As most of you know who follow my writings, I was an early adopter of server based and streaming music. Going all the way back to 2005 I started riding the bitstream and haven't looked back since. Over the years I've played with a variety of computer interface devices from the Bolder modified Squeezebox to USB to S/PDIF converters to numerous USB DACs. Some of the devices were Non-Oversampling, some Upsampled. In my reference system, I eventually settled on the very fine sounding MHDT Labs Havana USB DAC which is a Non-OverSampling (NOS) device.
To my ears and in my system, most of the upsampling units I've listened to sound unnatural. As a result, I've pretty well turned off my interest in looking at new, high resolution DACs because didn't want to subject myself to a device that simply upsampled to a higher resolution. That and until recently there was sufficient HiRez material available for the average (avid) listener, at least in my opinion. I was holding out to play with a true high resolution device, one that outputs music in its native resolution. In other words, if I select a tune that is recorded in 44.1kHz/16-bit, the device plays it in 44.1/16. It doesn't try to upsample it to 96kHz or some other higher resolution.
The other thing I was waiting for was a device
that breaks the 96kHz/24-bit resolution barrier over USB. In the past few years
the bleeding edge digital designers like Gordon Rankin have been getting closer
and closer to the place where I thought I might get interested in digital again.
Enter Brian Cherry at DIY HiFi Supply.com. Most
everyone has heard of DIY HiFi Supply.com. Brian has been providing DIY kits
(some fully assembled) for over ten years now. I've played with a few over that
period of time and they sound pretty darned good. In fact, I just ordered his
DIY turntable kit. Sometime later this year I'll have it all pieced together. Of
course, the parts I provide outside of the kit will be exotic and completely
over the top, it should make for a cool spring and summer project. Look for the
article later this year.
Over the past year or so, Brian and Thorsten
Loesch have collaborated to provide a piece that appears pretty darned
interesting. Out of the blue I get an email from Brian asking if I'd be
interested in giving a listen to his latest creation, the Fusion3.
The Fusion3 is just as the name implies, it is the fusion of three
different product offerings from Brian, the Cleo tubed 192/24 DAC, his Ultimate
Volume Control, his Universal Stereo Tubed Output Stage, and finally a pair of
his Fusion Power Multiplier Modules all in a nice looking case.
If you know my systems, an integrated probably
isn't the best piece on the planet for me to write about. After looking at my
stable of traditional speakers and mulling it over for a few days, I decided to
take the piece on. The reason I hesitated was for a 50 watt integrated, I needed
reasonably efficient pair of speakers to mate to the Fusion3, say
90+db sensitive. Well, I've got the very nice sounding (and very affordable)
Aperion Audio 6T floor standers. While many may look down their nose at a $1700
pair of ‘internet direct' speakers and think they
can't be all that and a bag of chips, they actually are, but we'll get into
that bit later. Next I've got their little brothers, the Aperion 632LRs. These
are (essentially) the same speaker except monitor sized. Between the two
speakers, I know them quite well as the 6Ts reside in my Home Theater rig as the
front LR speakers and the 632s have been pulling duty in my Home Office for
almost two years. I'm completely familiar with the sound of these speakers.
Finally, when you consider the cost of the Fusion3
at about $1700, the average audiophile is likely to mate it to a pair of
speakers that is equal to or less than the cost of the amp so these speakers fit
quite well as a pairing to the Fusion3. Oh, the other thing is that
it has me listening to the Fusion in at least two different sized rooms so this
article should give a pretty fair assessment of how it will perform in a variety
of settings. I'll be using the Aperion floorstanders in my main listening room
which is 15x38 and the Aperion monitors in my office which is 9 x 11 feet.
Rather than tearing down my main listening room right away, I decided that I'd replace my little modified JoLida 102b that resides in my Home Office with the Fusion3 while she runs in for a few weeks. That system is fully digital as that is where my server is housed. She was an easy plug ‘n play. Pop out the JoLida and the MHDT Paradisea (with a USB to S/PDIF converter) and plug in the Fusion3. While she's in there she'll be driving a pair of Aperion 632LRs, a great sounding monitor. Plus, this gives me a chance to play around with the MusiLand Monitor software driver.
As I let the Fusion3 cook for a while
in the office system, I looked at this integrated I decide that I need a
starting reference point in my large listening room. The initial system I used
as a comparison is my heavily modified Korato KVP 20 preamp driving the AKSA 55
Mosfet amplifier with the Nirvana mods. My digital source is my NOS Havana USB
tubed DAC. This is a system I've set up before when I initially wrote about the
Aperion 6Ts. So after getting everything set up and a bit of fiddling with
speaker placement I sat down and reacquaint myself with the sound of the Aperion's
in the main listening room. Just as I remember, the Aperion 6Ts are a fine
sounding speaker on their own. If I had to equate their sound to something
similar, I would say they sound pretty darned close to the Dynaudio Focus 220s.
Hopefully that gives you some frame of reference for the sound of the Aperion
6Ts. These have an exacting sound with really good bass. They can be a bit
clinical at times but not overly so. It really depends on the source material
and the electronics upstream.
The Aperions sit at 91dB/W/m sensitive at a nominal 6 ohm load. These should be a nice mate to the Fusion3 which puts out a reasonable 50 watts per channel at 8 ohms. Sure, I won't be able to shake the foundations, but I'll easily get mid-90s of sound pressure level on music peaks. That's plenty. The 6Ts will show the Fusion3 a maximum 25 Ohm load at 50 Hz and minimum 4.2 Ohm load at 150 Hz to the Fusion. The specifications state clearly that the minimum load for the Fusion3 should be no lower than 4 Ohms. After listening and to the Aperion/Korato/AKSA combination for a couple of weeks while the Fusion3 ran in, I decided to give the Fusion3 its turn in the driver's seat. Well, I have to say I'm pretty damned impressed. I've always thought the AKSA/Korato sounded fairly nice but the Fusion3 takes music to a whole new level.
Starting with the main power supply, Brian uses a Dibao
toroidal transformer which is sourced from China. Downstream from it, voltage
regulation is provided by a traditional cased bridge rectifier and a pair of
beefy Rubycon 10,000uF capacitors for power supply filtering and storage. The
DAC, UTS and Volume control have their own fully regulated power supplies built
on each of their respective PCBs where the chip amp relies on the regulation and
filtering of the main power supply.
The Ultimate Volume Control is a series of PCBs that carries
its own power supply regulation. On one side of the PCB is the volume control,
in the center is the actual transformer for the volume control and on the right
is electronics supporting the relay based source selector switches. The basic
design premise of the volume control is as what others consider a TVC or
Transformer based The DIY HiFi volume control is built around the Dallas
Semiconductor DS-1666 digitally controlled analogue potentiometer (DCAP). The
volume knob is a rotary encoder that varies signals in (essentially) half dB
steps from -52dB to 0dB. In essence it is just a 128 Step Attenuator on a chip,
using a resistor ladder and FET Switches instead of a resistor ladder and
The Fusion amp modules are quite similar to the 47 Labs
Gaincard modules in that they utilize a power OpAmp for amplification. Of course
Brian has his own twist on the design around and utilization of that power OpAmp.
As you look at the pics, you'll see Brian is utilizing his fine sounding Copper
Obbligato capacitors on the PCB. These chips don't generate much heat so Brian
has opted to use the side casing as the heat sink for the chip.
As I mentioned, the DAC is a highly modified MusiLand Monitor
01 DAC. What Brian and Thorsten have done is take the stock MusiLand DAC and
performed some serious mods to the power supply and also modified the output
circuit and replaced the transformers. As you can see from the left side of
picture, the stock power supply waveform looks pretty ragged. After these key
modifications, the waveform is significantly cleaned up. As many will tell you,
if you don't get the power supply right, the whole piece will sound bad. The
next thing that Brian has done to the DAC is replace the stock word clock with
his UltraClock module. If you look closely, you can see the board hovering over
the MusiLand DAC board. Again with digital, if you don't control the jitter, it's
going to sound bad.
The last module that Brian has added is his Universal Stereo Tube Output Stage. This little gem uses a single 6922 which utilizes each half of this dual triode to provide voltage gain for the chip amp. Those familiar with tube design know in doing the design with a single half of a tube, you are going to be reversing the polarity of the output single. Such is the case with the Fusion3. The output signal is reversed so you simply need to reverse your speaker leads either at the back of the amp or at the speaker. Either is fine. If you hook it up and don't get quality bass, you probably forgot to reverse the leads. Also as you can also see, Brian is utilizing his Teflon and Tinfoil Obbligato coupling caps in the Tube Output Stage. I'm definitely a Teflon cap fan.
As far as inputs, there are four plus the USB. All of the
inputs are standard gold plated RCA connectors. As you can see from the picture,
the binding posts are standard, heavy, gold plated posts that accept banana
Finally, as I look at the internal wiring, I notice that any
of the shielded signal wire that was connected also had the shielding drained to
ground. The rest of the larger capacitors on the boards are Nichicon.
Overall, a very nice build. The inside of the unit is clean,
orderly and well laid out.
The MusiLand software is pretty intuitive. On the Mixer tab,
you have four (essentially) VU meters; Analog, Digital, WDM, and ASIO and below
them is the active Sampling Rate (SR) display for the music you happening to be
listening to at the time. Without going into any real detail on these (see the
operations manual), the two that are the most important and the Analog and ASIO.
Essentially you set these to 100% and forget about them. Oh, be sure to mute
your system sounds. You sure don't want email notifications at 95dB nor do you
want your system expending precious processor time and memory on extraneous
windows tasks while streaming tunes.
The next is the Advanced tab. Here, the MusiLand software has
something extremely useful and in my opinion should be a part of every software
front end, a graphic equalizer. Now, this one is only five bands and covers the
bass region but for all audiophiles, this is the most important musical
region that needs correction for our rooms. Remember, no room is perfect. Each
and every room is going to experience nodes and nulls (boost and suck out). This
provides you the opportunity to ‘tune' your speakers to your room in 1dB steps
up to +/-5dB. The active EQ bands are 60, 80, 100, 129 and 140 Hz. As I see it,
anything beyond that is screwing it the music. Sure, some music needs a hardcore
remix but the MusiLand software isn't trying to achieve that, they are only
giving you the opportunity to notch the bass region so you get a flatter
frequency response in room. Also keep in mind, many, many audiophiles don't have
dedicated rooms. There systems reside in their living rooms. This allows you to
place your speakers (nearly) against the wall and notch out the majority of that
8db back wall gain. Plus this keeps your significant other happy as they don't
have to walk around speakers and cables that are pulled out into a room. Just
keep in mind life's two simple rules 1) A happy wife means a happy life. 2) When
in doubt see rule number one. For you eternal bachelors, I say pull your
speakers way the heck out into the room, jack up the bass and enjoy your
The other features on the Advanced tab allow adjustment of the ASIO buffer which when set to 160 provides enough memory player buffering so that your stream doesn't get interrupted by background processes. There is also a sample rate controller on the Advanced tab. This one just set to Auto and forget about it, the software takes care of recognizing the incoming resolution and then sends it to the DAC.
Bits Aren't Created Equal
A Class 1.0 USB Audio chip will (generally) be limited to 48kHz/16-bit. Apparently there are very few Class 1.0s that can do 96/24 but the list is (apparently) short. Since I'm not a digital designer, I can't tell you which chips function at 96/24. I would suggest one of the Forums as an information source. Some of the guys that participate are extremely knowledgeable of such things. That said, those Class 1.0 chips are incapable of 192/24. One key item that goes with this chipset, most of those are "Plug and Play" USB DACs meaning there is no separate driver or program provided with the DAC. You just plug it into Windows or a MAC and she is up and running.
A Class 2.0 USB Audio chip is required to play true
high resolution audio file. That said, you need to keep your eyes open for a
couple of things when you are shopping for a true 192/24 Hi-Rez DAC. As of this
writing, the only way to get true 24/192 is by going "Asynchronous" If your DAC
doesn't have a custom driver to force Windows or MAC into Asynchronous mode you
are highly likely to be listening to 48/16 (or at best 96/24) which is then
upsampled to a resolution of 192/24. Reflecting my personal experience on this,
none of the "Hi-Rez" DACs I've had here came with their own Async driver. Maybe
that explains why I've had such a negative impression of "upsampling" DACs
regardless of resolution.
The final hook to all of this is that if you are using a
Windows based machine, you MUST bypass the Windows software Kernel to stream Hi-Rez
audio. Inherently Windows Kernel screws with your audio file by re-sampling/dithering
the music before it reaches your DAC. The last thing you want is Bill Gates
& Co. messing with your music. If you are running a Windows machine, you
need to install ASIO so you can bypass the Windows Kernel and driver. That way
you get an unmolested feed for your DAC. This isn't just audiophile playback.
This reaches into the pro-audio realm as well, right into the recording studios.
So, since Windows (nor Mac) doesn't have a decent driver, the manufacturer of
your potential new DAC MUST provide their own driver to play true 192/24 music.
If they don't, warning flags should be going up, bells should start ringing and
you should run away as fast as possible as this means (at least at the time of
this writing), your aren't getting a bit perfect stream of 192/24. Chances are
you are getting some lower rez facsimile thereof that has (or is) being
Synchronous/Asynchronous/Software Induced Jitter
Besides clock errors there is a computer processor induced
phenomenon called Software Jitter. Great... something else to worry about in our
audio stream. Basically this form of jitter is caused from using computer
programs in the background while streaming your music. The processor, depending
on how hard it is being hit, sucks more or less current from the power supply in
the computer. These current fluctuations manifest themselves (somehow) as
‘jitter' when you stream music robbing your master clock of the current it
needs to fully process the data packets it is managing that flow to your DAC.
Hence, you end up with minor timing errors or another layer of jitter.
So how do you correct all of these jitter issues associated with the internal processing on a Windows (or Mac) based machine? You (essentially) reverse the process. You put the master clock in the DAC and then build in a nice sized memory buffer so you are never relying on the computer to ‘keep up' with the ever changing packets. They are stored and reclocked to the S/PDIF output onboard the DAC. That and you eliminate the use of the 5 Volt power that rides across the USB cable. You build in your own dedicated and heavily regulated power supply on board the DAC. Of course, none of this happens without the use of a program that bypasses Windows kernel and forces the computers onboard clock to take the ‘open' mode where it is simply feeding a packet stream that keeps the DAC's onboard buffer continuously filled. No more are you relying on the computer's internal data clock for timing.
Hence the term Asynchronous.
of, used in, or being digital communication (as between computers)
in which there is no timing requirement for transmission and in which the start
of each character is individually signaled by the transmitting device
I strongly suggest you read Thorsten's paper on this issue as
it will shed more light on the subject.
Moving onto my test
track for micro detail I use Gravity from Alison Krauss & Union
Station on Lonely Runs Both Ways. As I listen to Alison's vocals,
when she ends her phasing you can (on a detailed system) clearly here her push
out the last consonant of the words. In this case I'm listening to the end of
the second line of the second verse... turned out questions in the end-huh.
Here the Fusion3 performs tremendously pulling as much if not
slightly more detail out of this lyric as I've heard previously. While I'm still
listening to Union Station, I can easily use both Jerry Douglas and Dan Tyminski's
as a gauge for proper tone of a guitar. I can say with great surety that the
Fusion3 is spot on. There is zero coloration. And to top that off,
the 6922 tube gain stage in the preamp section of the Fusion3
adds the perfect balance of clarity, extension and proper harmonics.
Now, when it comes
to the frequency extremes the Fusion3
has great command of those too. I have several tracks I use to test the speed
and control of deep bass. Each one I tried the Fusion3 handled quite
well. On the deepest of bass tracks it performed very admirably. Granted the
bass I was getting wasn't Krell-ish but it was damned good and easily
outperformed the Koroto/AKSA combo I started with. I heard no appreciable
colorations or overtones that caused the bass to sound bloated in the least.
On the top side is
where the Fusion3 really shined. There is something about the
implementation of the Burr Brown DAC the way it handles treble that sets this
piece apart from the completion I've listened to in recent years. Granted in
this case we're talking 44.1/16 but when I play tracks like Ella Fitzgerald's Good
Morning Heartache the light and airy extension of the triangle being struck
is as clean and accurate as I've experienced.
Listening to Hi-Rez
Next up I thought I'd try some vocals of the female persuasion. Stacey Kent's Breakfast on the Morning Tram is a great little release (DVD rip). This particular offering comes in 48/24. Even though the bit depth on this release is limited to 48kHz, the recording is wonderfully smooth and detailed. There is something about the way 24 bit files are handled by the Fusion3 that is just ‘right'. If you aren't familiar with Stacey Kent, she projects a tiny voice with wonderful intonation and vibrato. Her arrangements really compliment her vocal stylings. On this 48kHz recording you get very nice placement of the individual performers. Everybody is properly sized without any exaggeration of the performers or the stage. The Fusion3 is remarkably clean and completely absent of congestion in the vocal range. The highs are extremely clean. The track Breakfast on the Morning Tram has the drummer playing the song with brushes and I can't help but notice how light and airy the brushes sound on the drum heads and cymbals.
Moving up to a true 192kHz/24-bit recording things go from extremely
good to WOW. I'm lucky, a good friend of mine, Jon Ver Halen of Lowther America
got permission for me to receive the 192/24 masters of several recordings from
View Point Records.
As I listen, the amount of micro detail that comes through is
really impressive. With this detail come several things. First is pinpoint
placement. When you get your hands on a quality recording such as this one, the
images of the performers are rock solid and perfectly proportioned. Next is
depth of stage. One thing I've noticed is as detail goes up, depth and width of
stage increases also. Everything is simply far more natural sounding. As an
example on Angel Eyes, the sound of the brushes on the drum kit and cymbals are
soft and delicate as they are when you hear them in an acoustic setting. The
same can be said about the leading edge of notes, especially percussion
instruments. On later cuts, the quick crack of the snare drum sounds far more
‘live' when you are listening to 192/24. I honestly believe it's due to the
increased detail provided by this format. The only other time I've experienced
as ‘live' sounding recorded music is with a good vinyl rig. You just can't get
this experience from 44.1/16.
Next up is some Jimmy Cobb from his Jazz in the Key of Blue
release (SACD rip). If you aren't familiar with Jimmy Cobb (drummer, think
Miles), he is always assembling some of the best names in jazz to play on a
given release. This particular album has Jimmy on bass, Roy Hardgrove on
trumpet/flugelhorn, Russel Malone on guitar and finally John Webber on bass.
This particular release of reinterpretation of standards has a very distinctive ‘feel' to the album. It's slow and beautifully melodic. This High Resolution version is absolutely breathtaking. This 192/24 format gives us the dynamic headroom to accurately portray what real music sounds like. One particular phrase of Roy Hardgrove's on With You I'm Born Again he snaps out a series of notes that are translated by the Fusion3 as if he is standing right in front of you. I've never heard these Aperions react like this to a source before. It is hauntingly real not to mention stunningly beautiful rendition of this song.
Sounds Of 16 Bit Versus 24 Bit
First up is Chris Isaak's Speak of the Devil. This particular
cut is from an HDCD at a 20/44,100 bit rate. Anybody that has tried to listen to
this on a reasonably resolute system knows just how awful it sounds. What are
ruined on this recording are Chris' vocals. When he breaks into the chorus and
sings "pleeeease" there's this nasty digitized sound that screeches from the
speakers on the 16 bit version of the song. On the 24 (20) bit version of the
song the digititus when he sings "Pleeease" is far less pronounced.
Next up is Jamie Cullum's High and Dry from the
Twentysomething release. This one is ripped from a DVDA at an 24/88200 sampling
rate The first thing leaps out at you when you compare the two bit rates is the
fact of how much more relaxed the 24 bit recording sounds. The soundstage takes
a huge leap backwards. By huge, I'm talking four to six feet. Then you find that
the focus becomes razor sharp compared to the 16 bit version. Just to give you
an idea, the drummer for the track plays a very simple rhythm. He is playing the
hi-hat and then doing double hits on three successively larger floor toms. On
the 16 bit recording you get some minor semblance that the drums were recorded
on a simple stereo pair of overhead mics. You hear a very minor center to left
pan on the floor toms with the hi-hat being a hard right pan. In that mix, the
final tom hits end up being hard left and coming obviously from the left
speaker. All of this is almost in a flat plane even with the rear of the
speakers. When you compare the 24 bit recording, everything about the depth and
positioning within the soundstage changes. The hi-hat is now clearly focused
about one foot inside of the left speaker cabinet and about three feet behind the
speaker. The tom hits now begin about one foot right of center and finish about
two feet inside the left speaker plus the toms appear to be about eight feet
behind the speaker. Huge difference.
On Eric Clapton and BB King's release Riding With The King, 3
O'Clock in the Morning (88.2/24) shows even more differences. Besides the
similarities I mentioned before, on the Redbook version the bass seems to be
much more pronounced. Besides being bigger and fuzzier (those are technical
terms BTW) the bass fills out more than half the soundstage. It's almost as if
there are two or three bass stacks that are lined up across the back of the
stage. In addition the forwardness of Eric and BB's guitars and vocals on the 16
bit versions absolutely ruin the illusion of this being a Live studio recording.
The 24 bit version is considerably more relaxed and expansive sounding. In the
decay of both guitars you can actually hear the reverberance of the recording
studio. On the 16 bit version that hollowness is lost.
The last up is YoYo Ma and Emmanual Ax's performance of
Rachmaninoff's Cello Sonata in G Minor, Op. 19 – IV Allegro
mosso-Moderato-Vivace (48/24). This one is considerably tougher to
distinguish the differences... but there are differences, they just aren't as
pronounced. The biggest differences I'm hearing are the low level details. On
the 24 bit version the instruments have a fuller presentation and are more
harmonically correct. In addition, the instruments have a tighter focus
presenting a smaller but more realistic image.
Ok, while I'm at it, I may as well throw in some Nine Inch
Nails for good measure. Yes, unlike most self respecting writers, I regularly
listen to NIN and Dream Theater and Wolfmother and Pantera and… Anyway, I
ripped The Downward Spiral (Halo 08, yes I have them all). As weird as the track
is, Eraser serves as a great track to show off just how large a soundstage can
be. The girl moaning on the opening of the rack has her vocals being heavily
manipulated (phasing) which tosses the vocals four to six feet outside of the
plane of the speakers on the 16 bit recording. On the 24 bit recording the
vocals go out another two to three feet, solid. Again, the speakers further
disappear, everything becomes easier to listen too including the heavily
Ultimately, 24 bit files simply sound better than their 16 bit
counterparts. If I can use a visual analogy, think of 16 bit files as VCR tapes
on an old tubed 32" TV, where 24 bit files are like a Blu-ray disc on a 63"
Samsung Plasma. The differences are huge.
The Good, The Bad and The Unexplained
Availability of Hi-Rez Material
Now, just because you don't see the HDCD tag on your CD cover doesn't necessarily mean that the disc wasn't recorded at 20 bit resolution. Many of those remasters available say "20 Bit Remaster" on the cover, and they are just that. Your 16 bit player simply tosses those extra four bits of detail to the wind. Only if you have a player that decodes those extra four bits of info can you get that extra detail.
DVD-A and Dual Disc
As for the total count of DVD-Audio and Dual Discs that were
produced, your guess is as good as mine. Let me refer you to the website
DVD4Music.com where they have an entire category of DVD-Audio. At 16 titles per
page and 66 pages, that works out to just over a thousand additional Hi-Rez
Oh, one last thing, we don't want to forget that BluRay is coming online fast and furious. There we have the opportunity to rip the music tracks off in 192/24 also. Google this term "HDMI de-embedder", the Atlona product should be one of the first hits that pop up. It's about $250. I'd grab one quick before Sony figures out what we are going to use them for and sues the life out of Atlona.
ClassicRecords.com offers a nice variety of what they term DAD 24/96 and their true HiRez HDAD 24/192. Right now they have about 90 offerings but as this format (192/24) picks up steam, I've no doubt Mike Hobson is going to start offering more with each new release.
HighDefTapeTransfers.com offers a nice selection of classical
releases in both 96/24 and 192/24 format. Just guessing, they have north of one
hundred offerings. I have some of these and they are quite good.
There are scads of others like B&W speakers, Linn,
Reference Recordings, Unipheye, Soundkeeper and others that have plenty of
titles to offer. No doubt as 192/24 gains ground, more and more labels will
offer them for download.
In the end I have to say I am wholly impressed with the sound
and performance of the Fusion3. Sure, if I were looking for an
integrated I might want to have a few extra watts at my disposal but honestly,
this didn't deter from my being simply awestruck with the sound. Besides, there
are plenty of great speakers that are 90+dB/W/m sensitive that you can mate with the
Fusion3. Personally, I'd love to hear a pair of Audio Note AN-J or Es
behind the Fusion3. I'd bet that would make one heck of a nice
With the couple of Aperion speaker combinations I put together, I've never heard either of the Aperions perform better with any piece of gear before. I honestly didn't think they were up to the task when I first accepted the Fusion3 for review. Boy was I wrong. After fiddling a bit with placement, these reasonably priced speakers absolutely came alive behind the Fusion3. They were big, bold and natural which is a huge testament to Brian and his ability to build such a fine sounding integrated. The Fusion is as clean and transparent of sounding amp/DAC combination as I've experienced, including my Welborne 300B DRDs.
Although the Fusion3 uses a power opamp, it doesn't
sound solid state(ish) in the least. I'm not a big fan of solid state gear but
this is one piece I could easily live with if I were looking to downsize and
simplify my system. The Fusion3 has plenty of current drive to handle
reasonable speaker loads down to 4 ohms. She has plenty of balls to handle the
lower registers topped off with loads of finesse to accurately reproduce the
As a DAC to play my
44.1/16 files, I have to say that the
Fusion3 has really impressed me. With the 8x oversampling that takes
place within the BB 1793 DAC chip I don't hear the harshness that I have with
other up and over samplers. I can only attribute the clean sound to less noise
shaping unlike some "Hi-Rez" DAC chips that use up to 128x oversampling.
At $1695 plus shipping, this truly is a screamin' deal. You
won't find a better sounding integrated anywhere near this price, if at all. To
top it off you get a great sounding, high resolution DAC. Bottom line... I can't
recommend this piece highly enough if you happen to be in the market for an
integrated. It really is something quite special. I will miss it.
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