We were hit by the 'dreaded' swine flu in the Astin Trew office over the last few weeks. Back to full strength now I am glad to say - with back-orders fulfilled and on-going developments back in full swing.
We have asked our dealers if they would like to report on any interesting Astin Trew related stories that might be of wider interest, and I thank Ralph at Artisan Audio for kicking this occasional series off for us:
"As an analogue specialist, I’m not sure how qualified I am to blog about the new AT3500 plus in comparison to the AT3500. My start position is that all CD players are at a disadvantage relative to vinyl replay. My focus when choosing CD players has always been to identify where the law of diminishing returns kicks in, and to my ears that has, in recent years, been the AT3500.
For fun, a few months back I ran the digital output from an AT3000 into a Benchmark DAC-1. This is a product that John Atkinson raved about in Stereophile and is still used by that title as a reference. Comparing the output from the AT3000 with the output from the Benchmark I was unable to discern any significant difference between the two. That’s how good the entry level Astin Trew machine’s DAC is.
Fascinated to explore what benefits the plus offers, I set up both machines on my rack, using identical interconnects (Discovery Essence) and mains cables. Amplification was the high resolution Quicksilver Full Preamp and Triode power amps through the revealing Klipsch Jubilee speakers.
I have two copies of a number of CD titles, so was able to set identical albums running in synch and switch between the two machines at will. An element of blind testing was introduced by having an assistant switch between the two sources. I also enlisted three passing visitors to participate in the trial.
First music choice was GRP’s Sounds of ’93. Initial impressions, on mostly instrumental cuts, were that the two machines sounded very close tonally. Over several tracks, listeners consistently preferred the plus, describing the replay as “sounding bigger.”
Next, Ian Shaw’s “Famous Rainy Day” CD – beautifully recorded to analogue tape using valve microphones with very spacious, acoustic guitar arrangements and subtle percussion. Again the perception was that the two machines had similar tonal presentation. The bass sounded “tighter” on the plus, there was slightly more sparkle on the cymbals and a sense that each part was more easily followed.
Finally, playing System X’s “Beat the System,” there was an appreciation that the leading edges of notes – particularly slap bass, drums and latin percussion, had a faster rise time and greater dynamic impact via the plus.
In a subsequent customer evaluation, the reaction was similar. Initial impressions were that the two machines sounded similar, however after ten minutes of relaxed listening there was a consistent preference for the plus. Probably due to its better handling of the high frequencies that provide subtle nuances and cues about location of instruments which the brain processes sub-consciously. Somehow it just feels more natural.
In our previous A/B comparisons, the standard AT3500 trounced a heavily-promoted CD player of European origin and in a recent home demonstration we did, matched a very pricey high-end Japanese transport and DAC, whilst delivering more tuneful bass.
The plus goes one step further and now carries our highest recommendation. We believe that the plus will hold its own in A/B comparisons against all but the most expensive players."
More next month, happy listening