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Enlightened Audio Designs Ovation Plus As Modified By Boelen-Noble Electronics Review

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Operating Ovation Plus

The Ovation Plus came with a blacklit LCD touch-screen remote control and a setup microphone, which is for output level calibration on speakers in a surround sound setup.

All functionalities were accessible only via the touch-screen remote, and the flexibility of the remote in accommodating all functions was impressive, but no more impressive than the array of arsenals presented by the Ovation Plus. The included microphone with its some 12-foot long cord was to be held at ear level at the center listening position, allowing it to engage the automatic calibration of respective speaker’s output for a uniformly timed sound field from all five speakers.

Though simpler than a five-speaker setup, my 2-channel, stereo arrangement nevertheless couldn’t escape fault-detection by the EAD OP. After the automatic setup via the microphone, it showed the output levels of 15.9dB and 16.8dB respectively from the left and right speakers to the listening position. This is most useful in fine-tuning speakers distancing, especially to a stereo setup like mine.

The Ovation Plus’ 2-channel operation required a few preliminary preparatory steps for performance optimization. Once set, regular operation afterwards was relatively straightforward and intuitive, but regular reference to the manual proved to be educational and indispensable continuously.

The OP was designed to be on constant standby with the rear power switch set to ON, with full operation to be reactivated only via the supplied LCD display remote. Upon activation, the blue letters 6000 were displayed, followed sequentially by half a dozen protocol recognition displays, such as “High-End Surround Sound Processor”, “HDCD Audio MPEG2 Digital Audio”, “Premium 20-bit D/A 20-bit ΔΣA/D”, “Switched Resistive Array Volume Control”, and a few luminous others, like that of AccuLinear® and Digital Flywheel®.

The Owner’s Manual, dated 6/9/98, mentioned the need for connecting speakers capable of full-range performance in the 2-channel, stereo listening to the OP in ordert to preserve advantages accorded in HDCD® playback. The onboard 4th order, user-adjustable crossover was not to roll off lower frequencies from compact front speakers to be sent to a subwoofer, or to release those speakers of reproducing lower frequencies. Instead, the crossover would send such frequencies to a subwoofer only for augmentation of the front speakers’ output.

For audio, the EAD OP has 3 pairs of ANALOG AUDIO RCA inputs, 3 DIGITAL AUDIO RCA inputs and one ST-type input. For the purpose of this review, one of the RCA digital inputs were used.

The display of 6000 upon power-on was a remnant of latter software upgrade via an EPROM (erasable programmable read-only memory) computer chip change, when Alpha Digital renamed the series from that of Encore/Ovation/Signature to 6000/8000. Per Greg, the software upgrade took place after the AD acquisition, which addressed minor system bugs and assured operational reliability. Although there had been customer suggestions of restoring the display to show Encore/Ovation/Signature, it was never addressed on time.

Set-Up & Auditioning

In the place of a DAC and a preamplifier, the Boelen/Noble-modified EAD Ovation Plus was steered by the 47 Lab PiTracer CD transport, and drove various solid-state power amplifications, including the Audia Flight 100 solid-state power amplifier and the Linn Klimax Twin, as well as the Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777 SET amplifier. In other times, Audia Flight’s Pre served as the preamplifier.

Primary loudspeakers rotated for this review included the very efficient Acapella La Campanella, and the inefficient Apogee Duetta Signature. Boelen Electronics’ Digital-Precise linked up the PiTracer to the Ovation Plus, and Audio Note’s AN-Vx silver interconnects ran from the OP to power amplifier, while AN’s AN-SPx silver speaker cable fed the speakers.

Initial auditions on the original Ovation revealed the necessity of coupling it to a high-quality active preamplifier, having failed in my hands to produce the dynamics I crave for when asked to drive a power amplifier directly. Without a preamp, it sounded mildly compressed at times, especially when playing back dynamic and natural-sounding CDs, such as those from JVC’s XRCDs, and not very extended at the otherwise rich and smooth top-end.

Retrospectively, the factory-Ovation already produced rich top-ends and excellent dimensionality in direct connection to power amplifiers. Its competence in low-level detailing and ambience decay remained commensurate of a modern, top-quality DAC, thus represented a tremendous value for many audiophiles in the used market.

Without a preamp, whether it was with the Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777/Acapella La Campanella system, or the Audia Flight 100/Celestion SL700 system, the factory-EAD consistently manifested an inability to attain my preferred dynamic threshold. Yet, in terms of output, the factory-EAD was already adequately loud at -25dB attenuation on its own, albeit truncated dynamics.

After experimenting with its coupling to the Audia Flight Pre, I found the factory-Ovation to be not summarily devoid of merits in dynamics. Once arriving at 0dB attenuation in tandem to the Audia Flight, it was transformed, its feeble signal being seemingly accelerated and enriched via the external preamplification. Consequently, transients became more incisive, giving recreation of instruments enhanced distinction.

I would’ve been twice as enthusiastic had the Boelen/Noble folks just boasted a little about what their work would do to the factory-EAD, for I was less than impressed when the factory-Ovation left, but considerably shaken when it came back modified.

Upon its return, the Ovation became Ovation Plus, a new entity refitted with 15 Black Gate capacitors, 12 Rubycon capacitors, Fairchild “Stealth” soft recovery Diode, Boelen/Noble’s own concoction of Dissipative Noise Attenuation and some low pass filters, displayed its foremost metamorphosis in the newfound dynamic capacity and tonal complexity. For I inserted it back into the system sans a preamplifier, and there it performed to my approval until the day of its imminent departure.

This time, the Ovation Plus was able to drive power amplifiers directly without the mildly truncated dynamics, showing no strain in producing gratifying transient swings. The same -25dB of volume summoned persistent displays of dynamic and tonal sophistication.

For example, the stark contrasts in dynamics between the Japanese 3-string shamisen and rumbling taiko from the JVC XRCD2 Ondekoza (JVC XRCD2 SVCD-1027) were presented in invigorating drama by the Ovation Plus, with differentiating scales and vigor, conveying a most convincing reenactment of the event.

Piano, the one instrument harnessing a consummate spectrum, is always the most revelatory in caliber of an audio system used for reproducing its sound. In this case, classical piano in the hands of Sviatoslav Richter in yet another JVC XRCD (Beethoven: “Appassionata” & “Funeral March” sonatas, JM-XR24017), also dazzled with fine layers of hovering, complex tonality via the Ovation Plus, and was anchored appropriately by the reverberating, resounding hammering of the piano. It was one of the rare occasions in my system that a DAC had reproduced a variety of instruments in such realism sans a preamplifier.

Putting the Audia Flight Pre back into the loop, with the OP set to 0dB attenuation again, I was in receipt of a second astonishment.

In addition to dynamic and tonal finesse, there was an unimpeded spectral clarity and bottom-end solidity, rivaling the best in today’s solid-state DACs I’ve experienced. Undoubtedly, the Pacific Microsonic™ HDCD® scheme, being an integral part of the audiophile 2-channel playback, contributed to the uniqueness of the Ovation Plus. Frankly, it became hard to tear myself away from listening to music via the EAD OP.

Conclusion

The Boelen/Noble Electronics-modified Enlightened Audio Designs TheaterMaster® Ovation Plus asserted a higher plain of performance classification than the original version, and surpassed my expectations of a DAC/preamplifier combination. The value of the modification is further enhanced for latecomers purchasing a used EAD Ovation or 6000 and then opting for the Noble upgrade.

Modified, the Ovation Plus of Boelen/Noble is an embodiment of brilliant re-engineering of sorts, and for readers who invested into this machine, the $1,295 modification cost will at the least bring the stock unit’s performance up to par with some of today’s best under $5k.

Therefore, it is most definitely to the audiophiles’ advantage that one of EAD’s former principal employees is utilizing his experience from EAD and continuing to offer post-purchase modifications to EAD owners.

In its heydays, Enlightened Audio Designs was a much celebrated new wave in its forward design and thoughtful engineering, and its products helped propagate a memorable momentum in audiophiles’ adaptation of DAC/preamp designs. Though now defunct, EAD’s worthy products were designed with upgradeability in mind with the highly modular platform, and Boelen/Noble Electronics’ has proved to be most competent and instrumental in serving EAD-philes.

It is surprising that with such elaborate signal processing going on, the defunct Enlightened Audio Designs’ TheaterMaster® Ovation signal processor’s 2-channel music presentation could still attain such level of sonic competence even to today’s standards. Buy an EAD Ovation/6000 now before everyone finds out – before the worth of these marvelous machines are bid up in various venues.

Comments from Noble Electronics

Dear Constantine,

Thank you so much for that wonderful review. You truly have a gift for describing all the
subtleties in musical playback. Your poetic words are very charming and kind. You did
a great job of the history of EAD. The whole review was like a piece of music where one
segment would segue into another.

Thanks again Constantine for the kind review. It’s a pleasure working with you, and I
look forward to our next collaboration.

Warm regards,

Greg

Greg Palma
Noble Electronics Inc

The new home of EAD service and Boelen Mods
1973 155th Street
Fairfield, Iowa 52556
USA
greg@nobleElectronics.net
641.469.5092

One Response to Enlightened Audio Designs Ovation Plus As Modified By Boelen-Noble Electronics Review


  1. Doug Chisholm says:

    I have owned a T-1000 for many years although my component stereo has probably been used for less than 400 hours since 1996. Recently acquired an AR Ref 110 amp, an AR DAC-3 and an AR Ref II Mk II preamp playing though Spendor 69s with Sequerra Ribbon Tweeters (35 years old). But my T-1000 will only play the first 60 seconds of the first track on any CD I try to play. The 60 seconds are phenomenal, but a little short. Can’t play any track beyond the first. Used a disk cleaner to clean the laser but it will not run through the cycle. Do you do repairs on the T-1000 or do I need to look for a new transport? Thanks in advance for any help you can offer, Doug

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