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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: 2TB iMac 27" quad-core with 16GB of RAM (AIFF) running OSX 10.8.2 and PureMusic 1.94g in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM, Audirvana 1.4 in direct/integer mode, Metrum Hex, SOtM dX-USB HD with Super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2s, AURALiC Vega, Apple iPod Classic 160 AIFF-loaded, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pure i20
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Bent Audio Tap-X, Esoteric C-03, TruLife Audio Athena
Power amplifier: FirstWatt S1 monos, SIT2; ModWright KWA100 SE, Bakoon AMP-11R, Clones 25i [on loan]
Loudspeakers: German Physiks HRS-120, AudioSolutions Rhapsody 200, Zu Audio Submission
Headphones: ALO Audio recabled Audez'e LCD2, Beyerdynamic T1 & T5p, Sennheiser HD800, AKG K-702; HifiMan HE-500 & HE-6; Ortofon eQ7; Mad Dog aka modified Fostex T50rp [on loan]
Headphone amps: Eximus DP1, Burson Conductor, Wyred4Sound mINT, Bakoon AMP-11R, Asus Xonar Essence One [on loan]
Cables: Complete Zu Event loom, KingRex uArt split USB cable optionally with Bakoon BPS-02 uninterruptible battery supply
Powerline conditioning: GigaWatt PF-2 + Vibex Two 1R on amps, Vibex Three 11R on front-end components
Equipment rack:
Artesania Exoteryc double-wide three tier with optional glass shelf, Rajasthani hardwood rack for amps
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review component retail: $549.99 or ¥54,900

When I took a recent look
at Linnenberg Audio's website—I'd reviewed their full-size CD player and integrated amp earlier—'my' models had, poof, disapparated. Udo Linnenberg now dealt exclusively in half-width boxes for D/A conversion, headphone amplification or both. That's a sure sign of the times. It deposits us straight at today's review subject. The land of the rising sun has maintained a long fascination with perfectionist audio. In 2013 companies like Esoteric, Feastrex, Kondo, Shindo, Wavac and Zanden remain purveyors of the most rarefied exotica. Bridging their ranks with the next tier of Leben and Yamamoto SoundCraft who pursue the same handcrafter's ethos as the priciest lot is Luxman. Now Japanese newcomer AMI deliberately position themselves well below this second tier but arguably still above the well-established Pacific Rim bonsai audio group of Brik, Firestone, KingRex and Trends. Let's take a look

The USB 3 input is obviously compatible with standard USB 1.0/2.0 cables.

Quoting from my own news room posting many months ago, "this $549.99 component from Japan with 12V/2.5A outboard power supply is a 24/192 DAC with asynchronous XMOS-based USB input plus coax and optical digital inputs. It runs a PCM1795 converter and TI DIX9211PWR digital receiver. It works as a 24/192 DDC via its Toslink input; as ADC with an AKM AK5386VTP-E2 converter; as analog preamp with its analog 3.5mm stereo input; and as TI TPA6120A-based headphone amp. Three discrete TCXO clocks for USB and the 44.1/48kHz sampling frequency families claim less than 2.5ps of periodic jitter. Internal parts include Panasonic ECH metalized poylphenylene film and Nichicon audio-grade caps plus conductive polymer aluminum solid electrolytics. There's also an ESD protection varistor and USB surge protection. Then there are 5 socketed opamps - 2 x National LM49860 and 3 x NJM2114D for the I/V, low-pass filter and buffer circuit (4) plus analog input (1) respectively. Quad-level LEDs indicate sample rates from 44.1 to 192kHz. 2Vrms line and 100mW/32-ohm headphone outputs may be used simultaneously. The line outputs can be configured for fixed or variable gain." A condensed paragraph this crammed with specs begs for a breather. Say aaaah!

AMI is short for Audio/Music Interface. When I asked sales & marketing manager Ryu Takahashi for background on their company's principals and engineers, he replied that "I cannot provide you with details as it remains a sensitive issue with the previous firms they worked at. Our engineers and PM collaborated on several projects in the past, from a mobile high-end DAC to one of the best-selling headphone amps in Japan ever to a 32-channel professional audio interface with FPGA PCI audio controller. There also were audio converters, a 192kHz FireWire audio/MIDI interface, a USB 2.0 audio MIDI interface, a PCI audio MIDI interface, bi-amped digital monitor speakers, a portable headphone amp and several developments for the DIY audio community. All our R&D takes place in Japan. Assembly is outsourced to Korea. We have three more products for 2013 which include support for DSD. They all will target the same desktop/PCfi market which differs from the audience our designers targeted before. Hence we'd like to build up our new brand with our very first product, the AMI MUSIK DDH-1 and not confuse the issue with past accomplishments from our engineers." Fair enough.

Headfi & computer fi. These are audio's most rapidly growing segments. At HighEnd Munich 2013 KEF had joined B&W, Focal, MartinLogan, Paradigm and PSB as newly baked headphone maker. It made perfect sense that a new electronics company should dive straight into the deepest end of the pool. Considering natural-born competitors for the DDH-1 from AMI's side of the globe, I'd single out the Asus Xonar Essence One from Taiwan and the April Music Stello HP100Mk2 from Korea. I didn't yet have a new Stello loaner but an Essence One was on hand to take the competitive pulse...