Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.01, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi Formula, Fore Audio DAISy 1, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20, Questyle QP1R, Soundaware D100 Pro Deluxe, LessLoss Laminar Streamer and Echo's End [on review]
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVC module), COS Engineering D1, Wyred4Sound STP-SE II
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, F5, F6, F7; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics UP SE NC500MB; LinnenberG Audio Allegro monos
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver; Titan Audio Eros cords
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, 5m cords to amp/s + sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands [on loan]
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review component retail: $19'628 incl. international shipping with full tracking

The emailer was Rainer Weber
, contract engineer for German speaker house Kaiser Acoustics. "I just received my new D/A converter. Listened first to the original Echo's End, then the new one. Have never heard such musicality and realism. By a huge huge margin, this is the best digital ever. It's currently fed by the USB input of the APL Hifi streamer, in principle an updated Auralic. The rest is a Kondo G70 preamp, Thrax Teres power amp and our Chiara speakers. Cabling is mostly Kondo silver until I receive my LessLoss C-MARC loom. Do listen to this DAC. It will shift boundaries. We will certainly show with it in Munich next year."

When asked about the coin toss, "don't know exactly yet but some serious money. I think slightly south of 20K US with all the options but worth every penny. Totally awesome. And you can save a lot as you no longer need to invest in expensive vinyl." I'd already heard from LessLoss' Louis Motek that this would pack into a Panzerholz enclosure with dual OEM Soekris discrete R2R converter modules. I was unsure how much the shift from enclosure Plywood to tankwood would contribute to a DAC's performance—I'm convinced that tankwood makes a big difference in Kaiser loudspeakers!—but its hardness and costly machining would certainly contribute to the luxury positioning. Having been charged €6'000 to fix a gash made due to a slipping mishap in my review loaner Laminar Streamer, I had painful appreciation of those machining costs. If nothing else, the new LessLoss flagship DAC would certainly be bullet proof again though not impervious to cosmetic dings.

Six months later, the details had settled with these bullet points: "Solid Panzerholz enclosure. Grounded carbon fiber transformer shroud. Cryogenically treated solid copper gold-plated power inlet. Most precise resistors available. Dual power supplies, dual Soekris boards, dual mono config. XLR output derived from four mono channels of resistor ladders (output buffering schematics bypassed). LessLoss special S/PDIF to I²S conversion schematic. LessLoss controlled automatic digital input selection (Soekris boards receive only I²S). LessLoss 3.3V generation for internal I²S (USB 5V supply discarded). All floating bolts point-to-point star grounded. New integrated Firewall 64X technology (6 units implemented). C-MARC™ internal hook-up wire. DSD 128 over USB. Up to 192kHz PCM data. Ships in a LessLoss branded water-tight flight case."

Those then are the most vital stats of the Echo's End Reference as the deck which pushes beyond the standard Echo's End. As had that, its D/A conversion is based on prior art by the folks at Danish Soekris Engineering. The LessLoss contributions are the power supply, modular noise filtering and resin-impregnated wooden enclosure. For those fond of physical switches, this deck disappoints by omitting both a power switch and a source selector. Believed to be deleterious to ultimate sound quality, scrapping them is part of the anechoic design DNA, thus inherited. Ditto for black or silver metal which might aesthetically match what you already own. The Reference won't match anything. In fact, many could find its looks nowhere near concomitant with its price. But such mundane considerations are beneath it. Ditto displays, function lights or footers. The device has none of those, not even the most rudimentary of rubber bumpers*. Given extensive built-in noise filtering, what also you shouldn't need are an esoteric power cord and AC conditioner. Given this exact tally, the target customer is beyond trophy hifi's shiny face plates, gleaming remotes, MQA, quad DSD and selectable digital filters. Instead the target customer believes that the design decisions made here on his or her behalf are far more important to the resultant sound than any such acronyms or gleaming chassis.

* "This unit is incredible. It is my dream machine. It sounds like I never thought it would be possible for digital. It sounds best with the Lessloss Bindbreaker feet - better than equivalents from Stillpoint, Harmonix or Kaiser in this instance. I am glad that I have it in my reference system." - Rainer Weber