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Audio Phonique

Manufacturer: AUDIO PHONIQUE
Price (when reviewed): EUR 8,900 + VAT

Contact: Marketing Investment Group
ul. Rymarska 7
05-800 Pruszków | POLAND



Provided for test by AUDIO PHONIQUE


translation Ewa Muszczynko
images Wojciech Pacuła | Audio Phonique

No 221

October 1, 2022


AUDIO PHONIQUE is one of the youngest Polish audio companies. It was founded in 2018 by two enthusiasts, MACIEJ LENAR and WOJCIECH MURAWIEC. Only recently, however, it has presented a complete offer – twelve products. We are testing its D/A converter called the PCM/DSD DAC.

IN THE INTRODUCTION TO THE TEST of the Audio Phonique Singularity analog interconnect, I wrote quite a bit about its creators, Mr. MACIEJ LENAR and Mr. WOJCIECH MURAWIEC; more → HERE. Already this first contact with the new brand showed that it has a lot of experience. However, as it seems, cables are a side element in its offer, for its core are electronic devices – amplifiers and DACs. One of them is the PCM/DSD DAC belonging to the Classic series.

THE PCM/DSD DAC IS A SOLID-STATE digital-to-analog converter with three digital inputs – a converter in the classic style, let me add. This means it is not equipped with a file transport module, MQA decoder or output voltage regulation. And that's fine, simplicity and moderation are usually the key to success in audio. Besides, "simplicity" is the key word for this device, for it has no manipulators, switches or even indicators. In the hierarchy of inputs, USB is the highest and the signal is switched to RCA and AES/EBU only after disconnecting the cable from it.

The name of the device clearly indicates its pedigree. Its predecessors were devices still sold under the Amare Musica brand, with the DIAMOND TUBE DAC DSD among them. As Mr. Lenar wrote me, however, the new device differs from its predecessors. First of all, it has a solid-state and not a tube output. Apart from that, the digital board has also been modified with the addition of a Delta-Sigma D/A chip and new passive components.


| A few simple words with…

Owner, designer


WHILE DESIGNING the Audio Phonique PCM/DSD DAC, we followed the principle of "less is more". The goal was simplicity of use and a minimal amount of circuitry, needed only for processing audio signal and obtaining the lowest possible noise and interference. So, we dispensed with a display and other circuitry indicating the device's status.

The Amanero USB receiver is powered by a low-noise 3V3 linear power supply instead of the standard 5V from a USB connection. This eliminates power interference from external USB sources. The S/PDIF and AES/EBU digital inputs are regenerated by a Wolfson WM8804 chip. I2S signal from digital receivers is fed to an AKM upsampler and converted to DSD signal which is passed to a CS4398 delta-sigma converter with one active function. The already differential analog signal goes to an active low-pass filter with a gentle slope, based on very good Texas Instruments OPA1612 operational amplifiers. There are no capacitors in the signal path.


Separate low-noise transformers for digital and analog circuits, dual power supply stabilization for the analog section and multiple stabilization for the digital section are a requirement for achieving a very low noise level. Our tests have shown that this is essential if high-fidelity, natural, open and engaging sound is to be achieved. The applied expensive MUNDORF MLytic series capacitors, SMD film capacitors dedicated to audio and LT stabilizers greatly help achieve this effect.

The device requires a minimum of 200 hours of warming up to achieve optimal sound quality. ML


A SPECIAL FEATURE OF THIS DEVICE is that it upsamples all signals from the digital inputs and converts them to DSD signal. Only DSD is converted to analog signal. This is not a new idea, as the aforementioned Tube DAC DSD was also made this way. Also, the basic circuit in my Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition player is a D/D converter that converts signal to DSD256. And this seems to be the right direction, for although we are changing the domain and DSD has its problems (primarily high noise), it towers over PCM in the way it presents signal impulse – it does it almost as perfectly as analog tape.

The manufacturer comments on this in the following way:

The Audio Phonique PCM/DSD DAC is a simple-to-use DAC that converts signal from any digital input to a DSD form that is not subject to any filtering, which is a guarantee of music that is faithful to the source material and remarkably enjoyable.

The device is very nice and well made. The electronic circuit is quite simple, but it is the result of many years of work. This is not a "working prototype", but another generation of products that were designed long ago. The device has a modular design. A separate component is a board with the USB input, another separate one is the DAC and there is a separate analog part with the power supply. As the designer writes, the digital board module is the same as in the reference Statement DAC DHT series. The analog section uses integrated circuits. This section is balanced, so we have RCA and XLR outputs.


⸜ THE WAY WE LISTENED The PCM/DSD DAC stood on the top shelf of a Finite Elemente Pagode Edition Mk II rack. I placed a Verictum X Block passive EMI/RFI filter on its top panel. The unit was powered by a HARMONIX X-DC350M2R IMPROVED-VERSION cable. I also used the DAC in a test of the TMB-20E anti-vibration/artificial ground platform from the Japanese company TiGLON.

I sent digital signal to the RCA input from the transport section of the AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF EDITION SACD player. The Audio Phonique sound was compared with both the Ayon player and the MYTEK BROOKLYN BRIDGE file player. I listened to the USB input separately, with signal played from a laptop. Analog signal from the DAC was sent via the Siltech Triple Crown unbalanced cables to the Ayon Audio Spheris III preamplifier.

Albums used in the test | a selection

⸜ JOHN COLTRANE, My Favorite Things, Atlantic Records/Warner Music Japan WPCR-18508/9, „Deluxe Edition 60 Years”, 2 x SHM-CD (1960/2022).
⸜ EVA CASSIDY,Songbird, Blix Street Records/JVC VICJ-010-0045, XRCD24 (1998/2010).
⸜ NIRVANA, In Utero, Geffen Records GED 24536, CD (1993).
⸜ KING CRIMSON, In The Court Of The Crimson King (An Observation By King Crimson), Discipline Global Mobile/WOWOW Entertainment IEZP-128, „50th Anniversary Box Set”, 3 x K2HD UHQCD + Blu-ray (1969/2019).
⸜ JOHN SCOFIELD, Swallow Tales ECM Records ECM 2679, CD (2020).

⸜ NATALIE MERCHANT, Leave Your Sleep, Nonesuch/Tidal Master, FLAC MQA 16/88,2 (2010).
⸜ ÓLAFUR ARNALDS, A Sunrise Session, Decca/Tidal Master, FLAC MQA 24/96 (2001).
⸜ SOUNDGARDEN, Superunknown (20th Anniversary), A&M Records/Tidal Master, FLAC MQA Studio 24/96 (1994/2014).
⸜ BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, Doom Crew Inc., eOne/Tidal, FLAC 16/44,1 (2021).
⸜ WEVAL, Changed for the Better, Technicolour/Tidal, FLAC 16/44,1 (2021).
⸜ NITA STRAUSS, Dead Inside, Sumerian Records/Tidal Master, single, FLAC MQA Studio 24/96 (2021).


IT IS IMPRESSIVE AND REALLY EXCEPTIONAL, how much the tested DAC resembles the D/A section of the Ayon Audio player in terms of tone color. I think this is the first, maybe the second time I've encountered something like this. And I don't think the designer of Audio Phonique did it on purpose. Rather, it seems that their goals were similar to those of the makers of the CD-35 HF Edition.

And the goals would be, the way I see them, fullness of color, density and a kind of "darkness" of sound. It's intrinsic darkness, resulting not from bandwidth manipulation (i.e. not from coloration), but from removing anything that alters signal from sound, like removing noise and distortion that cause brightening. So, we get really refined sound from the PCM/DSD DAC.

All of this came to my head at one point when I listened to the new remaster of JOHN COLTRANE's My Favorite Things album. The fantastic album and great unique remaster make this music seem to be played for the first time, even though, after all, we know it by heart. There are two versions in the set – a mono and a stereo one. Both sounded in a low, saturated way with the Polish DAC, especially exposing the midrange with its bass adjacencies.

It’s because bass here is perfectly saturated. It has a softer attack than in the Ayon, and it also fades out a bit longer. However, it ends just before the moment when it would be overdone, even with recordings as demanding in this regard as Falling from Home, an album by LAURIE ANDERSON. Played on an electronic instrument, the bass has a low timbre and is superbly tight, despite its rather soft character. These opposing qualities mean that the audio system must be focused but not contoured, resolving, or overly selective.

And the Audio Phonique DAC is just like that. It could be heard that it "enters" sound in a slightly softer way, I have no doubt about that. But it also immediately holds it down without a shadow of embarrassment, as if casually. So, the bass from the aforementioned recording had good weight and was quickly put out. This is important because this recording has an incredible space built around the listener, which was wonderfully showed by the Polish DAC that generated the sound of a bell far to the right, and that of a synthesizer behind me.

| Our albums

⸜ JOHN COLTRANE My Favorite Things

Atlantic Records/Warner Music Japan WPCR-18508/9
„Deluxe Edition 60 Years”
2 x SHM-CD ⸜ 1960/2022

DELAYED BY A YEAR, BUT IT IS HERE – JOHN COLTRANE'S My Favorite Things, the seventh solo album in the saxophonist's career, scheduled for the 60th anniversary of the album's release. Coltrane recorded it with the first version of his quartet, which included McCoy Tyner (piano), Steve Davis (double bass) and Elvin Jones (drums). The album was a major commercial success, and a shortened version of the title recording was played on the radio for a long time.

The new remaster from the original "master" tapes was made at Air Studios in London by JOHN WEBBER. He is one of the studio's youngest engineers, but has achieved considerable success, including well-received remasters of David Bowie’s and George Michael’s albums. His jazz discography is short, but it includes Miles Davis’s album Rubberband. He has also previously prepared an excellent remaster of Coltrane's Giant Steps, released in 2020. (more → HERE |PL|).

Released in March 1961, the album was the first to feature John Coltrane's soprano saxophone in addition to the tenor saxophone. It can be heard as the lead instrument on two of the album's four songs, including an unforgettable version of the title track written by Rodgers and Hammerstein for the musical The Sound of Music. The saxophonist had been playing the new (to him) instrument since the end of 1959. He got his own in March 1960 from Miles Davis, with whom he was playing in Europe at the time.

Shortly before the session began, Coltrane spoke about the soprano saxophone to “Down Beat” magazine: "I had to take a slightly different approach than the one I use for the tenor saxophone, but it helps me get away – it allows me to look at an improvisation from a different angle. It's like having a second hand."

The music on My Favorite Things was recorded on three October days (the 21st, 24th and 26th) by TOM DOWD and PHIL IEHE. The sessions, which took place at Atlantic Studios in the week leading up to Halloween, produced not only the album in question, but also the song Village Blues, later included on the Coltrane Jazz album, and tracks from which Atlantic Studios later "assembled" material for the albums: Coltrane Plays the Blues (1962) and Coltrane's Sound (1964).

The 60th anniversary version was released in several formats, including a double LP, a double CD and on two SHM-CDs in Japan. This is another reissue of the Atlantic saxophonist's album by the Rhino label, following Giant Steps (2020). And it is, like that one, excellent, both in terms of printed material and sonically. In the reviewed version, the SHM-CD comes in the form of a three-part "mini LP" with an extensive booklet which includes quite a few photos and an interesting essay. The CDs have been inserted into anti-static pouches.

While the second disc was filled with alternative versions of the songs in the previous release, here we get a mono version on one and a stereo version on the other disc. And, let me say this, the mono version is remarkable! In both versions, the bass, previously not entirely clear, has been relieved. The overall sound is quite dark and very "analog" in the sense that it is natural. Indeed, this is a very good example of what can be done with digital recordings.

The PCM/DSD DAC TRANSFERS a fair amount of energy in the upper midrange. It's not brightening, which I've already mentioned, but just that – energy. The Ayon DAC sounds lower and is even darker. The Audio Phonique, on the other hand, shows space-creating elements on the treble side more strongly. That's why on the track Autumn Leaves from the Songbird album, EVA CASSIDY was placed in a very large space and the reverb was set to work only on the treble and stretched far behind.

So, I had really open sound with this album. This is not hazy or warmed sound. The aforementioned track was recorded during a concert, with Cassidy singing into a dynamic microphone. It is not a sophisticated model, probably a Shure SM58, which shapes the sound attack in a rather "square" way, and tends to boost some of the treble. The sound engineer did not correct this too much, so it can become exaggerated on many systems where there is a problem with the treble. The vocal can then be heard, accompanied by strong "pins" of sibilants amplified by the reverb every now and then.

The tested DAC has no such problems. It produces open, but not bright sound. So, it dealt with the problems I'm talking about very well, situating the singer in a very large space. It even stretched her slightly to the side and focused our attention on the guitar at the back. The vocal was still well focused. Really expensive digital products do it a bit differently, however. They build a more three-dimensional body of the singer, and move the instruments (there's a piano here in addition to the guitar) more firmly to the back.

However, at its price, the DAC did it well, or even very well, and not only with this type of recordings, but also with highly compressed material from the album In Utero by NIRVANA. The track Heart-Shaped Box included on it starts with two guitars spread out in channels, with minimal reverb applied. When the vocal enters, it appears to be far ahead of us, deep into the stage, but it also has a strong short reverb, so it sounds like it's in a small room.

It all sounded exactly as it should – strong and in a slightly dirty way, because that's how Nirvana sounds. The whole thing was also well-mastered in the sense that there was no "jitter" in the message, and everything had its place. The recording is heavily compressed, which made it impossible to judge the dynamics. However, the relationships within the recording seemed to be preserved. It was a large spatial event. And this is helped by slight emphasis of bass on its midrange.

All this results in very malleable, almost "painterly" sound of the DAC. The device promotes the foreground a bit, resulting in a slight shift of the performers, be they vocalists or, as in the case of JOHN SCOFIELD and the Swallow Tales album – the guitar, towards the listener. The elements behind them, on the other hand, are a bit further away and have their own clearly defined space. The shift in question is not large, but clear.


And THAT'S PROBABLY WHY the sound of the tested DAC is so engaging, so "inviting". Because of this, the DAC sounds in a way that one associates with either vinyl or tape. In fact, it is good digital sound, but stereotypically it would be a twist towards the analog, with a cleaner treble range and well-controlled bass.

It's a device that sounds in a balanced way, but through resolution and treble clarity. Understanding what is important in digital signal has made high-end DACs like the PCM/DSD DACs sound more like what I know from good recording and mastering studios. They go "past" what people understand as "analog" and enter music directly, without intermediary elements.

This is because the Audio Phonique DAC sounds open yet soft. It is not brightened up, but has a lot of energy in the upper midrange. The bass is dense, low and powerful. Although the best DACs go even lower and control the attack better, there are not many of them. However, these are all stage directions. The central message should be that the Polish DAC plays music in a great, beautiful and dense manner. It plays music, not sounds. And it does it (I repeat) perfectly.


The PCM/DSD DAC IS ONE OF THE NICEST devices of its kind, apart from some high-end products I know. Its design is consistent, simple and functional, but not simplistic. Its workmanship is above average and reminiscent of good designs from the US and UK, leaving behind most of what is produced not only in China, but also in Europe, including Poland.

⸜ FRONT AND BACK It is a flat cuboid with an aluminum front panel, the top edges of which have been milled to give them an arched shape. A sizable company logo has been applied in the middle, in an abbreviated version, with a laser-cut opening covered by milky glass. The light underneath indicates that the device is powered on. Unfortunately, we don't have any indicators telling us about the synchronization of the device with the source, not to mention the type of signal and its parameters.

The top panel is silver, glossy and resistant to "fingering" – hooray! The chassis is made of bent steel plates, and reinforced on the inside with crossbars connecting the front and rear. This gives a rigid, compact shell with well-damped resonances. The unit stands on four aluminum feet with rubber half-spheres. Although they look quite nice, it is worth replacing them with something better in the future.

The sockets used by the manufacturer are among the best ones available from mainstream manufacturers. Both the XLR and RCA sockets are made by the Swiss company Neutrik. They have gold-plated contacts, a Teflon dielectric and thick leads; they are screwed to the rear panel. There are USB, RCA and XLR digital inputs. Between the latter, there is a small toggle switch that determines which input is active. Analog outputs use both unbalanced RCA and balanced XLR jacks. The IEC power socket, integrated with a mechanical switch and fuse, looks quite ordinary.

⸜ INSIDE I have already said that the IEC socket looks ordinary. After removing the top panel, it turns out that it is not so totally ordinary. It's a large, shielded and mechanically attenuated input filter, probably of the multiple "Pi" type. Voltage from it goes to two Talema toroidal transformers. This is because the digital and analog sections are powered separately. The power supply uses integrated voltage stabilizing circuits.

The electronics is mounted on a sizable single PCB with gold-plated tracks. A smaller board with digital inputs, an upsampler and a converter is bolted to it from above. An even smaller board with a USB input is attached to the latter. It is based on an off-the-shelf solution from the Italian company AMANERO TECHNOLOGIES, which uses Atmel and Xilinx chips. The S/PDIF (RCA) and AES/EBU (XLR) inputs are operated by a Wolfson Microelectronics WM8804 chip. Its limits are 24 bits and 192 kHz.

Signal is then upsampled in an AKM AK4137 circuit. It's very good 32-bit/768 kHz asynchronous circuit. I don't know where the signal is converted to DSD, but the manufacturer reports that it goes to the DAC circuits in that form. This is a Cirrus Logic CS4398 delta-sigma DAC with one active function. Differential analog signal goes to a large board, to an active low-pass filter with a gentle slope, based on two Texas Instruments OPA1612 operational amplifiers per channel.

The whole thing is surface-mounted, except for the capacitors that suppress supply voltage ripple. Impedance-matching transformers are placed at the RCA and XLR inputs, making sure jitter is not generated there. The outputs are keyed with hermetic relays having gold-plated contacts. You can see the attention to detail here, although the whole thing is quite minimalistic. A good, or even very good job.

Technical specifications (according to the manufacturer)

Output impedance RCA | XLR: 100 | 200 Ω
Output voltage RCA | XLR: 2.1 | 4.2 V RMS
Digital inputs:
• USB ⸜ PCM up to 32-bit/768 kHz, DSD up to DSD256
• RCA (S/PDIF), AES/EBU ⸜ PCM up to 24-bit/192 kHz
Power consumption: 30 W
Dimensions (W x H x D): 365 x 450 x 70 mm
Weight: 8 kg


Reference system 2022

1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

AC Power

Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

  • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|


Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:


Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC