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Before the Loudness Wars became the battleground of our sonic landscape, The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magic was one of the better modern Rock recordings. Hearing the title track even in bypass mode provided bass hits which, speakers permitting, really shook the room. Bringing either of the profile corrections into play turned things even more bass-violent to have the PreMate provide one of the most involving Rock presentations the Wilson Audio Alexia had ever delivered. This was both heard and felt.

Expansive orchestral works fared equally well. The PreMate preserved all that is important in classical music such as the sense of space and scale whilst also providing superb differentiation between the different orchestral sections. Violins sounded like grouped individuals playing in unison rather than one large homogenized mass. Where a composition featured a musical prominence in the bass section, the corrected excellence of the DEQX brought the detail and tone of those instruments to an arresting verisimilitude.

The expansive sonic landscapes of Curandero’s Aras present some challenges to any hifi system. This beautifully produced title features brief acapella moments mixed with complex musical strands made up of guitar, banjo, percussion and bass guitar which are usually played somewhat frenetically but in unison. What’s more, the venue’s ambience is spacious though not too reverberant. If a component lacks transparency, separation and resolving power, this music can sound like pureed pulp for total confusion. The PreMate unraveled all the instrumental strands, individualized their image positions and maintained integrity with the venue’s ambience by recreating a wide deep soundstage with proper reverberation.

Johnny Cash’s American III: Solitary Man and the track "One" again illustrated the resolving power and musicality of the PreMate. Cash’s voice, pained and dark, was centred and separate. I could hear and feel the sentimentality and emotion behind the voice and the man. Any glossing over or veiling will affect the emotiveness and fail to capture the listener. The PreMate left well alone. The feeling and intent in that most distinctive of voices was conveyed intact and in stark relief to the background instruments. Bypassing the PreMate once again exposed that hump in the bass to warm things up a tad at the expense of accuracy and transient attack. Cash’s vocals dropped back a tad deeper within the soundstage and lost some of that addictive presence and realism.  

Conclusion. I was told the design team at DEQX aimed for an all-out assault on digital playback and was determined to offer a DAC section that would compete at the top. Based on the sound within our reference system, we’d say that mandate was met. Effectively and on the surface, this is a very tricked-out preamp with a classy DAC. And for many users that could be the end of it. In that regard alone, such a customer would be happy owning a top-flight performer. But there’s so much more to it than that. The DEQX proved to be a superb tool for the correction of frequency response errors and deviations inherent in almost all speaker and room interactions.

Sure, you could fit out your room like a studio with massive and costly bass traps, acoustic foam and diffraction panels to perhaps approach the response your speakers were designed to deliver. DEQX out, your system and you can be respectful to the designer’s intent or please your own sonic tastes via customized stored corrections. Given the cost of a great preamp, an up-to-the-minute DAC and décor-friendly room treatments, you’d be in for a heckuva lot more dosh than the PreMate will set you back. Preamp… DAC… room correction… and more. Doesn’t it start sounding like that proverbial Swiss Army knife again? Good on ya, primo mate!
DEQX website