Jacob's ladder. Walking in Rethm's planned shoes, our Aurai Lieutenant's ~95dB sensitivity was a good stand-in. On our 25wpc Enleum AMP-23R, my standard SPL of 55-75dB in the seat need -30 to -40dB attenuation. That's with our customary DAC's 4V XLR output. With Sig's ~12V, I'd have to drain far more excess voltage. The obvious solution was to go RCA instead. With its ~6V max signal strength and iFi's particular volume taper…

… I sat at 8 o'clock so with headroom to burn. Thankfully with each power-on, the iFi resets itself to your prior volume setting. That should protect from deafening mishaps. If you run 85dB monitors which deliberately sacrifice efficiency to maximize bass reach from a still compact box, you'll explore more travel on this pot. If you run 100dB Voxativ, you'll get loud too quickly. 109dB Avantgarde hornspeakers should only be useable if the amp driving them has abnormally low input sensitivity. In my application, I heard no sonic contra indications from the amount of analog attenuation required. Practically I just had less granularity before SPL got too high. On that count, setting the pot to 12:00 then handling volume with our usual 1dB-stepped autoformer passive added more control.

Now curiosity niggles. Why would anyone want such stiff gain only to necessitate excess attenuation in turn? Not being in the converter biz, Pál Nagy had no brand-specific axe to grind. "The ongoing increase of output levels in D/A converters is a consequence of the spec wars. Goose the output level of a DAC and immediately net better S/NR and THD figures to publish."

This damper on ultimate practicality shouldn't steal any luster from our award. It simply qualifies amp-direct scenarios to insure that prospective buyers apply correct expectations². Sonically the iFi Pro iDSD Signature is my favorite DAC at €3'250!

² Listeners keen to exploit Sig's sonic chops in systems of excess gain may know of the Rothwell and Harrison Labs inline attenuators. As Pál opined, "these obviously aren't fit for high-end DACs because they compress dynamic range, destroy impedance relations and make the sound 'lifeless'. In my mind I see a new icOn Attenuator with six levels for convenience and flexibility executed either with autoformers or resistive dividers with high-end buffers. It'd have 1/ea. RCA/XLR i/o. Max input level would be 60Vpp so 21Vrms and fixed attenuation rates of 0/5/10/15/20/30dB plus mute optionally remote-controlled with a small 7-segment display. It'd have very high input Ω, very low output Ω and zero distortion or noise all packed into the 120mm shorter icOn box." A better solution to cut extreme gain might thus be just around the corner.