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					                                          f e a t u r e



IT TAKES TWO
CD PLAYBACK SYSTEMS
MUSICAL FIDELITY KW DM 25


H
        igh-resolution formats such as                                us have more CDs than SACDs or
        SACD and DVD-A have tried                                     DVD-A releases in our collections. It
        to hog the high-end limelight       Musical Fidelity used     figures that a player able to extract
for some years now – but while the                                    the very best out of every single
technology has been intriguing, and        to refute the need for     CD in a collection will be worth
the sonic results often equally                                       more than the extra performance
beguiling, neither medium could be             a dedicated CD         potential of a SACD deck.
considered a commercial success.                                         The kW series is Musical Fidelity’s
  That may very well be the reason           transport, adopting      flagship product family, and the
why Musical Fidelity has opted
for the tried and trusted, Red
                                            a focus on off-board      kW DM25 is currently its most
                                                                      sophisticated digital source, as
Book-compliant compact disc as
the medium of choice for its latest
                                          D/A converters instead.     evidenced by the painstaking build-
                                                                      quality, two-box configuration and
foray into high-end digital playback.
Yes, that’s right: the two-box kW
                                                 But with the         upsampling capability.
                                                                         As mentioned, it consists of
DM25 digital playback system is a
CD-only combo.
                                            kW DM25 DAC and           the DM25 digital-to-analogue
                                                                      converter, and a matching DM25
  If anything, that fact acknowledges       transport, the British    transport.The latter is a first for
CD is still very much alive and well –                                Musical Fidelity, and its design so
and it makes sense: after all, most of     marque acknowledges        proprietary that it can’t be used

                                             that it can take two
                                                 to tango …




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                                        f e a t u r e



TO TANGO!
with any other DAC. Given the                                                                 complete with black handles, is
pretty hefty asking price, that’s                                                             more restrained than Musical
more than a little disappointing.
                                                 •   p e a k s                  •             Fidelity’s bling-blighted NuVista
   The incompatibility of the                                                                 designs, and ends up looking smart
transport stems from the way it         VERDICT                                               and sophisticated.
delivers its digital wares. Instead     A two-box CD playback system that                       That it also features an intricate
of the usual SPDIF interface            sounds every bit as gorgeous as it looks.             suspension system culled from its
transferring a digital signal to the    High-tech upsampling innards part of the              M1 analogue turntable project,
D/A converter, the DM25 splits          reason, but sophisticated suspension also             complete with individual height
the signal into left and right mono,    contributes.Transport not compatible                  adjustment at each corner, adds a
and passes those on to the DAC          with any other DACs, though.                          further dimension to the transport.
at 96 kHz, employing a pair of                                                                  The company believes even a
AES/EBU balanced outputs.               PRICE                                                 digital transport needs to be
   Needless to say, the DM25 DAC        kW DM25 DAC ................................R29 500   completely immune to external
is the only D/A converter able to       kW DM25 Transport........................R29 500      mechanical interference, and the
accept this rather unusual signal       (R59 000 per set)                                     suspension does a pretty good job
delivery arrangement ...                                                                      in that respect.
   You have to admire the attention     SUPPLIED BY                    Hi-Fi Specialists        The innards will reveal a Philips
to build quality, however.The                                           016-455-1000          VAM1202 three-beam transport,
extruded aluminium enclosure,                                                                 and separate choked power supplies




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for the servo and the motor respec-       the transport at 96 kHz.                 the integrated suspension, although
tively, while the digital circuitry is       The DAC comes equipped with           I also found that they worked pretty
also independently powered.Talking        a dual-differential DAC chip per         well sited on separate equipment
of which, the transport employs a         channel, and has no less than            racks.
Crystal CS8420 upconverter for            four choke-regulated power                  If the kW duo’s technology
each of its two, mono channels.           supplies, thereby ensuring that          and construction are impressive,
   The accompanying DM25 DAC is           signal integrity can’t be compro-        then their sonic delivery is simply
an equally advanced component,            mised by sudden power spikes             outstanding. In a world where hi-fi
not least because it features some        or cross-circuit interference.           is all too often about technical
pretty fancy upsampling technology.          Interestingly, the DAC offers         prowess and the ability to dissect
And unlike the transport, the DAC         a choice of two single-ended             and analyse every note and every
can be used in conjunction with           output sets.The first is fed via a       beat, the Musical Fidelity system
other transports outputting digital       conventional, solid-state output         manages to create a sense of
signals via SPDIF-compliant Toslink       stage, the other employs a pair of       musical integrity and believability
or coaxial RCA sockets.                   dual-triode vacuum tubes.There           that makes for a magical listening
   Thus, the DM25 DAC will lock onto      is no switching between the two –        experience.
and accept digital signals relayed at     both are always on – and they allow         Virtually all of my listening
anything from a lowly 32 kHz to           listeners a choice of sonic character.   was done using the tube-based
96 kHz, and then upsample those              The two kW boxes are designed         outputs: the solid state version
signals to a staggering 192 kHz.          to be located on top of each other       sounds more brilliant, more
Obviously, the same is true of the        (transport below, DAC above),            intense, more incisive, even – but
dual-mono digital feed provided by        ensuring that both benefit from          it ultimately lacks the soul, the




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involvement, the sheer believability    always compelling.                      Madeleine Peyroux to sound
of the valve output stage.                You never end up listening only       liquid and vivid. Expect big band
   It’s the valves that will have       to midrange timbre, stereo imaging      performances such as Robbie
you rummaging through your CD           or soundstaging – the DM25s always      Williams’ recent foray into the
collection, as I did, listening and     allow one to savour the total           classics to swing and swagger.
rediscovering music I thought I         musical picture, the full experience.   Expect Elvis Costello to boogie and
knew intimately.                          And full it is. Tonally, the kWs      bounce, the Rolling Stones to rock,
   Yes sir, the kWs really get their    sound natural in a full, complete       and Mahler to be movingly magical.
teeth into the music. More than         kind of way. There is a real timbre,       Most of all, expect to be
any other piece of high-end digital     a real presence to the delivery         entertained – and to be, perhaps,
equipment I’ve listened to, they        that invites involvement and            quite astonished at the sheer
get to the very essence of a perfor-    enchantment.                            visceral appeal of stereo done
mance – and translate that into           Staging is open and expansive         Musical Fidelity-style.
the music you’ll hear in your           without sounding showy or                  If the compact disc is supposed
listening room.                         magnified – if the recording has        to be dead, the Musical Fidelity kW
   Not only does this combo extract     scale, then that’s what the MFs         DM25 transport and DAC prove just
additional detail, extra ambient        deliver. If the performance is          the opposite. It delivers thrilling
information and even the most           intimate and concentrated, then         music from ‘old’ technology with a
subtle textures of the musical          that’s reflected with equally           twist, and proves that innovation
fabric. It also melds these elements    resolute clarity, integrity             doesn’t always have to seek new
together in a cohesive, all-            and purpose.                            frontiers. Delicious!
embracing performance that is             Expect female voices such as                                    Deon Schoeman




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posted:1/20/2011
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