CD Players, CD Transports

  • Audiomeca Mephisto II.x Transport

    Pierre Lurné - the man and chief designer behind Audiomeca - developed one of the most musical  CD transports/players available today. A friend of mine owns this transport and uses it together with an Orpheus Labaratories DAC (which includes upsampling conversion by Anagram Technologies - as does the Mephisto CD player). This is the best and most enjoyable performance from CDs I've experienced so far. Resolution, timbre, rhythm and timing are superb. One can listen for hours to his beloved CDs and have a lot of fun. Definitely worth the asking price, if you are willing to spend that much cash for your equipment.
    My only caveat: Older Mephisto transports/players tend to have problems reading some kinds of CDs (for example, a burnt disc or a disc produced with implemented copy protection). As far as I know, this is no longer a problem with the .x version.

  • Martin Küng CD modifications

Martin Küng is an electronic engineer born in Vorarlberg - one of the nine provinces of Austria, and has lived for quite a while in Vienna, Austria's capital. Martin is specialised in CD-player/DAC-modifications as well as in producing accessories to enhance your listening pleasure, for example, special power filters and various cables (power cords, speaker- as well as interconnect cables). Why do I mention him on this list?

That's easy. Let's say your budget is restricted and you can't afford world class CD equipment for EUR 5,000 plus. But you have a decent CD player in the EUR 700 to EUR 1,500 range. With Martin's modifications - which can be ordered in stages to fit your budget needs - you come 'pretty damn' close to the performance level of state-of-the-art equipment and save a lot of cash, which you can use to buy more great music on CD. His modifications of a CD player comprise improvements in the power supply, super clean voltage regulation, etc. Additionally, he has developed over the years a deep knowledge of the interaction of components and materials used, to the advantage of his modifications (this has to be highlighted, especially in our European ROHS times - see my link to a TNT-Audio interview with Graham Slee under 'Interesting Topics' on this site).

The Küng-modified CD players show improved musical flow and rhythm as well as a better coherence of the musicians playing, attributes I would describe as more 'analog'. Martin modified my Philips CDR-650 and my Alesis Masterlink HD-recorder, both with great results. The latter I have used and will use to record live music, especially the acoustic blues sessions of my buddy Konrad 'Bones' Windisch.

There will be more info in the near future about Martin's excellent accessories (I'm the proud owner of some of these products in the meantime) and how they improved my system. 

If you are interested, you can contact Martin under martin.kueng"at" or freeflowaudio"at" ("at"=@)


    Digital Analogue Converters (DACs)

  • Benchmark Media DAC1

    The DAC1 has had a lot of positive press in the last years and deservedly so. I bought my copy in early 2005 and connected with my Philips CDR-650 or my Alesis Masterlink, both used as a drive only, there is more resolution, drive and improved bass definition. To get the most musical pleasure out of your DAC1, please make sure that you listen in the fixed output level position (to be set at the rear of the DAC1, i.e.  bypassing the volume control). This way, and used in unbalanced mode, this DAC is a superb value and a bargain.
    If you can use the DAC1 in balanced mode (which I can't) then it seems to be worth reading Robert H. Levi's review in Positive Feedback regarding the improvements when setting the DAC1 to the 0dB output position (factory setting is -20dB). Please note, while Levi opened his DAC1 for the review to change the setting, extra caution is necessary when doing so; for example, make sure the power cord is disconnected before opening the equipment.

    According to different internet fora, the DAC1 seems to be a desired object for various upgrades. Hmm, maybe something to think about...

  • Micromega Variodac (Martin Küng modified version)

    I encountered this about 12-year-old bitstream DAC, which is no longer in production, recently. Martin Küng, the Austrian electronic expert and master of digital audio modifications lent me his highly modified Variodac for the testing of my Tentlabs CD player used as a drive. And the performance of this handy DAC won my heart with its wonderful musicality, rhythm and flow. The icing on the cake is that this little gem can be used as a minimalist preamp, too. It provides a voltage amplified line stage with volume control,  a pair of analog cinch outs and one pair of analog cinch inputs as well as SPDIF and optical digital inputs. (The latter was eliminated by Martin for sonic reasons.). An additional feature of the Variodac is its remote control, which allows for setting of the volume levels from the listening spot - very convenient.

    Martin's modifications are primarily extensive power supply mods (incl. a special power transformer), added super clean voltage regulation as well as mods of the voltage volume control. All this results in my opinion, in one of the bargains in high end audio. A superb minimalist preamp and DAC, which opens up the window to the music, really wide! 

    An original Micromega Variodac can be found on Ebay for approx. EUR 250 to 350. Then add Martins modifications which will set you back additional EUR 750, so for a total of EUR 1,100 you will get a wonderful musical DAC, which can also function as great sounding preamp. I own the modified Variodac in the meantime, it's that good ;-)

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