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Titanium trickery. To validate whether the D-580's tonality shift stemmed from titanium—its cover inlay, caps and footers—I trickled these bits down to the D-180. They unscrew easy enough. Though Aavik won't sell the cover separate, they do sell upgraded Darkz footers. They also sell a big titanium Rezonator in two executions of which I had samples. A thick long rod on two risers represents more titanium mass than the D-580's T parts combined. Should more titanium be more audible, wouldn't a Rezonator atop a D-180 eclipse the D-580's harmonic tint? If so, would adding it atop the D-580 intensify even more? These were reasonable questions, their answers within reach. From what I could tell, the tonality hue does involve titanium but its portion of the difference package is rather less significant than are its ambient recovery and 'nano-gradated' dynamics. In short, swapping these parts won't turn a D-180 into a D-580 on the cheap. It just shifts the harmonic color temperature.
Turning the D-180 back into the stock Model non-T but parking a Rezonator atop it did eclipse the D-580's tonality in saturation. Doing the full flagship T-ango compounded it even more. Similar to a lowered center of gravity for tonal balance, here it purely focused on overtone distribution. So Titanium Rex aka D-580 + Rezonator was timbrally most weighty. In sufficiently resolved rigs, sonic adventurers thus have some narrow side alleys to explore subtle tuning in. Swapping painted HDF covers also meant looking at innards again. This makes a fair point of admitting that how little there's inside a D-180 felt disconcerting. Its chassis could lose 1/3rd of its depth and still house the lot. HDF is just a higher-grade version of MDF though "unlike particle board, the bonding of wood fibers requires no additional adhesive. Their original lignin suffices to bond the hardboard together although resin is often added".
To the audiophile ear, only results (should) matter. Check. What occurs to the calculating mind is the higher cost of typical aluminum chassis. It also finds their extra weight plus that of linear-supply power trafos more reassuring. To that mentality, our €5'550 Denafrips Terminator Plus is a far more obvious value than a €6'000 D-180. It's the perfect segue into an A/B. We'll sidestep functionality where discrete R2R T+ with more expansive i/o including flexible I²S crushes the Dane. We'll focus exclusively on sonics. For that we're sure to first lower preamp volume to compensate for Aavik's 4.5Vrms output over the standard 2Vrms of Denafrips. Once we do, T+ gets a minor nod for density and dynamic deflections, D-180 for slightly more openness. So it was a classic weight vs. transparency trade-off which factored in this match between equals. It also admits that Aavik met the same mark with apparently far simpler means than Denafrips. Wherever 'simpler' means 'lesser', the Terminator Plus wins. Once 'simpler' becomes 'smarter'—achieving parity with less complexity—the D-180 does. By obvious implication, once we get to the D-280, we hit higher ground not just financially but on performance. How did that factor over our Terminator Plus?
In one word, resolution. In two words, higher contrast. In three words, livelier dynamic energies. Aavik's D-280 also sounded faster. This benefited Diego El Cigala's salsa take on the classic "Bésame Mucho". The Cuban brasses felt fierier, the feathered-out percussions pricklier, his vocal gravel grittier. This vibrant life-affirming music had more tension and frisson than over the heavier slower less twitchy Chinese. The country of origin mention is a reminder. Labor fees. General costs of living. Denmark routinely ranks amongst the top 5 best countries in the world to live. It's also one of the highest taxed. Operating a successful Danish factory of now 35 relies on clever/effective engineering, not pandering to old-fashioned notions of metal chassis, being stuffed to the gills and flashing weighty linear power supplies. To want one of Aavik's current converters requires an attitude adjustment. If it's really about performance not means, I really can't fault these machines. And to my calculating mind, the D-280's middle child seems to offer the highest sonic ROI. Gilding that lily with a subsequent Rezonator still comes in far below the flagship. For most, the D-280 with or without T could just be the sweet spot of this lineup. So a picture of it with a Rezonator wraps today's assignment. It's not with a bow but a more katana-esque flourish. Since the isolator footers of a Rezonator don't attach, you decide whether to place them farther apart or closer together.
If it's truly about performance not concerns over 'lesser' or 'strange' means to achieve it, you now might feel closer to Aavik's D-range than before. If so, mission accomplished. This review will now self destruct in ten seconds – which just means having my loaners ship back to Aalborg.
I'll get over it…
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