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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo boost, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz Hifi, Tidal Hifi, COS Engineering D1, Denafrips Terminator, Soundaware D300Ref as USB bridge/SD transport, Jay's Audio CDT2 MkII disc transport
Preamplifier: Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature with Western Electric 300B or Elrog ER50; Nagra Classic, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage II, COS Engineering D1, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVT module)
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, SIT3, F5, F6, F7; Goldmund/Job 225; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics NC500 monos; LinnenberG Audio Liszt monos, Crayon Audio CFA-1.2, Bakoon AMP-13R
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Kroma Audio Mimí; Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V, VI & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence; Fram Midi 150; Børresen 02 [on loan]
Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL 3000 & 5000; Zu Event; KingRex uArt double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps/sub, Ansuz Mainz8 with full power cord loom [on review]
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review component retail: €220/4, €420/8, €560/12
The problem with hifi.
Oy. Did you really think there was just one problem? Oops.
This one begins with conceptual sympathy. With it you buy into a particular design philosophy. It's the one which to your way of thinking and education makes the most sense. This applies itself to any component category or technology: tubes/transistors, planar/dynamic, box/open baffle, 1st/4th-order filters, digital/analog, DSP/purist, low/high-mass turntables, direct/belt drive, NOS/max oversampling, PCM/DSD … the list is an endless circle jerk.
Today it's resonance control. Enter two primary approaches. Buying into vibration isolation will lead you to suspended solutions like Boenicke's SwingBase; or multiple degrees of freedom plus lossy interfaces à la Grand Prix Audio and sorbothane. Buy into mechanical earthing and you suddenly embrace hard coupling to ground. That might be a Danish Ansuz Titanium rack. Its Darkz interfaces increase in hardness from aluminium to anodized aluminium to hard-anodized aluminium with diamond skin to titanium with interlocking tantalum, scandium and diamond layers.
Where's the problem?
As long as you're inside one school of thought to slowly claw your way up like ascending martial arts belts, your hifi kung fu is splendid. It evolves according to its own innate logic and rules. It's once you shift allegiances that your problem begins. You begin training in the other school which does everything the first one called wrong. Now you're not sure whether it's hifi kung fu you ought to practice or audio jiu jitsu if you want to win. As it turns out, grappling can be just as devastating as striking, soft just as powerful as hard.
How about we combine the two like mixed martial arts?
Returning from a factory tour to Aalborg, I'd heard the effects of the Ansuz Darkz technology. Increased hardness of their footer interfaces meant more effective vibrational transfer from superior coupling. That meant an audible lowering of the mechanical noise floor with all the usual benefits to cleaner transients, higher microdynamic expressivity, more specific imaging and layering. With our Spanish Artesania Audio Exoteryc rack, the approach is that of a suspended double structure for 3-stage decoupling. Here 1 = isolation discs with neoprene pads, 2 = 38mm teflon cylinders to isolate the inner from the outer structure, 3 = stainless steel decoupling bases with teflon or neoprene floor pads, 4 = movable stainless steel arms to position the isolation discs optimally under any component, 5 = the inner suspended structure.
With my very effective demonstrations of the harder-equals-better school still firmly in mind and ears, I became curious. What would happen if I replaced the soft absorptive neoprene pads between equipment bottoms and first rack contact with Artesania's own beech discs? Those were added to their range well after my review of the rack. I had no experience with them. As we know well from musical instruments, wood is an excellent transfer not blocking medium for vibrations. So I contacted their sales manager Cayetano Castellano. He agreed. An A/B comparison between hard and soft interfaces would make for a very interesting assignment. It'd be easy to do too since the polyamide isolation discs with steel bushings just slip off their upright steel needles to swap out quickly. Pluck 'n' play.
Artesania had other potential upgrades to our Exoteryc rack by way of carbon-fibre struts as shown below. They even had the modular new Organic Line which combines Krion shelves bonded with tank wood plus filled aluminium columns of different lengths to create different configurations. Proper review protocol simply only changes one thing at a time to insure that changes get properly attributed to the actual producer. Cosmetically meanwhile, Artesania hadn't been asleep behind the wheel either since my original Exoteryc review. Clients can now pick from different paint finishes to cover silver, grey, even gold metal work. The Organic rack below is finished in a copper tone appropriate for coming from a sunny climate. Could they make a wet look for Irish clients?
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