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Positive Feedback ISSUE 4
december/january 2003


The Meitner DAC6 SACD/CD Converter: Notice of Intent to Publish a Rave Review!
by David W. Robinson


An ethical imperative is upon me. I feel that I must—even at this late moment in the life span of Positive Feedback Online, Issue 4—make our readers aware of an extraordinary advance in fine audio equipment for their listening rooms, one that lifts SACD (and CD) reproduction to a new level. I'll be commenting more fully in Issue 5, but you need to be aware of this new possibility now.

Progress in audio, like development in most things human, comes in fits and starts. There are overlaps, false starts, long delays; long lethargy can be suddenly trumped by a quantum leap forward. Once in a while, I get to hear a component or system that provides a substantial gain in the state of the art, something that takes what's known and extends the realm of what's been done.

Then again, once in a great while, something crosses my path that is such a remarkable advancement that it alters the fundamental scale of audio reproduction. It is that true ava raris, a paradigm changing design. I am well aware that the term "paradigm" has been sadly misused and overused over the years; I employ it regardless, because I believe that I use it correctly. After listening I am very pleased to say that this has happened with the Meitner DAC6 converter used in tandem with the Meitner-modified Philips SACD 1000 transport.

Ed Meitner, a brilliant designer of digital audio products for many years now, produces a chipset for DSD (both A/D and D/A) that is widely regarded as the best in the business. Having heard the Meitner designs early on (see, I've been one of those who considered Ed’s work to be the finest out there.

Until now, the only way that you could hear Ed's work was to either visit a studio so equipped, or to purchase a Meitner DAC8 pro D/A (which is what PF Online's Mike Pappas did). The problem there was the problem of DSD sources for the input; with few exceptions (e.g., the Accuphase and Sharp two-box SACD systems), there was no way to get a DSD input from standard disks. There is still no industry standard method for outputting DSD in the home; all solutions are proprietary.

Without going into great detail at this time, Meitner has solved this problem by providing DSD outputs from modified Philips SACD 1000 transports. He has trumped any problems with bandwidth and EMI/RF by using fiber optic cabling for both DSD and PCM (AES/EBU is an option for PCM), and fiber optic for handling the digital clock on a separate channel, taking jitter to near vanishing. (BNC coax is an option for the clock channel.)

The output is feed to the Meitner DAC6, which in optimum configuration is operating in pure fiber optic mode, with the transport slaved to the digital clock in the DAC6. (Slaving the DAC6 to a transport’s clock is an option—but why?!) The DAC6, in turn, has 6 XLR outputs which can be used in stereo (XLR channels 1 and 2) or multichannel (XLR channels 1-6) mode. These can feed either a stereo preamp via 1-2, or a 6 channel preamp like the Meitner Switchman-2 (my PF Online review to come shortly).

Right now, I’m running this system in stereo mode via the new BAT VK-51SE reference preamp (6H30 equipped) via JENA Labs cabling to a pair of Linn Klimax monoblocks, and via bi-wired JENA Labs Pathfinder speaker cables to the extraordinary Kharma Grande Ceramique loudspeakers.

After only 2-3 days of break-in, the results were literally awesome. I don’t believe that I’ve ever heard a single audio component system that lifted what I’m experiencing to such a sublime level. The Meitner DAC6/Meitnerized Philips SACD 1000 has exceeded all prior SACD systems that we’ve had in for review here in my listening room, including the oft-modded SCD-1. Even on CD playback (which is done optimally via fiber, oversampled, undecimated to DSD, then converted via the Meitner DSD D/A section), the performance of the Meitner DAC6 is exceptional, pressing beyond our prior references. This result is both surprising and gratifying…no one who owns the Meitner DAC6 and the Philips SACD 1000 transport need be concerned about standard CDs. The quality of Red Book PCM reproduction is truly spectacular!

SACD playback…especially of DSD recordings…is nothing less than the best that I’ve ever heard. No contest; no doubt. Two weeks of listening with a number of different audiophiles have confirmed the stellar quality of the Meitner DAC6: it is audio at a sublime new level. At the stereo level alone, it represents a convergence of "accuracy" and "musicality" in a way that will force us to reconsider all the rest of the audio recording/reproduction chain.

I do not make these statements lightly, and will follow up with details in Issue 5 of Positive Feedback Online.

I am willing to say that those of you who have been following my work about DSD/SACD over the past 4.5 years, and who have reason to trust my evaluations, ought to avoid the rush that I believe is going to happen when audiophiles realize how exceptional the Meitner DAC6 is.

Run, do not walk, and get thee to a Meitner DAC6!

And yes, I’ve already made the arrangements to purchase mine.

A note or two: the Philips SACD 1000 has been discontinued and replaced by a newer model. Since Ed Meitner does not prefer the transport on the replacement drive, he is planning to introduce his own transport in March of 2003, which I hope to get in for an updated review. In the meantime, those who wish to order their transports can queue up immediately. If you have strong interest in multi-channel, you'll want to check into Meitner's Switchman-2 preamp, which gives you multiple sets of six channel input/output.

Also, for those who are not interested in multi-channel playback, Meitner is planning to release a two channel version of his chipset... stay tuned for details.

Time's up... I've got to get this off!

The Meitner DAC6 is expected to sell at a MSRP of $8,995.00; there is no price yet on the new Meitner transport. Readers who have Philips SACD 1000's that they can send for modification can call for pricing."

For more information, or to purchase a Meitner DAC6/Meitner transport, contact Meitner’s distributor, Jonathan Tinn at 503-221-0465.

The line starts here... don't delay!