About the Absolute Epsilon DAC
Okay, no easy way of saying this, if you're reading about this Absolute Epsilon DAC, you have to pay attention. It's a complicated machine and because it can be matched with the Absolute Stream and Absolute Time, to create an unparalleled digital playback 'structure', there are multiple considerations to discuss. It can be used as a stand-alone DAC with non-ideon products brilliantly, it can be part of a grail investment with the whole Absolute range altogether, or it can be the start of a flowing upgrade plan to build to the whole Absolute range over time. The added bonus is that Ideon have inbuilt upgradeability too – any of these boxes can take upgraded internal modules as Ideon release further technology upgrades.
But what about the DAC itself? Well it contains all of the fundamental Ideon principles. Sixteen separate power supplies providing up to six stages of power supply regulation at critical points, three independent ultra-low-jitter clocks, triple stage USB input noise elimination, in-house developed software for the ES9038PRO 32 bit 8 channel DAC chip, and proprietary balanced output stages with no capacitors in the signal path. Great casework, low noise displays and industry leading noise figures are there too of course, but we need to get on to the sound. And boy, the sound is stunning – really this is a new high-end benchmark for all the right reasons – transparency and realism with such a marked drop in digital artefacts when compared to the competition that it will take your breath away.
SUPPORTED FORMATS (INPUT DEPENDENT): 44.1kHz to 384kHz PCM up to 32 bits , Native DSD (up to 8X DSD)
DIGITAL INPUTS: 3x Advanced isolated input module slots (USB, XLR, RCA)
XLR BALANCED OUTPUTS: 9Vrms at 0dB
RCA OUTPUTSRCA OUTPUTS: 4.5Vrms at 0dBTHD (A WEIGHTED 20HZ-20KHZ)< – 120dB on all outputs
CHANNEL SEPARATION: >130dB on all outputs
SNR: (A WEIGHTED 20HZ-20KHZ)>130dB on all outputs
DYNAMIC RANGE: 20HZ TO 20KHZ 147 dB (FS) . 145 dB (AFS)
DISPLAY: Custom discrete LED audio clock synchronous display
DIMENSIONS: (W X H X D)490 x 350 x 110 mm (19.2 x 13.7 x 4.3 in)
WEIGHT: 28kg (~65 lbs)
Power supply regulation – one of the fundamentals of great DAC designs. Ideon don't employ this many seperate and multi-layered power supply stages (sixteen) for no reason. Noise is spikes, and in digital processing circuits, spikes will slightly add or detract from the rise and fall of a zero to a one, or a one to a zero. The noise makes that nearly vertical line a little bit rough if you like. So then, when the next part of the digital processing circuit receives its digital data, the point in time at which it 'counts in' the rise to a one, or fall to a zero is a little bit ambiguous – just a tiny bit. But remove the noise and everything gets that little bit more accurate, error correction algorithms don't work so hard, and the waveform shape that the true data represents gets to the end of the process more accurately.
Matching & Setup
The Absolute Epsilon DAC deserves nothing less than a very good system to play through. The system doesn't have to be super expensive though, or come with megaWatts of muscle, it just needs to be open, transparent and blessed with good dynamic headroom. Great valve amplification and good quality efficient speakers is a fabulous match. In essence, the huge reduction in hash from this DAC and a corresponding increase in genuine musical information will take any good system to a whole new level.
Setup requires all the usual considerations of course. Use good cabling and careful system husbandry for proper separation of units on individual shelves on a good stand. Take care with a good mains strategy and watch out for poor power supplies such as wall warts for any upstream digital components. And this DAC does require a fair bit of burn-in, followed by final readjustments of speaker positioning. But we can guarantee that with this Ideon machine, fine attention to setup detail will be handsomely rewarded with a presentation that brings on a Zen-like state when playing something mellow, or the frisson of a hot love affair when playing something dramatic. Harmony and peace, or fireworks – you get both.