|Review of Altmann Attraction DAC as seen on www.audiocircle.com :
After about two months with my Attraction DAC I've finally got around to posting some initial impressions.
Charles has been quoted earlier in this thread as saying he felt a transport contributes about 7-8% and with his Jisco anti Jitter circuitry 0%. My transports are currently limited to an old Sony DVP-7000 and a Samsung dvd-hd945. I've been making use of these players for transports and engaged the Jisco circuitry on the DAC.
With the Jisco circuitry engaged when using the Samsung dvd-hd945, it was pretty clear there was a significant improvement. With the Sony DVP-7000 it didn't seem quite so obvious; but I believe I detected an improvement with the Jisco switched on and have left it that way ever since.
The controls are simple metal switches which are easy enough to understand how to operate; but not as convenient as on a more conventional product where the controls would be labeled on the chassis.
Operating the switches hasn't been made easier by the fact that I've needed to locate the Dac on the bottom shelf of my rack. I found that attaching the fairly heaving duty digital and analog interconnects I'm using to the DAC, had a tendency to tip it's very light body off balance. After all it's only a circuit board screwed to a piece of spruce board. I found that I could use the curve of the cables themselves to brace the DAC against the shelf above. This is actually better than with some light equipment I've used in the past, which heavy cables have threatened to pull off a rack by dragging the unit down at the back. Some Vibrapods strategically placed under the Altmann DAC also helped in making it stable.
So this DAC is a bit hair shirt; but hell, what do you want convenience or MUSIC.
For me the key to understanding what the Altmann DAC does so well is to start with the question of detail retrieval and what is meant by it. Detail is sometimes thought of in a negative light, if a component seems to pander to the trainspotting kind of detail enthusiast. I think it's interesting that the question of detail came up earlier in this thread.
I think that's because the waveform recreated by the Altmann is maintaining the correct perspective of the elements at all times, rather than distort that perspective in such a way that the trainspotter types may be very impressed by the spotlighting of some relatively unimportant detail. As Pardales explained, it's all there though, if you care to pick out such details.
You are more likely I think, to just be carried away and involved in the music in the way the artists/composer intended and thereby defeated in your analytical pursuits. What a shame.
I don't recall appreciating just how much was going on in these disks until hearing them now through the Altmann, though.
On albums such as Fullfillingness First Finale, and Songs in the Key of Life I can really understand how much fun Stevie was having with all these keyboards, etc, at his disposal and how he used them to the fullest to realize his musical visions. I now realize that this music is far more complex than I'd appreciated earlier.
With the Altmann you get the gestalt, and can understand the musical statements the artist is making as the music unfolds. This gestalt is an aggregate of all those details which constitute it, of course; but to force yourself to pick out individual details to test the resolving power of your system would seem to go against nature.
Individual instruments or groups of instruments are naturally highlighted as a piece evolves in the way the artist intended, and provided your system doesn't distort the musical perspectives in any way the music will make sense as a piece.
The music just keeps coming at you similarly to in a live situation, and on complex dense music it is exciting and almost overwhelming, though in a most enjoyable way.
Rather than try to pick out details from a complex piece to determine how well the Altmann is doing at reproducing individual instruments, it is obviously easier to play simpler recordings with fewer instruments and acoustic instruments are easier I believe for judging tonality.
Well no surprises here.
A guy who names his web-site 'mother-of-tone' is obviously going to place tonal accuracy pretty high up on his list of priorities in his designs.
Listening to individual instruments on the Chesky demo disk, for example, clearly shows the Altmann DAC respects the timbre of individual instruments better than other source components I've tried in this system.
Instruments just sound right through the Altmann, what more can I say?
From our built in memory banks of what individual instruments sound like in real life, we can judge, I believe if the tone of an intrument is correct. Perhaps when I say instruments sound right through the Altmann this may be a judgment relative to other source components in the system. Perhaps other improvements to the system may cause me to revise my opinion and find tonality to be better still. Of course, it would be linguistically erroneous to say tonality is now even more 'right'; but I think this tends to happen with audio. We judge something to be right when it is closer to the truth than we've heard before until something else comes along that sounds closer still. I will be reluctant to blame any tonal inaccuracy that remains in my system on the Altmann, however, since it is clearly that good in this respect.
Getting back to that useful Chesky disc, it is interesting, I think, to note that the announcer translates PRAT into energy. Energy is certainly a word that springs to mind in connection with the Altmann DAC.
Tracks that are meant to demonstrate if your system has it, really do swing with the Altmann, in that infectious way that prevents you from keeping still, no matter how hard you try.
I haven't carried out extensive comparison between standard CD's and higher resolution Discs. In listening to some 96/24 that I made myself from LP's which I recorded, I would say the richness and complexity of the music is turned up a notch further, causing CD's to sound slightly simpler in comparison.
However this is by no means conclusive as it would be necessary to have a 96/24 and 44.1/16 comparison of exactly the same recording. I haven't had the opportunity of trying 192 khz discs yet either; but I imagine they might go even further in this direction.
I did try a couple of CD's I'd enhanced with DVD2ONE audio re-master software and I must say the results were so impressive through the Altmann that I'm now convinced for the first time that enhancing CD's with this software is worthwhile. I don't plan on doing it for my entire collection; but for CD's where I find the recording quality lacking in some way, I will run it through DVD2ONE and with this DAC there do seem to be clear improvements.
I've also used it for favorite CD's that sound exceptionally good to see if I can get them to sound even better, and these have also sounded great with the Altmann. Perhaps there is some kind of synergy between this software and the Altmenn DAC. I know Charles favors this software, although I don't know if he advocates using it to enhance CD's. It can also be used to make 96/24 DVD Video discs from existing 96/24 recordings and I also used it this way to make discs of my LP's, in which case it doesn't attempt any enhancing when a file is already at 96/24.
To sum up the Altmann DAC's qualities I will say that no matter how complex the music it conveys the gestalt and the musical meanings become clear. To achieve this it's a given that dynamic swings and contrasts both large and small are reproduced as they should be.
This coupled with respect for the rhythmic structure of different types of music is what gives the Altmann its amazing energy.
Combine this with exemplary timbral accuracy and there you have it.
When you are strongly attracted to someone you're willing to accept and even grow to love their blemishes and imperfections.
In the case of the Altmann none of these appear to show up in the sound, just in a few minor inconveniences of set up and operation.
You also desist from trying to analyze them too much.
In my case I just haven't been able to resist the Attraction.
This is a review of the Altmann BYOB Amplifier, Attraction DAC, Creation ADC, Altmann Phono Stage, , BYOB Speaker System, Altmann Acoustic Panel, Altmann UPCI (Ultra Precision Clock Injector) or Altmann JISCO (Jitter Scrambling Decorrelator).