Muse Model 10

This will be a short post with more to come later. I recently ordered and received my brand new Muse Model 10. This unit plays CD, DVD, DVD-A, and those "Enhanced Audio" discs recorded on DVDs (E.g., Chesky, that Midwest label whose name is eluding me--Classic?). It probably plays all kinds of CD-RW discs also, but I haven't got that far with it.

Here are the stats: I am 56 years old and have been in high-end audio for 25 years. I have plenty of experience. Presently the Model 10 runs direct to my Pass/Volksamp Aleph 60 mono amps. The amps power Quad 989 electrostatics, with and without augmentation from stereo pair of Vandersteen 2Wq subs below 80 Hz. The Muse has a fully differential (balanced), digitally controlled ANALOG Remote volume control. This is how I listen, if it helps to know..

The Muse Model 10 is the best digital disc player of any kind that I have ever heard. It beats my Sony SCD-1, which I loved, and it beats the Wadia 301, that I liked in many ways but found too "furry" and rolled off. ThisModel 10, which will probably never get a review in Stereophile (not English, not ARC-Krell-ML, etc.). But it is simply magical in its clarity, transparency and dynamics. The soundstage and imaging are probably as good as the best vinyl rigs I have had. I wish I had more time right now, but I must go.

I mean this very seriously, or I wouldn't write at all. This is a stunning achievement in digital players. In my system, in my house, it is the best I have ever heard. Really and truly. Costs about $5000.

Good listening,
128x128Ag insider logo xs@2xjeffreyfranz
Hi Jeff - I upgraded my model 9 sig to the 10 and love it. I am waitng for muse to come out with a universal player that will play redbook as well as the model 10 does (Kevin Halverson the owner will tell you the 10 plays redbook better than the universal model 11 does - so I will not upgrade until he says he has a model that bests the 10 in redbook playback). It is essentially having a great cd/dvd A player that also plays your dvd movies for you. I love mine and I think it is well worth it. Wish I could do a shoot out with a wadia 861 - just for giggles. It would be an interesting price/value comparison.

Cheers - Scott
I had a 9 signature. I sold it about a year ago. I just bought a Esoteric DV50. The DV50 is better than the 9 sig (gen 3). Better detail, much better depth and width, and the images seem to be much more round, you can tell the instruments size. video is better...mostly better blacks and better detail.

Of course, the DV50 does SACD and DVD-A. I bought the 9 sig about 4 years ago. At the time it was better than the Wadia 850 it replaced. Muse makes a great digital player.

The DV50 is serious competition. Build quality on the Esoteric is higher. Nothing wrong with the Muse, but the Esoteric is just better.
If there ever was a sleeper it is Muse. I had a Muse 100 years ago before my Bedini 25/25 and that sound has never left me. I bought a Muse 10 in February and have never looked back. I compared it to Theta Compli, Wadia 861 and AudoNote 3.1x. As you can see, there was quite a price range, although performance was close. Even with the Muse sitting in the middle price-wise, its performance was the best (or to be more PC, the best to my ears in my environment and system, however, it proved replicable in other systems).

The Wadia had all that you could ever want from a CD player. It was close to analogue and almost engaged you. It played just plain music. But the Muse out played it in terms of specificity. I heard more from the Muse and it was clearly more engaging. All of this may have been at the expense of a small amount of musicality, less than 5% if that, if you could measure it. It was a hard call. Was it real or was it Memorex???? However with a $2500+ price difference, there was no contest, especially with the Muse playing DVDs.

The next comparisons had more clear cut results. The Muse's midbase repsones was significantly more accurate than the AudioNote and Theta. It was cleaner and more detailed and it just seamed more natural. Compared to the AN, the Muse sound stage was wider, deeper, more real. Compared to the Theta there was no digital harshness in the upper octaves.

This machine is a home run. Congratulations Kevin. However, this in one opinion and it fulfilled my needs. It will stay in my system.
Agreed, the 10 is very, very, nice. I am totally happy with mine. If a CD sounds bad at all, it is probably a terrible disc to begin with. Good CDs and DVD-A's sound just great! Kevin and crew are outstanding to deal with, and the upgradability of their stuff is an added bonus. It is curious that when you almost never see a negative word about Muse, you also don't see any reviews. They have previously (a long time ago) had their stuff (like their sub, DAC's and amps), reviewed in S'phile, TAS, and some other lesser known pubs (sounds like places I like to hang out - lesser known pubs).
Postscript: In 2013-2014 or thereabouts, the disc drive died. I contacted Kevin Halverson, the designer/engineer and owner of Muse Audio and asked to have the unit repaired. He said, "You can't expect me to repair a unit that has been out of production for 10 years." Mind you, I was not asking for warranty repair. I asked him to repair or replace the drive at my expense. No. Didn't want to be bothered with it. I learned two things from this:
  1. If Mr. Halverson had his dates right, then he was still shipping, and his dealers were still selling, brand new $4000+ CD players that were discontinued, or about to be. They had no problem taking my money on the unit, but subsequent service--no dice. Take the money and run?
  2. I will never again by a digital player from a boutique company. If I want or need such a thing, I will buy from a mainstream manufacturer like Marantz or Sony.
Don't think buying from a "mainstream" manufacturer is going to insulate you from optical drive obsolescence. I had a $3k Marantz SACD player whose drive died and authorized Marantz repair centers couldn't repair it. Junked after only three years. Marantz doesn't perform any repairs themselves, all sub-contracted to independent service businesses around the USA. I've read more than one account of owner's frustrations with Sony service, not a brand I'd ever count on for long term product support either. Even Bryston's BCD-1 players entered the unrepairable category as well (although they worked with owners to make some sort of compensation in years past.)  Bottom line is that optical drives go out of production and are often unobtanium after several years. Big "mainline" corporations aren't likely to divulge their plans to stockpile repair drives for the future.  Some also buy a replacement drive when they buy a new unit as insurance. 
i went all the way up to the Erato II - Muse,s top player, and it sounded terrific.  I believe Kevin used typical DVD drives in his players so you may have some luck if you take a few pictures and send them to folks who repair disc players.

I sold my disc stuff years ago and moved to computer then server-based sources.  If I were to continue spinning my discs, I would purchase a good transport to go with any one of the better DACs out there today.

Through my two Muse equipment upgrades, Kevin was mostly a crabby guy that was not very good at answering or returning phone calls, but the man sure made good-sounding digital gear.  My Erato II made Ayre’s top player at the time sound electronic and fatiguing (yes, I owned them both at the same time and compared them head-to-head). Unfortunately, Kevin’s vision of DVD winning the disc wars never materialized (partly because of Sony and their SACD) and, eventually of course, they all lost out to computers.