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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Stello CDT100 | DA100 Signature
Preamp/Integrated: Peachtree Audio Nova, Luxman SQ-N100 [on review]
Speakers: Zu Druid Credenza, Era Design 5 SAT, Glow Audio Sub One
Cables: Zu Audio Varial & Ibis, Entreq USB, AntiCables
Stands: Ikea glass office desk, Ikea glass planters inverted as speaker stands
Powerline conditioning: Furutech e-TP80
Sundry accessories: extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters throughout the house
Room size: The sound platform is 3 x 4.5m with a 2-story slanted ceiling above; four steps below continue into an 8m long combined open kitchen, dining room and office, an area which widens to 5.2m with a 2.8m ceiling; the sound platform space is open to a 2nd story landing and, via spiral stair case, to a 3rd-floor studio; concrete floor, concrete and brick walls from a converted barn with no parallel walls nor perfect right angles; short-wall setup with speaker backs facing the 8-meter expanse and 2nd-story landing.
Review Component Retail: $2,595

Produced by Aura Design Japan Ltd with industrial design by Pentagram of London under the aegis of Kenneth Grange and manufactured and distributed by April Music of South Korea, the Aura Note Premier is a one-world product in more ways than one. It also unifies PC and hifi users and condenses various functionality into one very stylish, minimally cluttered top-loading CD/receiver with iPod dock ports (necessary cabling included), headphone socket, optical and USB digital inputs, two line-level inputs and one pre-out (for a subwoofer perhaps). The concept is best appreciated with the following drawing and side view.

The audiophile takes due note of the Hitachi J162/K1058 "single-ended push/pull" current buffer which refers to 2 counter-phase Mosfets per side and 50wpc of useful power; Cirrus Logic CS4398 digital conversion via "proprietary 3rd-order filter" and "32MB SRAM buffer for jitter reduction"; TI PCM2704 USB receiver; and Cirrus Logic CS3310 chip-based volume. The decor-conscious home dweller appreciates the compact dimensions of 10.94 x 3.3 x 10.94" WxHxD, the reasonable 7kg mass and the very legible (and dimmable) red display ensconced in gleaming chrome. Ditto the thick glass cover which slides captive in a rail to protect the laser assembly from dust. A clever switch [below] triggers TOC read-in as soon as a CD has been secured under the puck and the glass slid in place over it (a CD in fact won't play unless that cover is fully closed). Music-on-the-go hipsters understand the usefulness of one-touch recording to USB memory card fixed at 128kbps MP3. Hello convergence for muggles and other non-geeky creatures who want music with the push of a button, not attend a seminar on how to interface a music server with their wireless LAN and Firewall settings.

The Premier model's predecessor I reviewed in February 2007 was simply called Aura Note. It lacked some connectivity by comparison, sported a thinner glass slider not held captive at the beveled edges by the rail and a smaller remote. It also didn't have the dust barrier partition. I queried Christine Han, International Sales & Marketing Manager at April Music, whether there were any other distinguishing features and whether the Premier would replace the standard Aura - there were and it will, see below.

Apparent regardless was the thoughtfulness that had pooled into every aspect of this product. This includes the truly exceptional packaging with comprehensive cabling to have you up and running in no time (add speakers and their cables of course but April Music can help there as well).

Style consciousness
is a major calling card for the Aura Premier proposition. Never have I crossed paths before with a hifi product that was covered this extensively by hi-rez professional photography from the maker. Outside of Bang & Olufsen. Making that connection is far from gratuitous. The LifeStyle + Performance angle the Aura Premier means to cover is the very same which the Danes have perfected for decades. While 'philes tend to arch their brows at the brand's mention— this falls into the dumb blonde category where looks and smarts can't coexist—they happily embrace ICEpower™ amplifiers whose boards were engineered by B&O. (Boutique hifi companies meanwhile would kill for a fraction of B&O's distribution. Our small Swiss town of Vevey on Lac Leman has its own dealership as does the neighboring town of Montreux 10 minutes removed - and Lausanne 15 minutes the other direction and Geneva another 40 minutes from there.)

For a look at the brains of the Aura, this SideBar has the photos.

On what the Premier changes/adds over the original: "The circuit has been redesigned to adopt a Sanyo CD mechanism and Toshiba laser to stabilize playback operation and improve sonics. New internal silver wiring allowed hum reduction by 50%, the tuner section has been improved and overall S/N ratio was greatly increased. The second auxiliary input is new as are the iPod ports and the pre-out. The new remote controls iPod, MP3 players and allows direct input changes rather than shuttling through them." In short, evolutionary stepping stones spanning a short distance rather than rethink - which the successful concept of the original 'Completer' didn't call for in the first place. In fact, veterans could read into these descriptions that the original transport had been discontinued or perhaps suffered reliability issues in the field. Neither would be a first to force a digital manufacturer into redesigning a player. Like any after-market modification house in that case, engineering would then simply give the circuit a once-over to wring out a few additional percentage points of performance and add some features marketing had asked for on behalf of dealer requests. That's exactly what the silver-wire mention suggested too - a good thing made slightly better by the tweak brigade, with the only difference being that the tweaks in this case were the resident engineers. Instead of MkII, April Music then opted for the classier Premier distinction to make the point of differentation. And why not. It certainly looks premier.