- Only the best DAC and digital filter chips. We choose from the best DAC chips in the world to build our DAC’s. Our most recent DAC's, the Reference Edition are build with the ES-9038Pro or the ES-9028Pro.
- Enhanced digital headroom. Some recordings are made artificially loud for commercial reasons. Such recordings cause clipping during digital signal processing in most DAC's, resulting in gross distortion. The Reference Edition DAC has enough headroom so even the loudest (+0dBfs) recordings are processed correctly.
- Jitter elimination. Jitter (=noise in the timing of the signal) was for many years a serious problem in digital audio giving an unnatural and harsh sound. Nowadays, modern components and careful design completely eliminates this problem.
- Less-sounds-better. If there are less components in the audio signal path, there is less chance for degradation of the sound. Less components also means the remaining components can be of higher quality within the budget, further supporting great sound.
- Bigger is better for analogue. For the analogue parts, we use traditional components or big Surface Mount Devices (SMD), metal film or thin film. Bigger components have dramatically less noise and distortion. For high-speed digital, small SMD components are usually better suited.
- Keeping active components in their optimum range. The most effective way to process analogue signals inside a DAC is using op-amps. In order to get the best sound, our designs are limiting the number of op-amps in the signal path. The op-amps we use are the best in the world and are kept in class-A operation to avoid sound degradation.
- Distributed power sources. The power supplied to the various parts of a DAC has a large influence in the sound. Ideally, every stage should have its own power supply. Eight or more regulators are used to reach that goal. Many hours of testing and listening where spend on selecting the best sounding combination.- For USB we use ‘floating earth’ technology which means noise signals from your computer are shielded from the sensitive analogue parts of our DAC’s and the USB connection is free from ground loops.
- Fun to use! Apart from great sound quality, the DAC’s are fun to use. This is done by offering both fully automatic operation for people that don’t have time to read manuals and advanced settings for those who want to tweak the sound with the included remote control.
Listening to music should be pure emotion!
The best headphones can offer the same or better sound quality as traditional loudspeakers, often for a lower price and without struggling with room acoustics. However, the finest headphones only give their best when used in combination with a high-quality headphone amplifier like the Contralto.
Adding the Contralto in the signal chain give an immediate and obvious improvement in sound quality compared to just plugging the headphones into a source device. Sound will come to life and highly dynamic music will sound effortless and powerful.
Experience the original sound!Our headphone amplifiers are using these technologies to get the most involving sound possible:
- Zero-offset design. Headphones are less robust compared to loudspeakers. The delicate membrane is more sensitive to DC-offset voltages an amplifier might produce. Without special design, the offset can easily exceed 10mV, creating distortion in the headphones. In the Contralto series, the Zero-Offset circuits make sure any DC-offset is below 1mV and in case of defect it will switch off immediately to protect your expensive headphones.
- Class-A MOSFET output stage. MOSFET’s are much faster tha traditional transistors, greatly reducing timing distortion. MOSFET’s are robust so we don't need invasive overload protection. They work in class-A to keep the smooth natural balance of your music.
- High peak current capability. The Contralto has a very low output impedance so the headphones are well controlled and coloration of the sound due to variations in the headphone's impedance is eliminated. Moreover there is so much power reserve, some people in our office use the Contralto to drive small loudspeakers (not recommended, but the sound is nice). Even for very difficult to drive headphones, there will be always enough power.- Advanced protection circuit. Despite the enormous power, the Contralto is fully protected against turn-on or turn-off plop, excessive DC-offset and short circuit. Peace of mind for your expensive headphones.
Tube DAC, why?
We've got a lot of feedback after we announced the CY-7100 Tube Edition. Some are skeptical about vacuum tubes in a DAC.
Normally, the analogue part of DAC’s is built around circuits called opamps. Opamps rely on negative feedback to work. To sound good, opamps need to be much faster than the signal they process.
The raw audio signal from DAC chips contains lots of very high frequency components. They will be filtered out in a successive stage. The first stage after the DAC chip is exposed to maximum high frequency noise and is the most critical for the performance.
Opamp based DAC's can have good sound. Our CY-5100dsd uses high speed opamps and is highly regarded among music lovers. However, demanding audiophiles feel there is still room for improvement. A way to improve is to increase the speed of the circuit. Or to use less or no feedback so the speed requirements of the circuit can be relaxed.
It is very difficult to find an opamp circuit that is low noise, low distortion and can process very high speed signals at the same time. Using discrete transistors would be one way. Those often need feedback to have decent distortion performance and transistors have signal-dependent capacitance which requires complex circuits to overcome. Signal dependent capacitance leads to much more distortion at high frequencies and, more importantly, degrades the stereo image and smear HF details if left unchecked.
Tubes can handle very high frequencies without trouble. Tubes at lower level signals have reasonable low distortion without feedback. Most importantly, tubes don't have signal dependent internal capacitance like semiconductors have. Tubes do have some internal capacitance, but it's mostly constant, independent of the signal. This preserves the delicate transients in the music and stereo image.
During the design, we used listening tests, advanced computer simulation and extensive measurements to model the performance. We believe in less-is-more. Simpler circuits often give better subjective sound quality. With tubes and careful circuit design, we can make relatively simple circuits that perform like the absolute best available in the market without becoming hugely expensive.
We don't think that 'tube sound' is about high distortion. We actually prefer low-distortion circuits as those will keep the musical clarity & focus in complex music like symphony orchestra and rock. Hifi in our idea is an almost obsessive drive to preserve the original intent of the artist.
The result is a very special DAC, not like anything else in the market today. It’s the perfect balance. It's precise like the best semiconductor DAC's. It has a natural stereo image. It’s highly detailed with delicate musical textures but in a relaxed way. The sound is smooth but not overly warm. Its presence is discrete and never gets in the way of the musical performance. The CY-7100 is only available as custom audio product, built-to-order.
- Multi steps to avoid hum. Hum in tube designs is common. The CY-7100 avoids this by feeding the tubes heaters from DC power and use stabilized supplies for the high voltage.
- Preserve tube life. The voltage on the tube heaters are very accurately set to their minimum value, independent from the mains voltage. If the CY-7100 is idle for a while, the high voltage will switch off. When idle longer, the heaters will be run at lower voltage to preserve tube life. The CY-7100 will quickly and automatically wake up when the music resumes.
- Real I/V design to get the best of the DAC chips. Some other tube DAC designs simply use a resistor to convert the DAC chips current into voltage. This will cause additional distortion. The CY-7100 uses a real active I/V stage with a tube triode for the best sound.
- Distortion cancellation circuit. Tube stages are combined in such a way the 2nd stage reduces distortion from the first stage. Very good performance is reached without using feedback. The CY-7100 sounds great and measures well.
- Pure triode tube design. The CY-7100 uses only tube triodes in the analogue part. No transistors or opamps are used in the signal path.
- Matched tubes. The tubes in the CY-7100 are military grade tubes, sourced from Europe, tested and matched for the best results.
- High quality components. The capacitors are Wima, resistors are matched metal film throughout the design. The channels are matched in level and distortion profile. The result is the purest and most delicate sound.
- Modern DAC design. The CY-7100 is a modern DAC with remote control, OLED display, native DSD capable and can play 384k/32bit data streams. For safety and shielding, there are no exposed tubes, everything is safely enclosed.