This is my first collection of ideas and observations about our obsessively engrossing avocation on the newly re-launched Audio Ideas Guide on the web. During AIG’s print life I was a regular contributor, mostly writing record reviews. The greater flexibility of the web will let me talk about many things to do with both sound and music. I will still be writing formal disc reviews and the very occasional equipment review. I am excited!
For my first kick at the can, I would like to update my observations about the truly remarkable Aurum Acoustics Integris CDP . These are impressions gained after some updates along the way and extended listening in my own system. For some background please access my original review of a pre-production model which is available here. For technical details please visit Aurum’s Website.
To be concise, the Integris CDP is a CD player and preamplifier together in one box. It sells for $13,500. The disc playing format is CD alone because designer Derrick Moss, from the beginning, set himself the task of creating a player that would maximize what was embedded in the ordinary “Redbook” CD standard. Why? In part because he thought it could be done, that the humble CD could be massaged to excellence. Perhaps even more compelling, he was fully aware that most collectors already had shelves lined with CDs and the prospect of the higher resolution formats becoming the standard was grim. There is an excellent summation of the format “wars” in Aaron Marshall’s recently posted review of the first Bryston disc player, which is, no surprise, CD only. (For the record, I think some of the higher definition formats, SACD etc., produce excellent results, and it is a damn shame the plastic disc revolution didn’t begin with higher resolution [AM adds: It was then-President Akio Morita of Sony who decided that the CD should be limited in playing time to roughly the length the Beethoven 9th Symphony, and also its 44.1/16 resolution]).
Moss’s quest for CD greatness has centred on the production of the Integris CDP and the awesome Aurum Acoustic tubed/solid state powered speakers, the Integris Active 300B. Back to the CDP. There have been some noticeable improvements since the pre-production stage, all of which were included in the first production models. Recently there has been a parts update that is very significant. (Current owners can, and I say certainly should, be updated). Moss has sourced a better op-amp (operational amplifier, or chip-based gain device), and there are many in the CDP.
As well, here are some changes I have made for the better in my system:
1. Different power cords. I have Aurum Acoustics power cords, one connecting my Bryston 3B ST and the other the Integris CDP to a Kimber Kable WATT-a-GATE-580 outlet in the wall. The AC power cord is a Cardas Golden Reference modified to Aurum specifications which include WATT-a-GATE-330 plugs at either end.
2. I have upgraded to Cardas Golden Reference interconnects between the Bryston and the Integris CDP.
3. I have replaced Black Diamond Racing cones with Golden Sound ceramic cones to support the ( NOTE: It now comes supplied with metal spike supports). The BDRs are now beneath the Bryston.
4. I have replaced all standard fuses with Isoclean Gold fuses.
The easiest way to tell you what I feel as a result of all this is to keep it simple (not that I think you are stupid!) As you would expect the Integris CDP does all the things a properly working high end compact disc player and preamplifier should do. With the improvements noted and most especially with the op-amp upgrade reproduction is elevated to the completely easeful and effortless. There is a sense of balance in every parameter. There is a more graphic sense of presence. Solid. Rooted. There is no “good bass”, “impressive midrange”, “sparkling treble”. There are all of those but they are so completely integrated that nothing stands out. As I listen I think, “this is perfect”. Over the long haul that has never happened to me before. To me, the Integris CDP is a complete success. At its price point it should be, but it is even better than that.
But wait a minute. I hear you. “What the hell is Oxley doing reviewing a thirteen and a half thousand dollar piece of equipment? How did he get his mitts on an Integris CDP anyway”? There’s a story.
About five years ago my wife and I moved to Newfoundland to live out our retirement. We love the place. But the last thing in the world I ever imagined was that, after forty odd years obsessing (with the guidance of very sane, wise friends), I would find hi-fi heaven here on the Rock. Not long after we got here I was introduced to Derrick Moss, a recent graduate of Memorial University. He exited its hallowed halls with degrees in Engineering and Business Administration and a passionate desire to “unscrew the inscrutable”, that is, design and build the perfect system to reproduce music in the home, and do it in St. John’s, Newfoundland. But then, He comes from out around the bay and he would never use the word “perfect”. I have followed his progress with friendly interest. In the early days I was able to obtain a pre-production model of the Integris CDP at a pre-production price. Since the beginning, I have thought it remarkable, and much the more so do I now. With it, I began to understand high-end and accept the amount of coin it commands.
Now, how is all this of any help to you? Just let me say I am passionate about Aurum Acoustic`s success and I am relaying the good news. Would I tell you if my friend’s products were not good? No! I wouldn’t be writing about them at all. I do because I think it is a remarkable story and, if you are fortunate enough to be looking for something like the CDP, I may have piqued you interest.
Oh, and there is a phono section that Moss has developed for the Integris CDP. As an unrepentant “vinylist”, I will have some impressions of that for you in my next OX Box soon. What are you listening to? Me, it’s the splendid Symphonies of David Diamond re-issued on Naxos, music of Joonas Kokkonen, particularly his amazing Cello Concerto, from a Finlandia 2-CD set in their Meet the Composer series, and the prize winning Sound Grammar from brilliant Ornette Coleman.
Until next time…
Table of contents for Ox Box
Related Reviews:OX Box #2: Bob Oxley Reflects on his Audio System
OX Box #4: Bob Oxley Delves Further Into The Aurum Integris System
OX Box #3: Controlling Room Reflections
Aurum Acoustics Integris CDP CD Player and Linestage
AIG Back Issues: Fall 2005
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