Country of Origin



Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Denafrips Terminator+ clock-synced to Soundaware D300Ref SD transport/USB reclocker; Preamp: Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature with WE VT52/300B or Elrog 50/300B; Power amps: LinnenberG Liszt monos; Headamps: Questyle CMA-800r monos; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Aurai Audio M1 [on loan]; Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, LessLoss C-MARC Entropic cords between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room so no wall behind the listening chairs
2nd system: Source: Soundaware D100Pro SD transport; DAC/pre: Denafrips Terminator or COS Engineering D1; Amplifier: Bakoon AMP-13R or Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: Acelec Model 1 w. Franck Tchang magnesium super tweeters, sound|kaos Vox 3awf, Zu Submission subwoofer; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan];  Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~4x6m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win7/64; USB bridge: Audiobyte Hydra X+; Headamp: Kinki Studio Vision THR-1; Phones: Audeze LCD-XC on Forza Audio Lab cable; Powered speakers: Fram Audio Midi 120
Upstairs headfi system: Source: Soundaware A280 SD transport; Integrated amplifiers: Schiit Jotunheim R or Bakoon AMP-13R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a, Audeze LCD-2, Final Sonorous X & D8000, HifiMan HE-1000
2-channel video system: 
Source: Oppo BDP-105; DAC: Kinki Studio; Preamp: Wyred4Sound STP-SE II; Power amp: Pass Labs XA-30.8; Loudspeakers: German Physiks HRS-120; Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: €TBA

Integrate? Separate?

With their maiden U-300 model, Aavik Acoustics from Denmark integrated a DAC, phonostage, preamp and amplifier in one chassis. That offered multi-tasking modernity at a high level. They still did the same for the €36'000 successor, the U-380 reviewed here a year ago. With true 2020 hindsight, they now bow separates even for their entry level. The associated confession? "We've come to realize that a lot of high-end users have a hard time respecting build-in DACs and phonostages even if they're among the very best available. So we've taken the consequences to turn back to the more traditional way of building audio systems. But that's the only thing traditional about our new Aavik electronics."

As we'd expect from a crack team under Lars Kristensen and Michael Børresen who at Nordost invented the most audible upsell—their cable comparator demos became legendary at trade shows—this new range again has clear tiers of good, better, best. All share the form factor shown above. All related models run the same core circuitry with identical published specs. The four types break out into a 300wpc Pascal class-D based integrated amplifier, an MC phonostage, a PCM/DSD DAC and a streamer+app. The 180 stack represents the first tier. As the 280 quad, the second tier adds more proven Ansuz noise traps like tesla coils and analog-dither tech. For example, the D-180 DAC has 36 x active tesla coils, 104 x PCB-based coils and 5 x dither circuits. For the D-280, those scale up to 72, 176 and 8 respectively.

The D-580 makes them 108, 248 and 11. This also reflects as scale weights of 5.4kg, 5.6kg and 7.3kg. Further in the 580 squad, the wood-composite case gets titanium struts [see above], a titanium resonator and a pure copper liner inside. So resonance control isn't exclusive to the Ansuz Darkz footers reviewed here nor their matching titanium rack; and hysteresis effects from the ubiquitous use of aluminium are minimized already in the entry-level 180 versions. Should you stack yours, mechanical grounding is built in.

If you didn't know, Børresen speakers reviewed here and here and Ansuz power distributors, cables and accessories reviewed here are the other two brands which make up the UpperLevel triumvirate in Aalborg. It's what my factory tour described in more detail last year. Stay tuned whilst we figure out what to review first from this new Aavik crop of stylish Scandinavian kit. Regular contributor Dawid Grzyb had already signed up for the I-280 integrated so that was out of consideration. I don't do phono or separate streamers to focus down on either the DACs or two remaining amps.

… to be continued…