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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
27" iMac with 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 16GB 1.333MHz RAM, 2TB hard disc, 256GB SSD drive, ADM Radeon HD 6970M with 2GB of GDDR5 memory and OSX 10.8.2 Mountain Lion, PureMusic 1.86 in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM and AIFF files up to 24/192; Audirvana; April Music Eximus DP1, Esoteric/APL Hifi UX1/NWO-M with Audiophilleo 2
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright LS-100 with Synergy Hifi tubes, Esoteric C-03, Bent Audio Tap-X, TruLife Audio Athena, AURALiC Taurus [on review]
: First Watt SIT1, ModWright KWA 100SE, Acoustic Imagery Atsah [on review], April Music Stello Ai700 [on review]
Speakers: Aries Cerat Gladius, Voxativ Ampeggio, AudioSolutions Rhapsody 200 [on review]
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Audio Event,
KingRex uArt USB cable with Bakoon BPS-02 uninterruptible power supply
Artesania Esoteric twin 3-tier with optional glass table, Rajasthani hardwood rack for amps
Powerline conditioning: GigaWatt PF2 on amps, GigaWatt PC3SE Evo on front end components

Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review Component Retail: $5.000/pr

High-End 2012 photos from Leo Yeh's

23 June 2012 16:38. "We will be able to ship Merak*1 units in small quantities to the media and our retail partners by the end of July if you are interested."

That was 王轩骞 or Xuanqian Wang of AURALiC. Harbouring ICEpower misgivings—not per se but having reviewed a number of such amps I was keen on different—he quickly set me straight: "ICEpower is old-fashioned, not friendly with different loads and the performance deteriorates at high frequencies. We run a heavily modified Hypex UcD module for much better performance than stock. The mod procedure is secret but we can provide a before/after test chart. That clearly shows how it now measures far better to also reflect on subjective listening.
"Most ICEpower boards integrate a switching power supply. That cannot be bypassed. An SMPS has less than ideal dynamics due to its natural limitations. Also bass will never equal a linear supply on extension and ease. Our Merak thus uses an expensive linear supply—500-watt low-noise Plitron mains transformer and over 56.000uF capacitance—to produce far better bass. We also integrate a Lundahl input transformer and our class A Orpheo module to overcome most the liabilities of class D. We have sent prototypes to several domestic reviewers. All of them were amazed when told that the Merak uses a switching output stage. They couldn't believe class D can sound this good. We also organized a party in our location using the amps on different loudspeakers including the most challenging kind. Feedback was terrific."


*1 If you wonder about the name, Merak is also Beta Ursae Maioris, a star in the constellation of the Big Bear 80 light years from the earth.

"We have a pair of NCore NC1200 samples which sound very natural and overtake most <$10.000 class AB amps on the market if properly used. For the next 5 years NCore is a game changer! The only limit from a popularity perspective is price. I believe Hypex spent a lot of money developing the NCore module. I fully appreciate their pricing structure. But so far it is very expensive, far beyond what we can achieve with traditional class AB technology. I think that $10,000 is just a starter price for amps using NCore. If one goes beyond stock on the power supply and adds fancy casings, the price could easily escalate. NCore so far is only for flagships.*2 That module should be used with a linear power supply to really maximize its performance. This would demand a >1.200 watt linear supply. Properly done that gets extremely expensive. For the Merak and considering build cost and sell price, we thus opted for UcD over NCore to allow for a $5,000/pr sticker that's within reach of more people."


*2 Acoustic Imagery and Merrill Audio have released $9.000/pr NCore-based monos and more enthusiastic endorsers of NCore and NCore-inspired UcD working on their own units are Paul McGowan of PS Audio and Jeff Rowland of JRDG.

"The new fully balanced Taurus Pre will become available together with the Merak monos. At the very start the Taurus preamp was simply an enhanced version of the original Taurus. It added remote control and more inputs but otherwise customer feedback on Taurus as preamp had been good.

"During the evaluation stage however we found the sonics of the original which had been optimized for headphones not completely satisfying in preamp usage. In Taurus we had deliberately cut some treble because headphones are more direct. Their treble won't attenuate traveling long distance as it does with loudspeakers a few meters removed and facing a large room.

"That contour was perfectly legit for the HPA but not for a preamplifier. Now we lost too much treble and soundstage dimensionality, hence the overall sound grew a little dull. Moreover Taurus circuit gain was too high for a linestage.

"We thus redesigned the entire circuit. It is still based on the original architecture but has adjusted specific parameters. The input buffer now has even lower noise, the gain is lower, there is less distortion with superior treble and the Orfeo module runs on a different bias current. In toto Taurus Pre is better qualified as preamplifier but no longer the perfect candidate for HPA due to its much reduced drive. In our opinion a superior headphone amp must drive the two biggest current monsters—HE6 and K1000—but the Taurus Pre cannot.

"If you forget about those two however, the Taurus Pre remains an excellent choice even if, perhaps, it sounds a little brighter than the standard Taurus. Its retail price with remote has been set at $2.099. Since we cannot achieve perfection for all applications in a single still affordable circuit, both Taurus and Taurus Pre remain in our catalogue for different customers." - 王轩骞

Twice the mono. Back to Merak. Power is 200/400 watts into 8/4Ω. With a twist. The mono amps can be mono'd once more. For ultra power, two Meraks strap together via the inverted XLR output of one. Redo cables and Bob's your rich uncle. The license plate on his Maserati Merak now reads 800 into 8. Got gas? Vroom vroom.