Intermission. At this point I hit pause to collect more impressions. Now darko.audio's podcast dropped between John Darko and Michael Lavorgna. In it they discuss personal DAC favorites at different price points. In the lower ranges Michael favored the Denafrips Ares II and Pontus II, John highlighted Schiit's Yggdrasil Analog 2. Up to €5K Michael picked the Sonnet Morpheus, below €10K John the Denafrips Terminator. John's cost-no-object votes went to the Mola Mola Tambaqui and dCS Bartók, Michael's to the dCS Rossini and TotalDAC d1-tube Mk2. Between these writers, many D/A converters have come and gone over the years. That makes for interesting picks when I too reviewed the Morpheus, reviewed/owned the Terminator, now own the Terminator+ and rate all three as highly as my colleagues do. You already have my sentiments on Pasithea eclipsing the Denafrips flagship. That exceeds the podcast's standard Terminator. Nothing more definitive can be said when I've not reviewed John's and Michael's top decks. I'd simply suggest that this latest Cees box probably belongs side by side with them or at least gets close. It's how the DAC game works. Either way would mark nice savings for going Dutch and throw in remote-controlled lossless volume control. That concludes my brief intermission of snooping around elsewhere. Before you ask as did a reader now, I reviewed Morpheus in late 2019 in a different room with different speakers. I couldn't begin to say how Pasithea compares except for the obvious: designed by the same man; 3rd-gen conversion tech doubled up to show still superior measurements; lower Ω for more current drive over XLR output. To say more without direct A/B would be disingenuous; except that of the podcast's sixteen DACs, six were R2R. That's disproportionately high attendance given how niche they are.
Before we continue—the above Nynke Laverman track "The Explorer" sung in the rare West Frisian language with a nod at Cees—let's elaborate on the "different room/speakers" aspect. Aside from a twin-tweeter mohawk, Aurai's Lieutenant runs a big Supravox-style classic paper midrange. It opens into a short horizontal tapered quarter-wave tube to work dipole. Bypassing most of the hidden 4th-order bandpass woofer inside is my external -6dB/80Hz high pass. That hands over to a 2×15-inch Ripol sound|kaos subwoofer. Because of the sub's highly directional output and velocity conversion not pressure generation principle, the 20-80Hz octaves no longer trigger room gain from 360° dispersion. That eliminates the usual time smear and pressure effects sans room treatment. Above true sub bass down to beyond 25Hz, the midband really opens up. Subtracted from it is the usual overlay of bloomy bass ricocheting around the room. Alain Pratali's big vintage mid has excellent tonality as is. Running it dipole avoids thru-cone bleed and breathes without cabinet pressurization effects. Now eliminate bass/room issues. Midrange quality/tonality purifies still further. If you don't enjoy equivalent transparency from a tamed room with a sub 28dB ambient noise plus drive units of matching quality plus true bass extension, you'll hear Pasithea in a different light; which is to say handicapped. Extra resolution demands proper conditions to telegraph fully. It's typical small print but still valid qualifier worth a mention.
Now I'll make another point on resolution and related assumptions. Compare three readings of Artie Shaw's Clarinet Concerto. Start with one of the technically most astounding players of this generation Martin Fröst, here with just an excerpt.
Then comes Andreas Ottensamer of the Berlin Philharmonic with the full number.
Finally there's the Israeli Symphony's lead clarinetist Yevgeny Yehudin also blowing the distance.
Who does the spirit and milieu of this composition the most juicestice? Unlike Artie Shaw, these players all have a classical not Jazz background. On the vital score of swing phrasing, Fröst's reading completely misses the boat. Ottensamer catches a solid ride but it's Yevgeny who steers it as sauciest capt'n. That's my point. Do you correlate high resolution with just raw technique? Do you thus imply that it's missing the musical message as current vernacular has it? Then you're also missing Pasithea's boat. Not only did I feel unusually intimate with the musical energies revealed for whatever I listened to. She easily dug into the Israeli player's biggest swagger and tone. Here stellar measurements are not synonymous with an abstract soulless heady translation; in case you still harbored suspicions.
Some myths just die hard.