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Reviewer: Marja & Henk
Financial Interests: click here
Sources: PS Audio PWT; PS Audio PWD; Dr. Feickert Blackbird/DFA 1o5/Zu DL-103; Phasure NOS1 DAC
Streaming sources: dedicated XXHighEnd PC; iTunes; Devialet AIR
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 [in for review]; Trafomatic Reference Phono One [in for review], Avantgarde Acoustic XA pre & power amplifier [in for review]
Speakers: Avantgarde Acoustic Duo Omega; Arcadian Audio Pnoe; Vaessen Aquarius; Vaessen Galaxy Ultimate [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 Special and SR; Nanotec Golden Strada #201
Power line conditioning: Omtec Power Controllers; PS Audio Powerplant Premier; PS Audio Humbuster III; Commino Powerline Harmonizer H 3.1 [in for review]
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; Franc Audio Accessories 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: €11.990

As their bottom line NEM’s website uses The Best From the East. And their East is as east as it gets - Siberia and more specifically the city of Novosibirsk. This reflects in the ‘N’ of NEM as Novosibirsk Electronic Manufacturing. Some two years ago we had opportunity to test another NEM product, the AI-50 power amplifier. In the narrative of that review we mentioned how we got in contact with NEM’s European distributor Andrejs Staltmanis through a recommendation from Louis Motek of Lithuania's LessLoss. We met Andrejs at the 2012 High End in Munich where he told us about "something nice" coming up and asked whether we'd be interested in covering it. The ‘it’ in question turned out to be today's new NEM DAC. In the months to follow we had some contact via phone and as a result Andrejs drove from his German hometown of Münster to our Dutch place with a NEM 1394 DAC and streaming PC in the trunk of his car.

From the DAC’s name one thing should be clear from the word go. This is a FireWire-based design. The IEEE 1394 standard was invented by Apple Computers in the late 1980s and branded FireWire. At a licensing fee the protocol can be implemented by others whilst use of the name FireWire is entirely free. Most generous. For computer audio it remains the only solid alternative to USB though Ethernet might be making some noise soon. Because the FireWire protocol is designed as a networking and not merely connection protocol, it has more embedded intelligence.

This IQ comes down to far less CPU interference being required to get the basic job of transporting data done. Less interference—read interruptions—means better-quality delivery in general. And with computer audio that quality is key. Many current cable manufacturers offer high-end USB cables, some with separated power wires or even separate external power supplies to combat the losses and noise generated or picked up via/by the USB cable interface. FireWire does not suffer these shortcomings because these were already anticipated and dealt with in the raw design if one obeys the designated maximum length of 4.5 meters.