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This review first appeared in the May 2009 issue of hi-end hifi magazine High Fidelity of Poland. You can also read this review of the Blacknote DSS 30 Tube in its original Polish version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with publisher Wojciech Pacula. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of High Fidelity. - Ed.

Reviewer: Wojciech Pacula
Review system: Go here
Review component retail: 11.980zł promo price, regular €2.995

In the hifi landscape, network players (flash memory players, servers or whatever exactly this category should be called) are relatively new compared to the over 100 years of vinyl history or almost 30 years of the Compact Disc. During the month of listening to the DSS Digital Static Source 30 Tube network player from the Italian company Blacknote, I probably went through all the steps of domesticating this new technology, something that (unfortunately) every audiophile used to physical carriers like the LP, CD, SACD, DVD-A or reel tape will have to duplicate. Players like the DSS force us to revise many of our subconsciously encoded habits, rituals and practices.

As it turns out, over the last few years we wrote many times already about products related to music files like the Wavelength Brick DAC or this issue's Majik DS player from Linn, a company who conceived of this type of device and popularized it. The first time that I had opportunity to listen to audio files was over their Klimax DS player ('DS' for Digital Stream) during the High End 2008 in Munich. Although here and there I had taken part in similar demonstrations earlier, this was the first time it made sense and comparisons were well prepared. What I heard was alarming. The Klimax DS sounded better than Linn's icon, the beloved Sondek CD12 - with standard 16/44.1 CD files transferred to external hard disk. With 24/96 files from the Klimax as compared to the Unidisk 1.1 playing SACD, the former's advantage was still more apparent. Going then from the Klimax to the CD12 and comparing 24/96 FLAC files was more shocking yet. I think that was my true start of thinking vigorously about this issue; when my personal recalibration began on how I approach music now.

It happened at the same show that I talked to a representative of another company presenting a very similar device to Linn's DS player - and in some aspects even more interesting. Maurizio Aterini is owner and one of the main designers of Blacknote, a subsidiary of Bluenote whose Mini Koala player we tested earlier. Last year Bluenote changed its name to Goldenote probably due to trademark issues over the Blue Note name. Blacknote however is a completely new venture for Maurizio and, at least as seems to me, for now the most important to him. Because I prepared an interview for Audio, I asked him many questions. I will relate two of them here.

Wojciech Pacuła: Bluenote, Goldenote or Blacknote - what company are we talking about when I see three logos?

Maurizio Aterini [laughs]: All of them. The company's registered name is Bluenote but we discern three brands among that umbrella. We distinguished them to differentiate between various types of products - analog sources and amplifiers (Bluenote), digital sources and amplifiers (Goldenote) and new technology (Blacknote).

WP: Do you think that uncompressed high-definition audio files are a significant part of audio?

MA: Without a doubt this is the future. I am 100% convinced that this is where stereo and video are headed. I do not believe in the future of multi-channel sound. At home I use a stereo system connected to a DVD player and plasma screen to watch movies - in stereo. Everyone thinks I own a brilliant multi-channel system but it's simply stereo. That's my opinion. We started as an analog company. I am an engineer in precision mechanics and felt always closer to analog devices equipped with mechanics like turntables. But the world is changing. Now we can propose a device like this converter with WiFi, USB etc, designed to work with PCs and servers. Three or four years back, that still wasn't possible. But the major companies prepared a platform we can use to develop our technologies and bring music to music lovers, audiophiles and young people. The young people only want to play their music via USB or iPod. They do not want to use turntables and such. The CD is already dead at least to their minds. Everything we do at Blacknote is for them.

Our Italians thus separated the Blacknote brand from the previous line of components because it really leapfrogs into the 21
st century and at least conceptually isn't in line with turntables and amplifiers. Its lineage is partly classic of course when we think of CD and SACD players like the CDP-300 and SACD-300. Although fantastically built and beautifully sounding, I believe those to be a dead end. They represent the past, a seeming anachronism of this brand whose spine are now the new memory players, the DSS 30 with solid state outputs and the DSS 30 Tube with valves, with the DSS 15 or 35 being currently readied to market.