: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OS Yosemite, PureMusic 2.04, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1, Metrum Hex, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi La Scala MkII, S.A. Lab Lilt [on loan], SOtM dX-USB HD w. super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2s, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8, FirstWatt S1, F6; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Gato Audio DIA-250; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; AURALiC Merak [on loan]
Loudspeakers: EnigmAcoustics M1, Albedo Audio Aptica; soundkaos Wave 40; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Submission; German Physiks HRS-120, Gallo Strada II w. TR-3D subwoofer
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt double-header USB; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Arkana Research XLR/RCA and speaker cables [on loan]
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc amp stand with Krion or glass shelves
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: Irregularly shaped 9.5 x 10m open floor plan with additional 2nd-floor loft; wood-paneled sloping ceiling; parquet flooring; lots of non-parallel surfaces (pictorial tour here)
Review component retail in the US: $6'495

Canary in the coal mine. That goes back to resourceful miners taking a caged song bird down into the shafts. The chirper's sudden death would signal dangerous gasses well before getting harmful to miners. No chirping meant time to high-tail it above ground. When it comes to ear fuckuppification down there in them thar binary pits, I've got my own most yellow and loquacious canary. His name is Kevin. And what a chirper he is. He tweets incessantly about impending eardoom from anything connected to computer audio.

You will know Mr. Scott as the creator of the flagship Living Voice Vox Olympian hornspeaker; and/or as the proprietor of the Definitive Audio dealership in that old UK Midlands all-brick textile mill. To this day, Kevin fancies a C.E.C. belt-drive transport into a Kondo Ongaku DAC for digital. That's how they'd demoed the mighty Olympians at the last three Munich shows. For those of less brimming wallets, he's enjoyed the Resolution Audio CD50 in its day. Just so, finding a happy replacement proved quite elusive. A recent brief stop-over of team Scott enroute to a client in Gsteig meant that Ivette and I got to spend a few hours with Kevin and his wife Lynn. Remembering his PCfi aversion, I couldn't help but ask. Had the man grown immune since?

No sir! He still only spins CD or vinyl. How quaint. Alas—drum roll, please—he's identified a properly workable DAC more within reach. Not a Kondo then, it still satisfies his very demanding notions on superior sonics. As you've guessed, the culprit is Canary Audio's first DAC. That's your ubiquitous 32/384 PCM and quad DSD affair built on twin ES9018 multi-paralleled chips. The point of me-too departure is its 6922 valve buffer à la Fore Audio DAISy 1 or Aqua Hifi LaScala MkII. My ears pricked up. Those are fabulous decks. I even own one of them. Canary's is called the KD-2000. Kevin offered a sample from his next stock order. Prior—and as it happens, rather laudable—reviews of Canary kit in these pages go many years back. I'd so completely lost touch with this American brand, I was surprised to hear they still practiced their craft. Whilst arguably quite below the radar, Kevin confirmed they were in rude health and kicking hard (their product depth is suggestive). He deals in a number of their valve amp models too. Being a dealer for Art Audio plus the Japanese Kondo exotica and the ultra-costly French Origine CD player spoke well for my digital bird.

In short, a Kevindorsement carries serious weight. Accepting the review offer was a no-brainer. When Lynn checked in to announce pending dispatch, I gave her our address. Then I hit the tangled interwebs to see what I might learn about the deck. You can easily do the same if so inclined. I leave you to it then. Our focus will be a gander under the sheet metal, then comments on the sonic parcours. To nip certain tech questions about DSD in their hairy butt, here is what Cyenne Audio designer Rob Smit learnt from ESS Labs whose chips he uses as well:

"One thing I wondered about was the PCM/DSD discussion. The claim, which I read also in other reviews, is that DSD will be converted to PCM whenever there's digital volume. During the development of the CY-5100dsd, my measurements found a clear difference between native DSD and DSD converted to PCM by PC software (Foobar2000/JRiver). It seems that whatever the Sabre chip set does with the DSD signal, it’s very different from DSD-to-PCM conversion. But more and more people seem to claim there's conversion to PCM. To sort this out, I talked with ESS and directly to the designers of the 9018 chip family. Their answer: the 9018 family processes DSD in a rather unusual but advanced fashion. The chip keeps the sample rate of DSD (2.8MHz for DSD64) but expands bit width from 1 bit to 32 bits. That's then filtered digitally to remove HF noise. This filter also contains the calculations for volume control. There is no down-conversion to PCM sample rates. Everything is kept at the original DSD rate. This maintains the total resolution of the DSD signal when the chip receives DSD even with digital volume applied. Of course, when the volume is set to a low value (<-20dB), resolution is lost. Setting the volume to 0dB retains the full resolution of the original file. Sending native DSD to the DAC does have advantages over conversion inside a computer." And that's how far down that particular mine shaft of 32-bit DSD we'll descend before returning above ground into the light.