Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2019: Rupert Neve Designs and Wavelength Audio

Studio legend Rupert Neve stepped into the personal audio market with the RNHP Precision headphone amplifier not too long ago, and the success of that launch doesn’t appear to have swayed him away from that audience.

At RMAF 2019 the brand and the man who inspired Dave Grohl’s 2013 documentary film Sound City announced yet another round of products specifically targeted at the “HiFi” crowd.

The new Rupert Neve Designs Fidelice Series is comprised of a revamped headphone amplifier, DAC and phono preamplifier. The three products share similar casework, simple aesthetics and the trademark Neve red attenuator. Pricing at the show remained somewhat elusive for the trio, but the new DAC is rumored to land somewhere in the “$5,000 USD range.” The ins and outs don’t include the pro-side favorite balanced AES digital input, but all the usual connections are present. The design and marketing is clearly targeted into the core of audiophile territory. Add in a couple analog inputs (balanced/SE), outputs and custom USB programming and things start to shape up to a well thought out proposition for enthusiasts.

The Precision DAC is actually the first for the company, previous efforts in the digital realm have been strictly limited in the A-D direction. Bonus points awarded for both the SE and Three-Pin XLR headphone connections on the front panel, and high resolution files plus DSD512 compatibility on the inside (no MQA). Mr. Neve’s consoles and various production wares draw from the allure of his long heritage and sterling reputation. This execution on paper promises solid digital design married to that superb analog history, which is not something that pops up as frequently on the feature set handout. Properly executed amp sections can be just as important as the latest DAC chip (the Fidelice Precision uses the AK4497), especially when it comes to positioning the Fidelice DAC as a “precision, reference headphone amplifier” according to the representative from the company. This also helps to explain the choice to show off the new product in the personal audio headspace hall instead of a more traditional listening room scenario. As of RMAF, expect shipping for new orders to deliver in three-four weeks.

Wavelength Audio designer Gordon Rankin knows his way around the digital realm. In addition to projects with AudioQuest and others, he also helped create the original USB asynchronous transfer mode that is still utilized by nearly every DAC in the modern era. At RMAF this year, his “brand just for fun” Wavelength had both analog and digital products pushing a multi-part rig consisting of Vaughn Zinfandel Line Array loudspeakers with Plasma Tweeters ($15,000 USD/pair) and MJ Acoustic Reference 400 12-inch Sealed Subwoofers ($2,200 USD each). The Wavelength Triton Silver Signature 300B SET amps ($40,000 USD/pair) were fronted by two new digital products and the Secant NOS DAC ($5,000 USD) acting as a preamplifier.

Perhaps the most eye-catching of the bunch was ironically the Brick N2 (Copper $2,000 USD, Silver LE $10,000 USD). Aptly named, this DAC’s simplistic black box adorned with only the Wavelength logo hardware houses an NOS hybrid 24/96 USB DAC with optically isolated USB plus a reclocker and is also available as a silver reactor limited edition. The Cosecant ($4,000 USD) is in version 5 and is outfitted with a new USB controller and updates that see the DAC and USB both set into the same module for better performance due to previous “distance and timing” issues (when set on separate modules).

Listening to female vocals once again, the light Jazz improvisations produced from the three-part speaker system sounded unusually coherent and cohesive. Winton Marsalis’ Feeling of Jazz came through as both holographic and snappy as all getup with an on-point percussion performance. The follow-up track “Riders on the Storm” by The Doors really showed off the versatility of the line array and plasma tweeter combination with big air and presence for all the ambiance and texture cues that drop on the seven-minute track. Expect a release date for the Brick N2 “soon” according to Rankin, with the Cosecant hitting in October.

Rocky Mountain Audio Fest

Wavelength's picture


Thanks for the nice comments on the room. Just FYI... I didn't design Asynchronous Audio USB, it was actually an accident by another company. I was just the person who figured out how to make it work in our favor.

The story as I heard it was a company created a USB DAC/Headphone amplifier made like 100K of them and they didn't work in Adaptive mode because the Audio PLL circuit could not lock onto the USB stream on some Windows computers. The company was large came up with Asynchronous USB, got to adopt it and they changed the software in the unit for Async and the rest is history.