CES 2015 • TABlog

by Marc Mickelson | January 23, 2015

Who is this man and what is he holding?

Before I answer, I need to give some background. I've gone to so many CESes -- every one since 1998 -- that I generally know or recognize most of the people I see. But there are still a few times when I'll see a name on a badge out of the corner of my eye and it will register, even though I don't recognize the face.

A bit more background. Before coming to Las Vegas, Paul Bolin spent a few days at my house in Arizona, where, of course, we listened to music. I had told him about a "retro digital rig" I was listening to: a CEC TL 1 transport connected to a Genesis Digital Lens and then to a Timbre Technology TT-1 DAC. One of my earliest audio reviews -- perhaps my very first -- was of the TT-1, a special piece of digital gear in its day, because of its rare combination of high resolution and abundant ease. It cast a huge, arcing soundstage around and behind the speakers, and then laid out all of its elements, including the air that's sometimes more sensed than heard, with great specificity. It also sounded natural in ways that so many of its competitors at that time didn't, and it could sound spooky with some recordings -- as it still is, especially with the CEC transport and Genesis Digital Lens in front of it. The particular TT-1 that we were hearing at my house was one I've owned twice. I sold it to someone in Northern California, then told him that when he wanted to sell it, I would buy it back. It had been back in my system for a few months before Paul showed up.

Back to the mystery man. While I was walking down one of the hallways in the Venetian, where the CES's audio exhibits are located, I glimpsed the name David Goldstein on a badge. Hey, I know that name, I thought. David Goldstein was one of the principals of Timbre Technology, one of the people responsible for the DAC in my system. So I followed the guy, waiting for him to turn around.

Sure enough, he was the David Goldstein. I've actually talked with him many times, and we met at the CES in 1999 or 2000, but I didn't recognize him so many years later. When I saw the badge, I immediately wondered if Timbre was making a comeback. It would make sense, given the abundance of consumers interested in DACs right now. But Timbre went out of business early in the new millennium, its only product being the TT-1, and it won't be revived.

David was carrying one of the TT-1 promo sheets with him, maybe for the sake of memories, maybe to show people like me who remember the TT-1.

Nowadays, with high-rez downloads and USB DACs dominating digital playback, an old-school DAC like the TT-1 has greatly diminished utility. You can't play high-resolution downloads with it -- it's CD resolution only -- and you can't connect a computer to it directly, because it has no USB input. But hi-fi isn't about utility -- it's about lifelike sound connecting you more deeply to the music. By that standard, the Timbre Technology TT-1 is the same as it ever was. It still makes the connection.

The TT-1 is sometimes available used for around $400 -- about one-tenth its original selling price. If you decide to take a chance and buy one, let me know what you think of it. I'm holding on to mine this time.

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