As Simple as Possible . . .

My favorite Simple System.

Audiophiles enjoy complicated, expensive, (sometimes) high-performing systems consisting of many, many components inter-connected by a mare’s nest of cables. Anyone who has been to an audio show, or even read a show report, can verify this.

But what about folks living in apartments or houses lacking the space (or prioritization) to allow a ‘temple of sound?’ And what of the aphorism, referenced by Louis Zukofsky in his poem ‘A’ as,

“Everything should be as simple as it can be,
Says Einstein,
But not simpler.”

For the last month or so I’ve been tilting at the windmill of Simplicity, and have arrived at a combination which fits the prescription and and answers the question quite neatly, I think: the Wattson Emerson Digital streamer, Merason Frérot DAC and Rethm Aarka powered loudspeaker, powered and connected with Luna Cables.

Wattson Audio, a Swiss brand brought forward a couple years ago by Engineered SA, which has done R&D and OEM work in high end audio for over 20+ years, brings its proprietary streaming solution and patented LEEDH lossless digital volume control, among other things, to the marketplace in a trio of streamers and streamer-DACS.

The Emerson range—Digital and Analog—are tiny minimalist power houses with no knobs, switches, screens, controls of any kind—just two tiny LEDs. Input is via an RJ45 jack. Period. Output (on the Digital), is vis RCA SP-Dif or XLR AES-EBU.

The Madison is a bit bigger, has several inputs, a single selector/volume switch knob and a headphone jack. I’ll expand on this one when it arrives, probably early next week.

In this system, the Emerson feeds the Merason Frérot DAC, which I’ve equipped with the optional but excellent POW1 linear power supply. Thus, we have an all-Swiss digital front end which excels at providing a very organic, analog-like harmonic structure, tonal balance and musical flow. The combo supplies a high degree of detail, extension and dynamics without straying into the frigid waters of hyper detail and emotionless, gee-whiz pyrotechnics which too many digital products seem to delight in.

The entire balance of the system is contained within the Rethm Aarka stand-mount speakers. The 5” rear horn-loaded, wideband driver can be driven 1 of 2 ways: RCA interconnects feed a line level signal to a tube driver stage which, in turn, feeds a 25 watt FET amp (as I am currently using them), or a separate amplifier may be used via speaker cables, (with banana plugs only.) Either way, bass is handled by a separate 90 watt solid state amp feeding a pair of 6” rear-firing woofers in a sealed cabinet.

The sum of these precious few parts is a marvelously simple system requiring little floor space and little—make that NO—rack space, just a piece of a shelf somewhere which rewards the listener with sound that’s quick, open, spacious, rhythmically flowing, with very good dynamics and ‘meat on the bone’ upper bass/lower midrange.

When all you see from the listening position is one small driver in a monitor-sized cabinet, the last couple characteristics are quite surprising, occasionally shocking, depending on material. This is doubly true consideration of my 13,000 cubic foot room—14’w x 12’h x bowling alley depth!

Text/email/call to set up a listening session and hear it for yourself!

Published by David Cope

After 15 years doing audio shows and marketing for Audio Note, UK, I took a year off, intending to establish a recording studio dedicated to making natural, minimally processed recordings of acoustic instruments playing jazz, folk, blues, bluegrass and classical music. Somewhere along the way I borrowed a pair of Auditorium 755 speakers and a Shindo pre-amp and power amp from Jonathan Halpern of Tone Imports. Quick as you can say, "Bob's your uncle!", I had become an audio retailer, using Old Forge Studio as a dual purpose space. It's all very exciting and more than a bit crazy . . .

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