Letters • May 2015

Sampling rates: some perspective

May 18, 2015


I did as you suggested and bought an AudioQuest DragonFly v1.2 DAC for my Mac -- it's amazing! I also tried hooking it up to my main system -- the Dragonfly's sampling rate is 96kHz and my Cambridge Audio CD player's is 384kHz. The DragonFly sounds just as good as the CD player. Is this possible? Have you heard anyone else say this? Maybe the sample rate is not the main variable.

Sheldon Simon

The sample rates you mention are the maximum rate for data handled (for the DragonFly) and maximum upsampling rate (for your Cambridge Audio CD player). They aren't the same thing, because while the DragonFly can decode 96kHz data, your CD player cannot decode anything above 44.1kHz, the limit for CD playback. What your CD player can do is upsample CD data to a higher rate, although this is really a kind of audio trick, because no product can create data that's not there to begin with.

So I'm not surprised that the Dragonfly sounds as good as your CD player. In fact, with 96kHz files, it may sound considerably better. -Marc Mickelson

TAB reader list

May 8, 2015


Please add me to TAB's reader list.

Pedro Gil

You've been added. You'll receive periodic e-mail on all new articles we post. For others, send a message to rl@theaudiobeat.com and you'll be added too. -Marc Mickelson

Cap questions

May 6, 2015


As an Audio Research Reference Anniversary preamp owner, I’ve read your review of the Reference 10 with great interest. You wrote: “Inside, the Reference 10 reflects the discovery of new passive parts, including new coupling capacitors, replacing the absolutely immense Teflon ones used in the Reference Anniversary.” It looks like bigger doesn’t always mean better! What exactly are those new caps in Reference 10? We all know that Audio Research doesn’t manufacture their own, so the new caps must have come from the likes of Mundorf, Audio Note, Vcap, etc. But I’m guessing -- I don’t want to. I want to know for sure who exactly made the giant ones in my Reference Anniversary and who made the new ones inside Reference 10.

Just to finish off on the capacitor subject, based on your knowledge and experience, which manufacturer enjoys the reputation of undisputed leader in capacitor production? Who is the best of the best?

Alexander Gulidov

I answered a question in March that addresses your first question -- sort of. As I wrote then:

The color of the capacitors that Audio Research uses in its products -- whether white or gold -- doesn't necessarily indicate qualitative differences between them. In some cases, it's a matter of different vendors and the outer-wrap materials they use. From ARC: "We have some white and gold caps that are sonically equivalent. That is why some products have been made using both." This is all the information I can get. Audio Research doesn't reveal specific construction details and differences between capacitors because they consider this proprietary information.

As for choosing the best capacitor manufacturer, I can't help you there, because I've not done any real research on the subject. I can say that Ken Stevens of Convergent Audio Technology has done a great deal of listening to passive parts and he uses caps he makes himself, along with Black Gate graphite-particle caps that are no longer made (although he has a stock of them). I would tend to think that these are among the best available. -Marc Mickelson

"Regardless of price"

May 1, 2015


I need your help again. I am looking for some reference cables (interconnects and power cords) regardless of price. I have on the top of my shortlist Nordost Odin and Kubala-Sosna Elation. Which of them would you choose? Of course, if you have a better idea, I would like to hear it.

I also need your opinion on the PS Audio Direct Stream DAC. It has won the product of the year award both in Stereophile and The Absolute Sound magazines. How would you compare the PS Audio DAC with the dCS Vivaldi DAC, which is the king in digital audio? In other words, which of these DACs would you prefer if money is not a problem?

John Michas

Among the cable lines that I know of and fit your "regardless of price" criteria, the only one I've heard at length in my system is Nordost Valhalla 2, and it is very good indeed. Before you pay more for Odin, you should definitely hear Valhalla 2. I wouldn't be surprised if you prefer it. I would also investigate the new Transparent Magnum Opus Generation 5 cables. I loved the Opus MM interconnects and speaker cables; in some ways, I've heard nothing else quite like them.

I can't help you with the PS Audio DAC, as I've heard it only at shows and don't know the company's products through other exposure. I will say that every time I've heard the dCS Vivaldi rig, it has wowed me. If my digital budget was "regardless of price," the dCS stack is what I'd own -- maybe two of 'em. -Marc Mickelson


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