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!