For audiophiles and music lovers who love to read...
In the middle. If we peruse anecdotal evidence from players like Antipodes, Aurender, Innuos and Lumin, we find lots of shared observations. Designers who labor in separate workshops around the globe concluded independently that assigning specific threads of multi-core CPU to very specific and limited tasks makes a difference. So does the load whereby computing processes and specific operating systems task their chosen CPU. So does low latency. So do physical resonances on boards and subassemblies. So do discrete noise-optimized power supplies for isolated functions like clock oscillators. One learns that the fastest RJ45 ports or processors needn't sound best for music data; that layout and ground-plane optimization are critical; and much more. One also comes across the concept of circuit tuning. That differs from tuning musical instruments. Any piano tuner who adopts the well-tempered scale whereby G sharp is pitch identical to A flat and who references concert A = 440Hz works to a global standard. When audio designers tune circuits, their reference is a personal notion of good/correct sound. Jord's use of the word 'musicality' makes that point. Unless I was born yesterday which in the grand scheme of things is perfectly accurate, we have no agreed-upon standard for musicality. It's a judgement call by each individual. Even judges of classical music competitions disagree. They don't merely weigh raw technique—their equivalent of hifi's ideal measurements where error-free playing of each note on the score is key—but expression. That includes tempo, phrasing, vibrato, embellishments, tone/timbre and other items of artistic temperament and personality.
Benched during assembly. Triple-toroid power supplies visible.
In short, consensus matters between a designer's notion of musicality and our own. How else to end up with a sound we consider right? It's not just about sonic truth; whatever that would even be. Taste intrudes on the manufacturing and buying ends. "By default the Pink Faun comes with 1TB SSD storage. I'll add an extra 2TB. It's highly recommended to add your music files onto our SSD. Each SSD powers individually from our linear PSU. By containing everything inside our chassis from OS to storage to signal routing, we maintain full control over the digital chain and thus insure that all components interact optimally. Adding music is a simple drag 'n' drop. The OS also includes a file manager. During our Zoom meet I'll demonstrate all operations and tell you anything you want to know about Pink Faun. This option I offer each owner of my music server no matter whether their unit sold through a dealer or us. Customer service and post-sales support are one of the very strong selling propositions of my company. Clients not only pay for the product but ongoing support and development. Inside our OS for example is a remote-control button that can be toggled for fast and quick support whenever needed." SOS. Received.
The innards of what in 2015 was Pink Faun's AV Streamer from our review of it.
From Jord's reply to Kal Rubinson's Stereophile review of the 2.16X, "…Kal mentions the inability of our CPU to consistently handle multi-channel upsampling with DSD. I'm glad he brought this up as there are tradeoffs. The Pink Faun is configured for bit-perfect playback. We believe that this has the edge over upsampling. So our processor/software is optimized and configured for bit-perfect playback, not heavy upsampling/DSP. This runs our processor at half capacity but can be adapted for heavy processing by remotely beefing up its power. However this will affect noise figures and we want our clients to get optimal sound out of the box." My techno-peasant brain translates that as "work smart not hard for better results".
The two bridges aka output modules of my loaner, one for USB, the other for I²S over RJ45. Hover mouse for loupe function.
I do neither DSD nor multi-channel. Jord's focus on bit-perfect native 2-channel playback without resampling high-rate PCM to DSD1'024 for example would meet my usage scenarios head on. Users into heavy post processing of their files should consult Pink Faun to learn how the 2.16 ultra's soft/hardware can adapt to serve far more DSP-heavy applications. Right tool for the job. Already iFi's FPGA in a €3'295 DAC on my desktop can resample Redbook to DSD1'024 without PC-based processing power. Alternately I can use Audirvana Origin's 64-bit r8brain upsampler on my PC. On audible relevance, I find such post-processing shenanigans to live just a click or two above the filter options of most converters. You'd not paint houses with the difference, just a postage stamp; if that. I'd be fine with Pink Faun's bit-perfect choice.
Surveying applied solutions between iMac/Audirvana + Soundaware D300Ref in one corner and 2.16 ultra in the other, I spotted shared tech. Both spin down their file-hosting drives by caching playlists in 32GB RAM. Both apply super-capacitor power, our Soundaware to its entire USB transceiver/clock/output circuity, the Pink Faun just to its clock circuit. Both offer I²S outputs. Soundaware's pin-out simply won't talk to our Sonnet DAC so I use AES/EBU instead. The 2.16 ultra's I²S configures custom. Divergence factors between Apple's switch-mode power¹ and Pink Faun's circuit-specific linear variants. Apple's FusionDrive isn't pure SSD like Pink Faun's. A functionally enormous difference was my far cheaper solution's included 27" Retina display, keyboard, mouse and remote control. The headless Pink Faun has none. Whatever our GUI of choice—tablet, smartphone, TV, PC/Mac browser window—we must still add it. That puts enormous sonic burdens on Jord's €20K+ proposition. It would have to severely dominate our €2'850 USB bridge to justify itself. In my reviewing adventures of music streamers thus far, I'd never heard that. Thus my general mehness with this category and its material overkill that always mattered far less than it should have. Alas, I was happily expectant to finally be proven wrong. After all, this particular version of the Pink Faun carries the suffix ultra. Interestingly, the lowlands of what used to be Holland also produce the Grimm Audio MU1 and Taiko Audio Extreme. It's a surprising concentration of expensive such solutions from one not very large geographic area.
2.16x version from fairaudio's 20121 review with 800'000µF of filter capacitance and ATX motherboard.
¹ During a review of a Greek power conditioner with extensive AC diagnostics via its display, I had opportunity to check on Apple's switch-mode power supplies. I saw no effects. This was wildly different from a pair of high-power class D amplifiers. The moment those came on line, the conditioner showed instant and high noise increase on the AC line. When I did the same for our computer music server (compare the conditioner's diagnostics with this iMac on/off), I saw zero (!) difference. Ever since I've grown quite immune to popular trash talk about the sonically deleterious effects of an iMac's switch-mode power on sound quality.
Jord's FedEx tracker said 40kg as though he had shipped a serious amp. Like LampizatOr's Horizon flagship DAC or a multi-box Soulution, the 2.16 ultra lives the bigger-is-better mantra of power supplies. It promotes the idea that top performance relies on them. Shoppers buying into the idea can't be faulted for passing over our petite Enleum AMP-23R; or more to today's point, the DAC I'd use the Pink Faun with. Sonnet's Pasithea too calls noise the first enemy of resolution. Then it says that larger power supplies invariably get noisier. That needs ever costlier more complex countermeasures to combat. So Pasithea minimizes its voltage needs very strategically in the first place. Now a far smaller simpler power supply suffices. As stellar measurements prove, it gets the job done with far less fuss. Hence Pasithea fits into a compact quite lightweight chassis utterly dwarfed by a 2.16 ultra so can sell for far less. It seems to belong to a far lower class. It's virtually untouchable by Brahmin shoppers. To accord Pasithea and others like it proper respect depends on first stepping out of the bigger-is-better picture. Only then can we acknowledge how it's not the only game in HighEnd town though certainly the most popular. Saying so throws no shade on Jord's design choices. It's merely a useful footnote under any review of big heavy costly kit. Otherwise such reports become guilty of promoting the notion that such choices are a must for top performance when less-is-more approaches do things differently.
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