The story ...
The “story” behind the creation of Ayazi.
Instead of a typical marketing pitch, we though it’s better to tell you a story… A story of who we are and what got us this far…
If you’re patient to read on, that is.
If not, that’s cool too. Just try to listen the ayazi dac straightaway: your life will change for the better!:D
Digital Music &High-End: a screechy story
Let’s face it:when CD’s came out 30 years ago, a large part of the hi-end audiophile community rejected it on the grounds that16 bit/44kHz digital sound was not of a true audiophile quality.
Part of this rejection came about as a matter of audiophile honor:resist the onslaught of ones & zeros.Bash digital in favor of the masterful LP, the big sleeves and beautiful artwork that protected the precious LPs from the cold, the dust, and sundry.
As one famous turntable and ball bearings manufacturer made abundantly clear at the time, CDs sounded “sterile” – by which, presumably, he meant lifeless.
To do audiophiles justice, digital sound did not sound that good when it was first introduced (anyone remember the screeching pipe whistling that was the sad excuse for music from a cd back then?).
Plus, TT manufacturers quickly got their act together at that time and new, judicious designs at affordable prices started to hit the market. Of course expensive TTs got better and better and dearer and dearer –
So at that times, in real terms, a good quality LP played on a well–engineered TT with a revealing cartridge loaded correctly on a well-adjusted rigid tone-arm, the signal corrected through a world class phono stage would & did, indeed, sounded better than its digital counterpart…
Then, the specialists came alongand promised to take digital to another level, to make it exotic, to meet and surpass analogue.With their specialist cd players, exotic transports, belt-driven air-driven or otherwise,they took you further and further up the hi-end food chain. All at prices commensurate with the looks and the promised technological breakthroughs contained within… 16bit, 4x oversampling; 18 bit& 20 bit, 8x oversampling…Separates:transport, dac; external power supplies, special suspensions, etc, many beautifully engineered. Soon enough tweaks emerged from the woodwork: disc clamps, felt pens, green ink / black ink, antistatic treatment…Wow!
Then, digital started becoming cheaper and many new engineers and techies came into the market.Digital became even more accessible and significant advances were made.
And of course, delta-sigma-delta DAC – A/D convertersmade life much cheaper – if through higher simulation. “24 bit, 192kHz” became the household standard.DSD was introduced alongside the standard red-book PCM andremained in its obscurity for lack of content.
Meanwhile, CDs began to fall from prominence as a medium,SACD never became prominent, HDCD never took off.
Music became downloadable and formats with higher resolutions became available.
Sites have popped up offering low, linear pcm, and hi-resolution downloads (there is little content up high). Nevertheless, with storage-space and data restrictions, compressed formats rule.
And what about the hi-end reproduction systems?
High systems became more accessible at the baseof the audiophile pyramid and extremely expensive at the top–priced to stratospheric levels of implausibility.
DACs, LPs, and the Taming of the Screech
The good old PCM in all its latest iterations carries on.PCM still accounts for the vast majority of music software. It’s the physical medium that has fallen, not the format!
So where do we find music nowadays? Fortunately, everywhere. CDs of course, but also and predominantly music files in a variety of formats (such as wav, mp3/4, dsd, flac, etc).
When using your PC as source, the first simple step to improving the sound nowadays is to connect better outboard speakers to your computer. The second step is to bypass the soundcard dac by connecting to an external DAC, and take it from there.
When you have a nice collection of CDs? Many audiophiles, incurable romantics, still use their old stand-alone transports as signal sources. Or, they use their left-over cd player as a transport; with prices for CD players being what they are (refreshingly low) that is a sonically viable proposition, indeed! Connecting a sophisticated high resolution DAC to a CD player or CD transport is the best way to revive a CD collection.
Vinyl has made its come-back and remains still today the only physical medium showing growth! Turntables are back with a vengeance; prices vary wildly, but you can get a reasonable sounding player for a “reasonable” price. LPs abound now, and they are all “special” which means expensive in audio speak.
And on the digital content side, there is a small but noticeable movement – i.e. there is a budding public awareness – concerning sound quality. More and more people are becoming aware of the demon of compression and turn to “better sounding” alternatives when and if available – which means that companies are quick to respond by making such offerings available.
Re-mastering has become a lot more powerful and effective and widely available. With excellent restoration jobs, historical recordings have become much more accessible and enjoyable at last. Indeed, some restoration techniques have become accessible for home use as well;using such software savvy audiophile music lovers now bring any old CD to another sonic level just by twiddling with their keyboard at home, sitting in front of their bog-standard, low cost laptop.
So the sound keeps getting more and more promisingly, better…
But the basic reproduction chain hasn’t changed: source, pre/power amplification, speaker – either external speaker or headphones.
All of this is analogue except for one: the digital signal or digital content.
Which this leaves us with the one remaining quintessential sonic bottle-neck in our otherwise well –honed systems: the digital to analogue conversion.
Digital Sound Becomes the Audio… and goodish sound becomes accessible to the masses.
They key to achieving good sound from this software lays within a box containing, in the eyes of many, some “digital components” and a power supply: the “DAC”.
There are DACs out there that make our music sound great. Some are built using sigma-delta chips, NOS multi-bit chips, some are R-2R, etc. Now, the technology is much more accessible and we are all much more tech savvy than we were 10-15 years ago – easily.
So, die hard hobbyists, audiophiles and - most of all – music lovers like us with painstakingly tuned systemslooking to improve our D-A conversion and at the same time keep the cost at reasonable levels,think we can take manufacturers to the task: “I can build something like this,or better, for a lot less than usually charged for it!”
Ayazi DAC: this is the type of sound I would like to get!!!
Can I get it within a budget?
So here at Ideon Audio, we thought we’d join the bandwagon of contesters!
We’d take established manufacturers to the task, and design & produce a high-end sounding DAC, that we, and others like us, can actually afford.
“We” being audiophiles dabbled in IT and consulting with elementary grade re-mastering for fun. We thought we were “savvy”.
We mean, how difficult is it to build a great DAC after all?It’s digital right?
Wrong. And right.
Right in that it is digital, that’s a no brainer. Abysmally wrong about it being simple.
We had extensive exposure to live music and hi-end reproduction but not the infinite budget to purchase all high-end equipment out there. We could (still can) talk extensively about our preferred performances of this or that piece; discuss correct reproduction, pitch, tonal accuracy, and dynamics; at audiophile best (me, as it happens) we were good at talking about it all, had basic knowledge of audio circuits, and could eulogize extensively about isolation – and that’s about the extent of it.
At the onset, and enough euros down the drain, we realized that the usual “kits” or “amateur” attempts did not do the job. I.e., before you get to the point of applying hi-end approved embellishments (isolation feet, use of damping materials, etc) youneeded to tackle the stubborn reality of the engineering of the thing: you need a good circuit.
Then you need the right mix of components.
In order to have that, you need the quintessential guy who designs these things.Oops!
Here comes Vassilis. The engineer. The member of Ideon Audio who actually knew all about circuits, components – heck, he knows most components’ code number by heart, let alone specs and how said components combine or not.And of course, he knows all about audio circuitsand other circuits as well – and it’s the audio that we need here.
So we set about designing this DAC.
The ayazi dac was designed backward.
We said this is the type of sound I would like to get: dynamic, detail and extension. Stereo may be a simulation of reality in our home – but we wanted to feel the musicians’ intensity if any such was present. We also said, this DAC has to be simple, useable anytime, connected to our portable as well as to someone’s real high-end giga-money mega -system.
Then we said:can we do this within a budgetand … how?
A Great Circuit & the Right Mix of Components, at the right price.
You come up with a good circuit and that’s part of the story. First you design it, then you check it out, then you stabilize it, then you try it out for real. You know it’s good when you can perceive all that you want to perceive - sonically. But you want the sound to be more assertive: to gain upper body strength and extension, and to tighten the lower abdomen as it were – and go lower. To do this you need to play (i.e. test out) with different components of same or different value, and optimize the circuit.
Number one: audiophile components, touted to create magic when inserted into any circuit, don’t always. Or, didn’t in our case.
Number two:any passive component in the circuit can and often will sound different than any other,electrically identical, passive component from any other manufacturer, placed in an identical position in the same circuit. Go figure.
Number three: a circuit sitting on a piece of wood may sound different than that same circuit in a box. Or it may not.
Number four: some sonic differences show up in measurements, some don’t, it all depends what you measure for.
Number five: when you are like us and building a thing, there is no point spending much time researching why these things happen to the thing – you accept it and move on, solving it.
As an aside, we all knew about, and had participated in,audiophile tweaking frenzy but it’s a different thing to realize that some things are actually true!
First: being audiophile entousiasts on a mission, we have a lucky respite in costs: no payroll. Unlike established manufacturers we don’t draw salaries off this – yet.
Second: unlike established, large series manufacturers we don’t have access to preferential pricing…Components prices vary wildly. Suppliers favor huge buyers that we were not.
So we had to resort to a mind boggling array of suppliers, buying the best components out there, in groups and batches depending on where we got the best price.
And then we have the nuts, the bolts, and the boxes of the thing: depressingly expensive.Established hi-end manufacturers offering their products in beautifully designed and machined boxes must go through purgatory to get it all right!
At the end of it all, we not only designed and built our product, we also had a lot of fun, much of it after hours with ample liquid fortification.
Ideon Audio, Ayazi DAC: a hand designed High-End DAC,for all people.
The ayazi was conceived by hi-end enthusiasts and music collectors (us), designed by one of us (a professional engineer – no surprise) and fine-tuned sonically by all of us using our music and several high end systems. It is intended to be the jack of all trades for digital-to-analogue conversion, to be used anytime, anywhere...
The designing, fitting,listening and tuning took place with the most care for more than a year. It was a “hand-designed” approach and experience. And, yes, listening and fine-tuning is what took most of the time…
Typical marketing blurb would have it that, “We were unsatisfied with what was on the market, so we created our own to our standards”. Hardly.
It’s not as if there aren’t products out there that perform very well and can satisfy most of our needs. There are. But they are priced stratospherically high - beyond the means of common man (which means us &those around us).
In the beginning of this project we had the sonic challenge: with the best recordings, we wanted to experience as much as possible of what was contained in the signal: dynamics, details, naturalness… and as much tonal accuracy as possible under the circumstances.
At the other end, i.e. the recording abyss, we wanted to have palatable sound whatever the source we wished to listen to, on-line or otherwise: it’s the music that counts after all–right?
The arrival end of this sonic challenge is the ayazi, jack (or DAC) of all trades in everyone’s, every day, digital sound reproduction.It will make the sound coming out of your computer, inspiring; and it will hold its own in a system costing a bit over a family home.It’s true high-end performance – reminding of superb vinyl reproduction, at an affordable price. That’s why we built it.
It has been unexpectedly hard for us to get this far but here we are. Along the way we learned a lot about the difficulties that reputable manufacturers of expensive gear are up against and that, too, was a valuable lesson…
The Ideon Audio ayazi DAC will reproduce dynamics and musical detail contained in the original signal with a high degree of tonal accuracy.
In addition to the above, it is priced within reach of most people;
We believe we have a sonic winner!