Pursuing the Ultimate Music Experiences

Audio Federation High-Fidelity Audio Blog

System Update: personalized custom auditions

J. wanted to hear his Lampizator Golden Gate DAC in our system – mostly because we all thought it would be a lot of fun – while auditioning the Acapella Audio Arts Cellini loudspeakers and Acapella La Musika integrated amplifier.

Lampizator seems like an extremely high-quality company, but we are very, VERY happy with Emm Labs‘ and Audio Note UK‘s digital solutions [also extremely high-quality companies :-)].

The Golden Gate DAC has a builtin linestage so we have many options here:

  1. Set the Golden Gate’s volume knob to unity gain and go directly to the La Musika integrated amplifier’s linestage
  2. Set the Golden Gate’s volume knob to unity gain and go directly to the Audio Note UK M9 Phono preamplifier driving the La Musika integrated.
  3. Use the Golden Gate’s linestage [and volume control] and go directly to the La Musika integrated’s amplifier stage
  4. Use the Golden Gate’s linestage [and volume control] and go directly to the Audio Note UK Kegon SET amplifiers
  5. Set the Golden Gate’s volume knob to unity gain and go directly to the Audio Note UK M9 Phono preamplifier driving the Kegon SET amps.
  6. did I forget something?

We needed more than 3 shelves on our equipment rack, so we setup the Harmonic Resolution Systems‘ (HRS) MXR equipment rack. Precision machining [think: very high-end turntable] on an equipment rack. Who woulda thunk? Such a pleasure to setup.

Can a person HAVE more fun? 🙂

Audio Federation to show at Axpona 2018

We will be showing at Axpona 2018 in room 440.

That is 440 people, right next door to Odyssey [i.e. Klaus] and Raidho [i.e. Lars, et. al.], just around the corner from The Voice That Is [i.e. Doug] and High Water Sound [i.e. Jeff]. Lots of good sounding rooms nearby 🙂

The goal, the plan, the hope is to show:


Acapella Audio Arts Cellini High loudspeakers

Acapella Audio Arts La Musika integrated amplifier

Audio Note UK Fifth Element DAC [ 🙂 ]

Audio Note UK CDT-Five transport

HRS equipment rack [probably the 3-shelf SXR with outboard M3X platform for the Fifth Element’s Fifth Force power supply]

Audio Note and Acapella cableage and power cords.

This is our first Axpona. Looks like we are doing this instead of the LA Audio show [hey, I just work here ;-)]

See ya all there!

< For all of our Bay Area fans …. we’ll also be back in Boardroom 5 at CAS, end of July, … intending to bring the analogue rig to that one, yum. >

System Updates – finally, home.

We’ve been moving stuff around a lot lately.

Here we have the Audio Note UK TT2 Deluxe turntable running into the M9 Phono pre-amplifier into the Audio Note Kegon amps into the Acapella Audio Arts Cellini High speakers, all on HRS equipment racks.


After we found the right power cord and umbilical [between the M9 and it’s power supply] combination it was more than yum. It was revelatory.

It allowed our ears to go back, way back, when we had the larger Acapella Triolon speakers [and a bigger room :-)] and do a mental comparison. We heard that old system so many times… never will forget. And this system, really optimized like this, was of-a-kind compared to that sound. The Cellini High is ‘exactly’ like the Triolon, with the handicap of having a smaller horn [not as efficient and notes don’t blossom the same way] and smaller base unit [bass not as open and deep] and several other things of a more minor effect. The point is that we are darn impressed. And so happy that we can have most of THAT old sound here, in this space.

[Oh. I guess I should have mentioned that for many reasons, most of them seriously stupid, this is the first time we put the Kegon amps on the Cellini High. The Kegon’s 20 watts on the older models of the, similar in profile, Acapella Violon speakers would not have worked well at all. Also this was the first time we tried the Sogon umbilical – instead of the Lexus – with the M9 too. Oh, and the SOOTTO power cord on the M9. It was a day of wonderful discoveries]

When a person downsizes, comparisons like this can make a person feel sick. But for the first time in a very long time, we really felt like this was home.

Of course, a couple of those cables had to be shipped out the next day – fate has to have the last laugh – but we now know what we need to order next… 🙂

The Audio Note M9 RIAA Signature phonostage

The Audio Note M9 RIAA Signature phono stage.

The new 2-box phonostage from Audio Note U.K.

Price is in the 6-figures.

Wait! Before you say anything… AN has always innovated at the limits of what is possible, making the best gear in the world, and charging for it.

Save your ire for the second and mid-tier manufacturers who go along happily year after year and then all-of-a-sudden start putting 6-figure prices on their stuff. Their amps, and their speakers, and their preamps, and… And it is hard to find a second and mid-tier company that does NOT have something outrageously priced anymore.

Make sure to check out the full review of the M9 RIAA Signature – to be reviewed by the esteemed Mr. Fred Crowder at Dagogo.


Audio Note SOOTTO power cords

Audio Note SOOTTO power cords, power cables, mains cable, PC… whatever you want to call them.

You know when you start playing with $11K-ish power cords, things are going to start getting weird. A person is likely to have some expectations and demands going in to the process, with a few eye-rolls and ‘what has this world come to’ heart-felt commiserations by the spectators [by those that are not the 1%, and since 1%-ers sometimes feel left out and like to fit in with the 99%-ers, EVERYBODY complains about these kinds of prices].

Although we have very much enjoyed the Nordost Odin One power cords, at this same exact-ish price point, little else has impressed us. Audio Note itself has made several forays into the power cord universe, but we have withheld our unflinching approval of these efforts [unlike our absolute repeated vociferous exclamations that everyone should own their own (brown) PALLAS interconnects and SOGON interconnects – price performance is just way too high to not take advantage of, shall we say the quite unusual, *extremely* reasonable prices compared to the competition here].

But lately things have changed vis-a-vis AN power cords. We have recently had the Audio Note ISIS power cords in. For $600-700-ish [the dollar is being driven down against the world’s other currencies, and prices are changing… aka rising]. These make us giggle. They do so much, so well. Really excellent all-round performers. Yep, that is six or seven HUNDRED, not thousand. Crazy, huh? 😉

And now we have the $11K-ish SOOTTO power cords.

In this case we have two to play with. And three components. The Audio Note CDT-Five transport. The Audio Note DAC Five Signature. And the Acapella LaMusika integrated amplifier. Not quite $300K in gear, but enough so its not like couple of $11K power cords are completely unwarranted. Right? Say “right, Mike”.

So… eeny-meeny… we put the first SOOTTO on the DAC. All of these components are superstars but the DAC has called attention to itself many times for being so wonderfully un-DAC-like [sorry, digital-philes, but ‘digital sound’ is still a pejorative if our ears get to choose what THEY want to hear. Just sayin’ … :-/].

OK. Install power cord. And………. play.


Unlike the Odin, there was no, almost 3db(!), jump in volume.

So for the first 1/2 second or so it was like, “Compared to the ISIS, that is not that much diff…er…ent…….”


The INCREDIBLE subtleties of music and emotion and musicianship and… the INCREDIBLE depths this hobby has to offer keep surprising me.

Why does a person start crying at times like these? I don’t know.

I like to think it is because of the beauty of the music thus revealed. Or the thoughts about all the wasted hours listening to music withOUT this level of playback. Something that can at least be tied to some kind of logical reason to be reacting so emotionally to something, let’s face it, is just a rather banal case of just exchanging one power cord for another.

Silly me. One of the first thoughts I had [trying to hide my tears from Neli, long story] is that it did not matter that these speakers were quite modest in the general scheme of things these days [the Acapella Cellini High at about $60K now (dollar is sinking people)], and that this kind of performance was indeed achievable on this system with the right combination of upstream gear [we periodically worry, like several times per day (maybe it is just me, but… knowing Neli…), that our choice to get smaller speakers for a smaller room than we are used to is comprising the playback too much. It’s kind of like we got spoiled with such a large room as our main listening room in Boulder in our mountain ‘chalet’ haha :-)].

My next thoughts, something a little less ‘silly’, I think, was that “oh. THIS is music”. This is SO hard to describe and such a fleeting concept, it is hard to grasp on to it long enough to identify it in enough detail, to understand and categorize it sufficiently, in order to describe it to other people. Or just to be able to describe it to myself and kind of stick a flag in it in a “to name something is to have power over something – to start understanding something” way.

I believe we all have these kind of “Oh, THIS is music” experiences spread out during our lives. This is a special kind of “Ultimate Music Experience” we talk about here on the blog periodically.

This is about the intrinsic musicality of music. So hard to describe and this recursive definition isn’t helping much, I bet.

In my life… I was in the glee club in Junior High School [not really my choice, in my case]. Although I sing wonderfully awful, every so often there was this resonance between Music, with a capital M, and what we were doing.

Same with when I spent several years learning to play the guitar badly, every so often this focus would be rewarded in experiencing a little bit of the Music.

Same with when I experimented [too much :-)] with alcohol and other recreational pursuits.

And of course all those special, all-too-fleeting, occasions that high-end audio has produced for us over the years – like perfect 10-inch snowflakes.

These is a deep, very, very simple rhythm that we all dance to and respond to, and it is so easy to obscure it with the massive clutter of everyday life [and the clutter of what  ‘we know’ about sound and music]. To be able to uncover the inner truth of our core existence, to experience it: “this is me, a human hearing other humans making rhythmic sounds”. Such a rare and precious experience.

These kinds of experiences… they are so very rare. If we were to have them more often, they would not be as precious, nope, but perhaps our mental health would be improved. [?] At the least it seems like they would help ground us in reality [realities like less than 1% of events out there are actually negative, but negative events are 99% of what is ‘reported’ (perhaps I exaggerate. A little :-)), and this is used to manipulate us in various ways that accentuate the negatives]. Music is such a very, very clear sign that there is so much beauty inherent in this world.

Anyway THIS is why we are all audiophiles, THIS is why we all like playing with this level of gear, to make THIS kind of experience much more common than it would otherwise be in our stressed out, f’d up world.

THIS is why I like these power cords. 🙂

[Oh we tried them in several combinations. Liked it best with the two SOOTTO on the DAC and transport, and the Acapella power cord on their LaMusika amp. Yes, putting the better PC on the amp would normally be best, and it WAS more or less ‘better’ – more open and dynamic, but there was just more charm and engagement with the cords on the other two pieces of gear in this case. As you can see below, the DAC 5 Signature has moved on – now replaced by a DAC Zero :-). Next: the TT2 Deluxe turntable with the two-box Audio Note M9 RIAA phono stage, before it goes off to an official review by the esteemed Fred Crowder at Dagogo].



Little AN DAC Zero standing in for the DAC 5 Signature in the middle shelf of the HRS SXR rack.

Wilson, Constellation, Raidho… odds and ends: CES 2018

The rest of Neli’s photos of CES 2018.

The cover photo is of costumed opera singers .. singing in the Venetian shops area [you know, the area that every audiophile has gotten lost in at one show or another – or if you are me, multiple shows :-)].


Another ELAC speaker room

CAT speakers on what looks like Theta electronics and a VPI turntable.

A new [‘cute’ says Neli] line of gear I haven’t seen before.

The traditional Epos speaker, Creek electronics, Music Hall turntable room.

Esoteric everything here.

A couple of photos of the Constellation electronics on Magico speakers room.

The Lumin room on what JV thinks are Amadeus Philharmonia speakers.

Chord electronics driving Raidho D4.1 speakers.

Wilson speakers with ClearAudio turntable on HRS silver SXR equipment rack.

Chord electronics on Vienna Acoustics Liszt speakers.


Hugh Masekela dies

[Taking a break from the CES 2018 show report. ]

Hugh Masekela dies. This is a GREAT rendition of Stimela from 2015 [this is a classic song played at many high-end audio shows and also found on one of the Burmester test CDs]. Wish we could say that we are closer to ending the struggle…

There is a train that comes from Namibia and Malawi
There is a train that comes from Zambia and Zimbabwe
There is a train that comes from Angola and Mozambique
From Lesotho, from Botswana, from Swaziland
From all the hinterlands of Southern and Central Africa.
This train carries young and old men who are conscripted to come and work on contract
In the Gold and Mineral mines of Johannesburg and the surrounding provinces and Metropolis
16 hours or more a day, for almost no pay.
Deeeeeeep, deeeeeep deeeeep, deeeeeep, deeeeeep, deeeep
Deeeep,deeep, deep, down in the belly of the earth
When they’re digging and drilling for that shiny mighty evasive stone.
Or when they dish their mish-mash-mush food
Into their iron plates
With their iron shovel.
Or when they sit in their stinky, filthy, funky, flee-ridden barracks and hostels
And they think about their loved ones they may never see again,
Because they might have been forcibly removed from where they last left them
Or winterly murdered in the herd of night
By raving and marauding gangs of no particular origin – so we are told!
They think about their land and their herds that were taken away from them,
With the gun and the canon,
With the collaborator and the dog
And the teargas and the poison.
With the Bomb and the gasoline,
And when they hear that chu-chu train –
Smoking and-a-pushing and-a-climbing
And-a-hustling and-a-crying and-a-moaning
And-a-toting and and-a-steaming and-a-crying
And-a-moaning and-a-pushing and-a-grumbling
And-a-moaning and-a-climbing and-a-crying
And-a-screaming and-a-squishing
They always cuss, and they curse the coal train,
The coal train that brought them to Johannesburg.