Reader accountants will still question how the Reference manages to multiply its €566.10 cost of two DAC boards delivered to Lithuania by a whopping 34.6 factor when competitors Aqua Hifi, Denafrips, TotalDAC and others offer proprietary discrete R2R tech for far less. Here we are petitioned to look at Louis Motek's insistence on using complex Litz cabling for hookup wiring [debraiding and prepping below].

"For a good visualization of production time and labour intensiveness, there are five metres of polyolefin heat shrink at the very ends of the internal cabling despite our interest to keep plastics to a minimum by using C-MARC internal wiring with cotton. Now one can get a better idea of how long it takes to build this device. Each cable end is unsleeved from its cotton, then tinned in a silver-content soldering pot. Silver-plated ground wires star-ground all floating bolts to leave no antenna effect through internal electro-magnetic resonance."

"Also, there is something special about the combination of electromagnetic grounding and physical vibration control. This we learnt when developing the Laminar Streamer. While working on its enclosure, we tried every conceivable type of bolt and metal combination like aluminium, stainless steel and steel of different grades of hardness. The very best was found to be steel of the softest type. All others imparted an unnatural coloration. It's why we dislike stainless steel and aluminium in some expensive connector plugs even when they are grounded. They always impart an artificial tone quality. Nylon bolts were not strong enough. The combination of the strength of soft magnetic steel, its low-frequency magnetic permeability as well as being electrically conductive gave us the best sonic result in combination with Panzerholz as highly effective acoustic damping agent, with all bolts grounded. Visually we prefer black bolts but the sintering process whereby bolts are blackened occurs at high temperature. Basically they are covered in oil, then burnt until they oxidize.

"Unfortunately this also hardens the metal and changes its permeability at low frequencies. It also worsens their physical damping characteristics so they ring at a higher frequency and for much longer. We have since found that powder coating is a viable alternative. Dry powder paint is applied when provided a negative electrostatic charge of about 60'000 volts. After the bolts are covered with paint, they go into an oven where the paint melts, coating the surface. This is carried out at a much lower temperature than sintering and does not impact the characteristics of the metal. In the future we plan to use this process to provide black bolts with non-compromised traits. The only problem then becomes that we need to maintain electrical contact between bolt, nut and washer. And so the saga towards perfection continues."

"In our investigations, we have come to the following conclusions. What makes hifi sound coloured, dead and lifeless, with a sonic sameness which simply won't go away with any amount of burn-in, are:
• Hard brass pins (choppy sound quality)
• Nickel substrate under gold plating (hard sound quality)
• Spring-loaded, thin machine-stamped contacts (thin sound quality)
• Plastic connector housings with color agents (coloured, muddy sound quality)
• PVC insulation (muddy, slow sound quality)
• multi-stranded, tin-plated, low-gauge wires (sharp, harsh sound quality) - our C-MARC hook-up wire in its small size has a 0.864mm² cross section

" Some rules for great sound are:
• Avoid plastic
• If you need plastic, use white or clear
• Avoid resonance of any sort (electromagnetic and acoustic)
• When using damping, use the fastest sort possible; avoid springy action
• Low resistance is always better
• Use high-efficiency designs
• Avoid crimps, solder directly whenever possible."

And in this fashion, the reader accountants have learnt how the Litz hookup wiring decision became a major determinant in the build cost of the Echo's End Reference. According to LessLoss, this math is far less about what's in it. It's far more about what it cost to be put together: extensive labour, including grounding all the many electrically conductive bolts. In this context it's fair to mention that Spanish Vibex company have arrived at very similar conclusions to embrace non-conductive screws/bolts made from Peek thermoplastic which require no grounding. And like LessLoss, Denis Morecroft of DNM champions non-metallic chassis for related reasons. And once again like LessLoss, observers of the MDI micro-discharge interference phenomenon discovered by a French scientist all shun plastics and colorants. That makes it paradoxical how terminating its cotton-sleeved hookup and ground wires has the Echo's End Reference end up with a whopping 5 metres of plastic heat shrink.

For prospective buyers hoping for more bling, there's a new brass badge which will henceforth adorn this DAC in lieu of my loaner's wood etching. With our 'i's now dotted and 't's crossed, we're free to transcend mundane money matters and focus on the rationale for pursuing expensive hifi in the first place - premium sound and its effect on how we feel whilst listening to our favourite tunes.