It’s the time of year for saving money!
“Andy”, Joe started, “I love streaming TIDAL Hi-Fi“, but I have some CD’s I want to play without ripping them to the fixed drives in my Aurender N100H. Plus, I’m starting to feel that I could get better headphone sound than using my Sennheiser Momentums via Blu-tooth to my iPhone 7. What would you suggest?”
I replied that he had a lot of choices, but that–if he wanted to build on the strength of his Ayre Codex–he had some more obvious choices. First, he needed a high-quality CD transport with a TOSLINK or optical digital output to use the TOSLINK input of the Codex and, in terms of headphones, he had to set some priorities.
One of my favorite small and affordable CD transports is the Woo Audio WTP-1. It has a simple, top-loading design, a compact size, and has two digital outputs: COAX and TOSLINK. Plus, you can get a fully-functional remote control for it, all for about $1200.00 total. Of course, Joe would need a TOSLINK cable to run from the WTP-1 to the Codex.
The best overall TOSLINK cable I know of that’s remotely affordable is the WireWorld Supernova 7, made with borosilicate (glass) as opposed to plastic optical fiber. Joe ordered a WTP-1 from the Woo Audio website and a one-meter Supernova 7 from The Cable Company at 1-800-FAT-WYRE. Because the WTP-1 does not come with a power cable, he ordered an Audience PowerChord SE-i from The Cable Company, too, a great, inexpensive power cable for digital audio components.
In terms of headphones, I suggested that he consider the HiFiMan Edition X V2’s, a lightweight, highly-efficient planar magnetic design, meaning that he could drive the headphones from the lower-powered headphone amp in the Codex but get more resolution than he likely would from more conventional dynamic headphones, such as the Momentum’s, not to disparage Sennheiser’s own truly fine design.
Joe ordered the Edition X’s from Moon Audio in Cary, NC and, at my recommended, added a short run of Drew Baird’s custom Black Dragon V2 headphone cable with a 1/4″ stereo or TRS plug on the amplifier end to match the Codex.
Once assembled, Joe dropped his CD of Dave Brubeck’s album Time Out into the WTP-1 and pressed Play. He liked it, a lot. I could tell by the smile on his face when the seminal cool jazz track “Take Five” started playing both out loud then only with headphones. It sounded tight and deep but remained emotionally engaging with a clean midrange and a detailed but not overly present treble particularly on the drum set cymbals.
I made one last suggestion, which was that Joe get a simple but effective power line filter to get rid of any grunge passing through his AC power and to drain away noise generated by all his digital devices. We had lots of choices at many price points but, based on my own experience and wanting to keep the cost low–and knowing that Joe had well-grounded AC sockets in his home–we ordered one more thing from The Cable Company, a Chang Lightspeed CLS 309 power conditioner with six sockets, two with extra heavy filtering for the N100H and Codex, and a captive (i.e., permanently attached) power cable with a three-prong plug for his wall socket.
We set it all up and played Time Out once again. “Wow”, Joe commented, “That sounds a lot more natural and whole lot … smoother.” “For only $585.00“, I replied. “You’re opening yourself up to a whole new world.”
I left Joe sitting in his easy chair, streaming TIDAL and playing CD’s with his Edition X’s, drinking an ice-cold craft root beer with his eyes closed, seeming totally at ease in audio happiness.