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The purpose of comparing all three converter versions is obvious. With identical published specs and features, how does sound quality change as cost nearly doubles then flatly doubles once again? Arm-chair accountants and imaginary engineers scoff at such multipliers by citing narrow material evidence of a few extra boards of basic twisted wire coils, thin copper liners and titanium trim bits [I-580 at right]. To Aavik, the latter aren't cosmetic but sonic enhancers. The notion that different materials sound different is well established among musicians. Golden flutes, crystal mouth pieces, bronze spikes, gut vs. metal strings, secret lacquers and specific tone woods all tell their own tale.
At Audio Group Denmark, certain parts visit a magnetron sputtering unit at a local university to grow hard skins of tantalum, zirconium, tungsten or aluminum titanium nitride. With renting time on a particle accelerator involved, pricing escalates with treatment sophistication like a visit to a jeweler's back room and its big rocks. How about pure silver pole rings and cryogenics for the drive units of Børresen's Silver Supreme speakers? When only their best will do is the obvious answer. They're already testing zirconium skins for their Darkz ball-bearing decouplers.
Moving from good to better to best rarely ever is neatly linear. Curves flatten. Values lower. Expense compounds. Only the most committed and financially able go all the way. It's unnecessary to call them crazy or hypnotized by marketing and greed. Can't hear the difference? Don't go there. Can hear it but can't afford it? Too bad. Just don't be a spoil sport and call those names who can and do.
As Dawid put it in our syndicated I-280 review, "metaphorically speaking, Aavik didn't develop their own engine to instead pick a motor fit to build their car around. One wouldn't be wrong to call them highly specialized tuners who push their circuit of choice beyond where its OEM maker would. That's key. In this context Pascal's class D module is the engine, the I-280 the final ride where unique in-house developed support boosters effectively tune up the engine. It wouldn't perform the same without this hot-rodding…
"The more of these noise killers show up for work, the more gunk their additive action shaves off… Comparing models online based on just photos and specs, many who are quick to judge will be suspicious of where all the extra money goes. Past my exposure to the Danes' work in their premises and my own room, I won't. When it comes to scaling up performance, I view see them as artisans who've refined circuit tuning into a black art form. If they keep stuff critical to make it so inside their chassis where we can't see it, that's fine by me." [S-580 streamer at left.]
It's their proven success of actively demoing discrete performance jumps starting at Nordost and now their present three brands why Audio Group Denmark were thrilled that I'd requested this D/A converter trilogy. They weren't at all worried that their good/better/best scheme wouldn't translate as though it just lived on paper. Quite the opposite. "Do your worst" was the invite. And such I had planned. Aside from comparing D-180, D-280 and D-580 as is, I'd steal the latter's titanium-boosted cover and footers. I'd mount them to the D-180, then transfer the entry model's bits to the flagship. It'd isolate titanium's effects and speak to cosmetic versus sonic concerns which cynics might nurse.
At this juncture we jump from January 2021 to September. That's how long it took Aavik to rebound from the global chip shortage caused by the cluster fuck of pandemic and Brexit to restock key parts and resume DAC production. In the meantime Dawid had signed up to do the streamer. Our factory contact Morton recommended he add the same level's DAC. Readers should appreciate a 2nd opinion. Once his publishes, it'll be linked to from here. Merry are those who read more then think about what they just read.
By September 20th, Aavik announced the addition of these €12K/€25K 280/580 pre/power amps with LDR input and gain selectors upgrading contact-based switches to quieter light-based resistors. An optional €4K pure analog xover with low/high-pass paths can build into the preamp for perfect 2.1 subwoofer integration, even double as corrective room EQ. Thinking readers expect a pending Børresen sub or two; and/or perhaps a flagship speaker with separate bass tower that relies on being actively filtered. With the new preamp fitted accordingly, the foundation for all of that is now solidly laid.
Having harped on about this topic for many pale moons with many features, I'm thrilled that another manufacturer in our subwoofer-allergic space gives us rebellious 2.1 listeners proper tools for our double-crossing endeavors. With outboard analog xovers from JL Audio, spl and Wilson asking €3-4.5K, Aavik's pricing for theirs fits the current frame. Building it in eliminates unnecessary cables. What exactly its feature set is remains to be unveiled. The advertised alternate use of room corrector simply suggests unusually broad adjustment facilities – and not in the digital domain as did the recently reviewed Bel Canto e1X or do competitors from Linn to TotalDAC. It's why Aavik embed theirs in a preamp not D/A converter. And today we're reviewing the latter. The only signal processing we do now is asynchronous upsampling or not; fast or slow filtering; and regardless, the purifying action of Michael Børresen's multi-tiered noise traps.
This makes a good pit stop to reiterate how these Aavik electronics lost the virtually omnipresent metal chassis. A pioneer who considered how such enclosures impact the sensitive circuity within is Denis Morecroft of DNM Design in the UK [interesting 2004 interview by Art Dudley here]. He settled on low-mass acrylic cases, custom plastic-bodied connectors, even plastic screws. Under hifi's alternating current not constant conditions, they bypass the "extremely magnetic" behavior of typical metals whose eddy currents and stray fields interfere with the signal. For remaining metallic heat sinks, Denis decouples his transistors with 5mm ceramic aluminium oxide blocks of no magnetic properties. Aavik's high-density fiber material pursues a similar path. It illustrates a far more holistic design approach than textbook audio engineering 101. When everything matters, how deep can one go? This range's 580 variants represent current production answers to the question. Michael Børresen and Flemming Rasmussen reportedly spend far more time brainstorming over it than fly fishing. Perhaps a magnum opus already brews to dig yet deeper whilst discarding whatever financial shackles the 580 kit might still wear? In those terms, today we could prefer going déshabillé to fully nude so our playground stretches from €6'000 to 'just' €20'000. Let's face it, the latter figure is already seriously exposed. It's that popular nightmare of walking down a busy shopping street in the skimpiest of bathing suits just shy of a full birthday. How would sonics reflect that? It goes without saying that regardless of tier and exposure, dress code remains formal black only.
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