Very nice review Puremusic,
Seems like digital has finally reached its musical goals ?
Can't imagine the NWO-3.0 GO !
Seems like digital has finally reached its musical goals ?
Can't imagine the NWO-3.0 GO !
Alex is a great designer, and his Denon 3910 was the best digital I've heard or owned, but the constant upgrades made me nuts. If I paid $25,000 for a state of the art digital player only to find out a month or two later that it was no longer state of the art, and required an upgrade of several thousand dollars more, I'd go crazy.
I appreciate Alex's quest for the state of the art, but it wasn't a path I was comfortable walking. With the APL player, I was plagued by upgraditis.
Now, I have a different digital source from a designer who designs an excellent circuit and stays with it, and I am quite satisfied and relaxed with my choice.
Nice review. This reconstituted Esoteric appears to be the one to beat. It's time for the major audio mags to recognize in print that there is important work going on at the periphery of mainstream manufacturing. Of course this would expose weaknesses in stock offerings that are currently celebrated as the best available.
Tvad, Alex has been driven like a mad genius to perfect his flagship player. With the 3.0 completed, he says his attention is turning to his other products. Undoubtedly, some of the technological advances from the NWO series will trickle down. That should be great news for the high-end digital community.
Rx8man and Dgarretson, Thank you for your nice comments. I'm supportive of competition. It increases the creative juices in the great designers like Alex Peychev, Ed Meitner, and others. With competition from stock players and high-end digital designers, we will all gain.
Thank you Puremusic for this comprehensive and thought provoking think piece on the 2.5T.
Alex has been , as you put it , relentless in his pursuit of excellence since the beginning . His upgrades have been frustrating to a few but ask yourself, would you rather have a component that is a dead end investment and forces a sale to upgrade or would you rather have a designer that pushes the envelope and offers an inexpensive upgrade path that allows you the peace of mind that your investment is secure and your player will not fall into obsolescence.
That is our philosophy and until now has been the path we have taken . I say until now because the NWO 3.0GO based on 32 bit dac technology is set to be unleashed . Alex has stated that this is the culmination of his life's work and it is time to let the NWO series of universal digital playback machines and his "relentless pursuit of perfection" take a much needed rest . At this time , we see no significant advancements that will be added to the NWO 3.0GO . Our customers that have stayed faithful and loyal to APL HI FI are the beneficiaries of our work and we think of you as family. Our commitment and appreciation is immense.
Brent Rainwater APL HI FI
At this time , we see no significant advancements that will be added to the NWO 3.0GO.
For those who pay upwards of $30,000 hoping to own a state of the art digital player that with remain so for more than two or three months, I hope this is true. A five year (plus) history of tweaks, upgrades and improvements to APL digital players suggests a pattern to the contrary.
The upgrade path is wonderful. However, there is value in having a player remain in a system rather than in transit and on the APL workbench.
What is the price of the NWO 3.0GO?
John, Thank you for your compliments. It would be great to hear comments from those who actually have a 2.5T in their own system as well as a high-end vinyl set up.
Tvad, Many manufacturers implement improvements all along, without letting their clients know for a year or two before they finally change the model number. They keep track of which machine has what improvements by the serial numbers. Then the upgrade cost for any particular machine will depend on its serial number. Personally, I prefer not to be kept in the dark. I want to know when any upgrade is available. Then the choice for WHEN to upgrade my machine is mine, not the manufacturer's. An owner of an APL player who doesn't want to send in his player for upgrades frequently can simply wait a year or two. What's wrong with that? I'm for choice. That serves both types of clients, those who want the latest now as well as those who prefer to wait.
An owner of an APL player who doesn't want to send in his player for upgrades frequently can simply wait a year or two. What's wrong with that?
Nothing wrong with that as long as one is disciplined enough to resist following the crowd and chasing the Grail. My observations indicate the majority of audiophiles who have the luxury of spending $30,000 on a digital source will be unwilling to own anything less than the absolute best, and they will therefore not wait to upgrade. It's certainly their choice to do what they want with their APL machines, and it's nice APL offers the upgrade path. However, the Quest results in downtime, additional cost...and Audiophilia Nervosa.
Mine is not really a criticism of the APL policy. It's rather an observation made for those who have no experience with APL products. Better to know what to expect before writing the check.
Very nice review!
Brent - I have several questions as I'm in the market for a new digital player and don't want to be without one for a significant period of time.
Is there a waiting list for work to be performed for either model? If so how long is it?
What is the typical completion time once an order is received?
I don't think that question can be answered in a way you would find meaningful. I have been waiting 5 months for a 2.5T and never thought I would be waiting this long having tried to preschedule the upgrade.
BTW, I have done business with 3 modders and none were accurate about time estimates.
Over the long haul of modifying my CDP I've found that as the unit approaches perfection, even minor modifications can make large differences. Small smudges are easily noticed on a very clean window.
I don't know whether APL's history has been to offer too many such ad hoc changes-- as compared to waiting longer and rolling them collectively into baseline product releases in the manner of mainstream manufacturers. Most modders are different from manufacturers in this regard. In any case, an upgrade to newly available 32-bit chipsets is a big step up in technological terms and deserves special consideration. If Alex can beat major manufacturers to market with this technology then that's certainly to his credit.
Thanks for your reply to my post. I appreciate APL's dedicationt to make outstanding leading-edge machines and realize it is something that is not easily done in a large corporate environment. However if APL is a "one-man" shop one could wait a very long time before their unit is shipped. Particularly if the comapany's models have gotten good reviews! One could speculate that you wait is partly a function of all the time spent on designing and building the 3.0 version---I don't know. My questions were meant to get at time/delivery issues.
Bottom line---unless I feel comfortable with the company's ability to deliver a unit to me in a reasonable timeframe (and that's a personal view) I have great reluctance in placing an order.
"If Alex can beat major manufacturers to market with this technology then that's certainly to his credit"
I thought Accustic Arts has already brought this technology out a few years ago in their DAC1 Mk3. Since then they have released two other Dacs. The newer Tube DAC II has the 32 bit chip. This is from there website
"Special and unique 2 x 32 Bit technology with simultaneous digital signal processing,
separately for left and right channel
Extremely elaborate digital signal processing supported by an unique 32 bit Microcomputer
The 32 bit Microcomputer contains e.g.:
- High precision crystal oscillator
- 32 bit digital filter (including de-emphasis technology)
- 26 parallel working multiplier processors (32 bit)"
Also I thought that the Memory Player was going to have a 32 bit DAC in their transport at RMAF in Oct.
"However if APL is a "one-man" shop one could wait a very long time before their unit is shipped."
Yes Peter, I realize this. This is the third time I have had units modified by APL. The first two modifications did not take anywhere near as long. At this price level, I'd rather have the unit in my system than sitting in queue which is why I attempted to schedule the work.
Having said all this, Alex has a history of coming through and the perspective of customers enjoying their units in their systems tends to be much different than mine - I am basically foaming at the mouth waiting for the upgrade. And yes, Alex has to juggle R & D, mod work, business planning, family, etc.
Alex's products are top notch. His Phillips SACS 1000 mod sounded as good or better to me than the highly rated Ayre universal. I compared the two for several hours. This is what convinced me to shell out for the NWO-1. Recently I compared the APL Philips to a fully tweaked beta Squeezebox front end on an excellent system (owned by Audiogon member zybar) and the listeners present could not pick a winner. They both sounded real nice. This was a casual comparison. APL sound quality has advanced considerably since the Philips mods.
If ordering an NWO you just need to be prepared for things taking longer than you expect. This can be hard due to impatience - a daily struggle.
Irish65, let's not mistake 32 bit processing with 32 bit DACs. Even a little Denon 3910 has a 32 bit floating point processor by Analog Devices taking care of multichannel processing, HDCD decoding, digital filtration, etc. Of course, it outputs the digital data to 24 bit Burr-Brown DACs. Please visit the websites of all manufacturers in the world producing DACs and, if you find any, please let me know who offers 32 bit resolution other than the new AK4397 by AKM. To my knowledge, the AK4397 is the first DAC to accept 32 bit data.
As far as I know, the only two companies currently using the AK4397 in their products are Esoteric and APL Hi-Fi. I am sure there will be more in the future, but this is the situation for now.
And one more thing, there are currently no AK4397 DACs in USA available to purchase from the AKM parts distributor. What I am saying is that no one could have used these DACs for a year or more already.
Lastly, AK4397 contains many different stages inside so it is not just the 32 bit processing but also the unique Delta/Sigma modulator, actual D/A conversion and analog stage in the AK4397 which makes them so good.
So I agree with you that 32 bit digital signal processing is nothing new but, so far, there were no DACs accepting 32 bit information other than the brand new AK4397 by AKM.
to a true music-phile, i am happy that "puremusic" is enjoying the sounds that his equipment is capable of as much as he is.
to the rest of us however, i would humbly remind people that mark levinson was able to eventually produce their "reference-level" digital performance for less than half the original costs. IOW, a 360s/37 went for $11k (retail), while a 30.6/31.5 that originally pushed the envelope cost over $26,000, and this was several years ago! and now, you can get a used 390s for about $4k, which some say is as good as the separates! and if that's not enough of a conundrum, there's the incredible meridian 808, the cary, or the dcs players, not to mention EMM's CDSA. or you can get a turntable and really go nuts over a well recorded piece for under $5k; for $15k you can get something that looks like the starship enterprise. my point is this- i couldn't be happier for the reviewer- he has an excellent cdp and not too many people can say the same. but i'm also concerned that the product he is lucky enough to have acquired isn't made by APL- it's modded. will esoteric get a shot at the technology and then offer it down the road for half the cost (or hopefully less?) a long time ago, i personally confronted the madrigal rep when they did a demo in my home town about their "incredible #30"- my question was simply this- the people that would really enjoy having one the most- the music-philes- are unlikely to ever afford one. he responded that they could buy a proceed dac (at the time their "budget" line). but he knew it was a lousy answer, and everyone there kind of shrugged in agreement (except for the 1 or 2 guys who dropped by in ferraris). but not too much later levinson (as well as spectral, threshold, goldmund, etc.) started marketing premium digital for alot less money. of course, out of boredom or something, DCS came along (oh yeah, Zanden, Reimyo, MBL, and some other lunatic-fringe companies).
and what's going to happen if some new D/A device the size of an pea comes along in 2010 that, loaded into a $500 laptop, will store your entire music collection (or you simply download it from stereophile's music library), and play it with stunning life-like clarity over your Wilson Alexandrias- one of the few speakers capable of letting you hear what the new technology can deliver??
anyway, us music-philes need to form a UNION! we are being audio-nervosofied on all fronts, and prosac isn't the answer anymore! don't pacify me with "pictures" of state of the art components! if i can go look at an actual rembrandt in an art gallery, i should be able to listen to ANY piece of music i want WHEN i want with the BEST available sound, and still pay the rent and buy groceries! i say UNITE!
first we storm SONY, INC., THEN we picket in front of TEAC, and so on. NEVER GIVE UP THE FIGHT (for your RIGHTS).
P.S.- oh, and btw, let me know if a used APL 3.0 in mint condition becomes available...
Thank you for your kind comments and for your observations about the trickle-down technology from the cost-no-object digital to the more affordable range. Such trickle-down allows more musicphiles to enjoy better musical reproduction. Eventually, we all gain. I understand that APL is planning to incorporate some of the technology from its flagship NWO series into their more affordable products. However, due to their huge cost, the superb Esoteric VRDS-NEO transport and chassis will remain in the NWO series. Consequently, not all of the amazing sonics in the NWO series will trickle down.
my point is this- i couldn't be happier for the reviewer- he has an excellent cdp and not too many people can say the same. but i'm also concerned that the product he is lucky enough to have acquired isn't made by APL- it's modded.
A clarification: The NWO is not a mod. It's not based on just upgrading of some parts and some minor redesign. It's a completely original design by Alex Peychev that uses the VRDS-NEO transport and chassis from the Esoteric UX-1 or X-01. (For few more details see the last paragraph of the review above.)
P.S.- oh, and btw, let me know if a used APL 3.0 in mint condition becomes available...
That probably won't happen for some time. But in the meantime...Once in a while an APL 3910 CD player ($6,500 new, about two years ago) shows up on the used market. There is one on Audiogon today listed for $4,800. They have held their value well.
Call me naive, but why do we need a 32 bit DAC when the source data is only 16 bits? You can't make the original data more accurate than 16 bits, right? May be more precise but not more accurate. Final product likely will sound different, but not more accurate (note I'm not using the word "better" 'cause that's matter of taste). It just seems all matherbation to me. There are plenty out there who still vouch the orginal 16 bit chips from the 80's and 90's sound better than these newer chips. Whenever I hear vinyl playback, I still feel the best CDPs out there are a magnitude behind. Please edumicate this village idiot.
There have been many classics in high-end audio. And when they were improved upon and were no longer the state of the art, we didn't stop calling them classics. 'A classic" is not synonymous with 'the state of the art'. If they were synonyms, then there would have been a contradiction in what I wrote. In the third sentence of the first paragraph of my review I anticipate that improvements will follow. One common description by some who heard the 3.0 is that it gives more of what the 2.5Toffers. I anticipate that future improvements will continue by APL and others. Some of these improvements will represent milestones. They will be the new classics.
John, Great review, mucho better than what I can. Guys, I have owned over 60 sources, with Alex's I have been so commited for the MAJOR fact, he is voracious in his commitment to creating THE finest in digital reproduction, at any cost. But, with this in mind, he is the ONLY person I have ever done Biz, with who makes sure, beyond any doubt, that he takes care of UPGRADING EXISTING UNITS TO CURRENT PRODUCTION, this is DEFINATE value added, and keeps APL units current, with current prices. APL units, are the ONLY NEW units, I have paid retail for, which have not lost more than 20% of the RETAIL pricing from the Manufacturer.
Please show me ANY other product which has as much RETAINED value, as APL.
Bravo APL, and Alex...Thanks for being so damn persistent.
I believe causa_sui made an astute point. My Merriam Webster Dictionary defines "Classic":
1) Serving as a standard of excellence
2)A work of enduring excellence
IMHO the 2.5T was superseded to soon to be called a classic. This does not infer that the 2.5T couldn't be superior to another CDP which could be considered a classic.
My unabridged Webster's Third New International Dictionary has numerous nuanced definitions of 'classic', many of which do not explicitly imply duration or time element. For example: particularly effective, of the first class, particularly definitive, ideally illustrative, of the highest quality, etc. With such variety of available shades of meaning, it is the author who chooses which connotation to use as long as he informs the reader. I immediately did that in the first paragraph. I explained why I think of the 2.5T as a classic. Namely, it has broken new ground and broke a major digital barrier. Using descriptive and metaphorical language, a large portion of the review then attempted to communicate what I heard and experienced that was the result of this ground breaking. Based on my experience, I thought the 2.5T was, among other things, 'particularly effective' and 'of the first class'; hence my designation 'classic'. An instant classic.
I appreciate your effort and mean no disrespect. However, in this era where everything seems to be "hyped" and "oversold" I, for one, want to express the caution that if everything we like becomes a "classic" simply because we choose to call it one then classics will no longer be. In other words, its overuse renders the term meaningless. "Classic", as Phaelon points out, gestures toward something altogether more substantive than subjective experience. Can you provide some objective reasoning as to why this player is or ought to be considered a "classic" i.e. is a "standard'; is "enduring"; is "excellent" other than the fact that you think it tres fabo and Alex to be God-like or as you say: "THE MAN".
I understand that some may prefer a more restrictive use of 'classic' than what is presented in Webster's unabridged dictionary. I can appreciate that semantic preference and we can agree to disagree. In my subjective review I provided the connotations I used and supported them with details relating to the frequency spectrum, dynamics, transients, and sound staging and imaging (based on seven months of listening). For me, those details, taken collectively, were reason enough to call the 2.5T a classic. Like most reviewers on Audiogon, other forums, online journals and print journals, I don't have a laboratory to run tests and take performance measurements. From my side, there is nothing more that I can do or say except: The excellence of the 2.5T is supported by many reports on Audiogon threads and other forums; and for what it's worth, is supported by results of all shoot-outs that I am aware of that have already been publicly reported.
"My observations indicate the majority of audiophiles who have the luxury of spending $30,000 on a digital source will be unwilling to own anything less than the absolute best, and they will therefore not wait to upgrade"
I believe the rational of TVAD's statement speaks for itself. Hence, I wonder if, in a relatively short time, there will be any 2.5Ts in existence to be referred to as classic.
Phaelon, There is a lot truth in your quote of Tvad's post. In particular, all owners of the NW0-1 had their players upgraded to the series 2 NWO. (To my knowledge, none were sold on the used market.) And some of these, including mine, are already in line to be upgraded to the 3.0. With APL's commitment to upgrade any NWO to the latest version, I would not be surprised if eventually all the series 2 NWO players will be upgraded to the 3.0 as you suggest. If the 3.0 is an improvement on the 2.5T as several people have claimed, I wouldn't be surprised if the NWO series becomes a classic. That would not be unprecedented. There have been other series in the high-end audio where a classic was replaced by a series of improvements, and then the series, for one reason or another, was referred to as a classic.
1) About the upgrade cycle:
I have ordered an APL NWO2.5 beginning of January. I was planned to pick it up in April, and learned 1 week before that the NWO 2.5T has just been introduced. I decided therefore to convert my order in a 2.5T... and ended up waiting 3 more months to finally get it end of July. One month later, I read that the NWO3.0GO has been announced...
I can understand that people may have different feeling about the "upgraditis" of APL. I personally find it a great bonus to be able to update your player regularly... with a big minus: reliability of estimate for delivery of product. If I would have known that I need to wait 7 months for my player, I would probably have chosen a EMM Labs... even if the APL maybe superior.
Now my big fear is to send back my player for upgrade to 3.0, and wait 3 months to get it back. I don't buy a system to remain 3 months w/o a player...
The fundamental problem is that there is absolutely no visibility on backlog, and no clear communication of your position in the waiting list. I am even not convinced that there is really a waiting list based on timing of deposit. If APL wants to reassure all their customers that they are treated equally, they should publish on their forum the waiting list both for upgrade and new products. Customers upgrading from previous models should get a call or email when the product is ready to be upgraded (3 weeks in advance). Turnaround time should be less than a week. This is not difficult to implement. Question is the willingness to create transparency and to be perceived as a more professional company.
2) About the 3.0GO:
Brent/Alex, what is the price of upgrade? what is estimated date for components availability? what is the typical turnaround time?
I am sure I will line up.. but I would like to get insurance that turnaround will not take months
3) About the NWO2.5T player itself
I cannot make a definitive judgment, as both my speakers (MM3) and the NWO have only 130 hours. For the moment, the sounds keeps opening up, but the highs are still too harsh/bright to my taste (can be caused also by speaker, will test this weekend with direct connection of the Transporter to my Dart w/o using the NWO as DAC). Bass and medium are already sounding great. (Puremusic, do you have similar experience during burn in?). I am confident that sound will be GREAT at the end of burn in.
The volume control and digital-in are great feature. It allows me to have a minimalist system: 2 speakers, one media server, one CD, one amp. Better than with pre-amp and at a lower cost.
One suggestion would be to add in the shipping box one schematic with position of the different connectors (I don't expect my "digital in" to be on "clock sync"), as well as a copy of the non intuitive instructions which are on the website.
4) Customer Service
Brent is a great guy to deal with: very helpful and responsive. Alex, you are lucky to have found him
PS: I am still waiting for my invoice...
Puremusic, do you have similar experience during burn in?
As I mentioned in my review, the treble began to open up around 160 hours of burn-in; sweetness and delicacy started to come in at 190 hours; but it wasn't until about 250 hours on Redbook CDs that I felt the Redbook DACs were burnt-in. Then I had to go through the long burn-in process on SACD, followed by DVD-A. In the end, it was glorious. It was well worth the wait.
I have 2.5T now which was upgraded from 2.5. I found a slight reduction of the speaker toe-in angle (about 3 degrees) and increase of speaker distance (1.5 cm) could improve treble (violin at highs) and soundstage. Of course enough breakin time is essential. It took about 230 hours in my case.
I am now at around 270 hours burning time on the NWO2.5T. The sound has kept improving for the last 100 hours. Much more open, relaxed, while keeping its transparency and ability to dissociate sounds from different instruments. Everything is now perfect, and I am very happy of my purchase!
Now I still need to go through SACD burn-in...