Saving the best for last

As 2010 ends, I fondly recall hearing the best of analogue and digital in the last few weeks of the year.

The best of digital came in the form of the Bryston BDP-1 digital player and BDA-1 DAC which created some of the best digital music I have ever heard. There could be better digital systems out there based perhaps on Chord, Weiss, Berkeley or dCS DACs, but they are much costlier.

The Bryston combo created a rich, smooth and undigital sound especially from hires 24/88.2, 96, 176.4 or 192 files that showcased how much digital music systems have progressed and matured. And at around RM17,000 the combo is relatively affordable considering that the new critically-acclaimed Weiss DAC202 costs more than RM20,000. And you still need to buy a laptop with Firewire output.

Days after the Bryston combo was sent back to AV Designs, I went to Audio Image in Petaling Jaya to pick up something and bumped into Big E of hifiunlimited who was with his friend Wong.

The Artemis Labs SA-1 turntable with TA-1 tonearm.
Adrian's system used the Schroder Reference tonearm.

The Schroder Reference tonearm (with Jan Allaerts MC1B cartridge )

All three of us went to the listening room where Adrian Wong spun some vinyl on a system comprising the Artemis Labs SA-1 turntable, the Schroder Reference tonearm with Air Tight PC1 Supreme cartridge, Devialet D-Premier integrated amplifier and Magico V2 speakers. That system costs a small fortune.

Adrian played several LPs from his collection and the system proved to be a class act. The music was simply magical, mesmerising and memorable.

It was a case of saving the best for last - in the last few weeks of the year, I heard some of the best sounds from two types of music sources. (Note that the Devialet converts analogue inputs into digital and the data is then streamed to its internal high-quality DAC, but the source was vinyl and the turntable and tonearm were designed by vinyl legend Frank Schroder and the cartridge is rated one of the best in the world.) Which was better?

Both were very good, but I still feel analogue wins in terms of 'naturalness' which is perhaps an unquantifiable quality.


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