Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.01, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1 & H1, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi Formula, Fore Audio DAISy 1, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20, Questyle QP1R; Bakoon DAC-21 [on review]
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Wyred4Sound STP-SE MkII, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVC module), COS Engineering D1
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, F5, F6, F7; Bakoon AMP-12R; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics One SE Up NC500MB; Linnenberg Audio Allegro monos
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink;Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Titan Audio Eros power cords
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, 5m cords to amp/s + sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands [on loan]
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: Rectangular 5.5 x 15m open floor plan with two-storey gabled ceiling, wood-sleeved steel trusses and stone-over-concrete flooring
Review component retail: $4'499

Today is what happens when you throw rhyme, reason and the kitchen sink out the window and make it rain. The formal statement itemizes it. "Marking a decade of producing fine audio products, Wyred4Sound announce the 10th Anniversary Limited Edition DAC2v2SE. Based on the newly released flagship DAC2v2SE, the limited edition offers exclusive features like upgraded hand matched parts, commemorative casework, a redesigned digital board and the latest ESS Sabre 9038PRO DAC chip. A more comprehensive feature list includes coaxial, Toslink, AES/EBU and I²S inputs, galvanically isolated asynchronous USB, up to 384kHz PCM and DSD 256 file support, hand matched custom Vishay ZFoil resistors, ultra low-noise discrete regulators, ultra-fast recovery Schottkey diodes, premium inductors, upgraded fuse, champagne silver chassis and commemorative graphics, red display and lathed aluminium footers." What's the damage you ask? $4'499.

Fans of gratuitous MMA brutality will cackle a dismissive laugh. "That's the best you can do?" In high-end's current climate of catering to the point.1 percenters, such damage isn't even a scratch. It draws no blood. It's certainly arm lengths removed from a concussive knockout à la 4-box dCS. But don't write it off as the flyweight division. The previous best machine in Wyred's entire catalogue—the STP-SE Stage II preamp—demolishes +€10'000 contenders, expands on their functionality yet sells at $3'549. I bought one to replace exactly such competitors and in turn upgrade our system. For those with more modest discretionary hifi funds, Wyred's tiered stable has other DAC options. If you want their very best and respond to the added allure of a limited-edition collector's item however... this red-faced deck is the destination. Whilst it shares much with its unlimited siblings, for what we shall henceforth call the X to keep it short, designer EJ Sarmento played insider modman. He upgraded parts that pushed performance. As covered in my Stage II review, parts can measure identical yet sound demonstrably different. When certain bits and bobs get radically costlier, they simply eclipse a given design's rationale and target sticker. It's only when that rule book gets thrown out—fight to the death as it were—that a designer is really unshackled. What type beast or gentleman emerges then depends on the man's inner values. Is he really a primitive brute or an honourable sportsman?

If he already drew up his very best circuit for the base model, untapped headroom may still await in strategic boutique parts. That Wyred's very best DAC costs less than other firm's entry-level models reflects their different mentality. It shows in solid not overkill construction, in basic not high-styled looks. When chassis, face plates and premium metal finishing are often far dearer than the items which actually make sound, EJ can't justify throwing coin at visual excess and bombast. That's why here, Wyred still play it relatively modest. As to what's inside, we'll see on the next page. For those who happily spend on trim bits, the X does replace Wyred's signature rubber footers with metal and the standard metal paint with a sparklier type. And just to be different, Wyred's signature blue or green display goes red. That's the extent of bling this marque supports. The rest of it really goes toward sound.