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 16 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 doing the A/B testing 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 built or produced but rather the music of the system. My personal belief 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 over 400 different cable models, not brands but models, we now realize that there are not many cable companies that have any real cable technology. Almost all cable manufactures are simply building their cables from a bulk roll of cable with no added technology and adding a Texflex outer sleeve with the name of the manufacture printed on the sleeve. But actually, building a cable that is technologically advanced is a challenge and involves many years of R&D. Inakustik cables, built in Germany, is the best cable manufacture we have heard. Inakustik cables have been in business for over 40 years and have sold over 15 million cables worldwide. The technology behind the Inakustik Air Helix series is a completely different level of technology versus any other cable manufacture that we have A/B tested. The bottom line is Inakustik cables just disappear better because of their advanced technology and super low capacitance.
Another interesting fact about Worldwide Wholesales is that we look at the pedigree of the designer when we are deciding on importing/distributing any audio products. After A/B testing 93 different digital front ends, including DACs costing over $50000 USD, we found 3 top contenders in regard to the digital front ends that we preferred. Rockna Audio (Romania), Aries Cerat (Cyprus) and Total dac (France) are 3 of the best digital front ends we have auditioned. These 3 companies have great digital designers and superb technology that sets them apart from other digital manufactures. We believe there is no “best” when it comes to DAC’s but rather a preference. The better digital manufacturers have less digital glare and sound more analogue. When you get into the very top digital manufacturers you will hear the following from a world-class DAC, better separation, more micro, and macro detail, the bass will be more articulated, the top-end resolution will have more air and the harmonics will have you tapping your foot. I would also say if you are only looking at a DAC and you think the server is secondary, you should IMHO first decide on your server and then see if you can find a perfect matching DAC. Rockna Audio is one of the very few digital companies that build their DAC’s and servers to match each other perfectly. The clocking system in the Rockna DAC is the perfect match to the clock in the Rockna servers via i2S connection and this is what separates Rockna from other digital companies. Rockna Audio, Aries Cerat, and Total dac completely build their DACs at their respective factories and none of the work is contracted out to any other manufactures. Reliability and ease of use is also a hallmark trait of these 3 top digital manufactures.
We have had approximately 450 + sets of speakers thru our listening room over the years and many different amplifiers/preamps. We feel amplifiers and speakers are personal preference 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. Again, there is no best set of speakers but rather best suited to your room size, your room acoustics, and your personal musical taste. Trust your ears. My personal preference for speakers is Horns by AutoTech Universum speakers built in Poland, matched to any of the Aries Cerat preamplifiers and integrated/amplifiers.
Another company that we have extremely high praise for is Aries Cerat from Cyprus. This is a small company that is building extremely high-quality products. One of our favorite pieces of electronics that Aries Cerat manufacturers is a preamplifier called the Incito S. In my personal reference system this piece of equipment is was what we call in the industry “a game-changer” because the Incito S can elevate your system into a live studio recording experience. This 80 lb+ preamplifier would be my favorite preamplifier that I have heard over the past 40 years.
We have also compared 66 different conditioning systems. The best conditioner we have A/B tested is the Inakustik 3500P and there is no reason to spend more money because it will not result in better sound than the Inakustik 3500P. We have A/B tested conditioners costing up to $40000 USD and none of them did as good a job, musically, as the Inakustik 3500P. Testing of the Inakustik 3500P resulted in zero loss of dynamics when plugging your amplifiers directly into the Inakustik 3500P conditioner. We found that when all components were plugged directly into the Inakustik 3500P 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.
In regard to fully tweaking out a system, we have tested several well-known brands including Akiko. Only 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 the Akiko full line up of products. Again, this is based on direct A/B testing, not hypothetical guessing but rather an audible direct A/B test and not on just on one system but rather 6 very high-end systems ranging from $90000-$350000 CAD. 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 is my thoughts on how a good system should work. The cables should have little to no effect on the sound and never use the cables to equalize your system. The conditioner should have little to no effect or cause any dynamic loss on an audio system while creating a blacker background. When testing conditioners listen for better separation and a more precise sound stage and then make sure there is no compression loss. Plug everything into the conditioner, including the amplifiers for 200 hours, and then unplug everything from the conditioner to hear the differences. In most cases there will be compromises of the good and bad variables but not with the Inakustik 3500P conditioner. The line stage/preamp should only be a volume control and not a tone control. A world-class line stage will disappear but help with a sharper soundstage, better separation, and create a more robust overall sound will adding micro and macro detail. A great line stage will also allow the music to sound more live but not brighter. Amplifiers are personal preferences based on many factors in your audio system. Pick an amplifier based on the type of speaker you prefer and your preference in music. The speakers must play all genres of music and disappear will being the appropriate size of speaker for your room. A well-designed speaker will get you closer to the original live recording/studio experience. The dac and server should also be fully transparent and in our opinion, the server must match the dac perfectly.
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 the moment you do 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".