Just to start out with a simple statement - I'm not an audio reviewer...
I've been friends with Rich for years through business before he retired to go into audio as a 2nd career. We hadn't met up in a very long time due to my work assignment but finally got the chance to reconnect a number of years ago when I had the opportunity to visit him out in MD. I was telling him over dinner about an idea I had for a dsp-based crossover when he said something to the effect of 'already got it.' The 'it' being the 1st version of the dspMusik. It was quite some time before 'it' finally came to fruition, and I jumped on the bandwagon immediately. (I've heard that I was the 1st customer?)
My system at the time was a hodge-podge of modest gear gathered over the years:
- GR Research N2x (with all the options) powered by a POOGED pair of dual-mono Hafler DH-200s recently revived
- Pair of homebrew KEF B139-based Transmission line subs powered by a stock Crown amp (can't remember the model)
- Generic Sony CD/DVD player (SPDIF)
- Benchmark DAC-1
- Behringer dsp crossover with about every mod known to man
- VPI HW-19MkII table/ET II arm/various cartridges/SP-9 MkII preamp (analog)
- Room treated with Russ Berger-designed Auralex PartScience SpaceCoupler diffusers at sidewall/ceiling 1st reflections and SpaceArray grid on the wall behind the speakers. GIK 2'x4' bass traps and Auralex LENRDs in the corners. Basement room is `22'x12' with a variable ceiling height between 7'-8'.
Nothing magic here...
I have two related listening modes - pre-recorded music and doing live recording post-production of local artists via Pro Tools.
Since I wanted to have the same flexibility to adjust the crossover processing as with the Behringer, I needed the ability to be able to reconfigure the dspMusik as I made adjustments to the overall system. My first setup with dspMusik used one of the HAL Music Servers (since the dspMusik interface) was hosted on it. I had also JRiver MC hosted on a different PC, and Pro Tools was hosted on a 3rd PC. A mess, to be honest.
So, in goes dspMusik. Out went the modded Behringer, and the love of my life Benchmark DAC-1. Rich had taken my crossover concept from the Behringer and programmed it into the dspMusik for me. MASSIVE help from HAL!
I've never looked (or listened) back. I believe the 1st rev dspMusik to be the match of the DAC-1. For me, very, very clean. Extremely quiet. However, to be honest, it lacked the basic functionality of the DAC-1: Input switching / volume control / some (any) kind of display. Mind you, since I was using the dspMusik in 'designer mode' I had to reload AudioWeaver software every re-boot of the box, keep a Windows dialog open to use for the main system volume control, etc. So, yeah, a step back in user interface, but the SOUND was worth it.
I have a 2 ch in / 8 ch out unit. Inputs: SPDIF, USB, Analog. Outputs: configured to taste.
Over the past few years, I've improved the gear: NCore 400 amps replaced the Hafler, Rythmik F12Gs replaced the KEF-based woofers, ELAC AS-61s replaced the N2Xs. And I finally can host dspMusik/AW, JRiver MC, and Pro Tools on one PC. Rich gets big props for documenting the (complex) install process of AW / Matlab run time on my PC.
But key among these upgrades has been a continuing set of improvements to the dspMusik: better DACs, new filter settings, a new A/D module, and (best of all) a proper front panel with a control / volume knob and a remote control. (I had a problem with the 1st version with remote control locking up that took a while to diagnose and fix (it was a design issue), but HAL always had my back with a loaner unit. Come to think of it, Rich ALWAYS had a loaner unit for me as the dspMusik was going through it's upgrades.)
Every revision has resulted in a quantum sonic improvement. Even simple DAC setting changes have resulted in wonderfully better sonics. This thing is dead quiet, has massive headroom, sounds as clean or cleaner and resolves more detail than my DAC-1. And, it's reconfigurable (if you are into that kind of thing). It's reliable, too. Small. With it's fully-balanced I/O, you don't need designer cables in your system. That alone represents a huge potential savings.
I'm currently working on putting RIAA phono EQ into the dspMusik so I can simply take a gained-up phono cartridge directly into the A/D of the dspMusik and turn the box into my phono preamp. I have the filters designed in AW and need to wire them into the analog path of the dspMusik. I expect that to be done in a week or two. Once I confirm (via measurements) that RIAA is working & correct, I'll report back.
Here's the basic principle that I use when looking for new gear - does it provide great VALUE in terms of sound quality vs $$$ expended?
I truly believe the dspMusik punches FAR above its price. The upgrades keep coming - I'm waiting for news of the ability to host room correction in the box (it's been prototyped), vice in my PC which will greatly simplify my setup as JRiver, Pro Tools, and Vinyl all use the same room correction software but each with a unique setup.
If you are curious about what a dspMusik can do for your system - contact Rich! It's great to know that there are people in this industry that care more about sonics than profit margin.