Monday, 6 February 2012

O2 Amp and the EM4

I finally (!) got around to purchasing a 3.5mm to RCA cable so that I can now connect the Calyx Coffee to the O2 amp from JDS Labs. Also of note, was the trial installation of Amarra Mini. Last night and right now, I am listening to music stored on an external firewire drive connected to my Macbook Pro. The music is running through iTunes/Amarra and the out to the Calyx and then O2, finally to the EM4. Currently listening to Adele '19'. Last night, I did a quick A/B between 16/44 and 24/96 on REM's 'Losing My Religion', as well as some casual listening with my favourite tracks.

Back to Adele, the first track, I can only describe the guitars as one of the most realistic I have heard through my headphones before. The articulation and intonation of the guitar, along with the strumming and 'shimmer' sounds very real. Having limited experience with both orchestral performance and guitar/drum band gives me some basic insight into how things sound when played live.

From this, and with the current setup, I can say that the bass and guitars have a very clear definition and sound to it. Comparing this to the other tracks, I can say two things about guitars and the EM4s. Acoustic guitar sounds phenomenal; warm, crisp and articulate. Bass guitar sounds just like on stage through - compared to my own bass playing experience. Mind you, this O2 has NO burning it and hasn't had its battery charged since it was delivered. Again, due to my laziness, I have not yet got an AC adaptor...

Again, with the current setup, I am convinced that the headphones (and by this assumption, speakers) play the largest part in the tone and sound signature of the music. Having dabbled very briefly into 24/96, I can say that, the resolution has the next most important effect. I am not not 100% sure of how and to what extent the Transport, DAC and Amp affects the music. But I can say that through the iPhone and this current setup, there are differences. But surely not as much as changing headphones. If I had to break it down, I would say that for now it'd be 50% headphones, 25% source and 25% transport/DAC/Amp. Perhaps this will change over time, but it will need far more exploration.

Well, the next few tasks are to decide between Audirvana and Amarra; and then find the right DAC setup.

A few quick thoughts regarding the DAC setup, after long thought, I am really looking for a compact solution that is airline luggage suitable. That rules out 19" wide units, and really limits this to one or two boxes that are at least half rack width. Not knowing how much travel is installed for the future, I would like to have a relatively portable system. Perhaps an A and B system, where A is the more permanent one, and the B is the one that I can take on short trips. As much as possible, I would like to share components, as I am trying hard to simplify my setup. So thinking more and more, the Halide Bridge or DAC HD makes so much sense, it removes cables and power supplies. It just makes sense. But the question really is going to be, will they deliver an improvement and get me closer to the music and quicker to relaxation. The search continues.

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