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Hifi presents the thinking woman and man with a number of bullshit scenarios. The prosecution calls on the floor the old scam about too much resolution. It's simply not a persuasive argument at all to claim that unsatisfactory sonics result from too much resolution. Resolution is nothing but magnification power. Unless our resolution engine was somehow endowed with artificial intelligence or evil willfullness to make up fake stuff, the only thing higher resolution can do is retrieve more of what's actually there. And how could that be a bad thing unless what's there is like the malevolent gobblygook small print at the end of contracts drawn up by corporate attorneys we'd rather not read or sign.

But it's certainly true that all of us have heard systems where something about the presentation suggested hyped and unnatural resolution. Because we don't know better, we then do one of two things. We blame the software by insisting that a superior hifi component should make a bad recording worse by holding everything that's wrong with it right under our wrinkled noses. Or we blame the hardware as bedeviled by unnatural resolution that exceeds what human ears would or could perceive in the stead of the microphones. If my read on the NWO 3.0-GO is correct, both of these arguments are nothing but more steamin'-fresh hifi bullshit.

I now believe that crimes pinned on resolution are really sins committed in the high frequencies. Take an adjustable time-aligned speaker like a Green Mountain Audio. Set it up deliberately wrong such that the tweeter precedes the output of the midrange. Sibilants will be emphasized, transients crispified - hello digital etch and annoyance. Even apparently insignificant timing errors in the treble cause undue sharpness and etchiness. This is easily demonstrated by moving a tweeter module forward or back by a quarter inch when the filter network is of the minimum phase kind. What do we call timing errors in audio? Phase shift. Could the bad we conventionally accuse the hyper in resolution of simply be due to treble phase errors?

The concept of 20 digital converters per channel running this rebuilt Esoteric machine at 32 bits each certainly suggests extreme resolution. Given the above, you could be forgiven for projecting all manner of unnatural acts on it. For my review of ModWright's modified Slim Devices Transporter, I quoted Richard Kulavik of AKM Semiconductors on their 24-bit chip: "This DAC is a large departure from other delta-sigma DACs designed by us and others like BurrBrown, Analog Devices and Cirrus Logic. The AK4396 is an entirely new modulator, pioneered and patented by AKM. It achieves something unique. In the past, many of the old Phillips and BurrBrown parts were R-2R resistor-ladder products. These older products were looked upon as some of the best. One of the reasons was high frequency noise. In older R-2R parts, HF noise was not present. In all delta-sigma parts prior to the AK4396, everyone has fought HF noise caused from the delta-sigma modulator with the insertion of large filters and other parts to attempt to solve a problem created by the delta-sigma design. The AK4396 today effectively does not suffer any modulator-induced HF noise and is over 60dB better than the nearest Cirrus and BB devices. All of this HF noise can cause many audible artifacts downstream. That is the 'miracle' we believe is making the difference today. This part gives you the performance and linearity of a delta-sigma device with the noise performance of an R-2R part, something that was never previously available."

Esoteric's radically rebuilt UX-1 makes Kulavik's claim seem the exact opposite of bullshit - a wet cow kiss perhaps? Seriously, I'm convinced. That's because the NWO 3.0-G0 has transformed all of my 'beloved but exhausting' albums into non-fatiguing fab exploits. I refer to fare like my high-octane Transylvanian Gypsy stuff, my Middle-Eastern pop outings with super power vocals but apparently overcooked sonics. Suddenly these ear challenges which usually get spun only when my wife is out and my pink bits are fresh and perky have very little if anything wrong with 'em.

That's the miracle of these AKM number crunchers at least when implemented as they've been here. I personally don't care whether the culprit was treble phase shift, HF modulation noise or bats in the belfry. Whatever was wrong with the treble before has been righted. That simple act now renders everything supremely listenable. Don't invoke a syrupy equalizer action, a kind of cloying tubulator that rounds over all the offending bits to become acceptable. Not. Go thee hither, syrupy devil, before I smyte thee! Brilliant recordings continue to demonstrate their superiority over lesser specimens. Those differentiators remain solidly in place just as plain common sense dictates they should. Sharper reading glasses don't magically transform inferior paper or bindings of a book. What the APL Hifi machine has surgically removed is that nefarious digital stinger, that whatever-was-still-wrong-with-it treble issue. That's the key observation of living with this machine for a week. It's as accurate as this non-engineer can put it to you.

In his group review of top digital, Harry Pearson at The Abso!ute Sound made an interesting comment about the Zanden. He complained that it tried too hard to emulate analogue rather than build merits for its native format. One could certainly accuse the Zanden of treble softness, of a lack of ultimate bass heft and of not being the last word in macro dynamics (this is based on ownership of the pre-SuperClock iteration). And, the NWO 3.0-GO addresses all of these complaints, about which more later. First and foremost, it makes CDs sound just as 'analogue'. Yet it does so without the Zanden's rolled-off high frequencies. Knowing of Yamada-San's disdain for SACD because of its treble phase issues, I suspect he would very much appreciate what these cutting-edge 32-bits 'n' bobs by AKM are capable of. In gestalt like his 16-bit converter, the NWO 3.0-GO simply adds the musical energy that relies on fully developed upper harmonics. Once you hear that energy released, it makes the Zanden comparatively tamer, paler and just a bit emasculated.

The biggest advance the NWO has thus far made in Casa Coral Bay is to unlock a significant off-limits portion of my CD library. I'm omnivorous in my disc buying routine and never worry about listenability, only musical stimuli. Alas, reality and the long-term health of my ears do bite. As a result, certain discs languish in the forbidden sector - potent music drugs guaranteed to induce a major hang-over and headaches so sheer self preservation enforces strict moderation. The NWO now
allows me to consume the forbiddens over headphones while my wife is in the next room - and at happy volumes. Yousa. Headphone listening is the closest thing to having music hard-wired to your brain. This became the surest proof that the digital stinger had indeed been pulled and exorcised. Musically speaking, my Cyprus residency had me go native. I'm talking Hüsnü Senlendirici & Laco Rafya's Bergama Gaydasi, Kadim Al Sahir's Nizzar Qabbani classics, earlier Bratsch outings like Ecoute ca Cherie, Mustafa Sandal's Araba, Cheb Mami's Lazrag Saani, Hakim's Talakik, Emil Zrihan's L'Youm Dima, Yaghoub Zoroufchi, Natacha Atlas. While you likely won't know those albums or artists, simply replace them with your favorite Classic Rock or Pop albums - things you want to listen to but don't regularly because they make your ears ring particularly at the levels called for by the tunes.

The core lesson the 3.0-GO has taught is that my CD collection harbors far less evil than suspected. While this phrasing might read cute, the upshot is very real and fierce. I get to exercise my omnivorous appetites not merely theoretically or rarely but now daily. That's liberating and invigorating. The fact that Alex Peychev doesn't process SACD natively but converts it to PCM suggests he agrees on the treble sins of digital. This lends further credence to the above observations which struck me as the most relevant and potent aspects of initial NWO ownership. Energy transmission -- the most vital quality of music playback in my book bar none -- is uncut but not artificially spiked. It's refreshing and stimulating, not wearing. Yes, you can avoid wear Zanden-style by deliberately diluting the energy a bit. But APL Hifi-style, that's no longer necessary. If you listen like me, the implications are obvious...