Pass Labs with totaldac, Cambridge Audio and Lescop

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

By lady, I mean my lower back. By protest I’m referring to the dull ache radiating from said area. It was not happy at the end of this week after the uncrating and moving of several 100-pound plus components as I mix things up at AudioStream’s winter liar situated on the periphery of Desolation Sound.

I thought a brief update on what’s happening here at the edge of the world would be appropriate to keep any interested readers up-to-date.

New gear has hit our difficult-to-get-to doorstep of late; several new DACs, integrated amplifier/DACs, Network Music Players and combos thereof. I’ve also been packing up and returning a bunch of great components already reviewed. Lastly, I rotated out my McIntosh Labs MC611 mono blocs/C2600 tube preamp in favour of a Pass Labs XP12 ($5,800 USD – line level) and X150.8 stereo power amplifier ($6,750 USD – 150 watts/8 Ohms) for the next few weeks as part of an experiment for a new series of posts. More on that another time.

The system I put together with Pass Labs consists of the totaldac d1-direct (roughly $19,000 USD w/Euro exchange – my current reference DAC) being fed from an Aurender W20 caching music server ($17,600 USD) all sewn up with TelluriumQ, Final Touch Audio and AudioQuest cabling/power conditioning.

Cambridge Audio CXA81 and CXN V2.

I’m also in the process of wiring up the Cambridge Audio CXA81 integrated amplifier ($1,299 USD, 80-watts/channel, Class A/B, Balanced inputs, built-in ESS Sabre ES9016 32-bit/384kHz – DSD256 DAC, Bluetooth aptX HD) and CXN V2 network audio streamer ($1,099 USD, dual Wolfson WM8740 24-bit DACs with 24-bit/384kHz upscaling, asynchronous USB, Coaxial, TOSlink, Airplay2, Bluetooth aptX option, Chromecast, Spotify, TIDAL, Qobuz, etc.) as a second system to swap my Harbeth M40.1 loudspeakers with.

Linn Klimax DSM.

I’ve also received the Linn Klimax DSM network music player, the company’s top-of-the-line offering ($23,380 USD, Katalyst DAC Architecture, Space Optimisation, support up to 24-bit/192kHz, DSD128, Ethernet, SPDIF, TOSlink, Balanced, RCA, HDMI) which I will be comparing to the totaldac/Aurender (upgraded W20 SE – which will be subbed-in after a couple weeks) combo in the near future.

Lescop: French, fun, innately danceable.

For music of late, I’ve been loving the self-titled 2015 Lescop album on Qobuz in 16-bit/44.1kHz. It’s a fun, nouvelle cold wave synth-pop, hook-heavy, ’80s-influenced finger-snapper of an album. Each time I play it and someone is over it takes all of 30 seconds for them to ask me “who is this?”

Is anyone else changing things up in their system these days? For whatever reason? Leave a comment and let me know what's happening with your hi-fi shiznitz.

That’s it for now, look for more in-depth digital-audio related hardware, software and music reviews in the coming days and weeks as always.

Chuckles304's picture

Went on a spending spree since Christmas and my formerly laptop>NAD M51>NAD T757 setup is now Aurender N100H>HoloAudio Spring DAC Kitsune>T757, with an AudioQuest Niagara 5000 for good measure....

Not entirely sure how the wife feels about this, but I have yet to encounter any negative vibes from her. Oh, and an AntiCables Level 3 power cord for the Niagara to boot.

Don't forget to throw that Kitsune Edition DAC on your list this year, Rafe...

Rafe Arnott's picture
The upgrade path... must be a sincere improvement in SQ. The Aurender kit with the AQ 5000 must have really lowered your noise floor. I've not forgotten the Kitsune – it's on my list for summer once I get through what I have here now.
Everclear's picture

HoloAudio Kitsune and Totaldac, both use R2R DACs :-) .........

Chuckles304's picture

That's exactly why I bought it. Far superior DAC architecture to chip-based oversampling.

Everclear's picture

You may already know this ...... HoloAudio Kitsune was reviewed by Stereophile with measurements :-) ........

Rafe Arnott's picture
if Stereophile or any other publication has reviewed something, as they're not AudioStream :-)
Everclear's picture

I was responding to Chuckles304 :-) .......

Everclear's picture

What loudspeaker(s), do you use? :-) ........

Rafe Arnott's picture
Harbeth M40.1 loudspeakers. Thanks for asking.
Everclear's picture

Thanks for your reply ...... My question was for Chukels304 ....... Sorry, I should have mentioned that :-) ......

Topher's picture

Adding analogue to my digital set up I've had a Linn Majik LP12 and a Luxman E-250 phono stage sitting in the next room unopened in their boxes since Christmas, as I wait for my made-to-order rack, which is arriving in mid-March, I've just been told, four weeks later than anticipated.

Longest three months of my life.

Rafe Arnott's picture
I could leave a turntable and phono stage in a box while waiting for a rack...
Topher's picture

It's either wait or put them on the floor, and I know if I do that I'll stumble out of bed one morning and walk right into the tone arm. It's for times like this we have Tidal. Also just getting into DSD, which is blowing my mind (and my wallet). Really didn't think digital could sound this good.

Chuckles304's picture

This is a demonstration of superior willpower and fortitude that I do not possess.

I am the lesser man.

Topher's picture

What makes it worse is that I've been buying the odd record now and then for the last year in anticipation, and some of the music on those records is not available on any other format. Zen monks have nothing on me right now. Also I'm looking twice before I cross the road because I really don't want to hit by a bus.

Topher's picture

You mentioned comparing the Linn to the totaldac/Aurender combination, but I'd also be interested to hear how it shapes up against similar configurations from dCS. Seems a bit unfair comparing $36k of separates to a $23k all-in-one. Anyway it's all academic for me I suppose, as neither will be within my budget for the foreseeable future. #C.E.O.Fi

Chuckles304's picture

I bought them in this order - Aurender, HoloAudio, AQ

As far as SQ, I would say most to least noticeable - HoloAudio, Aurender, AQ

Now, that may be the result of the not-really-broken-in AntiCables cord feeding the Niagara. Or that I haven't spent as much time listening with the Niagara as before I got it. Maybe I should give it another couple weeks before passing judgement.

The improvement from each device was different too. The Aurender removed the "mechanical/computer" sound; the HoloAudio made it clearer and more relaxed than I thought possible; the Niagara flat out made it louder and I swear it boosted the bass.