Have You Heard the Northstar CD Combo?

WOW! I just bought a Northstar Transport and the Extremo DAC. I can't believe how good this sounds. It blows away my Sony scd-1 in stock mode, and even betters it with the mods that I had in the Sony. I never thought I could get this excited about a piece of digital equipment. I also love the size. Very small compared the the scd-1 beast. That thing almost broke my back! It is still not the equal of my analog system, but I can go from listening to LP's to CD's and not feel the need shut the digital off and fire up the TT right away.
I've heard the 'cheaper' combo with the Model 192 DAC. I'm not too fond about the transport though - my former PS Audio Lamba 2 SE sounded better with the 192 DAC, so I kept that combo. Since the PS Audio died I had to replace it, and still the Northstar transport didn't cut it. I have now bought a (totally revised) Alchemy Audio transport which allows me to take full advantage of the I2S connection. It's not that the differences are very big, just a sens of being more 'musical'. Off course that's to my ears in my system, so in your case the combo might be the best choice.
I have the 192 combo after having owned the transport for a while and using it with a Monarchy M24 dac. When I bought the 192 dac to go with the transport there was a subtle improvement, but things really got interesting when I started using the I2S interface. I ordered a Revelation Audio Lab I2S cable and never looked back.

Alas though, the 192 transport went on the fritz and so now I eagerly await its return. I didn't realize I would miss digital this much even though in the interim I get to listen to more vinyl.
Slowhand - Welcome to the Northstar club. I think you will be very happy over the long haul too. I have had the 192 Transport and DAC for over a year with I2S Rev Audio Cable and love them. A few months ago modded the DAC at MauiMods and it took it to another level. He also had a Transport mod available and given Satch's noting improvement with a different transport, I might try it.
There are those that dont believe in I2S, but this is what makes this combo so good. Unfortunately, there is a lot of filtering on the I2S interface in order to get it to pass FCC/CISPR emissions testing, so this adds quit a bit of jitter. This is a fairly easy mod to remove these and speed-up the interface, lowering the jitter.

The upsampler chip used to get 24/192 is the best on the market IMO, really great sounding. The transport can even be used in a master-slave fashion with a Pace-Car reclocker to get the jitter really-really low.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I am using the I2S Rev Audio cable too. The only thing I had lying around for isolation was some Black Diamond cones, but a friend loaned me 2 sets of Symposium roller block Jr.'s. I put one set under the dac (the transport is on top of the dac). WOW! more low mid range and weight to the music. Big improvement over the bdr cones. I plan on putting the other set between the transport and dac tomorrow to see if it gets any better. I am using SRA VR3 bases under my preamp and power amp. What are you guys using under your Northstar's?

Steve, I have a friend that is using a modified Northstar transport into a Tact preamp. Killer sound! He said he would bring the transport over so we can compare my stock to his modded unit. Not sure when he will get over to my house, but I will post our impressions.

What I really love about this player is it's ability to put every instrument in it's own space in the sound field and each instrument is very clear and distinctive (even if it is far back in the mix).
I am using Acoustic Dreams DeadBall Isolators under the DAC and in between the DAC and transport FIM bearing isolators. I have also used Herbies Isocups with the Gabon Ebony ball between the DAC and transport as well.

I've gone back and forth on the modifications for these units. I do like what I have read about the Pace Car that Steve Nugent has designed. as well as his mods. Anthony Padilla at Aberdeen Components is repairing my transport and he does mods as well. So far though mine are still stock.
Slowhand - Interested in your experience with the roller blocks. Are you using three or four blocks? What kind of shelf do you have and is your rack also isolated? Right now I am using nothing but the stock feet on a oak shelf in cabinet directly on the maple floor
My rack is custom made, but is similar to the Mapleshade racks with maple shelves. The uprights are threaded to allow for infinite adjustment of the shelves. The rack is spiked to the floor with carpet piercing spikes. the floor is concrete slab with wall to wall carpet. I am using three roller blocks (one in front, two in back). I just put a second set under the transport (between the dac and transport) as they are stacked. So far I don't hear much improvement over just one set under the dac. I believe you would benefit from soome form of isolation other than the stock feet.
Anthony also has a $600 I2S cable that is really killer. I've tried the Northstar and the RA cables, which are both excellent. The filtered Northstar cable is probably best for really revealing or top-heavy systems. My favorite is the $600 one from Anthony.

Slowhand - every instrument in it's place is a result of the low jitter and 24/192 upsampling. I feel that this combo with mods bests pretty much anything else on the market. The Extremo DAC is even better with mods, but the mods are so complex that I'm not doing any more of these.

Steve N.
My understanding from the importer is that the upgraded cable North Star offers is $1200. I wasn't aware Anthony had one. I may have to look into that further.

Steve - are you still doing North Star mods, but just not on the Extremo DAC?
Clio09 wtre:

Steve - are you still doing North Star mods, but just not on the Extremo DAC?

Yes, I'm still modding the Northstar 192.

steve N.
After putting the second set of Rollerblock Jr's between the transport and dac, I find that I definitely like the sound better with just one set under the dac. The second set seems to cause a loss of dynamics.

What power cords do you guys like best with your Northstars, and do you use the same kind on both the dac and transport?
Recently I've been using the Stealth M5000 on the transport and Stealth Dream Digital on the DAC. Previously I have also tried these combinations:

1. Acoustic Revive Power Max II power cords on both units
2. PAD Dominus on the DAC and and Virtual Dynamics Nite II
on the transport.
3. Virtual Dynamics Master on the DAC and Nite II on the
4. Virtual Dynamics Master on the DAC and Oyaide Tunami GPX
on the transport.

I've pretty much settled on the Stealth but when I get the transport back I'm going to give the Acoustic Revive PCs another listen and maybe try an Acoustic Revive and Stealth combo.
hey,all you North Star owners,i'd like to know a few things about this combo.
How good is the CD-reading ability of this transport?Any of you had any problems with older CDs or CD-Rs or CD-RWs?
On Extremo DAC, and model 192 DAC, can you switch the input source on the front panel?Let's say you have 2 or 3 transports connected to different inputs.Can you switch between them at a press of a button (on a front panel)?
How big is the difference between these 2 DACs?Sonically speaking, is model 192 60% or 90% of Extremo's performance?Of course,when connected to North Star transport.
Thanks for you answers.
I'm seling an Audient Technology I2S that I no longer use real cheap if anyone's interested. Clark Johnson raved about it in a past Positive Feedback mag.
I have never had my Northstar skip or fail to read any CD that I have thrown at it including CD-R and CD-RW over the years that I have owned the unit with about average of 10 hours play per week
Gammajo,thanks.Has anyone heard 192 transport/DAC with any tube gear (SET maybe) and highly sensitive speakers?
My combo has no trouble reading CDs, CDRs, etc. You can select the input on the front panel. There are 4 options: 2 coaxial RCA, 1 toslink, and 1 I2S.
I run mine with the Audio Horizons preamp which uses 4 6922 tubes and I am using Seimans cca's for this. Speakers are Von Schweikert VR4 SR's which are plenty sensitive for me to hear differences in tubes and IC's

I am using a Supratek Cortese tube preamp and a Berning ZH270 tube power amp with my Northstar/Extremo DAC combo. This is the best cd sound I have ever achieved in my system. Beats the Sony scd-1 player I had (and it had the VSEI mods). I am using Gallo Reference 2 speakers (90 db efficiency).
Slowhand, Great choices in equipment. I bet the sound is equisite
Thanks Gammajo,

I am very happy with this setup. After returning from the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in October, I fired up my system and I was completely happy with the sound. I had no desire to make any changes (even after hearing so much great equipment at the show).