April 2002 marks the twenty-first anniversary of the CD, and in that time the format has gone through two decades of refinement in the forms of oversampling, jitter reduction, upsampling and so forth. In our continuing understanding of the CD playback process, each innovation resulted in higher levels of sophistication, propelling CD playback to an unprecedented summit. The most noted member born from a crystallization of all these efforts is possibly the $20,000 Linn CD-12 as reviewed by Jim Merod.
In today’s marketplace, where advanced and market-dominating mainstream CD players are featuring variations of the aforementioned techniques, 47 Laboratory introduces its statement DAC based on a “Non-oversampling, Digital-filter-less DAC Concept.”
After careers at prestigious high-end audio equipment manufacturers Luxman and Kyocera, Mr. Junji Kimura founded 47 Laboratory in 1992. In naming his new company, Kimura took the colors of yellow (ki-iroi) and purple (mura-zaki), which contain the syllables of his family name, then coded the colors using resistor color-coding standard of 4 for yellow and 7 for purple. Thus was born 47 Laboratory.
Mr. Yoshi Segoshi of Sakura Systems, 47 Lab’s U.S. exclusive distributor, hosted an Interview with 47 Lab, during which 47 Lab’s president and chief designer Kimura, and his marketing director Mr. Koji Teramura, iterated 47 Lab’s commitment in refining Redbook CD playback. Convinced of the Redbook CD’s engineering validity and unharnessed playback potential, 47 Lab considers the audio industry’s latest venture into high-capacity digital audio formats as irresponsible, and in 2001 released its statement product, the $25,000 4704 PiTracer CD transport.
The aforementioned “Non-oversampling, Digital-filter-less DAC Concept” is authored by Mr. Ryohei Kusunoki, of whose theory Kimura is an advocate. Published in the November 1996 to December 1997 issues of the Japanese MJ Audio Technology magazine, Kusunoki theorizes on an advanced mode of CD playback technique without resorting to oversampling and digital filtering:
“The difference between the non-oversampling [digital-filter-less] DAC and the conventional DAC with the digital filter lies whether you attach importance on the accuracy in the time domain or in the frequency domain. In other words, whether you choose the musical performance or the quality of a sound. This trade-off line defines the boundary of the current digital audio format.”
The time and frequency domains Kusunoki was referring to are the CD standard’s 44.1 kHz time domain and 16-bit frequency (or amplitude) domain. Convinced of the Redbook CD’s engineering validity and potential, Kusunoki opined on the digital audio progress in the following excerpt:
“…in the next generation digital format offered today, the selling points for better sound are quantizing bit numbers and sampling frequency rates. It only means lowering of distortions and extension of frequency range. The appearance of CD was an epoch-making event as a new format to follow LP. It delivered the sound of the master tape to our listening room. It was a crystallization of efforts of the engineers of that time.”
In regard to the digital filter, Kusunoki believes it is an unnecessary evil. He claims that in both recording and playback, a typical digital filter collects data in series, creating a resultant cumulative delay so large that it would become detectable by the human ear ultimately.
Citing the workings of the 8x-oversampling high performance digital filter “SM5842” as example, Kusunoki claims a normally insignificant 0.22-millisecond inherent delay in each sampling process will be aggregated into a highly audible 2.13-millescond total delay time in the SM5842’s 8x-oversampling. Claiming a further inevitability of “diffusion of sound coherence” from such serially collected data with the assumption that the signals are intervening with each other, Kusunoki concludes that the less oversampling, the better. He cites examples from prestigious firms such as Wadia and Luxman with their 13 and 3 tap achievements respectively – a tap being the waiting interval for signals in a sampling process – as he believes the smaller the number of taps would control such diffusion more effectively, providing the inherent advantage of his non-oversampling DAC. Furthermore, Kusunoki considers noise reduction characteristics of digital filters as detrimental given the adversely generated frequency and phase distortions.
In regard to today’s sophisticated designs in oversampling, Kusunoki also reiterates that oversampling is simply a technique enabling use of gentler analog filter without generating additional information. He also states that in creating more samples, oversampling proportionately creates more errors as well. Therefore, in reiterating the theoretically superior accuracy of 16-bit non-oversampling versus 8x-oversampling/20-bit, Kusunoki summarizes that:
“A natural, stress-free sound that communicates the musicians’ intention directly to you…is the sound of non-oversampling DAC. The feel of this sound is closer to that of analog reproduction.”
On signal jitter, Kusunoki believes that a controlled, strategic distribution of jitter will represent a cost-effective and realistic approach in yielding an audibly more refined CD sound versus an across-the-band reduction technique. In conclusion, he states that the 44.1 kHz time-domain properties are the determinants of musicality in the D/A conversion process, whereas frequency-domain issues, such as jitter and noise, are secondary and their roles have been overemphasized by the industry.
The 4705 Progression “Non-Oversampling, Digital-Filter-Less” DAC
Kusunoki’s concept is incorporated into the current statement DAC product of Kimura’s 47 Lab, the 4705 Progression, which features one surface-mounted 75-ohm digital RCA input and one pair of analog RCA outputs. Design highlights are: absence of both analog and digital filters, non-oversampling, passive I/V conversion, claimed shortest signal path of 35 mm among all DACs, and claimed smallest number of parts used in any DAC, namely 20 parts in total. The unit automatically adjusts to incoming sampling frequencies of 32 kHz, 44 kHz and 48 kHz and supports 24-bit 96k Hz signal conversion.
Miniature in dimensions, the 4705 Progression is unexpectedly heavy at 10 lbs. Supposedly subduing digital noise dispersion, two pieces of solid aluminum block anodized in black on the upper half and in brushed steel on the bottom half constitute the casing of the Progression. 47 Lab claims significant chassis stress reduction with the use of only 3 screws, resulting in “quick transient response, totally stable imaging and…flat energy balance of the sound.” 47Lab also claims the DAC’s concave top and bottom serve to “function as spike feet to release the vibrations smoothly and stabilize itself without any insulators underneath.”
With no frequency filtering in the Progression, 47 Laboratory urges user discretion in amplifier-speaker matching as energy output equivalent to one-third of the music signal at 22k Hz will occur. Sakura Systems stresses the importance of matching ribbon or piezzo speakers to amplifiers of recommended power ratings. In addition to my observation to follow, refer to the Sakura Systems website for more information.
4713 Flatfish CD Player/Transport
Interestingly resembling the Doctor McCoy away-mission portable scanner from the 60’s Star Trek, the Flatfish is the smallest single-box CD player I’ve seen for high-end audio applications. Flamboyant or impressive-looking it certainly is not. According to the Owner’s Manual, the Flatfish’s specific mass and weight are engineered to release disruptive vibrations. 47 Lab believes that damping a chassis will create delays and modulations in the flow of current, therefore, by constructing a compact and rigid chassis, a quick and proper channeling of mechanical resonance, rather than an over-damping of it, will produce sonically superior results.
In strict adherence to this design philosophy, elevated by a few centimeters and resting loosely on three tubular stainless steel feet in triangular formation, the Flatfish is at the mercy of user discreetness in remaining stable. To avoid toppling it, extra care must be observed in applying force to inserting and pulling cables from the unit’s rear.
Said to be almost completely free of any construction stress, the 150g, 0.67inch-thick machined aluminum board doubles its role as the platform and casing of the Flatfish, as well as mounting board for all the driving, pick-up mechanisms and circuits. 47 Lab claims that the unit’s lightness and the slightly off-centered spindle summarily diffuse vibrations, which enables minimal reliance on servo-controlled correction system that is sonically detrimental. The company also claims to have achieved quick transient response, thanks to the compactness of the platform and small surface area that limits stored vibration energy to a minimum.
With the exception of the remote sensor that faces the listener, all functions are accessible only from the top, lending a quaint look befitting the humorous Flatfish designation. 47 Lab employs four small surface-mounted toggle switches to control the functions of power on/off, Stop/TOC, Music Skip, Pause/Play. Located on the rear are digital coaxial outputs 1 & 2, and a pair of RCA analog outputs. The most unique top-loading design I’ve seen, there is neither a disc chamber nor cover. With the spindle being the only breaking point above the surface, the spindle base is at the same level of the unit’s top plate, utterly exposing the laser and pickup mechanisms when not covered by either a mounted CD or the included white acrylic lens protector.
After being lowered through the spindle, a CD’s inner ring rests tentatively above the spindle base. A very small, acrylic center cap screws down on the spindle, holding the disc firmly in place. As the disc-loading process is entirely manual, the Flatfish won’t spin or access the Table of Contents until the user flips the TOC toggle switch. Afterwards, the sky-facing LED window will display total time and number of tracks. Again, from the listening position, track information becomes guesswork as the display is out of sight.
The Flatfish’s center cap is a far cry from the flattening and stabilizing functionality of my CEC TL1’s substantial full-disc stabilizer. In fact, as my Salamander Synergy 20’s top shelf on which the Flatfish rested was lower than thigh height, I constantly witnessed the alarming and discomforting sight of CDs spinning in open air. Despite 47 Lab’s claimed minimization of construction stress and disruptive vibrations as advantages of the design, it is intriguing that 47 Lab would decide on a transport mechanism that is not shielded from environmental intrusions. It therefore served as little comfort from the fact that the laser assembly read from underneath the disc and not above, exposing the transport innards and the CD’s label to dust collection.
4799 Power Dumpty Power Supply
Neither the Flatfish nor the Progression could be self-powered and the standalone Power Dumpty acted as a shared power supply for both units. Via exclusive power line cables, the Power Dumpty featured two rear power outputs designed specifically for powering up both Flatfish and Progression. The Power Dumpty itself drew power via a generic IEC AC cord.
Although “Only the Simplest can Accommodate the Most Complex” is Mr. Kimura’s design philosophy, his products share no utter inference with a crude, elementary design. While the appearances of both the Flatfish and Progression are admittedly bare, they are the fruition of advanced understanding in related fields of digital audio and the laws of physics. His approach to simplicity is by far the most comprehensive I’ve encountered.
The Progression is a product of a taxing evolutionary process. Its high-performance DAC chip, a vital building block in the Progression’s performance, is an embodiment of the latest in circuit miniaturization. In addition, Kimura’s unique accomplishment of extreme signal path minimization was undoubtedly a distillation of decades of experiences and experimentation from his former endeavors. Therefore, the collaboration of Kimura and Kusunoki, leading up to the noted refinement in theory and practice, deserves admiration and congratulation.
I will mention here that the sound of the Flatfish and Progression versus that of the CEC TL1 and Wadia 27 represented for me not disparity, but rather a testimonial to the venues advanced and adopted by brilliant designers in the maximization of CD format’s potential. The inevitable and shocking advancement of CD playback quality as personified by the 47 Lab gear both dismays and excites me. I wholeheartedly consider my five-year ownership of the CEC/Wadia system an indispensable and rewarding experience because, as if in preparation for this review, the unique perspective the ownership accorded me expelled all groundless prejudices toward the 47 Laboratory Flatfish transport and Progression DAC in their laboratory-style encapsulation. See you next installment with my subjective evaluations.
This is a look at the 47 Laboratory’s $8,100 CD playback system, comprising the 4713 Flatfish CD Transport and 4705 Progression DAC. Our own Paul Szabady reviewed the 47 Laboratory Phono Playback System in April of 2001. You may see my background information on these products in our archives.
Canare L-5CFB 1.5 meter 75 ohm coaxial cable and Illuminations D-60 Data Flex Studio 1.5 meter 75 ohm coaxial cable were alternated in connecting the 4713 Flatfish CD transport to the 4705 Progression DAC. The Progression’s fixed-level analog outputs were connected to the Audio Note M3 Preamplifier, which would drive the 300B Audio Note Quest Monoblocks or the solid-state McCormack DNA1 Deluxe. To verify the Progression’s performance characteristics on cone, horn and ribbon speakers, I alternated the auditioning with my Apogee Duetta Signatures, Genesis VI’s and Klipschorns. Interconnects were two pairs of Granite Audio #470 with Cardas Quadlink 5C speaker cable. A Sony SCD-777ES SACD Player or my CEC TL1 belt-drive CD Transport/Wadia 27 Decoding Computer digital system were used alternately to play source material.
I found my recent concert experience of Franz Liszt’s A Faust Symphony in my C-row perspective an aberrant reminder of the 47 Lab’s tonal prowess via the Genesis VI. Conducted by Roger Norrington, the playing of the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus somehow provoked a familiarity to what I felt was the 47Lab’s sonic signature.
Freshly daunted by such an experience, I hurriedly took out Daniel Barenboim’s same reading on CD with Berlin Philharmonic and Berlin State Deutsche Choir [Teldec 3984-22948-2] upon returning home. Most immediately noticeable upon playing that disc was the tonal accuracy of the 47 Lab, with unprecedented dynamic contrasts from my Genesis VI in their irrepressibility and the very uncommon co-existence of orderly gentleness. The sense of space enabled superb delineation of the orchestra and allowed for precise localization of each instrument group.
Alas, live sounds are absolute in their vibrancy and scale; and therefore despite the many intoxicating memories from home listening sessions, my 47 lab-injected audio system did not approach the live event. Comparing the CEC/Wadia and Sony SACD player to the 47 Lab, the Sony approached the same recording in competent soundstaging but fell short of the 47 Lab’s depth with less dynamic contrasts. The CEC/Wadia’s excellence at tonal shadings lent instruments abundant overtones, producing richer sounds complimentary of the combo’s strength at wholesome dynamics.
Sounding considerably different from the Teldec disc, the Flatfish and Progression cunningly portrayed the outlines of instruments with unwavering localization from John Williams’ Jurassic Park soundtrack [MCA MCAD-10859]. The 47 Lab system locked onto the center stage instruments’ images and reproduced complex activities unswervingly extending beyond the locations of the left and right speakers. Presenting a most superbly organized perspective, the 47 Lab seemingly presented a hauntingly convincing E-row vantage in a hall treated acoustically for the utmost in microdynamics and imaging. Furthermore, with “Journey To The Island”, the choir breathed out soft but vivid background accompaniments amidst a charged and grandiose summoning of the main theme.
In contrast, my CEC/Wadia’s perspective offered more simmer and had more sumptuous instrumental texturing that was devastatingly addictive. Though the Sony SCD-777ES’s Redbook CD prowess accorded appreciable dynamics with this non-audiophile recording, it did not possess the same dimensionality that the 47 Lab so expertly accorded to tranquil passages.
Defying my impression of its sonic character, the Flatfish and Progression offered newly conceived sense of scale and energy with Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, Symphony of A Thousand, [EMI digital CDS 7 47625 8]. With the 47 Lab at the helm, vocal articulations and their delicate intonations bestowed the melodic passages with an opulence that was less prominent via the CEC/Wadia. Whispery chants that were the praises of angels aptly conveyed a newfound timeless peacefulness, inclusive of a sense of redemption. More than other conductors of considerable stature, Klaus Tennstedt sustained the flow of the melody while preserving the subtlety of the sentiments. This noteworthy accomplishment was all the more prominent with the Flatfish and Progression.
In contrast, the CEC/Wadia system did capably develop the massive sounds from the brass and choir alike, with the soundstaging so wide that it seemed limited only by loudspeaker confinement. The massive brass, however, occasionally overshadowed the projection of the vocals. By comparison, the Sony had a less spacious soundstage as evident in tighter grouping of the orchestra. Although the Sony’s tonal shadings were not at the same level as the CEC/Wadia or 47 Lab, its punctual transients preserved event spontaneity nicely.
Spinning early CD’s such as Barry Manilow’s Even Now [Arista 32RD-21] on the 47 Lab surprised me with the newfound clarity and soundstaging. A recording that was previously plagued with severely truncated harmonics and offering coarse and undistinguished instrument textures, Barry’s voice was at once endowed with a wealth of tonality, while his signature big band accompaniments revealed plenty of information and layering for the first time. Instrument textures have never sounded so clear and involving, as percussion, piano, saxophones, trumpets and voices all were reproduced with the precious reverberation that invokes dimensionality.
Possessing a sweet and yet determined voice, Olivia Newton-John’s singing went through phases in her life as documented in the CD Back To Basics, The Essential Collection 1971-1992 [Geffen GEFD-24470]. Even so, from early classics such as “I Honestly Love You”, to the 80’s super-hit “Physical,” the 47 Lab brought out a rare tonal purity of her voice that was both sultry and touching that eerily resonates in the listener’s mind. Ambience surrounding instruments was consistently revealing amidst complex and driving orchestrations, maintaining a vividly 3-D soundstage. For the first time, the 47 Lab gear revealed the hidden treasures from within the bits and pits of this recording.
Styx’s 1980 best-selling Paradise Theater [A&M CD3719] sounded more delicate and powerful than ever with the 47 Lab. In addition to the surprisingly resolute rendition of vocals and instruments, the hitting of cymbals was heard approximately 2 feet beyond my left and right speakers in the track “A.D. 1958.” Hardly known for tonality and dynamics, this CD now possessed keen dynamic contrasts befitting a high-fidelity studio feed, conveying an energetic band in action. Consistent and organized best describe the imaging from 47 Lab system and its ability to project delicate ambience in relation to instrument localization.
A 30-minute 1957 RCA Victor recording by two Native Americans called the Los Indios Tabajaras, the album Always In My Heart [RCA 8.11411] was a sensation in its time. Produced by Herman Diaz, Jr., the monophonic yet atmospheric left and right channels of solo guitars were joined in the center with a Hawaiian bongo. Although the sound quality was hardly of demonstration status, I reckon you will find the music mesmerizing and invigorating when played on a peaceful and quiet summer night. Despite the monophonic limitation, the 47 Lab extracted a richness of instrument timbres and reverberation queues belying its age – something the CEC/Wadia only hinted at. The single-page foldout liner notes are bare in appearance but quite elaborate and fascinating on the band’s rise to fame.
Most impressive amidst all listening sessions, piano playing drew the conclusive judgement from me. A 2000 release of pianist Maurizio Pollini’s reading of Beethoven’s 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, or simply known as the Diabelli Variations [Deutsche Grammophon 289 459 645-2] is transformed through the 47 Lab. In surprisingly demonstration-class sonics, Pollini infused abundant finesse into deeply serene passages without overindulgence, resulting in a superb display of inspired playing arising
from high degrees of originality. Never before has a DG piano risen in such dynamic and harmonic clarity from within a reverberating studio, with a vibrancy so potent, making the stereophonic reproduction eminently rewarding.
Unlike an individual instrument or voice, which often displays highly defined image specificity, the piano is a large instrument resonating with complex dynamics and harmonics, whose dispersed localization is not as focused. Despite the aforementioned, the hammering of strings emerged in distinguished dimensionality via the Flatfish and Progression, with excellent delineation of keystrokes that at once communicated acute continuity and individuality in drama.
Last but not least, my usual desire to increase the volume, done in an effort to compensate for the lack of realism at lower amplitudes, was unnecessary. The 47 Lab gear made a good piano CD remarkably more revealing in dimensionality and tonality detailing. Instead of needing the higher volume settings to project the piano playing as though it was startlingly located inside the listening room, a lower setting now more appropriately depicted the piano and its location within a larger studio or concert surrounding.
On CD’s with Emphasis
In regard to 47 Lab’s caution of using piezo and/or ribbon speakers because of an energy concentration of 33% of the musical signal at 22k Hz, the warning is aimed towards improper amplifier/speaker matching. With only a few disconcerting exceptions, I did not encounter instances that would warrant concerns when listening either to the Apogees, Genesis, or Klipschorn.
The exceptions were strictly in the form of CDs mastered with emphasis. Emphasizing a CD during mastering was a practice most predominant in digital audio’s early days, for the purpose of reducing digital noise at the upper frequencies; similar to what Dolby did for the analog cassette. With the improvements in latter digital filters, emphasis was soon no longer applied.
Every time my CEC TL1 transport plays an emphasized track, my Wadia 27 displays “EMPHASIZED” and proceeds to de-emphasize the content for a normal playback. The Progression, however, passed along data from the same emphasized CDs unscathed, thus producing excessively grinding and screeching high frequencies. Whereas both the Apogee and Genesis have tweeter adjustments that permit compensation, adjusting the Apogee’s tweeter involves the midrange frequencies as well, thus altering the sound unnecessarily. The Klipschorns reproduced the sharp tones in full force. Consequently, as the Genesis offers the most flexible user contouring, it is the only speaker among the three that was a more fitting match to the Progression in all instances.
For readers with a significant collection of emphasized CDs, unless you plan to replace them with newly remastered reissues that carry no top-end emphasis, your piezo or ribbon speakers have tweeter level adjustment or you have highly transparent equalizers, I would have to recommend against using the Progression. In realizing his vision of the ultimate in simplicity, Kimura’s execution of Kusunoki’s concept precluded circuits that would properly decode emphasized CDs produced in the early 80s.
Connecting the 4713 Flatfish to the Wadia 27 produced slightly more reserved dynamics than those attained by the CEC/Wadia combo. The aftermarket RCA/BNC adapter used for connection to the Wadia might have compromised signal integrity with its possibly substandard impedance rating, thereby suppressing both the Flatfish/Progression’s 3-D soundstaging forte and the Wadia’s textural vividness. As my experience tells me that the Wadia sounds its best via ST or XLR transmission, the Flatfish’s exclusive RCA digital output precluded such experimentation.
On the other hand, the 4705 Progression DAC did not falter as much as the Flatfish did when connected to non 47 Lab equipment, in this case, either the CEC TL1 transport or the Sony SCD-777ES SACD player.
The CEC coupled Progression retained the Flatfish’s unreserved dynamics and meticulous soundstaging to a very large degree, defaulting only at the Flatfish/Progression’s clarity in tonal shadings in favor of the CEC’s forgivingly softer character. I reckon this sound will appeal to certain listeners.
Connecting the Sony SCD-777ES in CD digital-out mode to the Progression produced tonal shadings approaching that of the Flatfish/Progression level at the excruciating expense of a sense of spaciousness. While slightly mechanical sounding, the Sony did achieve more pronounced macrodynamics in the percussion and brass. Nonetheless, the overall soundstaging specificity and instrument tonality of the SCD-777ES/Progression surpassed what the Sony player can achieve alone. For readers who are considering SACD application, you can do well by getting both Sony SCD-777ES and the Progression DAC for outstanding jump factor.
The Flatfish’s remarkably “stressless” signal handling and the Progression’s high-integrity signal processing excel at the delineation of aptly varying soundstages, with extraordinary depiction of individual instrument harmonics. From a rock band’s incisive but overwhelming instrumentation to that of a full orchestra, there is a unique ambience and sonic signature from each CD, providing an astounding musicality. Even audience applause sounded more real. In fair retrospect, the CEC/Wadia’s incomparable crowning spectral coherency and textural smoothness is akin to the visual sensuality of Impressionist oil painting.
In terms of dynamic and harmonic clarity, whether it was reading from an old, or inferior, or audiophile-grade recording, the 47 Lab was supremely resolute in its digital-to-analog conversion of layers of information from each audible frequency, analogous to the high-resolution line scanning in advanced video systems. Therefore, the biggest contribution this digital system had given me was the gratifying validation of a great majority of my CD investment since the early 80’s to this day.
A word on soundstaging: in contrast to the Wadia-based system that exhibits more dispersed and well-formed soundstaging over multiple listening positions, the 47 Lab’s beautiful 3-D soundstaging collapsed and became narrower and flatter when I was siting just two feet to the left or right of my listening position.
This trait was more evident on cone and planar speakers, such as my Genesis VI and Apogee Duetta Signature, and less so with my Klipschorns, probably due to horn speakers’ dispersion pattern, which is highly directional to begin with. While the 47 Lab system has excellent resolution retrieval and soundstaging realism, the system is best appreciated in predominantly solo listening sessions. On the other hand, the Wadia-based system is obviously more practical to readers who value ultimate sonic beauty and prefer to share that sound during group listening sessions. Nevertheless, an in-depth objective evaluation of your speaker’s characteristics and your priorities should precede actual purchase of the 47 Lab system.
As an integrated player, the sound of the $5,400 Flatfish with its 4799 Power Humpty bears certain resemblance to the $2,000 Perpetual Technologies P1A Digital Correction Engine/Upsampler and P3A DAC: good, solid center stage imaging with good overall image definition, albeit a relatively less focused stage-edge definition. Tonality-wise, the Flatfish CD player is less prominent then the PT gear in the midrange via my Genesis VI’s, and less dynamic via my Klipschorns. Compared to my $3,450 Sony SCD-777ES SACD player in CD playback, the Flatfish excels in the single aspect of instrument tonality, lacking in dynamics and bottom-end extension. Considering the Sony provides user-selectable CD filtering modes, SACD playback and a large, informative display, the Flatfish becomes overpriced as an integrated CD player.
Having been conditioned by my reference Illumination Orchid-coupled CEC TL1/Wadia 27 digital system, it was initially difficult to accept the 47 Lab. Despite the subsequent month-long familiarization period, during which I found the Japanese system enjoyable, there were instances when I felt the alarming pull of my CEC/Wadia-addiction from deep within. Instances also occurred during this review when I persistently returned to my system, concluding I was merely caught up in the new-gear excitement and passing overly favorable judgment on the 47 Lab. Alas, for each of my revisits to my digital reference, the impression of 47 Lab haunted me, bringing out dimensionality and resolution surpassing my CEC/Wadia, despite all the idiosyncrasies, and my resultant criticisms.
With a lack of user-selectable features, the 4705 Progression is probably the most expensive DAC on the market. Its omission of a phase inversion option requires the user to reconnect speakers manually to play an out-of-phase recording properly, should the connected preamplifier lack the phase inversion option as well. Finally, the singular coaxial digital input of the Progression limits interface options.
Furthermore, due to the Progression’s 22k Hz energy concentration and its lack of de-emphasizing function, cautious system matching is essential to minimize impact on fragile tweeters. While it is imperative to avoid playing emphasized CDs, it is of equal importance that the 47 Lab system is properly matched to a user-adjustable speaker in a sound system that is, at the same time, fundamentally neutral.
The Flatfish/Progression’s lack of AES/EBU digital transmission may have stopped the system’s continuous ascension to higher grounds, and I have yet to experience the sound of Progression’s 24/96-compatible DAC with an upsampler. In my opinion, the Flatfish’s existence can only be justified in its function as a pure CD transport, accompanied by the $2,700 4705 Progression DAC. At which point, putting aside the 47 Lab digital system’s sheer diminutive dimensions and visually deprived aesthetics, the $8,100 Flatfish/Progression fusion forms a formidable elite CD system, its undeniable triumph made evident by virtues of tonal purity and 3-dimensional stage depiction. Sonically, the 47 Lab digital system firmly belongs in the league of other super Redbook CD players.
Digital Front End
Audio Note DAC One 1.1x Signature
CEC TL1 CD transport
Sony SCD-777ES SACD/CD player
Wadia 27 Decoding Computer
Audio Note M3 preamplifier
McCormack DNA-1 Deluxe
Music Reference RM9 II
Apogee Duetta Signature
Audio Note AN-E/D
Audio Note AN-La (8 feet, bi-wired)
Audio Note AN-V silver cables (RCA 1m, 2 pairs)
Aural Symphonics AS-One (RCA 1m pair, 0.5m pair)
Canare L-5CFB 75-ohm digital cable (RCA, 1.5m)
Canare D206 110 ohm digital cable (AES/EBU, 1.5m)
Cardas Quadlink 5C (8feet)
Granite Audio #470 silver cables (RCA 1m, 2 pairs)
Granite Audio #560 AC Mains
Illuminations Orchid (1.5m, AES/EBU XLR)
Illuminations D-60 75 Ohm digital cable (1.5m, RCA)
Van den Hul MCD-352 (8feet)
Virtual Dynamics Nite Series complete cable system
Salamander Synergy 20 (2)
ASC Tube Traps
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