Love Letters


The Star's Audiofile reviews Charlize
---Striking Beauty


TNT Audio reviews Charlize against her competitors! Cat fight!
---Listening test: a longly awaited shootout test: 4 Tripath-based amplifiers: T-Amp vs Autocostruire 2020 vs 41 Hz Amp-3 vs DIY Paradise Charlize. From 6 to 25 watts of pure Class-T power, compared head to head! (N. Whetstone)


TNT Audio reviews Monica2!
---Listening test: zero-oversampling uber-alles! Another DAC which uses zero-oversampling. It's the affordable DIY-Paradise Monica 2 available as DIY kit or "ready to go" (N. Whetstone)


That Marantz had a retail of something like $4K and we did an A/B against its internal DACs with the $125-for-the assembled/tested-board Monica 2. There was no question in my ears which I preferred; Monica all the way. The Monica 2 is another non-oversampling DAC descended from the same Kusunoki-inspired lineage as 47Labs, Zanden, Ack!, Audio Note and others. The Monica sounded more natural and musical, leaving the Marantz sounding - well, digital.
---RoadTour Exit 3B with Michael Lavorgna on


The duo gives much more better after 3 days and it plays differently with the different kinds of PSU. In term of music it shows you right a way which instruments are in actions; I have many versions of Concerto for Violin and Viola of Max Bruch and we can identify clearly the color specific of the sound from Viola instrument. Its amazing that I can recognize easely what strings are played particularly the UT and the G strings from viola, we don't hear much difference betwen Violin and Viola with others systems.
--- Son Nguyen plays the violin in an orchestra. I trust his ears more than so-called "Golden Ears" audio reviewers! Son Nguyen has a Monica2-Charlize combo with just a volume pot in between.


It has been about four months now since I first started using it. I placed the Monica into a box of RF insulated plastic, and added 5000 uF capacitance at the DC power socket within the box.

To make a long story short, I found that the Monica bested my tweaked Marantz SA 8620 player on CDs in terms of transparency (very noticeable), resolution (slightly better), bass (not stronger but better defined), and soundstage (slightly better defined). The music has also a much better sense of coherence (hard to describe but noticeable; everything just hangs together). It is probably true that the Monica is not the most dynamic DAC, but especially after the added capacitance, it does as well as my previous player. Perhaps the only "fault" is that the HF extremes are perhaps a bit muted, but that is a price worth paying for a more musical, transparent, and less fatiguing playback (notice I also use a Taddeo Digital Antidote, which I was also using with my previous player). Somewhat surprisingly, I even prefer the Monica to the SACD playback for music from hybrid disks, where I compared the performance for the two format between the Monica and the Marantz player audio output (for SACD).
- Valter Ciocca has a Monica2.


PostMon Oct 10, 2005 8:18 am Red Wine Audio Monica-2 DAC
I hope this will become a full review. My system's been in turmoil (old, interim, and new speakers) for a while. Once I settle in for a while with the new speakers and really understand what they're doing, I'll expand on these observations.

In the meanwhile, I've now tried this DAC in three different systems. And, the results in all three systems have been consistent. The owners of the two other systems were listening with me had some of the same observations.

System 1 - mine - Tubed Modwright/Music Hall CDP, Modwright preamp, Red Wine Audio Clari-T, homebuilt Fostex speakers.

System 2 - Late-model, top-end Krell CDP, Krell integrated amp, Sonus Faber Concertino speakers.

System 3 - Arcam 8SE CDP, Arcam integrated and standalone amp biamped to current B&W 805s.

In each system, I plugged the Monica-2 into the digital outputs of the respective player, except in my own system I was comparing with a 15-year-old Technics player as transport.

This device has made me understand what the writers refer to as "digital sound". I have always thought the term to mean bright and analytical, but I think it's much more than that. Jitter is referred to as timing issues between the transport and output stage of CD playback. I believe this device solves, at least mostly, this problem.

Compared to the Monica-2, what I hear in common with all the mentioned CDP's is glassy cymbals, disorganized treble generally, unclear vocal sections, and muddy basslines. The Monica-2 organizes the data and lays it out much more realistically.

Initially, the reaction is that the Monica-2 is somewhat less dynamic and possibly rolled off by comparison. I adapted very quickly to the sound though and found it, in all cases, to be a more natural rendition of the signal. Matching playback levels can be an issue, as the Monica puts out about 1/3 the voltage of a "standard" player.

Now, I haven't spent a lot of time in these comparisons. But, having similar results with all the compared players and systems is significant to me. I feel the Monica-2 provided an upgrade to all the players in all the systems I have heard it in. And, at $500 it's a downright bargain. I think this unit plugged in to just about any transport is a KILLER, affordable digital solution that works with the CD's you already have.
--- miklorsmith on AudioCircle


My experience. I use to play cds on a Luxman cdp connected to an Audio Alchemy dde v1.0 DAC. The AA was regarded as a little sounding jewel when it came out back in the 90's and I have been happy with it for almost 10 years. But then last year I bought a vinyl record player. A cheap one, Project Debut III, a good deal found online. I added a good pickup Ortofon MC-3 Turbo (costs as much as the Project) and a very good phono preamp, Primare R.20 (costs more than double the Project, I tried a Project phonostage first but I sold it back and went for the Primare, another planet). Result: my vinyl records played better than my cds! In particular, I made A/B tests with a disc that I particularly love "Jazz" by Ry Cooder, a good recording characterized by an ensamble of acoustic instruments (guitar, mandolin, trumpet, tuba, xilophone, etc.). Well... The vinyl was so natural compared to the cd. The cd has better bass and but lacked the pace and "live" impact of the Project-Ortofon-Primare combination.

I had to do something.

I came back on the net and started to study what had happened in the past 10 years of hi-fi and technology. Several results lead me to believe that NOS dacs were the real innovation. Simple idea and well sounding machines. My research also lead me to your website...(I actually was looking for Monica's pictures, but that's another story;-) and that's how I started to desire Monica... I couldn't help that. The balance is neutral. High frequencies have an impressive detail and extension but still sound natural and non-fatiguing. Bass is precise and authoritative (at least with my Proac Response 2.5 clones powered by Primare A20). Midrange is simply NATURAL. Music, voices, instruments.. everything flows naturally and compelling before your you. Naturality of execution is the main factor. Now Ry Cooder met Monica and he also fell in love with her. He sound more happy and intriguing, he is more inspired while playing his gitar. Well done Yeo! Ciao.
--- Osvaldo Lombardi (Roma - Italy)


Here my mini review, Spiral Horn Coral Flat 6

SHCF6 cabinet looks gorgeous, I bet they will look better in black finishing with white coral driver. Sexy....

Initial listening, SHCF6s sounded edgy, grainy, hard and lacks of extension. Running in for 20 hours, SHCF6 has shaken off its new-ness, loosen up quite a bit, sound smoother and better frequency extension.

SHCF6s have a big heart and sound big. Unlike the lit bookshelf, the musicians aren't squatting and miniature in size. SHCF6s project human size. I was impressed that SHCF6s in a 9' by 11.5' room, 6' apart, 0.5' from the back wall and 1' from the side wall threw an image that does not commensurate with the room acoustics. BTW, SHCF6s were tilted 15 deg in order to obtain a sharper image. Imaging was well proportionate.

SHCF6s were neither forward nor laid back. Images were located at the plane of SHCF6s cabinet. SHCF6s do not do the soundstage thing as with the bookshelf. The lateral soundstage was not SHCF6s forte. However, due to the limitation of room, I could not attest the depth of soundstage. In short, SHCF6s present presence. SHCF6s does the PRaT (pace, rhythm and timing) well.

SHCF6s err slightly to the side of yang. Dynamics and transient were good to excellent. Low level details retrieval was good. All musical vibes can be heard quite clearly. Piano sounds like piano. Often, you missed the weight of the piano that makes piano sounded hollow.

Of all frequencies response, I think SHCF6s high frequencies is the weakest point. This is a law of physic with all single drivers. I guess the highs start to roll off at 12kHz. SHCF6s lacks the extension. Suffice to say, SHCF6s are not airy or open. In fact, SHCF6s sounded a little steely at upper midrange. There was a noticeable frequency spike that makes musical instruments of metal make i.e. cymbal, guitar, and brass sound zealous.

SHCF6s midrange is sweet without sounding honky or nasal. In the contrary SHCF6s sound liquid and lush in the critical midrange.

To my surprise, SHCF6s bass is quite generous without hanging, providing a good foundation to musical passage. Bass was not boomy in my room, an unexpected bonus.

All listening was done at low listening volume approx 70-80dB in nearfield listening. Cranked the volume to 9.30, SHCF6s sounded uncomfortably loud.

Associated audio equipments are modded AMC CD6, NAD 304C as pre and 12W Vacuum State Electronics EL34 monoblocks.
--- Mr Lim Chee Heong