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Reviewer: Ken Micallef
Digital Source: Audiomeca Mephisto IIX, Linn Unidisk 1.1 [on loan], Classé Omega SACD2 [on loan]
Analog Source: Rega P2/Grado Prestige Gold cartridge
Preamp: Shindo Monbrison
Amps: BAT VK-75
Speakers: Gallo Reference 3 [in for follow-up review]
Cables: Luminous Audio Synchestra Signature IC; Stealth PGSX and 3D ICs, 3MLT Hybrid speaker cables [in for review]; Luminous Audio Synchrestra Reference ICs and Synchresta Signature speaker cables [in for review]
Stands: Salamander 5.0 rack, 2" Mapleshade platforms (8" x 15" x 2"), Blue Circle custom amp stand (for BAT)
Powerline conditioning: BPT Model BP-3.5 Signature Ultra Isolator for digital components and turntable, JPS Kaptovator power cords, Shunyata Black Mamba and Anaconda Vx Powersnakes
Sundry accessories: Mapleshade Surefoot and Heavyfoot brass points and IsoBlocks; (8) RPG ProFoam damping panels/ceiling treatment, Mapleshade Ionoclast for static cling, HALO-O Vacuum Tube Damping Instrument
Room size: 24' x 12' with 10-13' sloped ceiling, short-wall setup
Review component retail: US $7500, DAC cord upgrade $250
Anyone remotely interested in the build, sound and secret sauce found in the Audiomeca Mephisto IIx should begin their inquiry with a comfortable chair, a cigar (in my case) and Srajan's interview with Pierre Lurné, the main designer and audio expert behind this statement digital product. Once you have consumed this archived piece, a number of things will be clear. One, unlike almost every other CD or SACD or DVD player manufacturer in existence, Audiomeca builds its own Compact Disc Mechanism (CDM) from the ground up. Two, Lurné is one of the world's top turntable designers (Romance turntable/Romeo tonearm). He sees correlations between spinning vinyl LPs and hard plastic CDs full of 1s and 0s and designed the IIx accordingly. Three, Lurné and Audiomeca go the extra mile and then some with design, materials and principles to achieve what they hope will be a world-beating design, one that pairs the resolution of digital with the smoothness, warmth and ear-friendliness of vinyl.
A company that builds its own CDM and doesn't outsource from Sony, Pioneer or Philips? With this degree of conviction, surely Audiomeca would treat every aspect of the IIx -- from vibration and resonance control to motor concerns, cosmetics and power supplies -- with equal gravity. I must admit that even after reading the moons missive, I was still somewhat in the dark. So, I gleaned from that article and others to understand more about the IIx's internals. Audiomeca's website was certainly no fountain of info but did reveal a goodly bit about the IIx's Enkianthus DAC and transport mechanism.
A word about the info that follows: We on the good ship 6moons have of late been concerned about quoting from manufacturer's websites as though their marketing schemes were always straight-laced facts. Please be advised that the following quoted material comes straight from the mouth of Pierre Lurné. In short order, wisdom from the manufacturer, followed by a general description of the IIx's functions, cosmetics and design accommodations, and a Q&A with Lurné himself. My point in all this is to relay as much info as possible while avoiding the pimply taint of manufacturer suck-up-ism. Better men than I have fallen prey to wily words, PR bull and the allure of easy audio titillation. (Okay, I have fallen for it too as easily as Selma Blair's sultry gaze.)
|The Audiomeca Mephisto IIx is a massive chrome and metacrylic affair and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful CD players you will ever see. Just as Audiomeca found its own solutions to CDM manufacture, the cosmetic design of the IIx is utterly original. Even those who didn't care for the IIx's sound marveled at its looks. Measuring 14 ¼" (D) x 17" (W) x 6 ½" (H), the IIx is accompanied by a fairly weighty chrome "alimentation box", the player's outboard power supply that measures 3" (H) x 8 ¼" (D) x 5" (W). The box actually contains two separate power supplies divided into DAC and servo sections. Accordingly, the unit|
|has two separate cords, one terminated in what resembles an average PC serial pin connector. The IIx's remote is no big whoop, the same small palm-fitting job that came with my old 47Labs Shigaraki CD player. While no great shakes to look at, the remote worked well but its black case and slim design caused me to lose it all the damn time.
Words of wisdom from Pierre Lurné
I still had questions regarding the Mephisto's build and design so I dropped a line to Pierre Lurné via the Audiomeca website. His replies were prompt and occasionally humorous.
|Is the Mephisto IIx CDM a belt-drive mechanism? If so, what is the benefit of a belt-drive CDM? What is the belt made out of and how thick is it?|
|I am afraid that some of your questions come from strange magical audiophile beliefs that make our HiFi job more complicated. For example, your first question. Belt-driven or not is not the key to make a good CD mechanism. Please recall that I am originally an analog designer and that we produce our own CD mechanism. The digital world does not behave like the straightforward analog world. Well, the Mephisto does use a belt but not on the drive. We use it on the laser head movement for accuracy of position mainly. The belt is made from a string (no possible stretch wear) for the same reason. All this is done to relax the servo as each time it is at work, you get more jitter.
|The TNT review states that the Mephisto CDM "avoids pitfalls of stiffening ribs or clamps that generate noise and vibration by being aerodynamic." Can you explain what the reviewer meant by aerodynamics and how it applies to the IIx?|
|This simply means that there is no fan effect. If something moves and shakes the air, you get air displacement and vibrations, which requires more to control. Everything that moves makes noise. That's life.|
|In what other ways is the Mephisto built to control resonances?|
|This is based on our long experience as an analog manufacturer. Mass + materials choice + damping + suspension and decoupling + attention to [how] vibrations pass/travel + attention to vibrational propagation speeds in various materials etc.|
|Is there a lead mass in the base of the Mephisto? If so, why lead and how is it implemented? Why lead and not some other material? And why did you elevate the Mephisto on a base to begin with?|
|A lead mass is built into the large single base. The purpose is to lower the general center of gravity. Lead is an excellent material for us. This is due to its very high Q damping and its very low vibrational speed.|
|Is the Mephisto made out of metacrylic? If so, what is that and why use that?|
|You are right: all black shiny parts are made from metacrylate. That’s very expensive, my God! The reasons for its use are similar to the above. In short, one can say that lead and metacrylate are “sonically dead” since they cannot ring like bells. [Metacrylate is a hard composite polymer derived from mixing acrylate with methacrylic ester or methyl metacrylate for a tough plastic cement Ed.]|
|The platter of the IIx’s CDM is 44mm as opposed to the standard 30mm; how did you arrive at that size? What else figured into the total 600gram weight of the CDM?|
|Philips/Sony Redbook stated a diameter of 30mm for a CDM platter because of how things were sized in the early days. To increase that diameter gives better stability but 44 is the max. 45 hides the TOC (table of contains). The 600gram comes from the massive CDM body. The cost of heavy parts is too much for the big industry; consequently everything is made to weigh little. That often means too light for correct vibration control. There is a mathematical ratio between the lens weight and complete laser head, then another one for the next step, head and CDM etc. The industry at large doesn’t believe it can afford to respect that. It costs too much. Too bad. If there is one important feature in the Mephisto, it is this drive mechanism no doubt.
|Does the extra weight of the platter and CDM help with resonance and vibration control?|
|Yes, more or less because there is a limit and it could be very dangerous if badly done.
|Why does a CD player need to be level?|
|Because of the spinning movements. When not perfectly vertical, a spinning spindle develops one-sided friction on one part of the bearing only. It gets used up too quickly and produces noise.|