October
2022

Country of Origin

Poland

Project 060

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, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, Sonnet Pasithea DAC; Active filter: icOn 80Hz/4th-order hi/lo-pass; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7, Enleum AMP-23R; Headamp: Kinki Studio THR-1, Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf + sound|kaos DSUB15 on Carbide Audio footers, 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 clock-slaved to Denafrips Terminator +; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro SE; Amplifier: Goldmund Job 225; Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini or Acelec Model One + Dynaudio S18 sub; 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 Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; Headamp/DAC: iFi iDSD Pro Signature;  Headphones: Final D-8000; Active speakers: DMAX SC5
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl Dp5 transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a; Active DSP speakers: Fram Midi 120
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: €TBA

Use mouse over for loupe function.

Wandler. It's German for changeling. Worker by day, werewolf at night. No wonder Germans call D/A converters Wandler. But what, pray tell, is Project 060? A code name? Quite. It's ferrum's standalone statement DAC. Unlike Erco it doesn't work part-time as head amp. A pure-blooded werewolf then. Just one thing all the way. Perfection is narrow-minded.

Given ferrum's history as prior Mytek OEM, most of us knew that a pure DAC was inbound sooner than later. What we couldn't foresee was its name. Oor is Dutch for ear. Erco is ore in Esperanto. Hypsos is a portmanteau of hybrid power supply; or Greek for 'aloft' or 'on high'. Serce is Polish for heart and ferrum's OEM DAC board. Only this splitter goes by the prosaic name Power Splitter.

On their model christenings, ferrum otherwise remain fiercely unpredictable. We're not even sure what language they'll raid next. Portuguese?

It goes without saying that like for their pure head amp and the mixed DAC + headfi deck, Hypsos the external switching and linear power supply stands by on the firm's native upgrade path. And no, Hypsos isn't potent enough to power both 060 and Oor at once since each wants at least 24V but can take up to 30V.

The splitter is meant for two lower-draw devices whose voltage x current requirements are equal then sum to less than the 80-watt max rating of ferrum's celebrated adaptive power supply. 060's premiere was planned for the annual Warsaw show October 28th-30th.

Worker by day. Werewolf at night. A Wandler in Warsaw. By then I was fresh out of W words so nothing more on why, what or when until October 15th when I checked with the factory on status.

"We recently opted to completely rework the analog output electronics. Although we await first proto boards which are currently being soldered, we cannot show them at the upcoming AVS in Warsaw. These won't be the final product. The rework will postpone our premiere by a few months to Q1 2023 to ultimately translate into an even better final product and sound. We do plan on some comparative tests of its components at the show but haven't yet worked out the details."

As such this story now goes to another weasely W: wait. We already saw a Sabre chip, the Serce module, MQA readiness, remote volume though unclear yet whether Sabre's on-chip digital or a Muses-type analog resistor ladder on a chip – and what, some sort of headfi mode without ¼" receiver on the board? Crossfeed in the digital domain? As ferrum/HEM boss Marcin Hamerla teased, "I hope you will like the effect when you get it in your hands." Date with werewolf. Booked. If the HEM word had you confused and looking for a sewing machine, it's ferrum's parent company which handles OEM/ODM design and manufacture, distribution and sales. ferrum is just one chapter in their good book.

So who/what is Serce? 20 years worth of digital experience packed into a single ARM Cortex M7 Core processor which itself lives on a red board just 5x7cm. That PCB module includes provisions for USB, S/PDIF, AES/EBU, differential I²S over HDMI or RJ45, ARC under CEC control, IR and MQA.

So Serce disavows reliance on critical 3rd-party silicon which the pandemic has shown can end up seriously back-ordered; or have remaining stock sell at inflationary pricing or high-volume ransom.

With Serce key routing and processing happen in custom code owned by HEM. It already factored in Erco so will again in Project 060. If you own IP, you'd be daft not to use it. This piece of intellectual property simply differs from D/A conversion in FPGA code à la Cen.Grand, Meitner or PS Audio. Actual conversion still happens off-board with a designer's choice of favored chip.

Hence 060's ESS chip. Serce combines the functionality of digital receiver, high-rate USB, MQA and more. It gives HEM's OEM clients an easy solution to design digital kit. It gives ferrum a core to build their own digital around. Have heart. Need arms and legs; especially after a werewolf encounter.

Some call that the bleeding edge?

Certainly HEM's Mytek history gives them extensive experience with how to get the most/best from ESS silicon. Q1 2023 will have all the answers. For now, "initially we thought of a headphone output so the graphics designer prepared the display as shown earlier.

"Then we decided to drop the headphone output so the new display won't have that icon. Project 060 is 'the DAC' like 'das Auto'; a purist design with all our effort and money pumped into conversion quality.

"Our R&D team work hard on Project 060. Our products are already known for their sophisticated software—Oor excepted—but hardware is as if not more important, especially the analogue section. Now our engineers are busy testing several circuit testbeds to see which idea and approach proves best.

"After solid testing, listening, modifying, testing, listening, measuring and modifying again we will make the final choice and transfer the circuit to the production Project 060 which then also gets its proper name." In what language do we think?

Serce board top and bottom.

Here is a video explaining some background of the Project 060's R&D.

… to be continued…