a very French Madison opened a pop-up shop in Ireland. Its warm-up days happened on my desktop where it bumped off iFi's iDSD Pro Signature DAC/headfi/pre deck below.

Without iFi's 10MHz output, it just couldn't slave the preceding bridge to its own clock. But iFi's high-speed USB 3.0 cable, iPurifier and Singxer's SU-2 D/D converter remained in the game. iFi's 4-gang analog pot became Leedh's digital volume control, IR remote control fell by the wayside—no loss on the desktop—and price remained on par inside €50. My headphone here is an original Final D8000 planarmagnetic. The second test station was my upstairs bedside headfi with Raal-Requisite's SR1a ribbons. Here Madison replaced a legacy Auralic Vega for another price-matched competitor. Once it slipped into my two regular speaker systems with Denafrips Terminator+ and Sonnet Pasithea of course, it faced twice-costlier challengers. That wasn't meanness but what I had.

A lovely Madison feature…

… is that any change in volume briefly defaults to full-row view—or however far on the pointed path you've progressed—before it reverts to a single red LED. Even from far away where aged eyes with distance blur may not discern a single dot, they should see a row of 'em.

That was unexpected but proof that the engineer had had plenty of Swiss coffee.

For an extra headfi station, I pulled from the hifi closet our trusty COS Engineering H1 as a fair match on functionality and still reasonable coin parity [€2'500]. It and Madison got coaxial digits from a Soundaware D300Ref super-cap powered SD card transport.

Headphones were Audeze LCD-XC so their sealed planarmagnetics.

At right you see my SPL needs as checked by Madison for this load. Each dot represents multiple voltage levels. With three left unlit, I had plenty of headroom. On hot recordings with less dynamic range than a premium 24/96 Tord Gustavsen Trio, I in fact sat closer to 9:00 o'clock.

My very first impression was an "Aha Auralic" moment vis-à-vis our vintage Vega. This tuning too seemed voiced for Technicolor saturation enveloped by satin darkness which nonetheless retained high detail density. That fundamental blackness set it off from the H1's whiter more quicksilvery top-down illumination which prioritizes a more spiccato transient feel. Even if you don't know the term's meaning of string staccato executed with a bouncing bow, you can say it out loud. Emphasize the hard 'sp' beginning and throat-closing 'cc' and you've got the intended crispness. Madison was more about flow and vowels than consonants.

Given how the Audeze identify similarly…