the ribbon opposition stepped in to remove that ancillary contribution. Now Madison's Leedh volume bypassed as did Vega's traditional on-chip digital Sabre attenuator. Madison acted as just balanced fixed DAC between smsl Dp5 SD card transport and Schiit Jotunheim R amp with 4-gang analog pot. The connection to the amp was by Grimm Audio XLR. This setup also built in a convenient op to compare Leedh to both traditional digital and analog volume. I could run the R amp at full boogie then trim voltage with either converter. I had my marching orders. Hear something; anything. Which wasn't difficult. Whilst indeed pursuing very parallel tracks, Madison's tech edge from being current not vintage sat above Vega on grip and tone. For the latter I look at harmonic color as though it were paint. I ask which has more coats for still stronger coverage. If tone had temperature, Madison's was hotter. If it were paint, Madison's had more layers for greater depth. Just so, image pop—what I called grip to differentiate it from a looser bloomier gestalt—was firmer than the softer slightly more pastel Vega.

One of these openly baffled ribbons' prime attractors is their exploded and dynamically unleashed treble. There are no magnets between membrane and ear. No air is trapped by ear cushions. There are no structural reflections, no energy storage issues. Speed is the deed. Where cops on this Aural Autobahn still write tickets, it's for splashiness. Lesser productions with an overcooked top end get pulled over far sooner than they do over the Audeze.

Cueing up typically ill-mannered suspects now showed them on far better behavior than an earlier Questyle DAC 192 whose relentless brightness on the Raal had prompted my revival of the older Vega in the first place. To a lesser extent, it'd had been so also for the H1 which I'd tried before settling on the Auralic. Where Madison still begged to differ from it was feeling more illuminated without crossing the Questyle line. That too closed a circle with my first impression of a darker tuning without any subjective loss of fine detail.

Schiit's fully balanced analog pot.

While I had three knobs to fondle—fondness for it is how the other Engineer designed men—I cut volume any which way I could. As SPL reduced, Leedh clearly had the advantage over Sabre. Yet even running the Schiit wide open and trimming signal voltage in Leedh seemed slightly superior than bypassing Leedh and using Schiit's nice Alps Blue Velvet. This was admittedly subtle. Perhaps it's safest to say that for sure, Leedh was not inferior. But given the Raal's extreme resolution, I actually thought it beat out the analog part. This closed another circle with a Lumin network player I'd lost my Leedh virginity to. I'd compared it to our AVC and much to my surprise declared the French code superior. Unless a system needs an active preamp's extra fat or body, Leedh will be more resolved and energetic without getting audibly lossy at low SPL. Getting it built into Madison is an ace asset. Being able to bypass it should a separate preamp be/come preferable avoids premature obsolescence.

I've not been a DAC-direct proponent though did gravitate away from even a direct-coupled premium DHT preamp to autoformer-based attenuation for its voltage/current conversion advantage. The more voltage you cut, the more current these magnetic parts generate. That's a boon for low-SPL listening. To my ears, Leedh in its own way now covers the same ground; but with one less box and interconnect. Whilst I've read its White Paper, my techno peasant brain didn't fully grasp the 'how'. My ears simply know it to work. That's good enough for me; and Madison.