Friday, July 31, 2015

Plixir Signature Interconnect


Sound Affairs has expanded it's Plixir line to linclude high-end interconnects and power cables. You may want to have a look at my earlier post on the Plixir Elementa power cord.

I took a look recently at the Signature Interconnect, which sits above the entry-level model, Elementa.


The Plixir Signature Interconnect is finished in a pale blue jacket and is available in both RCA and XLR versions. The cable utilises Ohno Continuous Cast (OCC) copper conductors arranged in a star quad geometry, and is shielded. The cable is marked for signal direction. While I did not try to use the cable the "wrong" way around, the braided shield is tied at the source end only and should sound different hooked up both ways.The RCA version I had on hand was terminated with DH Labs RCA plugs.

The cables are quite flexible and unable to suspend light components in the air, unlike some of it's competitors. The plugs lack jaws of death required to rip out your RCA sockets - thank goodness for that. 

Easy to route, shielded to cut down on interference, and just the right amount of grip - my evaluation definitely started on a good footing.

Sound Quality

Bass notes are reproduced with control and a lack of smear. Midrange is a touch laidback but otherwise clear and natural. High frequencies are crisp, without sounding harsh or fatiguing. There is a commendable lack of grain to the sound.

This cable also performs well in staging and imaging, with a realistic portrayal of the recording venue and good separation of instruments and voices.

The Plixir Signature Interconnect has a certain rightness to it's sound and tonal balance. 

Users do not get sonic fireworks, attention grabbing presentation and the like. Instead, you get a highly resolving yet neutral and natural sounding cable.


The Plixir Signature delivers a very competent and no-nonsense performance for it's asking price. Highly recommended.


1 m pair     $349 (RCA and XLR). Addditional lengths are charged at $125 per 0.5 m pair.

Sound Affairs Pte Ltd

100 Beach Road, Shaw Tower
Singapore 189702

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Linnenberg Vivace DAC and Unisono DC Performance Pack


Linnenberg is not a name that is familiar to me. Yet, the company has been around for more than 20 years, manufacturing their equipment wholly in Germany (a rarity in today's world of outsourced production).

The product lineup is modest, with a headamp, DAC, DAC / headamp and linear power supply.


The Vivace DAC is a half-width component which is modest only in size and weight. The heart of the Vivace is the ESS 9018 Sabre DAC chip. Other noteworthy features include a femto master clock (82 femto seconds of jitter), a galvanically isolated USB circuit and a S/PDIF jitter reduction circuit.

Passive I/V conversion is done using a zero feedback circuit utilising precision resistors and an ultra low noise transistor.

The Vivace has two coaxial inputs and an asynchronous USB input. The coaxial inputs are limited to a maximum of 192 kHz sampling rate, while the USB input accepts all sampling frequencies up to 384 kHz. Both DSD64 and DSD128 are supported. The analog outputs include both single ended and balanced outputs.

The front panel of the Vivace includes a toggle switch for the input selector, a volume knob in the centre, and a power switch. LED indicators light up to show the selected input, DSD and DXD operation, and fixed (i.e. maximum) output.

I received the optional Unisono DC Performance Pack for purposes of this review. Visually, the Unisono is a perfect match for the Vivace DAC.


A quick word about ergonomics. The DC power supply connector interface used must be the tiniest and most fiddly type known to mankind. Despite my most gentle efforts, the connector is difficult to line up, and I believe that ham-fisted users are in real danger of breaking the connector.

I also disliked the volume control knob. It reminded me very much of Pinocchio's nose, and is too lightly weighted. Volume is set in the digital domain, so it would be best to use this only as a last resort.

Other than the above, operation was bomb-proof. The Vivace played anything thrown at it without skipping a beat (including DSD and DXD files) and was glitch-free even with my Auralic Aries streamer (both S/PDIF and USB). I also liked the fact that switching between sampling rates was done with very little delay.

It is also worth noting that the Vivace has a fairly high quality USB implementation, and the performance level between the USB and coaxial inputs were quite close in quality, although I had a slight preference for the USB input.

Sound Quality

The Vivace and Unisono combo will surprise you. It has a very cohesive and put together sound, with a graceful elegance that makes it eminently listenable. 

Tonally, it has a slightly warm and laidback character, with a very refined and silky midrange. This is coupled with a very detailed top-end, which is gentle and natural sounding. The bottom-end lacks a bit of punch compared to some of it's competitors, although it is by no means lightweight sounding.

Listening to a wide range of music, I was impressed by the Vivace's soundstaging and imaging capabilities, which reproduced three dimensional space and instrument placement to a degree that is likely to be class leading at it's price bracket.

Resolving power  was also very good, with good reproduction of very fine spatial clues and microdetail except for some very slight smoothing over of detail in the midrange. The Vivace was also unflappable during complex passages, maintaining a tight grip and excellent separation of instruments at all times.


The Vivace and Unisono offer a high level of performance, although they are more suited to listeners who like a very composed and more polite presentation. The Linnenberg duo are always firmly in control, but never really quite let their hair down. Some people will prefer their music with a bit more rawness and edge.

From a cost / performance ratio, I would also be curious to see how the Linnenberg performed with it's stock switched mode power supply, or another linear power supply - especially since the Unisono DC Performance Pack bumps up the price quite a fair bit. Prospective purchasers would do well to investigate that further.

The Vivace DAC retails for S$ 4,690 (with the Unisono DC Performance Pack) or S$ 3,690 (with the Plixir Balanced DC Power Supply). 

The review unit was supplied by Sound Affairs Pte Ltd, local dealer for Linnenberg.

Sound Affairs Pte Ltd

100 Beach Road, Shaw Tower
Singapore 189702

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Lumin D1 Music Player


I had the Lumin D1 on loan from a kind friend for a week. I walked away with a very good impression of the D1, especially for it's price tag (about S$ 2,000).

The D1 is an affordable music streamer that can either stream from a NAS, or removable USB storage. An onboard DAC makes this a one-box solution unlike it's competitors from Aurender and Auralic.


Control is via Lumin's iPad app. At time of writing, official versions for other platforms were not available. 

Compared to Lumin's more expensive models, the D1 omits battleship construction, and utilises a single circuit board housed in a more compact chasis. You still get dual Wolfson WM8741 DAC chips and balanced outputs though. A switched mode power supply is provided. However, my friend had purchased a balanced DC power supply from Sound Affairs, and I used that during the time I had the D1.

Looking at pictures of the internal layout of the D1, the analog circuit omits the Lundahl output transformers in pricier models, and the separate hollowed out sections in the case. Part quality remains high. There are six green electrolytic capacitors (i am pretty sure these are Nichicon Muse BPs) towards the rear of the board  (presumably to serve as coupling capacitors). There is also a pulse transformer near the BNC digital output which provides galvanic isolation. 

The Lumin has no remote control, which leaves you reliant on it's app (or another third-party compatible app) to control it.

The Lumin app allows a high degree of control over the D1, including a variety of upsampling and downsampling settings. You can even set the D1 to transcode DSD files to PCM on the fly (for the digital output), which allowed me to playback DSD files on my Calyx Femto DAC which is not DSD compatible - very useful.

I currently use the Auralic Aries and some quick comparisons in the features department would be in order.

The Aries comes with a remote control (which can only control very basic functions), and has more flexible digital output options (e.g. USB, coaxial, Toslink and AES/EBU). The Aries also has a built-in wi-fi module to hook up wirelessly to your NAS, in addition to an Ethernet port for wired connection.

The D1 in comparison has a single digital output in the form of a BNC socket. Network connection is via Ethernet only. I strongly preferred the display on the D1, which displays track information, elapsed / remaining time, file format, bit depth and sampling rate. The Aries only tells you the number of tracks in the playlist, the track number being played, and elapsed / remaining time - not particularly useful information if you ask me.

Both machines can play from attached USB storage such as a USB hard disk or thumb drive, making a NAS unnecessary. 

The D1 has more solid build quality - aluminum vs the plastic casing of the Aries (a necessary evil for wi-fi transmission according to Auralic).

I would also rate the D1 more highly in terms of user friendliness and stability. I enjoyed using the Lumin app more, and the player did not crash once during the time I had it. The Aries on the other hand locks up once in a while, requiring a reboot to sort things out.

Sound Quality

The D1 has a warmish balance. Bass notes have a nice bloom to it, with a slightly rounded and organic quality. Midrange has a similar light golden hue to it. It is not overtly warm, but with a slight liquid and smooth feel. Female vocals have a bit more body that usual, while there is some smoothing over of vocal texture and sibilance. HIgh frequencies are well-behaved and detailed, but with some subtle reduction in decay and ambience.

Soundstaging and imaging are good, although depth was a little bit lacking compared to soundstage width. 

The D1 has above average resolution and maintains good separation even during busy moments. Tonally, it has a "chunkier" feel, and sonic images have a degree of solidity and weight to them. 

I would even dare say that the quality of the onboard DAC alone is probably worth more than the D1's price tag, and fully up to scratch as a source for midrange and even entry-level high-end setups. 

From an absolute viewpoint, the D1 is not neutral and trades a bit of resolution for a flattering and easy-going presentation (many of my mangled recordings sounded quite palatable through the D1).

Used purely as a "transport", the D1 can deliver higher performance if paired with a better DAC. It sounded better connected to my Calyx Femto DAC, improving all round, but most noticeably in bass extension and microdetail. Interestingly enough, the warmish balance and midrange liquidity carries over to the Calyx too. 

I still feel that the Aries outperforms the D1 used as a transport, but the Aries carries a similar price tag, while devoting the full budget to it's streaming circuit and digital outputs. I think either devices are a good bet, depending on user needs. The D1 is a great single-box solution, while the Aries would be perfect for someone who already owns a good DAC.


The Lumin D1 is a very competent and affordably priced component. I can only imagine how good the higher range A1 and S1 may be. 

Lumin is going to have it's hands very full trying to keep up with demand for it's new baby - Highly Recommended.

Thank you CS, for the loaner !

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

UpTone Audio USB REGEN


USB isn't always what it is cracked up to be. Not too long ago, asynchronous mode USB audio seemed to be the perfect solution for all problems in audiophile life. The problem is that the quality of implementation varied tremendously. Some DACs pulled it off really well, while some were just underwhelming compared to their SPDIF inputs. 

Anyway, you can never keep a good audiophile down, and many resorted to offboard USB to SPDIF convertors to save the day. In fact, you will find numerous threads debating on the sonic differences between the various devices on the market.

Let's throw another device into the fray.


The UpTone Audio USB REGEN is a small nifty device that fits between your computer / streamer and the USB input of your DAC. It combines a USB hub chip with an ultra-low noise regulator and low-jitter clock to regenerate your data signal. 

Instead of drawing on the voltage of your PC / streamer, it takes the power from an external power supply and provides a regulated and cleaner 5V to your DAC. A switch mode power supply brick manufactured by Meanwell is supplied to do the job, although UpTone encourages you to experiment with a nicer linear power supply. 

Also included in the package is a male / male USB A / B adapter, so that you can directly hang the REGEN from your DAC, as well as a 6 inch cable in case you don't have the space to do that.

The REGEN has a LED to indicate operation, and a DC socket to accept a voltage from 6-9V DC. You could even use a 12V DC supply provided you a certain that your USB input draws minimal or no power at all.

Sound Quality

I tried the REGEN with a variety of equipment, both DACs and a USB / SPDIF convertor. Similar to my experience with the Astin Trew Concord Powered USB cable system (review here), the REGEN made an improvement in all situations, even for equipment which did not draw power from the computer over the USB cable. It made an obvious improvement even for the Linnenberg Vivace DAC, which boasts a galvanically isolated USB circuit.  

To be continued ...

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Entreq Olympus Ground Box


Entreq of Sweden has been busy over the last few years, with the release of a number of new ground boxes, and add-on devices for existing models too. Please have a look at my earlier post on the Entreq Tellus and Eartha silver cables for more information on how these ground boxes work. 


The Olympus is the new top of the range of Entreq's mini ground boxes. It is physically larger than the previous mini box range, and the 9 kg weight is quite substantial. This box is definitely more midi than mini.

The Olympus has a single silver binding post on the rear and is described by Entreq as being designed to ground preamplifiers and DACs, or as a ground for their cables and AC conditioners. The wooden feet appear to be a new design, and are nice oval wood discs compared to the very basic feet on my Tellus.

Sound Quality

I tried the Olympus is a variety of locations. I first  tried it attached to the grounding post of my Gryphon Diablo integrated amplifier (Entreq recommends their larger models for such applications), but the effect seemed to unbalance the coherency of the system.  I ended up doing most of my listening with the Olympus connected to the ground point of my DAC (in my bedroom system) and preamp (in my main system). Like the Entreq ground boxes I currently own, the Olympus needs to "settle down", with the sound stabilizing over a day or two. I used my Eartha Silver cables to make all necessary connections. 

The effect of the Olympus has some similarities to the Tellus, with an improvement in imaging and soundstaging, and enhanced detail retrieval. However, the similarities end there - the Olympus has a more forceful and dynamic sound, compared to the calmer and more laidback presentation of the Tellus. Bass gains authority, while midrange presence moves up a notch or two. This results in a more energetic and intimate performance, as the staging moves forward a few rows.

Leading edge definition is also increased, together with tonal density and dynamic contrast. This results in a sonic picture with more "pop" and dynamics. If your system is lacking in life and vitality, the Olympus could really be the adrenaline boost needed. On the other hand, if your system needs a calming influence, the Tellus is probably a better bet.

According to other user reports, the choice of grounding cable is also critical. I could not experiment there since I only had the Eartha Silver cables on hand.


The effect of the Olympus (or any ground device for that matter) is system dependent. I got the best results in my bedroom system, with a less potent change in my main system (although the changes were along broadly similar lines). A home trial would be mandatory, to find the the model best suited for your system and taste. 

I have been using Entreq ground boxes in my system for a few years now and highly recommend them. 

This review model was arranged by Mr. D.C. Swee of X-Audio Pte Ltd, the local dealer for Entreq. 

Entreq Olympus
Local Promotional Price - S$ 2,800

X Audio Pte Ltd
1 Jalan Anak Bukit
#01-01S Bukit Timah Plaza
Singapore 588996