Meridian has long since championed keeping the signal in the digital domain for as long as possible, preferably handling D/A conversion inside an actively amplified speaker just before it gets to the individual transducers. Now Ralf Ballmann of German firm behold takes this concept to its logical conclusion. He mounts an A/D converter directly atop a cartridge and reconverts this data stream back to analog in his PowerDac driving your speakers. Vinyl mavens may consider this the ultimate heresy and ask "why?" in lime-green capital letters.

I'm no engineer but what if such an approach were compelling because -- if one brand handled all connectors and cabling and components -- it could avoid successive generations of signal degradation inherent in analog cabling?
Anyone who has ever compared analog cables knows about impedance mismatches, signal reflections, time smear, RFI and EMI contamination and all manner of voicing issues that affect tonal balance and frequency response. Properly designed digital cables seem to suffer less differences. If the straight-wire-with-gain idea was taken serious and you wanted to transfer the data of your source software to the loudspeaker with the least amount of en-route alterations, could digital transmissions be superior to analog ones? What about jitter? What kind of digital cables and connectors would be required to minimize or avoid data corruption?

Marja & Henk currently have a complete behold system for review in one of the Dutch magazines they write for. It remains to be seen whether we can obtain permission to syndicate their writeup for 6moons but I'm hoping that even if we can't, there'll be some informal commentary coming our way simply to learn how such a radical concept translates to sonics. How does digitized vinyl compare to CD? Are the inherent differences between analog and digital software minimized, maintained or perhaps even magnified going this unusual route? Just when you thought you'd heard and seen it all, along comes something new to challenge our biases and thinking. Isn't this hobby - you know, like rad, dude?