Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

The company AudioNemesis is a small manufacture from Italy. The man behind it is Fabio Camorani. He is a music and good wine lover, a man who worked for a long time as a representative of a big company in… Poland. Audio is his hobby – profitable, but still a hobby. I wrote many times about the history of Audionemesis in Poland, about my efforts to make the brand popular. So before you start reading this test it is worth to look back and read the previous ones: - test: Audionemesis PM -1 - Hyde Park: Audionemesis DC-1 - test: Audionemesis DC-1 - wywiad z Fabio Camorani: Ockham’s razor

That is a chunk to read, so I will not write about how emotionally I am bound to those products. You can of course wonder if a specialized journalist, and that is the work I do for HFOL and “Audio”, or editor in chief (in the case of “HIGH Fidelity OnLine”) should have his preferences. If we would talk about an ideal situation the answer would be a clear NO. The testers are in the roles of “measurement devices”, examining the objects by observation and should be characterized by possibly lowest bias. The reality is different – besides “machines” we are also humans and regardless of the fact how much we try to be objective – and please believe me, we try to do that (of course I can talk only about myself for 100%) – there is still a margin for the personal “something”. If somebody tells you that this is different, that he or she is absolutely objective then this is either a lie or the person does not realize the situation he or she is in. Of course one should strive to the ideal, only then this has sense, but like every ideal, it is only a dream and wishful thinking. So choosing between two bad things I believe that it is far better to tell from the beginning how things are. And they are as follows: I have a warm place in my heart for the Audionemesis products. Those are brilliantly designed, consistently manufactured inexpensive things that are just very good. And if something is good it should be promoted, especially if a company is not so big and does not have a chance with medial giants – let me call Supra, Gigawatt, Ancient Audio, Harpia Acoustics or exactly Audionemesis as examples. And even if the personal engagement of the editor in the product is involved then it is even better – this means then for sure that those are especially noteworthy products. Finally it is not so easy to impress a bored audio journalist…

The D/A converter DC-1 was the first product of the company. The first and immediately fantastic. It sounded like a dream. But it turned out that you cannot prepare a product to meet everybody’s needs. One of the “personal” characteristics was a low analog output level – the circuitry in the analog section was as simple as possible, and had a lower voltage than the industry standard for Compact Disc (2 V rms). In many systems the volume knob had to be turned heavily to reach the desired sound level. This did not bother me, but I am not everybody. But if you think about it the lower signal level can be an asset – it made the user take advantage from the best potentiometer setting – somewhere around hour 11 to 14, where it has little noise, is a good load for the input and a good source for the next stages. But, like I mentioned, everybody has the right to have an opinion. And for those, that wanted the DC-1 but could not live with that output level an official upgrade was developed, called Up-grade. Now we have almost 2V output voltage (it was 1.9V in my unit, so practically the standard; on the regulated output of the Lektor Prime Ancient Audio I had to set 85 to match the volume, while 86 is the standard). However according to the distributor raising the output voltage was just a pretext for introducing some new solutions the manufacturer developed in the last two years. Having the opportunity to rework the circuitry Fabio introduced some improvements, which were developed after DC-1 was introduced to the market. And this means that the Up-grade newly shapes the sound of the converter and not just changes the output voltage.

This is what the Polish distributor, the company Voxal, writes about the DC-1 Up-grade: “After almost three years of the basic version of the DC-1 being on the market, time came for making some improvements. Fabio Camorani things all the time about improving the sound of his products, and the effect of this work is the DC-1 Up-grade. Except for the higher output level some aspects of the sound of the converter were also improved. The three-dimensionality and openness of the sound was improved, as well as the separation of the details. Each one is now better defined and has cleared borderlines. The bass reaches further down and is better controlled. There are two possibilities of buying the DC-1 Up-grade:
1. Installing the upgrade in the owned DC-1. The client sends in the DC-1 and we send the modified one back in two days on our costs. The total cost (elements and installation) is 700zl.
2. Buying of a new DC-1 Up-grade unit. It costs 2800zl.”
We’ll see.


What characterizes a good digital source? What makes it better? I think, that when switching to it from an even better source does not mean deep structural changes, that we immediately see the differences in timbre, resolution, then it is good. With one word: after switching to that good source from a much more expensive competition one has to really listen to the sound and realize what one hears. On the other hand, in case of devices really coming from different class, just after the switch we know that the change occurred and what changed in the sound, what is missing and where – and this means this is not good.
DC-1 Up-grade is a brilliant device. The more I listen to it the bigger my respect for its creator, Fabio Camorani. Before I switch to a detailed description I want to look back at what I wrote earlier. For most of the time I used my Lektor Prime in a double role: first as a reference device and secondly as a drive. So I could easily compare the two converters (the drive was the same in both cases). And let me be struck by lightning if I lie – DC-1 being eight times cheaper (I deducted the approximate price of the drive from the price of the Lektor) and it was not eight times worse! I even say more, although being the owner of the Prime it is not easy for me: although the differences are easy to detect, I was not able to put them in words, at first I could not qualify the changes. To put this in the right perspective I just say that it was for me equally difficult to construct a statement regarding the brilliant system C.E.C. TL1N/DX1N, only this was the other way round, showing its advantages compared to the Lektor.

Because DC-1 Up-grade is a brilliant device. Oh sorry – I wrote that already… But listen to it with a good transport and you will hear what I am talking about. The device keeps the ingenious coherence and “density” of the transmission. Every disc is reproduced in that, very rich way, while keeping the signature of each recording, showing the differences between them. This is not an “analytical” device in the sense that it is not very suitable to analyze the discs. Not because it cannot do that, no – but because listening to upcoming discs I realized that many times instead of critical listening, because that was my intention, I just listened to music. Even my Prime, although objectively better – about that in a moment – more precise, more resolving, etc, does not always lead to something like this. If I had to compare the DC-1 Up-grade to something then it would be the mentioned CEC and devices from Accuphase: DP-78 and DP-700. Furthermore CD3 MkII Audio Research and the EMM Labs (I tested both for the “Audio”). This is of course a different league, but like I wrote in the very beginning, switching between those devices does not hurt, does not make us cry that we cannot afford those expensive toys and does not place the cheap Audionemesis in the abyss of rubbish – the equivalent of the human hell. Only those products, that pretend to be good, pretend to sound, pretend to be able to give us more than in reality go there. This is an especially false-hearted sin, as this is done against the spirit of music, the spirit of music we carry. And according to the Bible a sin against the spirit will not be forgiven.

I wrote already so much and I did not reach the essence. But I think that it describes well the process I was subdued – I was not analyzing and peeling from the very beginning. Because I feel responsible for Audionemesis in some way, in a bit paternal way (regardless of what Fabio or the Polish distributor think about that) I try to approach it very strict, I am not interesting in streaking its head in the very beginning, but rather catching the flaws and the praise at the end. Like in real life. But I did not succeed at first. Because the first thing that can be heard, is the incredible consistence of the sound, its completeness. This is a well-thought offering, in every possible way. You can almost see the man behind all this, we know exactly what priorities Fabio had when fine-tuning the Up-grade, what choices he had to make. Finally we come to the conclusion, that it can be done better and that better usually means more expensive. The first thing that is audible is that the energy of the treble is lower with the AN. It is not about the main tone of the brass hit or vibraphone (The Modern Jazz Quartet, Pyramid, Atlantic/Warner Bros. [Japan], WPCR-25125, CD), those were just a hair weaker than from the Lektor, but about the closing of that what is higher. When in the Lektor something hits in the high region, then we get it with the whole bandwidth, all the micro-information about how the sound “closes” in the top. AN limits that in some way, a part of the highest components is lost. This effect is not bothersome and will be heard mostly in expensive systems, but it is there on every disc, so it is immanent to the DC-1 U. Maybe that is the reason why the sound of the Italian device is slightly warmed. But beware: Up-grade gives a much more open and not that unambiguously warm sound like the basic version. In my opinion this version resolves most of the things that I criticized in the basic version. It is still not as good as devices costing tenths of thousand of zlotys, but nobody expects that. It is not THAT good, but it gets darn close to being that.

I will now say something for what I will probably be roasted, burned and trailed by horses by cliques and parties, but I don’t give a damn: I think, that the DC-1 Up-grade is fully a part of the hi-end. I have no doubt about that. We have here everything that characterizes that category: splendid timbre, very good resolution and splendid dynamics. There is really no weak point to be found. I mean, there are some, but we will hear them when comparing to devices like the Lektor or the DP-500 from Accuphase. Only the depth of the stage is significantly better in the mainstream hi-end.
But, like every device, also this one has its character and weaknesses. And, as usual in hi-end (I am talking about quality and not the price) they do not interfere in enjoying the music. I mentioned the weaker top end. I called upon the warming of the sound. Like I said, this is not a strong effect, but it can be heard. This results in a slight thickening of the timbre of the vocals and the instruments, and occasionally, if the recording is heading that way, in a slight nasality. This is especially audible on discs with small ensembles, like the mentioned disc of the Modern Jazz Quartet, and on newer discs on Heartplay Charile Haden & Antonio Forcione (Naim, CD098, CD), where the guitar has a slightly warmed timbre. With the AN it was shown closer, with a bigger resonator. And the naturally warm (although with pins at the top) recordings from the disc Abroken Frame Depeche Mode (Mute, DMCD2, Collectors Edition, SACD/CD + DVD-A) had that signature. This disc has a deep bass, strong tone, but the voice is deep in the mix. AN showed those relationships splendidly, but made the vocals a bit denser, what made it less understandable than with the Lektor. Interestingly enough there was not a trace of those “pins”. With the Ancient Audio player, in this system, everything is under control, but we know, that sometimes we are approaching the border. The Italian converter did not show that border. The low frequencies are slightly rounded, but just slightly, less than in the basic version. On such resolving and low reaching loudspeakers like the Dobermann I use this can be hear quite well, but when I switched to the stand mount Xavian XN 125 Evoluzione, I prepared for the same issue, this difference could not be heard. Even better: the slight underlining of the upper bass in the DC-1 U improved the sound of those speakers, gave them more ‘ump’ in the lower frequencies, without droning, allowing for better following of the bass line on the disc of Sara K. Hell or High Water (Stockfisch, SFR 357.5039.2, XRCD24) and giving fuller electric guitars on the Japanese re-edition of the debut album of the Doors (The Doors, Elektra/Warner Bros., WPCR-12716, CD).

And the last thing I noticed: the attack of the instruments. Here the Italian device shows a slightly softer, not so immediate attack like my player, or even the Casea Cepheus converter (test HERE http://highfidelity.pl/!ev/artykuly/09_05_2007/cepheus1.html ) also a splendid device. It was not heard especially strong with small ensembles, but with bigger instrumentation, or larger rooms, like on the disc Cantate Domino (Oscar’s Motet Choir, Proprius/First Impression Music, LIM K2HD 025, K2 HD CD), then one can hear it as a slight slowdown of the pace. Of course when compared to expensive devices. Compared with cheaper products like Simaudio Moon CD-1, nd even NAC-DAC Monrio everything disappears. The effect is also audible on discs with strong drums and percussion, like the title piece from Children of Sanchez Chuck Mangione (A&M Records, 396 700-2, 2xCD), where the explosive snare drum and bass drum hits were a bit tamed.

And that’s it. Of course we can go further and tell, that for example the guitars on the last mentioned disc were a bit warmer, that the acoustic guitars that play in the right channel on the dynamic part of the recording, etc. But I do not know it this is worth the effort, because we loose that what is most important here: the price of the DC-1 Up-grade. I don’t know if one can buy something similar for that price. Especially as all the products of this company are manufactured in Italy. A problem is of course the lack of a company made drive. Fabio recommends the TL51X from CEC, and I would also add the M192 from North Star Design, or requested one to be manufactured by Ancient Audio, but for many people, for different reasons, it is important that the system comes from one manufacturer. And there is a preamplifier in the company’s portfolio, and power amplifiers are about to be added to it. So one could have a beautiful, stylistically uniform system. The distributor mentions something about a transport, but unofficially. But he tells that from the very beginning the DC-1 appeared, so I would not count on that too much.
Regardless of everything the Italian converter is a fantastic device and an investment for very long. It resolves the problems of many potential users that resigned from it only because the first DC-1 version had a low output level. This did not bother me, and if not this would be the only change I would not recommend upgrading to the Up-grade version. But I do recommend it. I think, that together with the higher output level we also get a better resolved sound, maybe not yet at a level of players costing tenths thousand zlotys, but really splendid, with not as warm tonal balance, what helps to articulate the timbre of the instruments better. There is not a trace of brightening, this is still Audionemesis, but there is more information. I am proud of how the things turned, at least as much as if I would be its constructor. But, like I mentioned in the beginning, I feel partially responsible for this company in Poland. And fortunately the little thing does not bring embarrassment with it.


All devices from the Italian company AudioNemesis have the same enclosures: a simple box from steel plates with a black acryl front panel. This panel carries a blue lit logo and a white (not lit) device name. I wrote about that, Fabio did not agree with me, but because journalists like to have the last word, I’ll repeat: it is a pity, that the company name was not used for showing if the device communicated with the drive correctly (locked). In the DC-1 U a red LED on the back panel is used for that purpose, and it is not really visible. Even more – Fabio chose different logic than most other manufacturers: when the LED is lit it means there is no communication, and it goes out when everything is OK. Anyway, the enclosure is simple and solid. On the bottom, near the front panel is the power switch located, but it is worth to leave the device always on. On the back, besides the mentioned LED, there is a pair of analog RCAs and S/PDIF input also on an RCA socket. As there is no dedicated transport available there is no dedicated link like I2S. There is also an IEC power socket.

The whole circuitry is placed on one PCB. Half of it is occupied by the power supply. Next to the small transformer (classic EI) there is an AC filter prepared by the company Black Noise. The transformer has many secondary windings with dedicated stabilizing circuits – the company talks about six independent branches. We have here also a bank of small capacitors (11x2200μF). In the rectifying bridge much better diodes are employed than previously. In this version there is a separate power circuit for the converter. The digital section is based on a D/A converter with wiped out markings. It is only known, that this is a multi-bit converter without oversampling. Two converters were soldered on top of each other, minimizing their errors. On top proprietary, graphite dampening elements were glued, named HDG, that dampen vibration and shield from RF interference. The digital input is coupled by a small transformer made by Scientific Conversion, which allows for a stable load on the input line and the converter. The output circuits are made around transistors glued to a HDG block. A few other chips are also visible, also with the black blocks glued on top of those – maybe they work in the I/V conversion or voltage stabilization – I don’t know. Attention is drawn by something else: giant capacitors MCap Supreme from Mundorf. The output is coupled by capacitors and not a DC servo. In the previous version those were just two polypropylene capacitors, and those are still in place in this version, only taken out of the path. The passive elements are from the highest shelf – those are for example Dale resistors. The circuitry has no feedback. A beautifully made minimalist circuit. Bravo!


Price: 2800 zł

Distribution: Voxal


ul. Częstochowska 38/52
93-121 Łódź

tel./fax: (0-42) 676 15 65
tel. kom.: 501 431 964

e-mail: voxal@voxal.pl



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