"On HiFi" with Wes Marshall
My discovery of NAD’s C 658 BluOS streaming DAC ($1649 USD) marks the end of a very long search.
It began in high school, when I succumbed to addictions to music and audio gear. Ever since, I’ve looked for a device that would allow me to dispense with the ever-growing rack of audio components I’ve set up in -- so far -- 16 different homes. Early on, I had a turntable, tonearm, and cartridge, a phono preamp, a preamp, reel-to-reel and cassette tape decks, a tuner, two power amps, huge speakers, interconnects from each source to the preamp, interconnects from preamp to power amps, and speaker cables -- oh, and a record cleaner. Added to those, following the birth of what Sony was pleased to call perfect sound forever, were a CD player and DAC.
The cutting edge has its attractions, especially to someone who spends so much time sharing his opinions in print. I’m human -- I want to look cool. But when it comes to loudspeakers I’ve always been something of a traditionalist, and sometimes it takes me a while to catch up.
SoundStage! has covered multiple products from iFi Audio. We began by looking at their earlier, value-centered products, many of which were involved with some aspect of headphone listening. In the last few years, iFi seems to have decided that the high end offers a promising marketplace as well. Their Pro iDSD ($2499 USD) now joins their Pro iCAN headphone amp ($1799) and Pro iESL electrostatic headphone amplifier ($1499) -- attempts to challenge the Mount Everest of the highest-quality audio products while maintaining at least a semblance of reasonable pricing.
This will date me, and maybe you, too. When I see the name Shinola, the first thing to hit my brain is not an expensive watch made in Detroit, or a $1500 leather bag, or a “studio quality” speaker. My association with the term even predates the joke between actors Richard Ward and Steve Martin in The Jerk. In my youth, Shinola, in business from 1877 to 1960, was the second-ranking shoe polish in the US, after Kiwi. It was even more important as an insult: “You don’t know shit from Shinola.”