The Supremo was recognized instantly by iTunes, Audirvana and Pure Music, with setup requiring no drivers for my iMac or MacBook Air. A couple of clicks of dialog boxes on the computer and sound was optimized. Streaming via Apple Airport Express was effortless, too. For me the ability to play native DSD 2.8-5.6Mbit/s and 384kHz (on USB only) was icing on the cake. With thousands of CDs and SACDs, I am too heavily invested in the first and second generations of digital to contemplate a big change but I do own a few high-resolution downloads. The Supremo's Redbook and even MP3 ability was utterly mesmerizing and worth the price of admission alone.

This is a hefty little device on all counts except coin. The Supremo tips the scales at 6.5kg or 14.5lbs, with a sometimes heavy and dense sound to boot. But that's not to say it was ever congested. It's more a case of tonal colors being so saturated that there is never a sense of excessive air or hollowness. The Supremo was also quiet and refined, with a claimed 132dB dynamic range and distortion of 0.0001% @ 0dB in balanced out mode. This might explain its ability to shock and awe with its grip on electric bass and the ease whereby it conveyed mighty orchestral swings, drum solos and pyrotechnics of all sorts. The synthesized beats of Parliament (which also underpin some of Dr Dre's best work) were rendered, courtesy of the late great Bernie Worrell, with a finely grained texture I don't recall experiencing before.

Early on it was clear that the Supremo packed serious heat down low. With Michael Manring and David Cullen's awkwardly named Equilibré, the music is never quite in equilibrium. Manring's bass is boss and the Supremo never failed to remind me. But it's not like the overproduced bloat and blunt force of Paul McCartney on the remasters of a few years back. With Manring's bass it's all about restrained and spatially precise, firmly anchored images. It's a Big Bang approach in which the note starts out as a tiny speck and then explodes with remarkable speed. Listening to the sharpness and fine-toothed detail of electric bass over the Supremo, my Harbeths and a First Watt F5 amp reminded me of a $50k system I heard several times anchored by Vivid loudspeakers and Luxman monos. On my desert island disc Standards, Vol. 2 by the Keith Jarrett Trio, Jack DeJohnette's cymbals and rim shots are very crisp and articulated. Jarrett's piano was crystal clear, seemingly shorn of some of its reverberant romance. That must have been greater clarity and resolution speaking. There was less warmth (or was it less haze and smearing?) than I was used to with my tubed DACs but also much more detail without any edge.

There was another exceptional trait that took a bit longer to identify: the ability to gracefully uncoil the music and send it floating effortlessly through the air. Think of how Robert Fripp's guitar at once melts into the soundstage and floats away from it on the tune "Epitaph" from King Crimson's debut album. That sense of effortless flow I associate with Weiss DACs can be so beguiling and soothing. I often got the same sense from the Supremo at less than one half the asking price of a new Weiss 202.

Alas, it took another prog rock band, the Moody Blues, to reveal the essence of this DAC. Justin Hayward is one of the great unsung heroes in the history of rock and roll songwriting. By the age of 22, Hayward could boast of "Nights in White Satin", "The Actor", Voices in the Sky" and "Tuesday Afternoon." Yet he was never one to boast, seeing himself as just a singer in a rock and roll band. "Nights", written by him at the age of 19, was overplayed for a quarter century but not having heard it in several years, I felt ready to come back to it with a fresh mind. It was captivating but the Supremo showed that the Beatles did a far better job in taming Abbey Road's reverberant halls. It sounded like a mess, more than usual. The Supremo didn't add the alchemist's touch to its bag of tricks: garbage in, garbage out. Fortunately for us, the Moodys' other albums were generally better produced.

"It's such a rainy afternoon. No point in going anywhere. The sounds just drift across my room. I wish this feeling I could share." Hayward's "The Actor" from the 1968 album In Search of the Lost Chord was the revelation I needed to understand the North Star Design Supremo DAC. This, by contrast to "Nights," sounded wonderful. The Supremo seemed on the humid side, slightly warm and full but capable of openness to send sounds drifting through the air, effortlessly without congestion. On a very dark night I was listening to good old 16/44.1 Redbook fare using a Marantz SA15-S2B Limited Edition SACD/CD player as transport. And transported I was from my earthly concerns to revel in the psychedelic cheese served up thick the way I like it. The North Star was warm but not too much, just right - Bermuda without Bermuda prices. In the seventeen months I had the machine, I found it never got too hot on top and it almost never was cool, clinical or flabby down below. It was generally a dense sound but as the music allowed, the sky cleared and the North Star shone with its detail retrieval and its open dimensional sound. That sense of space was evident with a Deutsche Harmonia Mundi recording of Monteverdi's Vespro della beata Vergine. Choral music soared and solo vocals were rarely sibilant.