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This review first appeared in October 2023 on HifiKnights.com. By request of the manufacturer and permission of the author, it is hereby syndicated to reach a broader audience. All images contained in this piece are the property of HifiKnights or the manufacturer- Ed.
Reviewer: Marek Dyba
Analog sources: J.Sikora Basic MAX turntable, J.Sikora KV12 tonearm , AirTight PC-3, phonostages: Grandinote Celio mk IV, ESE Lab Nibiru V 2.5
Digital sources: passive custom PC with Win10, Roon, Fidelizer Pro 7.3, JCat USB Femto card with iFi power supply, Hdplex linear power supply for PC, JCAT USB Isolator, LampizatOr Golden Atlantic +Ideon Audio 3R Master Time (USB signal regenerator), LampizatOr Pacific
USB: iFi audio 0, micro iUSB3.0 and 3x Mercury cables
Preamplifiers: Audia Flight FLS1
Amplifiers: GrandiNote Shinai
Speakers: Ubiq Audio Model One Duelund Edition, GrandiNote Mach4
Interconnects: Hijiri Million, KBL Sound Red Corona, Metrum Lab Edge, TelluriumQ Silver Diamond USB, Stavessence USB Eunoia and Apricity, Ethernet Eloquence
Speaker cables: LessLoss Anchorwave, Metrum Lab Edge, KBl Sound Red Corona
Power components: GigaWatt PF-2 MK2 and GigaWatt PC-3 SE Evo+; a custom power line with GigaWatt LC-Y in-wall cable; GigaWatt G-044 Schuko and Furutech FT-SWS-D (R)
Rack: Base VI, Rogoz Audio 3RP3/BBS
Sundry accessories: Rogoz Audio SMO40 and CPPB16 platforms and BW40MKII feet, Franc Accessories Ceramic Disc Slim Feet and Wood Block platform
Retail price of reviewed components in EU (incl. tax): €3'499 for switch, €1'350 for optional linear power supply
Silent Angel emerged just a few years ago with products aimed at modern audiophiles partial to streaming rather than classic physical carriers. They started at lower prices then moved up with products intended for the most demanding clients. Today we investigate their top LAN distributor, the Bonn NX. There's no doubt that music files streamed from local storage or cloud services are the future. Streaming is cheap and literally millions of albums and tracks are available with just a few clicks. Initially streaming recruited from mostly young people who listened to music over smartphones and laptops plus those who simply liked the convenience and were willing to sacrifice some quality. This reminds me of the dawn of CD which offered more convenience than vinyl and despite lower sound quality virtually displaced the LP. It would be many years before CD and its players actually rivalled vinyl. Some even say that only within the last few years has this technology reached its pinnacle; in which case it took more than 30 years to perfect. The story with files repeated this scenario but in less time. With the growing availability of high-resolution files and streaming services offering hi-res tiers, superior streaming algorithms and D/A converters and streamers adapting to new demands, the streaming revolution took root also among audiophiles of all backgrounds and ages.
While many of us boarded the hi-res hype train rather quickly, initial results weren't as good expected, be it PCM or DSD. To equal the physical carriers of CD, DVD, SACD and vinyl, audio manufacturers still had to adapt D/A converters, develop LAN and USB cables and in some cases even design their own streamers. This opened opportunities for new brands often with solid roots in IT/data streaming industries which apply specialized know-how and apply it in slightly different ways than IT to improve our sound quality by providing a purer signal with less noise and jitter. While some IT engineers tell us that there's nothing to improve and Ethernet data transfer and its error protocols equal perfection already, others accepted the challenge and developed products that helped streaming break the barrier which still separated its sound quality from classic physical audio carriers.
The idea of borrowing from other industries for audio isn't new. Vibration control and grounding products didn't start with us but were adapted from other industries. Network switches, the USB standard, even linear power supplies came from outside audio. Often our hifi versions are from people with deep experience in computer or data transmission jobs who happen to be audiophiles, too. That's true also for Silent Angel, a sister company of Thunder Data Co. Ltd whose business is server manufacture, network communication, data management, network storage software and hardware engineering to be an established hi-tech company. They focus on 5G mobile networks and 8K video transmission. The company was founded by Dr. Eric Jian Huang with a PhD in computer science. For two other subsidiary brands which develop audio products, he paired with Chorus Chuang, the company's CTO and an engineer with a Masters in electrical and electronics engineering. Both audiophiles share an interest in better sound for file streaming. They began with affordable network switches and linear power supplies. Later came their Z1 music server with custom OS and then more and more advanced models. The latest are the Bonn NX and Forester 2 on review as well as the Genesis GX word clock.
My own streaming journey began with a custom-made server with SMPS that quickly upgraded to a linear supply. That improvement was significant enough to never look back. Next came an optical LAN isolator, JCAT's USB and NET cards ultimately traded up for their XE versions, David Laboga's LAN and USB cables, Ferrum's Hypsos Signature hybrid power supply for the USB and NET cards, a separate linear power supply for the NAS and last but not least a SIlent Angel Bonn N8 switch with Forester 1 linear power supply. All these components contribute to streaming quality good enough to retire my CD player. My custom server into a LampizatOr Pacific DAC recently upgraded to the highly recommended version 2 and for vinyl a J.Sikora turntable are my two reference sources. They serve all of my reviews and my personal explorations of the musical world. End of? Not at all. Not long ago I reviewed Silent Angel's Bonn N8 Pro with Forester 2 power supply and later added their Rhein Z1 server and E1 Expander. I had no doubts that the Pro outperformed my switch to appreciate that yes, things can still get better. It's just a matter of further investments into carefully selected components.
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