Audio candy fulfills the visual cortex but with the Divin Lab, you no longer need to look. My audio epiphany started with digital replay with the Wadax Atlantis Server, Transport and Reference DAC. I selected pieces of music that I brought on vinyl for comparison. Though most of the songs were only of CD quality (44.1Hz), I must say the Wadax Reference DAC removed a tremendous amount of digitalness. The depth and width of the presentation mimics that of its analogue counterparts. My wife and I actually forgot that we were listening to a digital source despite a very slight hint of a digital footprint. Then the discussion of the Vertere Phase AC Management Centre experienced in Sheung Wan was brought up. I was told by PT that the Divin Lab’s Vertere had not been calibrated yet. So we changed the phase of the Reference Dac to negative. Within the first 20 seconds of Diana Krall’s “Case Of You”, our jaws dropped! The system became more akin to an analogue setup. I can definitely live this it!
PT told me that the analogue setup had not been fully optimized. That didn’t deter me from wanting to experience it. I played my favourite piece from Stokowski and I noticed a reverse in the position of the instruments. I politely mentioned it to PT and we reversed the Skogrand Beethoven phono cables from the Thales statement to the Jinpu. Now, PT and I agreed that we were in audio nirvana! This is where I want to be.
The Vertere Phase AC Management Center has shown to be a vital essential to boost the system into the stratosphere. The difference in the musical presentation in positive and negative phase is akin to night and day. It brings that state of naturalness to unchartered territories. Though the device is not objective in telling which is correct, but a few pair of ears will definitely seal the deal.
Arya Revopods is another component that has simply refined the tonal character. This is most apparent in the depth and layering of bass notes. This emphasizes the importance of mechanical stabilization in each of our components. Definitely another winner!
Wadax Reference DAC has nudged a cord in my heart. With the near analogue reproduction, shear quality irrespective of sampling format and ease of attaining any song in the world through streaming, hmmm. I don’t want to say more. This may be detrimental to my health.
Tripoint Elite Next Generation grounding “nugget of gold”. This and the Tripoint Empress at the Divin Majestics’ just made every other system including mine sound noisy. Always understated but such a team player. I’m sure a Tripoint Empress NG is in the cards. Dreaming is free….
The last intangible thing that gelled all this together has been the optimization by Stirling. Being able to optimize the speaker placement based on single speaker sound pressurization and eliminating room acoustics requires patience, knowledge and strength. The Divin Lab has been tuned to PTs musical preference. In concerts, he loves to sit in the front row where a truly pressurized and stereo image is felt. If playing vocals in the Divin Lab, try face the back wall painting and walk about 5 feet from the centre blue tape marked by Stirling. This is where I found Diana Krall singing. That will be about 5 feet from the centre Finn Juhl Chieftain chair. Horns and radial speakers respond and react differently. Hence the positioning to achieve the visceral impact of musical notes will be completely different. The final point of musicality is spot on. Like I said at the beginning, eye candy can take a sidestep.
Well done to all the designers! Well done Stirling! A big thank you and well done to Chris for going the distance. This is definitely a sensory epiphany.
KFM and the Family
PT and KFM
Time has flown by and the Divin Lab is now one and a half
years more mature. With anything
living, if fed well, it will develop and improve. Obviously the rate -determining step will be the amount it
is being fed and the stimuli being induced by its parents.
Physically it has matured to becoming a very relaxing and
inviting abode. The finished
entrance, furniture and art pieces are just a taste of what will be seen when one
enters “The Lab”.
How I felt after my experience in the Divin Lab
As I entered, I noticed, yet again why it called the Divin
Lab. Those Majestic’s looked as if
they have grown another foot taller.
I immediately noticed the footprints left by Stirling in the form of
blue pieces of tape on the floor, annotated with measurements. Fascinated by the effects of his work
in Sheung Wan, I approached and slowly tried to decipher the numbers in the
hope I could do a “Stirling “ of my own at home.
Then came Javiers masterpiece, the Wadax Atlantis Reference
DAC. It absolutely dwarfs the
Wadax Atlantis Server sitting below it.
Three chassis placed in series, which looks like a central DAC console
flanked by dual mono power supplies.
With 4 sets of Arthurs’ Revopods mechanically stabilizing the Reference
DAC, we can just about "guestimate" its weight. The digital side was further supported by Wadax Atlantis transport.
The Wadax Reference Dac braced by the Arya RevoPods
The central electronics were held up by Yamada’s Zanden
Chukoh and Kaun. Beautifully
built, these aesthetics flow into the Jinpu phonostage which accepts the
transcription of analogue from the Hartvig Statement battery supplied
turntable, Thales Statement tonearm and the Miyajima Destiny cartridge.
My "I have to worked harder" face.....
Going around to the back shows the arteries, veins and
nerves that integrates these.
Skogrand, Dalby Audio, Argento, Vertere, Goebel and JMF Audio are all
synonymous with Audio Exotics.
Then appears a new comer that makes an appearance in both Divin and
Sheung Wan by the name of LA Sound (Lozzo Atestino Sound, not La as in “the” in
French). I presume Lozzo Atestino
is the municipality where the Marchetti family originates from.
The unsung heros!
It is not a system created by Chris if it didn’t have a
barrage of artillery that defends electrical and mechanical “additives”. One of the stars of 2018 was the Arya
Revopods. This can be seen under
the Reference DAC, Server, Power supply to the Jinpu and Chukoh (all placed on
the ultra highend SRA and FalkenOhr racks and stands) and hidden in the back
under the two arrays of the Vertere Phase AC Management Centre. The latter, being another winner in
This unassuming orange power distribution bar looking
contraption ultimately allows one to toggle with the phase of the incoming AC
currents. Now how clever is
that?! So what, one might
say? My answer is “day and night!”
Next, comes the Tripoint Audio’s Troy Elite Next Generation
and the Empress. Nestled behind
most setups, Divin Lab included, these components unassumingly sit there. Its best not to ask what they do, as it
will only raise the skepticism and audio witchcraft has been written elsewhere. Do an A-B-A (then please keep it
on) comparison. As the grounding
units of Troy move into the next century with the NG, will there be an Empress
Many contacted me how to integrate the subwoofer with the main speakers after Marvel’s post. What are the protocols? First of all, read the specs of the main speakers for general reference. What are the crossover points? If you read the spec of all speakers, they are pretty much the same particularly on the frequency responses, especially in the lower octaves. The claims are almost universal from 40hz to 20,000hz regardless of two way monitor, floor standing, and all the way to gigantic horn. They are meaningless pretty much because one don’t know if there is adequate energy particularly below 60hz. In some cases, intense roll off behavior begins at 80hz.
That is why your ears are still the judge. Why do we need to add a subwoofer? If one only listens to a few vocal recordings and string solo, I‘d recommend to forget all the troubles. On the other hand, if your music preference is wide encompassing from rock, heavy metal to big symphonic scores, then the lowest two octaves matter very much. Also, the overall improvement brought from the subwoofer is not more attack in the upper bass, but rather on the completeness of soundstage, palpability of imaging and enrichment of ambience wherever they are. It is a 3D concept. It is NOT an arithmetic concept. For example, you can’t claim 80hz below is unimportant because our ears consume mid-range the most. If this logic holds, then composers would not add double bass, timpani and other bass instruments in the formation of an orchestra. Taking them out is not the same music composition anymore. It is true that they represent a lesser nunerical percentage of the whole frequency range. But they lay a solid foundation upon everything above. Please digest this session before reading the next paragraph.
The first step of setting up the sub in our approach is to determine the LOW-PASS point. Should we cross at 80hz, 70hz or 60hz or 50hz? The first two octaves are respectively 20hz to 40hz, and 40hz to 80hz. For me, I usually begin under 80hz because underneath this threshold subbass has no directionalty theoretically speaking.
In the case of Azzurri‘s Cessaro Wagner 2-way horn system, we began the LOW-PASS point at 65hz. Then my father asked me to play Beethoven Violin Concerto No.1. After the first 3 minutes, he told me to bring it up to 70hz. Listen again. There was some improvement on the perceived soundstage height, width and depth. Then we knew the direction was right and brought it up to 75hz. The percieved size of the orchestra was larger. It was time to swap with another recording with more bass punch and attack - the Dave Brubeck, the Take 5 track. My father decided to push it up to 80hz on this recording as he felt energy was not enough in the upper bass (energy of upper bass also derives from the subbase to a certain degree). Still, he wanted more energy and hence we elevated the low pass further to 85hz. But then resolution began to blur forcing us to bring it back to 80hz where overall resolution returned to normalcy. The low pass was set at 80hz was the conclusion. But how do we extract more energy without altering the low pass? This is the time when we began working on the subwoofer volume, which were set at default of 0 db.
The subwoofer volume setting is determined technically by the INPUT SENSITIVITY of the amplifier driving the main speakers. In the case of Azzurri, the input sensitivity of the ARNE amplifer by Engstrom is on the high side. If the input sensitivity of the amp inside the ”Xiang Xu“ subwoofer is LOWER than ARNE, then it must be the case we need to raise the input sensitivity of the amp inside the sub to match with ARNE. The subwoofer volume inside the ”Xiang Xu“ subwoofer is thus equivalent to input sensitivity adjustment.
Since we couldn‘t cross above 80hz, we began raising the subwoofer volume (input sensitivity) to reach the ear-perception of my father in this case. We ended up raising the sub volume to +4.5db. (Each increment of the sub volume is very finely divided in 0.25db step.) Then we switched back to Beethoven Violin Concerto No.1. The energy of the orchestra projected much more. Each turn of the bow on the violin radiated microscopic energy. Azzurri’s biggest complaint in the past was very narrow soundstage blaming entirely to the narrow physical living room. Now the orchestra penetrated beyond the side walls. The addition of the subwoofer proves our judgments were wrong in the past.
What is next? Then we began adjusting the HIGH PASS. It was preset at 35hz, which means the sub gnerates NOTHING below 35hz. Frankly speaking, the full wave length of such low freuquency is extremely long that ordinary household apartment could not accommodate. But still adjusting it impacts the sound. We lowered it to 30hz first. Height of the soundstage was seemingly higher with more depth. Then we brought it down gradually by 29hz, 28hz...... to 25hz, but no obvious improvements were observed. We hammered it further to 20hz, and Azzurri immediately detected resonances coming from the glass wall behind his listening position. Then we brought it back to 25hz to seal the HIGH pass location.
We were using a few more complicated music passages to confirm the settings. Before we left, Azzurri played a cut of Carol Kidd‘s famous song - ”When I dream“ for image palpability testing. We pushed the Wagner backward (not even half an inch) to make sure both speakers are aligned symmetrically. Then we also relocated the listening chair. Then we played again. That was the time when my father said, ”Excellent！“
Appendix: For the setting of LOW PASS and HIGH PASS, there are 3 types of filters to choose. Each filter has their own sound character. For the sake of simplicity, I had chosen the Bessel curve 18db in both positions. I usually prefer sharp cut at 24db to 18db because the former generates less room interaction based on my many field trip experiences. In the case of Azzurri, I picked 18db bessel for better energy transition. If we used 24db, my father felt there was a small hole leaking energy. For more advance setting, you can choose different filter curve for both parameters. Last but not least is the application of Revopod underneath the subwoofer is a must because it brings palpable silence to our senses.
The integration of ”Xiang Xu“ subwoofer with Cessaro Wagner was much easier than the case of my home because sensitivity of Goebel Epoque Reference speakers is much lower compared to the ”Xiang Xu“ subwoofer. It was a much long drawn exercise for them to dial in seamlessly. In both cases, the performance of ”Xiang Xu“ subwoofer is truly high fidelity. There are so many parameters for adjustment to accommodate all kind of situations. The disappearing act of “Xiang Xu” is magnificent.