an open air venue.


The perception of the Ayazi's dynamic behaviour could vary slightly with interconnect choices because they shifted emphasis on frequency. Overall, the DAC was capable of wide swings and also unraveled dense instrumental lines with nuance and sophistication. This was especially apparent in the mid and upper midband where it could achieve a strong sense of fluid liveliness. In the adjoining lower midband and upper bass as well as the upper frequencies, the Ayazi switched dynamic gears, showing a bit of restraint that emphasized refinement over full scale dynamic contrast. This did not translate as slow per se. In fact, the Ayazi produced toe-tapping bounce and good resolution of fine detail. It just pulled its punches a bit on larger swings in those ranges, trading some absolute breadth of dynamic palette for richer venue and instrument information. The handling of attack and decay followed suit. There was a slight softness in transient information that combined with the warm balance and slightly soft top, robbing the music of a bit of startle factor on rapid hard-edged material. The style was very much tubular/vinyl. Those used to a little more emphasis and speed in the upper octaves will find the presentation a touch refined. Those using live acoustic experience in a properly damped hall as reference point will prefer the Ayazi version. The 3R USB Renaissance enjoyed the majority of its time with the Wyred DAC-2, using the Dell as source. It proved the most successful match in house and constitutes the basis of my observations. Since this was my first stab at USB enhancements, comparison with competing product will not be possible. The experience here is just documentation of listening sessions with and without device to determine if the concept had real merit. The questions were simply "were there easily discernible differences and did they constitute legitimate improvements?" The answer was yes on both counts.