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Marja& Henk
Financial Interests: click here
Sources: PS Audio PWT; Dr. Feickert Blackbird/DFA 1o5/Zu DL-103; Phasure PC and NOS1 DAC
Streaming sources: XXHighEnd; iTunes; Devialet AIR; La Rosita Beta [in for review]
Preamp/integrated/power: Tri TRV EQ3SE phonostage; Audio Note Meishu with WE 300B (or AVVT, JJ, KR Audio 300B output tubes); Yarland FV 34 CIIISA; Qables iQube V1; Devialet D-Premier; Hypex Ncore 1200 based monoblocks; Trafomatic Kaivalya; Trafomatic Reference One; Trafomatic Reference Phono One
Speakers: Avantgarde Acoustic Duo Omega; Arcadian Audio Pnoe; Vaessen Aquarius; Zu Submission; Pancin Art Technology VZ1 [in for review]
Cables: complete loom of ASI LiveLine cables; full loom of Crystal Cable cables; Nanotec Golden Strada #79 nano 3; Nanotec Golden Strada #79; Nanotec Golden Strada #201; Nanotec Golden Strada #207; Nanotec Power Strada #306; Element47 Black Master IC and LS cables [in for review]
Power line conditioning: Omtec Power Controllers; PS Audio Powerplant Premier; PS Audio Humbuster III
Equipment racks: ASI amplifier and TT shelf
Sundry accessories: Furutech DeMag; ClearAudio Double Matrix; Nanotec Nespa #1; Exact Audio Copy software; iPod; wood, brass, ceramic and aluminum cones and pyramids; Shakti Stones; Manley Skipjack; Blue Horizon footers [in for review]
Room treatment: Acoustic System International resonators, sugar cubes, diffusers
Room size: ca. 14.50 x 7.50m with a ceiling height of 3.50m, brick walls, wooden flooring upstairs, ca 7 x 5m with a ceiling height of 3.50m, brick walls and concrete floor downstairs.
Price of review item: €4.198

With the days of physical digital media almost over as streaming audio has replaced them at an even faster rate than we could have imagined, it has become a challenge to find the most suitable streamer. There are many computer-based options. Some use a PC or Mac without any disguise to mean a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Others disguise the computer to appear as a pure audio device where the remote acts as monitor, keyboard and mouse in one. The dawn of tablet computers like the iPad made this an easy option for both manufacturers and users.

For the non nerd a computer in disguise is a blessing. Think of the audiophile who is only interested in listening to music and perhaps fiddling with audio tweaks but not in endless web browsing, web fora running off-topic or the quirks of computer operating systems and never-ending player software upgrades. That said, most of these disguised computer streamers come at a price. Embedding a computer and its OS and cloaking it sufficiently adds to the sticker just like a proprietary player application does where in-house R&D weighs in heavily.

Another option is to ride the coat tails of a successful well-established platform. In short, iTunes. With it Apple has created a statement interface to unlock digitally stored music. Over the years even its sound quality has improved though not to the highest possible level. To reach that level we've had applications like Amarra, Audirvana and PureMusic step in and up with great success. In essence it's amazing that a software platform designed for the MP3 generation and as such tightly coupled to a very commercial web-based sales model has even been adapted by the highest of audiophile strata. Here the output from the iTunes library system is enhanced by a third-party add-on and via USB sent to the audiophile's DAC of choice where it is translated into an analog signal, then amplified and sent to the loudspeakers. The only worry for the postmodern audiophile is to have a music collection safely stored in a lossless format on the actual computer running iTunes; or on a network storage facility aka NAS to which the iTunes computer has access.

Even with today’s stable personal computers, there's still quite some computering left. Admittedly the Mac platform is the absolute winner on user friendliness and ease. Windows computing has improved dramatically over the last few years but is still deeply rooted in the tech realm. Just look at all the external devices which comprise an average PC system that's not a laptop - plus all the cables needed. Compared to a modern Mac the difference remains huge.