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January 2016

Analog emotions in the digital domain

Like most of us high-end audio aficionados, Willem Zimpel of German dealer Schallquelle-Schwingungstechnik has subscribed himself to the lifelong quest for improving the sound quality of his listening chain. Even though he is a big fan of analog playback, he nevertheless keeps an open mind towards digital audio and has lately added digital sources such as a Windows laptop, several BlueRay players as well as CD drives to his setup. MUTEC’s MC-3+ Smart Clock USB now provides the center piece to his digital listening experience.

Mr. Zimpel has been dealing with Hi-Fi audio since 1986 and has a deep understanding of loudspeaker technology in particular. This has led to a passion for MUNDUS loudspeaker systems that have impressed him with their three-dimensional, holographic sound reproduction and that are ideally suited for ear training and ear regeneration. His fully featured listening space in Frechen near Cologne, Germany provides perfect conditions for any listener to discover the subtle (and not so subtle) nuances of digital audio and to analyze the signal chain.

The MC-3+ Smart Clock USB is a perfect match for Willem Zimpel in several ways: first, its wide range of interfacing options allow integrating a large number of playback sources in Mr. Zimpel’s setup path while ensuring the outmost audiophile quality. Despite the flexibility of the MC-3+USB, its operation is nevertheless straight-forward and provides useful features to analyze the digital audio stream. Secondly, the MC-3+USB improves the reproduction performance of connected playback devices such as the Pioneer BlueRay player and the Proceed CD player thanks to MUTEC’s REVIVE re-clocking technology.

Picture: The trinity responsible for an exceptional listening experience: MUTEC MC-3+ Smart Clock USB (left), Mytek Stereo 192 D-to-A converter (right), and the Funk LAP-2 V3 preamp (top)

The highest-grade USB interface of the MC-3+USB with its galvanic isolation for suppression of high-frequency interferences takes care of the audio playback from a Windows laptop running the popular JRiver Media Center in Mr. Zimpel’s home. Media from his music library with sample rates from 44.1 kHz all the way up to 192 kHz can be played back via USB, with the MC-3+USB automatically locking to any incoming sample rate and indicating the sample rate on its front panel. In this application it’s important to double-check the preference settings within the JRiver software to avoid any unwanted processing such as downsampling of high-resolution files or a reduction of dynamic range due to internal volume control, for example.

Infografik zu den Anwendungsmöglichkeiten des MUTEC MC-3+ Smart Clock USB im Re-Clocking Modus.

In the case of Willem Zimpel the gain in sound performance and audiophile quality due to the MC-3+ Smart Clock USB was immediately apparent and he reports noticeable improvements with a range of high-quality DACs:

"The three-dimensional sound reproduction of the holographic loudspeakers was further increased with a more relaxed and balanced sonic image. Spatial components and ambience that many loudspeakers hardly translate will be more precisely rendered with the MC-3+USB."

Using the MC-3+ Smart Clock USB has expanded a new dimension of digital audio for Willem Zimpel and has finally put it on par with the musicality of analog playback. Even older CDs now show how much potential can be unlocked from digital recordings. Mr. Zimpel concludes:

"Having been a strong believer in analog audio I’m now excited to experience what digital audio technology is capable of delivering with the MC-3+USB and how many previously hidden details can be uncovered these days. This verdict is true for all digital formats. I’m definitely looking forward to be surprised again when MUTEC announces new developments in the future!"

Picture: The sonic benefits of the MC-3+USB will become most noticeable with a high-resolution playback system such as the MUNDUS holographic loudspeakers pictured above.

Listening equipment:

Computer AudioWindows Laptop mit JRiver
Blueray PlayerPioneer BDP 450 mit Ligawo Audioextraktor
CD PlayerProceed PCD 2
Re-ClockerMUTEC MC-3+ Smart Clock USB
DACMytek Stereo 192 192 DSD-DAC
PreamplifierFunk LAP-2 V3
Power AmplifierATT – Hybrid
Power AmplifierBryston 3B SST
LoudspeakersMundus Eternita

Listening examples:

Jennifer WarnsThe Hunter
Nils WülkerUP
Tria LingvoAt its purest
London GrammarIf you wait
Mercedes SosaMisa Criolla (Decca 1999)
VivaldiThe Four Seasons (Christopher Hogwood, Decca)