November
2022

Country of Origin

China

PA1-REF

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 mono, Enleum AMP-23R; Headamp: Kinki Studio; 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: $2'749

The announcement hit with the force of a sledgehammer. Actually, more like a feather. Few will have noticed. So here's a rinse 'n' repeat. Regen. It's German for rain. With Soundaware you can now make it rain because in their world, the word is short for regenerate; USB in this case. Go in dirty, come out clean. For their best dry cleaning, look at the $2'749 PA1-REF above. Come in USB 2.0 or 3.0, hit a buffer with low-noise oven-controlled crystal oscillator…

… then high-speed RAM then another buffer with OXCO. Power the lot by super capacitors. Spit out regenerated USB. If your DAC does RJ45 and you must run long cables in excess of USB's 5m allowance, the rear switch has the deck output music data over Ethernet instead. Now 30 meters between PC source and DAC, even more are no issue. You may even power a 5V/3A component with super-capped clean power via standard DC5525 socket. The 4-pin locking output is for this forthcoming 'Dream DAC' DA1.

Should your budget be more stressed, the $549 PA1-USB below eliminates the RJ45 path, auxiliary power and super caps. Otherwise it's the same song. Go in dirty, come out clean. Should you want the switchable RJ45 output for less, there's the $759 PA1-NU. What's more, embedded in these news truly sotto voce¹ was that Vinshine Audio now represent these and other Soundaware models through a new site. Same trusted team in Singapore, new kit beyond Denafrips, Jay's/LHY and Kinki. Happy days. Why? I've stated it many times over the years. If one connects an iMac with extra RAM to a USB DAC, runs Audirvana as a music player and outputs to an intermediary USB reclocker like Soundaware's big D300Ref, one enjoys audiophile music-server quality sound with far more convenience than headless decks; and for a lot less. It's why I still haven't retired my 27" iMac. If one doesn't need the 300Ref's basic network player functionality, SD card reader or clock sync, the PA1-REF now focuses solely on jitter and noise-stripped aka regenerated USB. So do the two smaller boxes. "Their RJ45 are true Ethernet. Once the PA1-REF/PA1-NU connect to a computer while being set to Ethernet, the PC/Mac sees them as network interface cards. This is for a Roon Core/Bridge connection."
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¹ Having championed Soundaware kit by extensive personal use in multiple systems for years, I never understood the company's questionable export representation. Though they did squander years before signing up a truly legitimate reseller like Alvin Chee of Vinshine Audio, they finally saw the light. That can only bode well for buyer confidence in Soundaware and their customer support. Having good product isn't enough. The retail experience with easy access and secure shipping must be commensurate.

In my book all this is happy days; raining cats and dogs in fact. Hey, I'm in Ireland. Not for nothing are we called the Emerald Isle. No rain, no green. With these small boxes, the green actually isn't that long. Now where's the umbrella before I get too wet? Should you still question why USB benefits from cleaning, Antipodes and Innuos as just two serious brands have plenty of tech info on the subject. It relieves us of having to regurgitate it all here. Let's leave that to the cows with their four stomachs. Suffice it to say that in my experience, iMac + Audirvana + good external USB cleaner = audiophile music server, Qobuz, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube et al built in. The sonic yardstick for that opinion is a superior CD transport. It's still the digital source to beat. That €20'000 servers should at least equal it is expected. However, I prefer serving it up for 2/3rds less; or still bigger savings. Now computers need help. Today is about that. On my desktop, that help is a Singxer SU-2 USB bridge plus iFi iPurifier. In the downstairs system, it's a Singxer SU-6 USB bridge under super-cap power. Upstairs it's a Soundaware D300Ref with super-cap power. You might say that I'm thrice sold on such helpers. It's why when this gear announcement dropped, I heard a sledgehammer pound on my door to sign up pronto.

… to be continued…