Saturday, April 30, 2005

CD vs. vinyl comparison, Tact Audio news

Source: Hi-Fi World June 2005

Hi-Fi World is vinyl and DIY oriented British hifi-magazine. It used the be printed in true DIY fashion as well ;), although quality of both format and articles has gone up a notch lately (my humble opinion). The magazine has been labelled as "digital-sceptic", though they prefer more relevant classification "digital-realist". What can be said in all fairness is that the magazine has kept vinyl focus alive in the UK during the last 15 years - which is good. Some idiosyncracies still prevail (e.g. David Price's fixation to mention superiority of his Yamaha NS1000M speakers in everything he writes). But as said, since they have been in publishing business more than 15 years they must provide something worthwhile for your readers.

The "The Digital Issue" has some worthy articles. The overall theme was "digital is finally showing real promise" - and personally I fully agree with this assessment. The first article of interest compared full Clearaudio system (Champion Level 1 turnrable, Unify arm, Symphone MC cartridge, Basic Symmetry phonestage) with French Metronome Technologies' CD3 Signature cd-player. As both companies make pretty striking HE-products (witness Metnonome's Kalista transport), for Clearaudio chosen combination can be said to be representation of entry++ level and in Metronome's case CD3 is merely an entry-level product (some entry at €6.000).

As expected, both products had their own charasterictics and were recommendable for their ability. However, review picked out cd-player as a winner. "To my ears, the Metronome digital player wins because it communicated the music more emotionally..." and continued "utterly wonderful as it was, the Clearaudio did not appreciate all the recordings' identity... I ultimately preferred it (Metronome) because it didn't lessen a recording's individuality. This is very important to me."

Viewpoint: Nice to agree with a reviewer once. "It didn't lessen a recording's individuality" equals in my books proper transparency and resolution of the unit/system. So often people mix-up what I call "artifical transparency" (enhanced digital resolution, top hot cd-player or speakers) with true, honest resolution - which I interpret as capability to illuminate even smallest nuances, ambiance noises, resonances and decays of instruments etc. In short, all those subtle, delicate sounds, which make every record distinctive and overall makes listener to connect emotionally with recording. However, having followed up vinyl gear lately with great interest, my opinion is that for a chosen budget some other analogue combination might have sounded more involving. Like what? Try Mitchell Gyro SE with Techno Arm or Thorens 850, Lyra Dorian, Sumiko Blackbird or Benz Micro cartridges, and GSP Audio Era Gold mk.V combinations.

The second point of interest in June issue was review of Tact SDA 2175 semi digital amplifier. SNA2175 has 200wpc 8ohm, SE/balanced in, analogue input stage and digital output stage. The price within the EU hovers around €1.100. Hi-Fi World said: "...superbly smooth, well proportioned, and insightful ... tremendous detailing... its treble is silky (like Japanese high-end) and spacious, its mid-band refines the concept of "class clear", bass is strong and tuneful....At the price, I have heard nothing - but nothing - that approaches this blend of competencies." German Stereoplay gave to its integrated variant SDAi 2175 in December 2004 respectable Spitzenklasse (49 points) classification.

Viewpoint: Having owned for 6 months Tact RCS 2.2x digital pre-amp/room correction system I need be persuaded that Tact Audio product are worth considering. For the money Tact asks for its products my experience is that they use second-rate componenets, especially power unit in RCS 2.2x was deplorable. Need proof? French distributor of TACT, DIRAC, has long recognise that Tact units needs tuning, and they offer modifications to various Tact products, for example to integrated S2150 (Black Gates caps, external clock input, modifications to analogue-in...). My opinion, all needed mods, but they also double the retail price to €3.600.

However, to be objective I have to note that DIRAC modified S2150 managed pretty well in Prestige Audio Video March 2005 issue where they tested 5 digital amplifiers. Shared top reviews with Audio Research 300.2 and 3D-Lab S300.

BTW, Tact Audio's April press release stated as follows: "All future products from TacT Denmark will be renamed to Lyngdorf Audio. Lyngdorf Audio will continue to develop groundbreaking audio products with outstanding performance. Lyngdorf Audio will be sold worldwide through the finest specialized retailers." Interesntgly, at the same time Tact Audio USA Web site has information of new company called Boz Audio. The Boz products seem to be re-branded Tact products, and geared towards multi-zone, home-theather installations. Confusing? The way I read it, founders have split the company, but both continue to sell (how long?) products under Tact brand. Since the key feature of all Tact products is software updates, it'll interesting to see who provides updates on various markets. No wonder prices for Tact products vary recently so much (French distributor advertise full loaded RCS 2.2x for €1.990, it used to be over €8.000!).

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