The Ultra Fi Aubisque Filter
Larry Moore sent me his Aubisque filter because I had bought his Ultra Fi DAC-41 in March 2012 on learning that he was the designer of the much-applauded Tranquility DACs. Over the last 9 months he has become a good friend who has provided experienced advice enabling me to transform the sound of my audio system from an ugly wall of solid muzak to a natural sound closely resembling the live or studio performances recorded on my 1,400 classical CDs. As soon as I said that his new filter removed the critical last piece of noise that stood between my system and flawlessly beautiful sound, he asked for a check for $200 and a review.
To give you technical context, I stream uncompressed AIFF files from an Oyen Mini Drive via Firewire 800 to a fast SSD 2011 Mac Mini playing Audirvana Plus via USB cable to an Ultra Fi Dac-41 through Interconnects to an LFD LE4 Integrated Amp and onward via signal cables to a pair of Vienna Acoustic Maestro Grand floor speakers. All the audio and AC cables at year end came from Robert Schult of Ridge Street Audio except for a $35 AC Magic Cable on the LFD that came from Richard Messer of Renaissance Sound and beat cables priced to $2,600. Robert's cables are free of ringing, full of detail and have excellent tone.
To remove line noise audible in my speakers I had previously installed audiophile AC outlets, hooked up a TV ground loop isolator before the Comcast box, eliminated two dimmers and switched the AC connection of the Mac Mini to another electrical circuit. I had also polished all AC and sound connections with Maas metal polish, cleaned off the residue with Isopropyl alcohol and then applied MG Chemicals 801 Super Contact Cleaner to achieve the best contact currently available at any price.
And yet I was still afflicted with this digital edge or harsh quality to the tone that made listening unnaturally tiring unlike live music. This was particularly true of poorly recorded, older CDs, which sounded so stale that I barely if ever played them. And then along came the Aubisque filter that prevented virtually all computer noise from my Mac Mini from entering the DAC with the music through the USB cable.
Frank Sinatra's tracks 'My Way' and 'Cycles' have always been my reference standard for really poor recording and unpleasant listening quality. And the Ultra Fi Aubisque filter has somehow managed to lift the sound of Frank's voice out of the canned, digital closet to a place of near analog enjoyment for the first time! It must have taken a lot of heavy technical lifting but now Frank Sinatra's tracks are free of digital blight and his voice projects with almost natural vitality in the soundstage. Of course when I take my favorite pianist Mari Kodama playing one of Beethoven piano sonatas on one of her well-recorded SACDs, she could well be playing literally live in my sitting room. The unrivaled performance of the then twenty-old Hang-na Chang playing Haydn's Cello Concerto with the Staatskapelle Dresden directed by Giuseppe Sinopoli has never sounded so pure and absolutely beautiful. And this is true of my entire collection.
When sound resonates this cleanly and clearly, the purity is as unmistakable as a cowbell ringing out across the crisp air of a Swiss mountainside. Having listened to music being streamed via the Ultra Fi Aubisque Filter, I would certainly never willingly go back and suspect very, very few audiophiles would ever choose to. It's easy to install. Just attach one end of the of the Aubisque Filter into the DAC and plug the USB cable into the other. It's been an education to me that such a small and relatively inexpensive filter can so transform the purity of streamed music!