There I was minding my very own bananas. Then this press release dropped. Clunk! Ouch! Doctor! "ABC Audio is please to introduce the new XXX. When we set out to design the Z, our goal was simple. To make the absolutely best sounding network audio streamer on the planet, far exceeding its price point and beyond, period. As evident by the following the Z garnered, it’s clear we achieved that goal in spades! In addition to sounding amazing, the Z, like all our products, functioned robustly, was feature packed, stable, operated easily and had the best display screen in the industry.
"So, how does one top that? It was not easy but the efforts have paid off. The Z utilized AK4497EQ DAC chips. These chips are Delta-Sigma architecture, as are all the AKM chips used in our XYZ range of products. That is until the new XXX. The XXX uses AKM’s latest flagship DAC, the AK4499EQ. Instead of voltage output Delta-Sigma architecture, these 4499 DACs are R2R (resistor to resistor) ladder DACs with current output. This alone required a complete rethink of the XXX digital circuitry. The R2R ladder architecture can sound much more analog like while revealing copious amounts of detail yet retaining a very natural, smooth and musical response. This type of DAC is much more complex to integrate but the rewards can be significant with proper implementation. Not content alone in using a R2R ladder DAC, we also incorporated a FPGA chip that works in conjunction with the DAC to make sure no crossover distortion is present for an extremely coherent and smooth sound. Few companies use FPGA DACs and even fewer use R2R ladder DACs. Almost no one uses both. This is how committed we are to perfection and to pushing the XXX platform even further! Using FPGA alone as a DAC is not a good idea unless you think company X’s local or outside solitary software engineer is more capable than the teams of engineers at giant chip makers…not likely. Using R2R DACs alone also has its challenges. Therefore, we use a FPGA chip to support the AK4499EQ R2R ladder DAC and program each to support the other, resulting in an absolutely stunning sound. Of course, the digital circuitry alone does not account for the overall sound. Cary Audio is renowned for designing spectacularly musical analog circuits. As a matter of fact, 1/3rd of the entire XXX’s internals are dedicated to the analog stage, 1/3rd to digital circuity, and 1/3rd to power supply, all shielded and separated…" And so forth. Yawn.
S.M.S.L. with the superior chip set.
Did you see it? Let's break it down. First, they make a mega fuss over the AK4497 as though they designed it. They did not. They simply bought an off-the-shelf part. The 4-channel top AK4499 version already shows up in the S.M.S.L. M400 we just reviewed. That's $800, not $8'000. You'd expect self-congratulatory noise from Asahi Kasei the chip's inventor, not one of their buyers. Then comes "few companies use FPGA DACs and even fewer use R2R ladder DACs. Almost no one uses both." Either ABC haven't a clue; or they expect their buyers to be clueless. Quite a few companies use FPGA and R2R. In fact, the number of companies using discrete R2R keeps growing. In China alone off the top of my head there are Audiogd, Denafrips and Musician. Looking west, we get to stalwarts Aqua Hifi, LessLoss, MSB and TotalDAC. None of them craw over using an off-the-shelf part. They all roll their own discrete R2R networks. Those of course are controlled by guess what – custom FPGA code. How about Aries Cerat, Audio Note, Computer Audio Design, LampizatOr, Metrum, MHDT, Schiit and Sonnet? Do none of them count?
To top it off: "Using FPGA alone as a DAC is not a good idea unless you think company X’s local or outside solitary software engineer is more capable than the teams of engineers at giant chip makers…not likely." Either ABC haven't heard of Ed Meitner, Andreas Koch, PS Audio, Chord & Co.; or they trash-talk them. Either way, 'twas a sorry day of fake news. Did those belong into our newsroom?
Not! It's why I erased the machine's identity. The poor thing is perfectly innocent. It could sound stunning. That's not the issue. The issue is with the copywriter. Promoting a new product with such dubious claims is a sad new low. Hopefully hifi press outlets won't run with this release as is. And since we're still with the current administration, to the copywriter we say: "You're fired!"
Now I feel better. Sorry, sometimes spleen just needs venting…
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