LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread

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brh

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LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« on: 20 Feb 2015, 05:14 am »
Well, guess who came a-knockin' on my door this afternoon. I gotta tell you guys, nothing stretches out an hour-and-a-half train ride quite like knowing you have a beautiful new sexy toy waiting for you…

I've only had her hooked up for a few minutes so far, but I like what I'm hearing. My setup is desktop/nearfield, and I feel like I'm getting a better sense of spatialization/'soundstage' than I was with Sig 16, but… honestly it's really too early to make calls like that. But I'm currently listening to the GVSU NME's rather short performance of Riley's 'In C,' and… I'm very pleased.

Of course sound is the main consideration here, but my other initial thoughts are as follows… You can tell, reading what Vinnie writes about LIO, reading his thought process… but once you get it in your hands, you can really feel that it's a labor of love. This thing doesn't exist just to exist, it exists because Vinnie wanted something better.

It's big. I mean, physical specs on a website are one thing, and the size won't matter in most installations, but I'm using it as part of a desktop setup, and it's… like two Sig 16s! My poor Sig 16 is still sitting on the desk, dwarfed and disconnected (I needed her longer IEC cable…), and LIO just… owns the space now. Anyway, she's big, and rightfully so (6300f worth of capacitors, crazy space inside for modules… it's impressive she's as lean as she is!). I have to experiment with my desk arrangement a bit more.

Speaking of desk arrangements and using LIO as an out-of-place desktop amp, if you're close to LIO, you can definitely hear the relays click when the cap banks switch over. Not a huge deal, especially if you're the sort of nerd who has a soft spot for relays clicking, but again… might have me rethinking my desk arrangement… In a normal setup, I can't imagine most people would notice.

Capacitors! For whatever reason, you can set the display to show the voltage of the current cap bank. I don't know when this would ever be useful, but it's incredibly fun. Or, maybe I'm just weird. The cap bank switches over when it hits 19V, drained from ~23.2V. So, if you want to (and I do, for some reason), you can just watch LIO count down from 23 to 19 and start all over. When you first plug her in, you can't even do anything except watch her count up - bank a from 0 to 23; then bank b from 0 to 23… It could be maddening, but somehow watching the progress makes it very… zen…

The remote is the same remote as on Sig 16, only with way more buttons. What this means is that you could bludgeon someone with said remote if you had to. Also, the Sig 16 remote does control the volume level on LIO.

No complaints so far with the DAC. I'm used to two DAC setups - a Resonessence Concero HD (which failed on me multiple times, but I think I just got a bunk unit - I wholeheartedly recommend this amazing box), and a Channel Islands VDA-2 fed by a Halide Bridge. The Bridge would occasionally conk out on me, bit buggy. The VDA-2 was resolution limited, and very heavily focused on the analog end of the DAC. I don't think I'll attempt to sell it, because it is a very, very nice DAC, but it seems to serve a different purpose to me. Concero was a very honest DAC, very precise, and I feel the same from LIO's DAC. One nice thing in my weird use-case is that Concero ramped up/down upon receiving DoP packets, LIO… clicks briefly. Clicks are not my favorite thing, but ramping up and down for seconds between tracks is much, much more annoying. I get it, but the LIO approach works better for me. Most of my music is PCM, of course, but it's nice to know I can serve up DoP from iTunes and be happy. When receiving DoP packets, LIO shows the DSD rate on the Frequency display. Nice touch! Weird thing about the DAC - it appears to the system as if the digital attenuation can be adjusted from the computer, and it makes bleepy bloops if you try, but it doesn't actually adjust. I can see where it could be confusing, but I would not complain about digital volume control on the DAC.

I never trust stepped attenuators to have enough steps to really work nearfield (low levels), but LIO definitely does. Again, you can hear relays clicking away when you adjust volume, and again… that probably pleases me more than it should.

I'll report back after heavier listening… but as far as I can tell, she's a keeper. Good work, Vinnie… a spectacular achievement indeed!


brh

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Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #1 on: 20 Feb 2015, 03:07 pm »
Question: was there a design change in the tube stage, or am I going nuts? Originally I thought it was advertised as having two gain settings...

Got a little bit more listening in last night, really sounds great so far... not that I expected any less from you, Vinnie, but I feel like the DAC really shines compared to most 'built in' integrated DACs that I've heard.

Vinnie R.

Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #2 on: 20 Feb 2015, 04:50 pm »
Quote
I'll report back after heavier listening… but as far as I can tell, she's a keeper. Good work, Vinnie… a spectacular achievement indeed!

Hi brh,

Thank you for your post! 

Yes, LIO is a full-sized component (17.5"W x 13.5"D x 4.5" H) - and as you can see from the pics or by sliding open the top cover,
almost half of it is the PURE-DC-4EVR ultracapacitor supply.  :weights:

LIO had definitely been a labor of love - and I'm really pleased to read that you get that impression.  Thank you!

We (John Chapman and I) thought it would be fun to have a display mode where you view the voltage of the ultracap bank in use, and
when bank switching happens (usually every 5 to 10 minutes, depending on all the modules that you have and how loud you are playing),
there are indeed two relays that switch.  One is used for switching the bank that powers all the LIO audio circuitry, and one is used for
switching the bank that is charging.   I laughed when I read your post and you mentioned getting zen with it.  :thumb:

Quote
Question: was there a design change in the tube stage, or am I going nuts? Originally I thought it was advertised as having two gain settings...

You are NOT going crazy - there was initially going to be a low/high gain switch, and the prototype had this.  But with this new tube circuit design, the benefits of doing away with it (sonically) were quite large.  The soundstage opened up big time, and the max output voltage increased and I swear the transient attack was better.  On the bench, the bandwidth increased from the change and is now flat all the way up to around 110kHz before it starts rolling off.  And the output impedance was lowered from around 775 - 1k ohm range to down under the 200 ohm range.  Voltage gain is right around unity ("buffer").  As much as the high/low gain was cool, I simply could not resist the better performance of this tubestage by doing away with that feature. 

And speaking of sonics:

Quote
Got a little bit more listening in last night, really sounds great so far... not that I expected any less from you, Vinnie, but I feel like the DAC really shines compared to most 'built in' integrated DACs that I've heard.

Oh yeah!  LIO's dac was never designed to be a "built-in" dac - it was designed to be an outstanding dac on its own, and one that you could also add in.  So if one were to configure a LIO with only the DSD/PCM DAC module, I am very confident that it will easily compete with any dac at that price.  And when you add the tubestage, it is a phenomenal dac!  :eyebrows:  In the future, I'd love to send one out to review as just a LIO "tube dac" - it would be very interesting.  When I compare it to my fully modded (Level 3) Sony Z1ES, it is right up there in performance, if not takes the cake (again, with LIO Tubestage added after it).  If anyone is going to be at AXPONA, I'd love to demonstrate this so you can hear for yourself. 

NONE of the modules of LIO where designed to be "convenience features" that you get with all-in-one products.   :nono:  They all all my best designs to date, and some (e.g. LIO DSD/PCM dac) I collaborated on with other engineers who designed in an outstanding re-clock circuit, dedicated linear regulated sections on board for every section you can think of.  Each dac chip (dual mono) and output stage gets separate regulation, the reclock section gets its own regulation, the XMOS USB input receiver gets it own regulation, etc. 

Same idea with the Phonostage, speaker amp, etc.  So at very first listen, you should be hearing a big, expansive sound and hopefully one that is seductive and keeps you wanting to listen.  That is the true test!

THANK YOU for your post, and please keep us updated as you spend the hours listening and getting familiar with your stealth-black LIO!  :notworthy:

Vinnie

Vinnie R.

Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #3 on: 23 Feb 2015, 03:34 pm »
All,

Now that LIO pre-orders are starting to ship, I think it will be helpful to start a new thread dedicated to
customer feedback and impressions.

[And as you probably are aware, we also have a LIO "Ideas and Suggestions" thread here:
http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=130693.0]

I'm just trying to keep the VR forum organized so it will be easier for everyone to find information.

Happy Listening!

Vinnie

timkolacny

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Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #4 on: 23 Feb 2015, 05:11 pm »
I've had my LIO for a couple days now and thought you might like to know my initial impressions.  In a word ... S P E C T A C U L A R ! !

The packaging was excellent and everything arrived in perfect condition.  Setup was a breze - plug in my speakers, turntable, and a Sonos via TOSLINK and I was ready to go as soon as the pre-charge was complete (less than 15 minutes).  I wasn't able to listen much after the initial setup and figured it needed some warm up time anyway, so I set my copy of "Irrational But Efficacious" on repeat so the caps could cycle a few times. Late afternoon, I sat down for some serious listening. 

Streaming Deezer from my Sonos sounded better than I expected given the notorious flatness of the Sonos TOSLINK connection (I'll get a decent coaxial cable soon - should be an improvement).  I played a few Redbook files from my digital library too and was satisfied that the DAC matched or exceeded my existing gear with the same connection (Sonos TOSLINK to Naim SuperUniti). But I was anxious to try other things and moved on to vinyl.

Spinning some well known records (Mobile Fidelity cut of The Cars first album, Analog Productions version of Bill Evans' 'Waltz for Debbie', Daft Punk's 'Random Access Memories', and my Cisco copy of Steely Dan's 'Aja') I was hit with the immediacy of what the LIO was bringing to the dance. Bass was deep and taught, vocals flowed naturally, and everything had that 'swing' that keeps your foot tapping. Accuracy, extension, timbre, and pitch are all nice (and the LIO has them all), but for me the music is in the pace, rhythm, and timing (PRAT). The performance of the LIO speaks not just of the quality of an individual component like the phono stage, but to the overall design and execution of the entire LIO system. The only drawback? Some of the limits of the Rega Exact 2 cartridge were exposed more than I had previously noticed - so an upgrade there is likely in my future.

Having been sold on the analog performance compared to my existing setup (Naim SuperUniti with Sutherland Ph3D stage), I was anxious to see how the USB connection and high resolution digital sounded like. I got a laptop connected to the USB input of the LIO and the driver installed with minimal fuss.  My only qualm would be that the driver should be posted in a .zip format for PC users since it is native to Windows.  The .rar file required me to download an unpacking software to extract it - no big deal for a software guy like me, but an extra step nonetheless. But once I had it set up and configured Media Monkey's WASAPI output correctly it worked without a hitch.

Given the positive experience with vinyl playback, I had high expectations for the USB connection and high resolution playback.  Those expectations were not merely met, they were exceeded. Easily far superior to the Sonos TOSLINK option for Redbook, the same files played via USB were clearer, more extended, and more energetic. Clearly the USB connection is a superior performer with timing. I eagerly queued up some high resolution files and the room just burst alive with energy and dynamics well beyond any of my previous setups. My KEF LS-50's sang like I've never heard before - not even in a showroom demo. Most DACs smear time, introduce glare and hash with jitter, and just don't sound completely natural, but the LIO DAC nails all these elements like the really expensive components on the market but for a fraction of the cost (and minus the extra boxes and cables). Most files I played were able to swing as well as their vinyl counterparts with all the extension, control, and black background you could imagine from an ultra capacitor AC power free solution.

I'm trying not to get too far ahead of myself as it's only been three days, but right out of the box the LIO is performing well beyond my expectations. I want to thank Vinnie for putting together what is likely to be the best piece of audio equipment I've ever owned. I'll be selling off my old components and now useless cables in the coming days so I can spend the extra money (and time) on music. I couldn't be happier. Keep up the good work.

Tim Kolacny

Associated Equipment:

Speakers: KEF LS-50
Speaker Wire: Anticables
Turntable: Rega RP-6
Cartridge: Rega Exact 2
Stream source: Sonos
Hi Res source: Dell laptop
Amp/streamer/DAC: Naim SuperUniti
IC Cables: Anticable Pure Reference 5.2, Nordost Heimdal

Vinnie R.

Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #5 on: 24 Feb 2015, 04:00 am »
Hi Tim,

Welcome to the party - and thank you for posting your initial impressions of the LIO!  :bowdown: :bowdown: :bowdown:

Quote
My only qualm would be that the driver should be posted in a .zip format for PC users since it is native to Windows.  The .rar file required me to download an unpacking software to extract it - no big deal for a software guy like me, but an extra step nonetheless. But once I had it set up and configured Media Monkey's WASAPI output correctly it worked without a hitch.

Good point - and I now have it as a .zip as well for PC users.  :wink:

Quote
My KEF LS-50's sang like I've never heard before - not even in a showroom demo.

I've heard the LS-50's (and Harbeth P3ESR's) with LIO and they both really shine - and I especially like them for near field listening.  Outstanding mini monitors and I'm glad you are finding the same great synergy with them as I did.   :singing:

Quote
but right out of the box the LIO is performing well beyond my expectations. I want to thank Vinnie for putting together what is likely to be the best piece of audio equipment I've ever owned. I'll be selling off my old components and now useless cables in the coming days so I can spend the extra money (and time) on music. I couldn't be happier. Keep up the good work.

THANK YOU - this is what it is all about!   Keep us posted every now and then, and enjoy your LIO!

A couple more LIOs are shipping tomorrow, and more will ship at the end of this week - so hopefully there will be more user impressions
to be added to this thread soon.  I really appreciate all your feedback! 

Vinnie


brh

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Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #6 on: 28 Feb 2015, 03:18 am »
Potential firmware bug that's totally trivial, but you may want to note for any future upgrades: upon first turning LIO on after connecting power, with only the DAC module (no analog inputs), you need to cycle through the three A_ sources once before LIO 'realizes' they aren't there. After cycling through A_1-A_3 once and hitting d_1, the list then properly only cycles through d_1-d_3. It remembers through power off/on cycles, just not a fresh start after disconnecting the power supply. Again, completely trivial, but I thought I'd mention it.

…and while we're on the usage subject, it slipped my mind to mention my additional gear above…

Loudspeakers: Audience Clairaudient 'The One' via QED Silver Micro cable
Source: iTunes on Mac Pro 3,1 via USB
…and… well, that's about it, since everything is built into LIO! I also have a Pro-Ject CD Box S that I use as a transport for some backup listening tasks, but I haven't connected it yet.

rodge827

Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #7 on: 28 Feb 2015, 03:33 am »
brh and timkolacny thanks for your impressions.

What is the module configuration in your Lio's?

Chris

brh

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Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #8 on: 28 Feb 2015, 04:56 am »
brh and timkolacny thanks for your impressions.

What is the module configuration in your Lio's?

Chris

That would make a difference, wouldn't it?
Mine's RVC, tube stage, DAC, MOSFET amp.
I still have my RWA Sig 16 set up as well, and can say that using LIO just as a tube DAC is quite spectacular as well…
Next upgrade will be the HPA, and down the line a phonostage once I have room for a tt again…

timkolacny

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Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #9 on: 2 Mar 2015, 11:00 pm »
brh and timkolacny thanks for your impressions.

What is the module configuration in your Lio's?

Chris

Oh yeah, that would help... :duh:

Input Select
DSD/PCM DAC
MOSFET Amp
Phonostage
Remote loading
Resistor Volume Control
Tube Stage

Basically everything but the headphone amp.  :thumb:

Tim

Vinnie R.

Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #10 on: 5 Mar 2015, 06:35 pm »
All,

Srajan / 6moons just received a LIO review unit.  There is now a 5-page "preview" starting here:

http://6moons.com/audioreviews2/vinnierossi/1.html  (click on the forward arrows at bottom logo of each page
to go to the next page).

While Srajan's review unit is sans Phonostage, I also recently shipped a LIO to John Darko of Digital Audio Review that has
LIO PHONOSTAGE (sans LIO DSD/PCM DAC).  Otherwise, they both have LIO HPA, MOSFET AMP, and other modules in common.

Srajan requested both the RVC / TUBESTAGE and AVC modules to do a comparison.

More reviews are in the works - just trying to go in the order of which I received interest from reviewers to be as fair as possible (just like I'm
going through the LIO order queue, and currently shipping about 5 LIOs per week). 

I'm looking forward to more customer feedback soon - and THANK YOU in advance for posting!  :thumb:

Vinnie

radarnyc

Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #11 on: 7 Mar 2015, 02:31 pm »
Page 6 is up (http://6moons.com/audioreviews2/vinnierossi/6.html).

Vinnie - I realize the review is not complete yet but I wonder if you could check with Srajan to see about something. I think he did a decent job comparing the sound of the AVC and the RVC-with-tube-buffer. The ending paragraph on p6 is not clear if he has done this yet; but I'm wondering how he might compare the sounds of AVC and RVC with not tube buffer.
So, in the end, we'd have three clearly defined reviews: AVC (no tube of course); RVC (no tube); RVC (with tube).
Very glad to hear the HE-6s shine on the Lio! Anyone want to buy an EF5 headamp, Sig16, Burson DA-160 DAC + a bunch of cables? No one reading the Lio threads! :icon_lol:
Thanks

Vinnie R.

Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #12 on: 7 Mar 2015, 11:36 pm »
Page 6 is up (http://6moons.com/audioreviews2/vinnierossi/6.html).

Vinnie - I realize the review is not complete yet but I wonder if you could check with Srajan to see about something. I think he did a decent job comparing the sound of the AVC and the RVC-with-tube-buffer. The ending paragraph on p6 is not clear if he has done this yet; but I'm wondering how he might compare the sounds of AVC and RVC with not tube buffer.
So, in the end, we'd have three clearly defined reviews: AVC (no tube of course); RVC (no tube); RVC (with tube).
Very glad to hear the HE-6s shine on the Lio! Anyone want to buy an EF5 headamp, Sig16, Burson DA-160 DAC + a bunch of cables? No one reading the Lio threads! :icon_lol:
Thanks

Hi radarnyc,

Looks like he'll be doing this (according to page 7)!  8)

Quote
To suss out its performance, I'd use my €9'000 COS Engineering D1 DAC/pre as the 'bypass' control unit with 256 x 0.25dB step resistor-ladder analog volume. LIO as AVC preamp would then contrast against the D1 in fixed-output mode and my Esoteric C03 transistor linestage. Part 2 would swap in LIO's RVC module. Part 3 would add the tube stage and contrast that against my Nagra Jazz valve preamp.

Vinnie

Gerry E.

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Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #13 on: 8 Mar 2015, 01:54 pm »
Hi Vinnie:

Speaking of the 6Moons review, Srajan wrote:

"Where it goes beyond its various precursors is with that single no longer twinned display. It converts to temporary balance mode whenever the remote's left/right arrows are used to lock in up to 12 steps of level offset. Then it reverts to regular volume again which now ramps up and down at the set balance difference."

I always liked the idea of a dual volume display, one for each channel, but understand it's not always practical.  Can you a post a photo of the display showing what it looks like in "temporary balance mode"?  I would like to get a feel for what it looks like in operation.  Thanks!

Gerry   

Srajan Ebaen

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Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #14 on: 8 Mar 2015, 05:52 pm »
It looks like ' - ', then '1- ', '2- ' or ' -1' and ' -2' up to 12 in either direction.

gbeard

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  • Contributing writer--Positive Feedback
Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #15 on: 8 Mar 2015, 09:10 pm »
Nicely written, Srajan.

Vinnie R.

Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #16 on: 9 Mar 2015, 02:14 am »
Hi Vinnie:

Speaking of the 6Moons review, Srajan wrote:

"Where it goes beyond its various precursors is with that single no longer twinned display. It converts to temporary balance mode whenever the remote's left/right arrows are used to lock in up to 12 steps of level offset. Then it reverts to regular volume again which now ramps up and down at the set balance difference."

I always liked the idea of a dual volume display, one for each channel, but understand it's not always practical.  Can you a post a photo of the display showing what it looks like in "temporary balance mode"?  I would like to get a feel for what it looks like in operation.  Thanks!

Gerry   

Hi Gerry,

I personally am not fond of the dual display for L and R volume.  Too complicated looking (just my opinion).  John developed firmware
to allow for one display, and using the balance control it allows you to offset the volume up to 12dB (in 1dB steps).  Once you do this, as Srajan mentions above, it then goes back to displaying the volume level.  But you can adjust it at any time via the remote.  Really slick interface!  8)

Just to make it clear, here is an example:

Say you are at volume level 40.  When you press the left arrow on the remote, it briefly displays 1-- (meaning the LEFT channel is 1dB louder than the right channel, so it reduces volume on the right channel by 1dB).  If you keep pressing the left arrow, it will go like this: 2--, 3--, 4--, all the way until the left channel is 12dB louder.  You can do the same thing for the right side via the right arrow on the remote, so it goes like this:  --1, --2, --3, ... all the way until the right channel is 12dB louder.  From there, you just use volume up and down and it maintains this offset of the volume level. 

It is easier on my eyes to see one volume display instead of two different displays at different volume levels.   :cyclops:

Vinnie

Vinnie R.

Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #17 on: 9 Mar 2015, 02:21 am »
All,

I forgot to mention that John Darko of Digital Audio Review (www.digitalaudioreview.net) has received his "stealth" (all black) LIO and will be connecting his turntable to the LIO Phonostage module that was installed.  Looking forward to that review, and many more to come in the future.

Of course, I am VERY GRATEFUL for LIO customers posting their impressions here is well.  So far, the new VR forum here has a number of informative posts and is really picking up momentum! 

THANK YOU all for making it a friendly place filled with good questions, feedback, impressions, suggestions, etc.   :thumb:

Vinnie

brh

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  • Posts: 102
Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #18 on: 9 Mar 2015, 02:53 pm »
Hi Gerry,

I personally am not fond of the dual display for L and R volume.  Too complicated looking (just my opinion).  John developed firmware
to allow for one display, and using the balance control it allows you to offset the volume up to 12dB (in 1dB steps).  Once you do this, as Srajan mentions above, it then goes back to displaying the volume level.  But you can adjust it at any time via the remote.  Really slick interface!  8)

[...]

I have to chime in here and give you guys credit for LIO's UI, it is really nice. The dual L/R display is very unique and has its own charm, but I must agree with you, it's kind of overboard. LIO has a lot of functionality, and I applaud you folks for cramming all the information into a 3 digit 7-segment display. Something very classy about these 'old' displays, which I fear are going the way of the nixie tube, as more and more devices move over to soulless matrix displays...

The way balance is handled on LIO is clever. Muted state shows as '---' which is far more inviting ('why aren't you using me?') than '0'. You can turn the display off or leave it in freq or v, and it'll still temporarily show level/balance if you change them. It's a very straightforward, no-frills UI, and it's a joy to use!

Gerry E.

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Re: LIO: Customer feedback / Impressions thread
« Reply #19 on: 9 Mar 2015, 04:23 pm »
Thanks guys (Srajan, Vinne and BRH)!

I used an early version of the Tortuga LDR-1.  It had a similar "balance mode" function as the LIO, with one exception.  Forget about a dual volume display - there was NO display!  You literally had to count the number of times you were pressing on the left or right volume buttons on the remote to know how much you were changing the balance.

Of course Morten added a display in later versions of the Tortuga units.  Given the above, I appreciate having any display of the channel balance setting.  Besides, once you dial in the balance, you usually don't have to change it again (unless something else changes).

Gerry