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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
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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 Gaia reclocker, Avatar CD transport, Soundaware D100Pro SD card transport; Preamp: icOn 4Pro SE; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos; Headamp: Kinki Studio; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Aurai Audio Lieutenant, Audio Physic Codex Cube Audio Nenuphar Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 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: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Soundaware D300Ref SD transport; DAC: Denafrips Terminator; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro + 4th-order/80Hz hi-low pass; Amplifier: Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf, Dyaudio 18S 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: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win7/64; USB bridge: Audiobyte Hydra X+; Headamp: COS Engineering H1; Headphones: Final D-8000; Powered speakers: Fram Audio Midi 150
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: Soundaware A280 SD transport; Integrated amplifiers: Schiit Jotunheim R, Bakoon AMP-13R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a; Loudspeakers: Acelec Model 1, Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Simon Audio; Loudspeakers: German Physiks HRS-120, Zu Submission subwoofer; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m
Review component retail: €6'000 D-180, €10'000 D-280, €20'000 D-580
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 good year ago. With true 2020 hindsight, they next bowed 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 clearly defined 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 component types break out into a 300wpc Pascal class-D integrated amplifier, an MC phonostage, today's PCM/DSD DAC and a streamer+app. The 180 stack represents the first tier. As the 280 group, the second 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 weights of 5.4kg, 5.6kg and 7.3kg. Further in the 580 squad, the HDF case gets titanium struts and a pure copper liner inside like Auralic do for their G2 line. 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 aluminum are minimized already in the entry-level 180 versions. Should you stack yours, mechanical grounding is built in. For today's digital cases, we get 32bit/192kHz and DSD128 sample rate support, THD below 0.005%, 4.5Vrms out on RCA exclusively, Z-out of 100Ω, standby draw below 0.5W, idle draw of 50W and dimensions of 103 x 384 x 400m HxDxW.
If you didn't know, Børresen speakers reviewed here and here and here and Ansuz power distributors, cables and accessories reviewed here are the other two brands which make up the now 35-strong Audio Group Denmark previously Upper Level triumvirate in Aalborg. Today their design talent even includes ex-Gryphon boss Flemming Rasmussen. My recent interview with him adds some perspective, my earlier factory tour still more. Regular contributor Dawid Grzyb already reviewed the I-280 integrated. I don't do phono. I also don't do streamers since our household is WiFi allergic to snuff tablet remotes. Then my proven iMac ⇒ Audirvana ⇒ clock-sync'd USB bridge trio tends to render audiophile streamers overpriced and underfeatured. So I'll focus on the DAC; all three versions of it. You can't upgrade one to another after the fact but dealers will credit a high trade-in should you move up. I'm told that if a component is in excellent shape and not too old, this can even mean its full original amount. The exact details are obviously between buyer and dealer. It's simply stated Aavik policy to safeguard client investments as much as possible. Safeguarding your signal with today's DACs is galvanically isolated USB and an asynchronous sample-rate converter. That upsamples/reclocks all data to 24bit/200kHz PCM into current-output converters unless disabled. Also user selectable is slow/fast filtering. With all x80 components, XLR are MIA so it's RCA all the way. That doesn't pay for twice the circuity, its dubious benefit of balanced signal transmission in the context of home audio's short distances plus the need for perfectly identical balanced half circuits.
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