I had an evening of listening at Steven’s ( Dutch audiophile near The Hague, Holland) ending in two delicious glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon
At first we listened to his Wavelength ( domain of USB to S/PDIF converters ) who feels at home in his system:
-Paradigm S8 speakers, Cyrus DAC XP, , Cyrus aPA7's monobloc power amps , Cyrus stand alone pws, 2 x PSX-R, Cyrus Disc Master 8.0, PS Audio Quintet and Duet, Mac mini Amarra junior, Nordost SPM speaker cables, The Missing Link power digital and analog cables.
The music we listened to was recorded simple pop (“The Golden Age” and “Already Dead” from Beck's album Sea Change (Mofi) . I took with me at his place a usb disk with powerpoint lectures instead of red book Bonnie Prince Billy and 96 khz Rimski-Korsakov and Chick Corea
Compressed mastered rock or pop music fell out of grace within seconds of listening,( no enjoyable transparency, muddied definitions between instruments, lack of convincing 3D) Immediately you could hear that the air around singers and instruments vanished
Also detectable on the installation of Steven was the clock. of the AD converters used in the studio during the recording. I suspect that the "mediocre" ADs, have a NOT-precise clock and / or not perfectly stable power supply. It seems as if the "dead quiet" spaces between the instruments and singer(s ) that contributes to the o so important transparency, are filled with a kind of gray that make the edge of distinctions obscure.
The Wavelength, I found really expressed beautiful sound, but compared to what I am used to at home was a size less analogue and a tad more HiFi. But really relative. Steven's installation is convincing high end, but there are degrees of high end.
I suggested to him to try out the BNC Attenuators I took with me. We placed 2 between the Wavelink and the Cyrus DAC, and yes, the magic back home that I am accustomed to, came back. The depth became deeper, increased transparency and the whole was more musical. Steven first remark was also cautious: "I hear less highs?"
That was my first reaction too at the time when I used attenuators. We interpret the “edginess” of highs as we do not
recognize it as edginess, as natural characteristics of the highs, even if you don’t hear them during dinner, in the office or on the street.
It quickly became apparent after other songs and CDs that there was no loss of clarity or highs but a significant increase in detail and space and "silence (blackness) between the different sounds and dynamics.
The attenuator we used was 15 db total and therefore weakened the S / PDIF signal 32X (if I correctly calculated)
The DAC still takes the complete musical data from the attenuated signal but the 64x weakening of the unwanted reflections in the cable (32x dual cable reflections) cannot be picked up by the DAC because they fall under the sensitivity threshold of the DAC. Expensive SPDIF Cables “worth” their price have managed to eliminate some of those reflections. However, the attenuator may exceeds for > 99% depending on whether you attenuate just above the sensitivity threshold value of the DAC to still be able to lock on. With, but not without the attenuators the Wavelink could provide the “Magic” for me. Magick: when I stop experiencing listening to reproduced music but instead listen to the illusion of a real performance of living people in front of me.
Then we switched to the HiFace MK1 and that was an immediate disappointment. The entire 3D field was smaller, less transparency, etc. All important listening properties were affected and suffered a (small) loss. However, the MK1 had no Attenuators and I did not want to waste time on listening to a MK1 when I already have a MK2. I am sure that attenuatorr with the MK1 will provide a very special musical instrument, unless you want the very best belonging to a quite costly installation. You do not place expensive but very good carbon fiber brake discs under your Volkswagen GTI, no?
We ended with the MK2, Kenny's most modded HiFace. And with 25 db (!) attenuation (more than 250x weakened) Compared to the Wavelink we recognized a deeper 3D stage, . Steve also noticed that the lows went deeper and lower. There was more bass added in a natural way. Would you say that the MK2 then may be better than the Wavelink? Steve indicated that there was a very small difference but a slight advantage for the Wavelink he experienced. I found the sound image and quality of the MK2 slightly more convincing…
The Wavelink without attenuators is no match for the MK2 with attenuators. I find both of them operating from a height which, with the present state of technique is difficult to improve. If you possess one of those two, other things in the system come into mind to upgrade or add like cleaner current from the wall outlets, better damping, more musical ICs and probably a Shakti stone or NuForce Magic Cubes...?