Perhaps I should give you a little background information on Worldwide Wholesales so you can better understand my philosophy in regard to audio. Worldwide Wholesales is my 16th company and 17 years ago I sold the last of my other companies and kept Worldwide Wholesales. Personally, I have been blind testing and direct A/B testing audio products for over 40 years but in the past 20+ years, I started A/B testing audio products with a group of people who also have many years of audio experience. This has allowed Worldwide Wholesales to audition some of the very best audio brands in the world and eliminate the guesswork for the end-user. For myself, it is all about the music and it does not matter where the equipment is produced but rather the musicality of the system. My personal philosophy is that “it is easy to build a system that can play music but very difficult to build a system that is musical”.
After comparing almost 500 different cable models, not brands but models, we now realize that there are very few cable manufacturers that have any real cable technology. Almost all cable manufacturers are simply building their cables from a bulk roll of cable with no added technology and then adding a Texflex outer sleeve with the name of the cable manufacturer printed on the outer sleeve. But building a cable that is technologically advanced is a challenge and involves many years of R&D. Inakustik cables, built and designed in Germany, is the best cable manufacturer we have auditioned and A/B tested. Inakustik cables have been in business for over 40 years and they have sold over 15 million cables worldwide. The technology behind the Inakustik Reference Air Helix series is a completely different level of technology versus any other cable manufacturer that we have A/B tested. The bottom line is that Inakustik Reference Air Helix cables just disappear better because of their advanced technology and super low capacitance.
Inakustik website info: https://www.in-akustik.de/en/cables-and-accessories/reference-air/speaker-cable/
Another interesting fact about Worldwide Wholesales is that we look at the pedigree of the designers when we are considering importing/distributing any audio products. After A/B testing 97 different digital front ends, including DACs costing $120000 USD, we have found 3 top designers in regard to digital front ends. The DACs/designers we prefer are Aries Cerat (Cyprus), Rockna Audio (Romania), and Total dac (France). These 3 companies have great digital designers and superb technology that sets them apart from other digital manufactures. The Aries Cerat DACs that we auditioned sounded more analog than other DACs that we A/B tested. The Aries Cerat Kassandra DACs and Helene DAC are unique in the fact that they do not play MQA or DSD. The manufacturer/designer believes that when you install the boards for MQA and DSD that this can affect the sound in a negative way and we have personally noticed that this tends to be the case with most digital manufacturers except Rockna Audio. Also, 99% of the music that you will listen to will be below the bit rate of 24/384. You can still play MQA or DSD on the Aries Cerat DACs but you need to do the adjustments on your server to allow the bit rate to be played at and below 24/384. Rockna Audio is a digital manufacturer that has almost 40 years of digital experience. The designer at Rockna has designed digitally for MSB, PS Audio, and Goldmund. If you are looking at the sub $10000 price point for digital then Rockna would be our recommendation.
Speaking of servers/streamers, we have been fortunate enough to A/B test most of the top servers/streamers in the world and our preference is the Pink Faun 2.16 ULTRA server/streamer. The build quality of the Pink Faun server is superb and the sound quality is as close to analog as you're going to get with a digital front end when combined with the Aries Cerat DACs. Pink Fauns designer is a spectacular individual to deal with as he will remotely set up your Pink Faun device using several different techniques that are unique to the Pink Faun server/streamer. The customer service is very special and Pink Faun should be noted as one of the friendliest manufacturers in the world. In my opinion, the best DACs and servers/streamers have less digital glare and sound more analog. When you get to experience the very top digital manufacturers in the world you will hear vocal images that are carved out that will sound tighter and more tangible. There should be a feeling of ambiance and atmosphere in each recording. This ambiance and atmosphere should be carried over to each instrument with a tremendous amount of impact. You also must hear defining bass attack with the initial strike of a drum or the pluck of the string on a stringed instrument and this should produce energy in your listening room. After testing most of the top digital front ends in the world, I personally use the Pink Faun 2.16 ULTRA server/streamer and the Pink Faun has different outputs to offer (SPDIF / USB / I2S) but I prefer the USB connection into the Aries Cerat Kassandra DAC. This combination has bested all other digital front-end combinations we have tested. However, a quick note as our 2nd favorite front end and a more affordable combination are the Rockna DACs with the matching Rockna WAVEDREAM Net server/streamer. This is a wonderful manufacturer that builds high-quality digital front ends at very affordable prices.
An area that is dramatically overlooked is the preamp/line stage as this can be your torque to your whole system. I like to compare a preamplifier to the torque that a car produces. Most preamplifiers are set to peak at 2.5 V and this would be the equivalent of 250 pounds of torque in a car. But if you look at Aries Cerat you quickly start to understand that this manufacturer is building products at a different level than any other audio manufacturer in the world. A good example is the average voltage output on their preamplifiers which is 5 V and this is continuous voltage. This would be the equivalent of 500 pounds of torque from a car. Aries Cerat also builds preamplifiers that are 10 V output which would be the equivalent of 1000 pounds of torque from a car. The reason I'm mentioning this is that it's very difficult to get live/dynamic sound in a home environment without having the output voltage or torque from the preamplifier. Most people, including myself until we started importing Aries Cerat, believe that the dynamics of the system were produced strictly from the amplifiers but the truth is that the dynamics are produced from a combination of output voltage from the preamp and the wattage of the amplifier combined. One of our favorite pieces of electronics that Aries Cerat manufacturers is a preamplifier called the Impera 2. In the audio world, this piece of equipment would be called a "game-changer".
We have had approximately 450 + sets of speakers thru our listening room over the past 40 years and many different amplifiers. I feel that amplifiers and speakers are personal preferences and it is best to match them up together based on the type of music you prefer, the efficiency of the speakers, and the size of your room. Personally, I prefer highly efficient horn speakers with a low-wattage tube amplifier but again this is just a preference. I like this combination because of the smaller crossover network in the speakers and the detail retrieval that is produced along with the realistic dynamic attack that a horn speaker can produce. Personally, I use Horns by Autotech speakers and they are built and designed in Poland. The fit and finish are world-class and the sound quality is stunning. But again this is a preference thing with no wrong or right but rather what you enjoy and which amplifier sound you prefer.
We have A/B tested 74 different conditioning systems. The best conditioner we have heard/ tested is the Inakustik 4500P and there is no reason to spend more money because it will not result in better sound than the Inakustik 4500P. We have A/B tested conditioners costing up to $40000 USD and none of them did as good a job, musically, as the Inakustik 4500P. Testing of the Inakustik 4500P resulted in zero loss of dynamics when plugging your amplifiers directly into the Inakustik 4500P conditioner. We found that when all components were plugged directly into the Inakustik 4500P conditioner that our reference system had better overall dynamics, the soundstage was more focused and the music had more air resulting in the system sounding more live with less of a veil over the system. The Inakustik 4500P did not lower the noise floor and I want to repeat this, it did not lower the noise floor. All conditioners that we tested lowered the noise floor, also reduce dynamics, and tended to make the system sound more veiled rather than opening up the soundstage. The only way to test this is to plug the conditioner in for one week and listen to the system through that conditioner and then to unplug everything from the conditioner and listen to the system without the conditioner. Lots of conditioners will lower the noise floor but at what cost to the system, is really the question that needs to be asked. The only way to lower a noise floor properly or reduce EMI and RFI at the component is with a properly designed grounding box.
In regard to fully tweaking out a system, we have tested several well-known brands including Akiko. The Akiko products do as advertise. The other brands we tested had a select couple of products that were very good but nothing that could compete against Akiko's full lineup of products. Again, this is based on direct A/B testing, not hypothetical guessing but rather direct A/B testing and not on just one system but rather 6 very high-end systems ranging from $90000-$750000. Tweaking a system out can be fun but be careful not to go too far and change the original recording will adding too many tweaks.
Here are my thoughts on how a good system should be set up. The cables should have little to no effect on the sound and never use cables to equalize your system. The DAC and server should be fully transparent. The line stage/preamp should only be a volume control and not a tone control. A great line stage will control the dynamics of a system while helping the amplifiers to reach their full potential. Amplifiers and speakers are personal preferences and it is best to match them up based on the type of music you prefer, the efficiency of the speakers, and the size of your room. The conditioner should have little to no effect or cause any dynamic loss on an audio system. When testing conditioners listen for better separation and a more precise sound stage and then make sure there is no compression loss. Only use tweaks at the end once everything else is set up properly.
Soul of the system
So where does the “SOUL” of the system come from or how can your reference home system make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? It starts at the recording studio with the chemistry between the artists and engineers and ends up in your well-designed audio room. How do you know when you have it right in your home? In most cases you can hear the venue where the recording was produced and the ambient “air” in that venue. Think about your listening room and that moment when you did not want to change anything in your system, then that is when you have it right. When this happens, run away from that audio salesperson and enjoy the music because that is what audio is really all about, THE SOUL OF THE MUSIC!!!!!
Any audio equipment that we import for testing purposes is directly A/B tested against our reference equipment and if any new piece of audio equipment beats our reference during our testing, then it becomes our new reference. We are constantly exploring but rarely do we make changes. I hope this helps you understand our philosophy.
Cheers and please remember "it is easy to build a system that can play music but very difficult to build a system that is musical".