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From the Editor’s desk: DAGOGO 2005 Highlights / 2006 1st Quarter Outlook

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As 2005 draws to a conclusion, Dagogo would like to thank you, the readers, for your support. Dagogo would also like to thank the manufacturers and distributors for responding to Dagogo’s review invitations. Because of all the support, Dagogo has, to date, amassed the talents of six reviewers to broaden its scope. Dagogo would like to invite you to take a few moments to familiarize yourself with their unique background in our Staff Bios page.

We have shared our findings in a wide variety of equipment with our readers, from SETs to their powerful solid-state counterparts, and from small minimonitors to large horn speakers, and from affordable high-performance CD players to some of the best CD transports and DACs. In all, Dagogo has produced 25 equipment reviews, 20 music reviews and 17 unique commentaries to date since its inception during Thanksgiving 2003 two years ago. Among the equipment reviews, 5 were double-equipment reviews.

Check out our reverse-chronologically arranged Archive section for an easy examination of articles. Subsections of Archive are also provided in the categories of Digital Front-End, Amplification, Loudspeakers, Commentaries, and Miscellaneous.

Among the equipment reviewed in 2005 was the world’s only 32-bit/384kHz DAC and armed with ten Burr Brown OPA 627’s, the $5,700 Accustic Arts DAC I Mk3. Constantine Soo reviewed this DAC in the context of a vastly more expensive system, and found the German DAC to be the best solid-state DAC he has heard so far, thus earning the accolade of the best value in today’s solid-state DACs. Check out this remarkable engineering feat at 2006 CES, Alexis Park Resort, Room 2504.

But Constantine isn’t done yet — watch out for more interesting finding on the DAC I Mk3 in 2006. Constantine wasn’t prepared for what the machine had to offer; because even though Accustic Arts is very well-established and respected in Germany, it has not ventured ashore to make its abilities known to the U.S. audiophiles until recently.

For current users of the defunct Enlightened Audio Designs’ TheaterMaster Ovation, Boelen/Noble Electronics’ custom-modification of the DAC/Preamplifier should be indispensable. For around $1,300, the retrofitted Ovation “Plus” is another solid-state DAC that Constantine can endorse. Here is a tip: check out the EAD classifieds on Audiogon.

Case in point: Constantine is of the opinion that, although every equipment is critical, DACs are not the most important component in a system. Debates on which equipment is the most important abound. Many opine that the speakers are the most important, while Constantine believes that speakers are the most influential element in creating the sound of a system; but the one most important member of a system is the CD transport, the source component. Many Dagogo readers may have no trouble with this opinion, but the fact remains for many audiophiles that it is always more tempting to spend $10,000 on a pair of great-looking speakers than a CD transport. Never let your source equipment be the weaker link in your own system.

On the topic of cheap DACs, C. C. Poon of Monarchy Audio has just released the M24, a new DAC with built-in preamp. It employs one select grade PCM63P-K Burr Brown chip for each channel. Inconceivably, this thick aluminum-faceplate, expensive-looking unit is even equipped with two toroidal transformers for the digital and analog sections, a military-grade 6DJ8 for each channel in DAC, and two more in the line preamp, and yet retails for only $1,490. So, here it is: a powerful tube DAC with its own preamplifier; and after preliminary auditioning, Constantine has found the Monarchy Audio DAC M24 inconceivably good.

Sandy Greene will be reviewing this irresistible beauty; but, this time, for something so complete and yet so cheap, Constantine wonders if any Dagogo reader can really wait for Sandy’s review to come out before grabbing one right away. Even as the M24 allows you to dispense with a digital cable, the only question you have to ask yourself is: what degree of fidelity is your transport capable of? Check out this ridiculously cheap but high-performance machine at St. Tropez, suite 2001.

Being the most influential member of a music system, the loudspeaker category has 4 Dagogo entries in 2005, with the most noteworthy being the Genesis G6.1e, the top-of-the-line all-passive offering from Genesis Advanced Technologies Inc. Synonymous with the Arnie Nudell fame, Genesis has been producing strictly semi-active loudspeaker systems with its patented Servo-subwoofer technology a few years after its founding in the early-90s.

The $6,625 G6.1e is a full-blooded Genesis for a much wider range of pockets, and it is the Genesis speaker to own. Genesis will be demonstrating the new , paramount G3 in this CES, so although it’s a pity that show-goers won’t get to hear the G6.1e, who can afford not to check out the Genesis Exhibit at Alexis Park, Room 2301?

By contrast, the $26k Acapella La Campanella horn speaker may seem expensive; but it is really all about differences in priorities. And I do mean yours and mine. Because the strongly motivated audiophile will have brownbag meals and fewer cruise vacations, so as to save the money for the horn speakers. Check out the Acapella La Campanella as hosted by Aaudio Imports, at Alexis Park, Room 2504, and write to me and let me know what you think.

Now if you want to know what kind of performance you can get for $700, check out the Omega Minuet minimonitors as reviewed by Sandy Greene. It might just worth your while.

On the topic of speakers, you will be reading about Constantine’s take on the $1,500 system of Tannoy’s 5-inch Dual-Concentric ™ “Arena”, as well as the $12k GamuT L5 soon. On the latter, the 2.8Ω -minimum GamuT L5 will be illustrated in the context of the $9k Linn Klimax Chakra 500 Twin (review to come) and the $10k Audio Note M5 preamplifier, and the $7k Audia “Flight PRE” preamplifier (review to come) and the $11k “Flight 100” power amplifier. Of course, all would not be well without the 47 Lab PiTracer sending the most untainted signal to the Audio Note DAC5 Special. The audiophile parent lectures his disoriented son, “You don’t know the power of the dark side of a poor source equipment!”

2006 will be another year of excitement at Dagogo, as you will read about Laurence A. Borden’s take on a Chinese CD player, the $3,098 Original Leonardo CDA-9.3 CD player. As Dagogo’s readers may recall, Laurence shared his approval of Kazuo Kiuchi’s 2005 version of the best-selling DAP-777 20bitK2 DAC in 2005. Will the Original CD player continue to light Laurence’s fire?

In the DIY land, Bill Epstein will show us some fun with kits from Audio Note and Marchand Electronics, via his Wayne Parham and JBL horns. Check out his system in the Staff Bios.

Sandy Greene again! He is also reviewing solid-state amplifiers from Heed and Monarchy Audio, and we will soon find out if these affordable products can meet his approval when driving some very interesting speakers he will also be reviewing, such as the Audio Note AN-E/LX.

Being the B&W Nautius 800D-man, Ed Momkus will put aside his EVS Ultimate Attenuators and his $15,000 Electrocompaniet Nemo AW600 monoblocks in the Spring of 2006, to play with the Xindak XA82520 preamp and XA8800MN monoblocks. Are we making you happy yet, Ed? He will also take a crack at the $9.5k Sphinx Project Eight True Balanced Dual Mono preamplifier. Check out this machine at the May Audio Marketing Exhibit at Alexis Park, Room 1610.

Last minute news: as exciting as the ingenious and tireless C. C. Poon’s latest concoction is, it now has a SET companion in its midst: Dignity Audio DA08SE – “Dignity Audio 8 watts-per-channel Single-Ended”. Mr. Poon’s Monarchy Audio is the U.S. importer for this Hong Kong-made tube monoblock, and the MSRP is only $499 each for the KT-88 version, and $799 when equipped with the Electro Harmonix 300B tube. Bill Epstein will be sharing his finding with us in 2006.

Constantine auditioned a pair of Tom Evan’s latest, $16,000/pair, EL84-based “Linear B” monoblock power amplifier for 10 days in December by special arrangement, driving the Acapella La Campanella horn speaker that he reviewed in September, 2005. There are legions of audiophiles that have been yearning for the latest from Tom, and after so many years of reclusive preparations, Tom shows us what he has been able to achieve, and Constantine was all ears.

The audition took place in the context of the 47 Lab PiTracer/Audio Note DAC5 Special-based digital front-end, with Audio Note’s $31,750 M8 preamplifier. The entire system was also powered by: 1) $18,300 worth of a full Isoclean power management system, complete with isolation, filtering and a whole sleuth of cabling; 2) $7,200 in the Grand Prix Audio race car-grade, carbon-fiber amplifier stands and accessories; 3) $4,280 in Acapella speaker cable and accessories; 4) $4,100 powered interconnects named Professional Interlink, by the Holland company called SEEC (Scientific Essential Equipment Company) — and I thought “Dagogo” was cool enough; 5) $2,400 of Kubala-Sosna power cables. My profound thanks to Fred Nadel of for arranging this audition personally.

With all this supreme effort in custom power management, signal conveyance, vibration damping and brain cell-regenerating, Constantine was besieged. Feel the heat in an upcoming Commentary.

Audio Note is a name that conjures up excellence like no other, and the DAC5 Special has remained a reference DAC in Constantine’s system since 2003. In 2005, Peter Qvortrup and his team have finally perfected the miniaturization of the dual-chassis Galahad power supply from its M10 preamplifier, so that it can fit into a standard Audio Note chassis. Constantine’s DAC5 Special has been upgraded with the Galahad-class power supply accordingly, and he will publish his findings in a new Audio Note DAC5 Special Review in early 2006.

Similarly equipped is the $31,750 M8 preamplifier, which has been driving Kazuo Kiuchi’s Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777 300B SET power amplifier in Constantine’s system. How does it sound? It may take Constantine a very long time to find words concise enough to describe the sound in one sentence here; but he plans to also publish a full-length report in the first quarter of 2006.

But instead of waiting for the reviews to come out, you can hear his DAC5 Special, the very same M8, plus the $41k Audio Note AN-E SEC Signature he has been reviewing, at Audio Note’s Alexis Park Exhibit, in Room 2208!

Last not least, watch out for Dagogo’s coverage of the 2006 CES in the coming weeks.

From all of us at Dagogo, have a Happy New Year!

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