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No. 87 August 2011

As we can learn from the Fidelio web page, the Profile tab, this is a “relatively young” label, specialized in high quality classical music and jazz. It was founded to “promote local and international talents”. Fidelio Musique Inc., this is the full name, is located in Québec, Montreal (Canada). We know this business model already, just to name ECM or ACT one. Both “giants” in jazz, ethno and classical music started wi
th local ensembles, cheaper to begin with, wanting to become known, so with those, they could afford. This is a splendid, very favorable way of building a significant catalog in a short time, especially when the company is founded in a region having artistic roots. Québec is for sure such a region.
But there is a hidden trap in this approach – you have to have a very good instinct, to distinguish the people shaped, ready, full and talented from those, that only seem so. You are “there, there” for god and bad, you know. Later it becomes easier – the initial selection is done by others, and then you only need to hunt such artists down and lure to your label. Both the labels I mentioned, and we could add to them – although with some constraints – Telarc, won the upper hand in this struggle. Because while we find some “good” projects in their catalogs, most are very good or exceptional.

The companies I mentioned have, besides the slightly different business model, than the big names have, another thing in common: the outstanding quality of recorded sound. And here we have another trap, which – as it seems to me – Fidelio passed: we have many audiophile companies, which offer an incredibly good recording quality, with a weak, often even terrible or grotesque, repertoire. We do not have to worry about the “audiophile” part of the Canadian label. The company offers recording services, so the studio equipment is well known. This consists of a variety of good microphones, including self made ones, Analog to Digital converter A/D 905 by dCS (DSD) 32 bits/384kHz, microphone preamplifiers Millennia M2B, Pendulum Tube Pre, Sonosax. Among the recorders we will find the Nagra VI & LB-PCM (24 bits/96kHz/6 channels) or Genex 8500, DSD (SACD, 8 tracks) and Sonosax minir 82 (8 tracks, 24 bits/192kHz). Besides modern recorders we will fins also some vintage stuff: a tube, reel-to-reel Ampex recorder (1964) and Nagra IV-S (analog). And cables from Siltech and Shunyata. Although the recording gear can often be from the same high quality and audiophile origin, the most unique thing is the listening system, prepared to monitor the recorded material. The company has a digital and analog devices, and among the reference system we’ll find: - dCS Elgar DAC - Manley and Audio Research Phonostages - Power amplifiers from Nagra and VPA - Loudspeakers from Verity Audio and Sonus Faber

On the pictures we can also see a multiformat player from Arcam, a power filter from Shunyata, a Simaudio Moon power amplifier, line preamplifier Nagra PL-L and a Sony SACD player. Pretty impressive, isn’t it? I knew this company from a few recordings, but it only happened lately, that it caught my attention. What happened? Well, recently the company started to offer, next to the CDs, high resolution files – 24/96 and 24/176.4.

The case is not new, it is for example known from Linn Records, which was the pioneer in sales of hi-res files, which you could download directly from their web page. Lately you can do the same from the Chesky brothers’ page, HDTracks. Having such renowned predecessors, Fidelio decided to go its own way. They sell their files on a physical carrier, a pendrive. Those look like a metal credit card, with a small element that opens forming a USB plug, that you can plug directly into a computer or a file player. On the top side there is the company logo and the name “High Definition Studio Master”, while on the back the title of the album and the signature of the person transferring the files to the dongle, serial number and the sample frequency of the recording (all are 24 bits). We can clearly see, that this is mostly hand work, and this is in no way a mass scale.
I have to say, that this is not the first of its kind. I saw hi-res music on pendrives before. The most known examples are the “apple” with the Beatles catalog (24/44.1) and the red cross with the disc Scratch My Back Peter Gabriel, being part of the collectors box (24/96). But we can find most of such recordings in Japan – there new pendrives with hi-res music are placed on the market each day. This is of course not the only “physical” way of distributing hi-res sound, but I’ll go back to this later.
The cards I received from Fidelio are most probably from a demo series – there are no covers printed on the pendrive as they should have been. Both have also very low serial numbers: The Planets Holst by BUZZ (24/96) has the number 09, and La Mandragore, with Sefardian, Arabian music has the 02 number. Both were made especially for me. Together with the USB cards, named Master Flash, I received the same recordings on CD.
On each card we find the album in the form of WAV files, together with the cover, inlays, etc, informative material, Fidelio catalog and an XML file with track names and ISRC code.

I will talk about the sound in a moment, but I would like to talk for a while about the phenomenon of the physical distribution of hi-res music. I do not have to say, that download of music is much easier and quicker. The mentioned Linn, but also Naim, Deutsche Grammophon, Naxos, and many other companies convinced themselves, and us, that it is worth doing.
But it turns out some companies opt for the physical distribution of music – either on DVD-R discs or on flash cards. Among the first the most important seems to be Reference Recordings. Prof. Johnson, responsible for its digital and recording part, firmly rejects the transfer of files through the Internet and compressing them to the FLAC format. So RR sells DVD-R discs in their own format HRx. Japanese companies have a similar way of thinking, and among those one of the most mad, T-TOC, of which I reviewed lately a box of recordings of Kankawa Organist, with LPs and CD-Rs (HERE). This company offers exclusive DVD-Rs with WAV files with a resolution up to 24bits and 192kHz. And there is the Polish company Ancient Audio, which, together with John Tu, the owner of Kingston Technology, designed their own format SDMusA based on SD cards.
Like I say, behind that there are certain decisions, usually based on solid background and engineering arguments. But not everybody went through this “baptism”. I remember well, that the first company that offered hi-res recordings on flash cards looking exactly the same as the ones from Fidelio, was Cardas. But the cards disappeared from the market quickly. Why – I do not know. But I know what happened with the flash cards from the company First Impression Music, which has the same form as the Cardas and Fidelio cards. As Mr. Winston Ma told me, he did resign from the idea due to the pressure from the distributors, that dismissed the idea due to the fact, that the files were very easy to copy. And that nicely made cards could not be sold. I do not buy this fully, because a CD can be ripped equally easy. I think is was more about a certain philosophy, where there is no place for an “anonymous”, small card. And that I can accept – with reservations – but I can.

Yes, I promised to tell you something about the sound. Listening to the CDs recorded by Fidelio, because I started with them, I was absolutely surprised with what I heard – both from the musical as well as the mastering side. The sound was incredibly spacious. At first it seems little “fleshy”. But after some time it turns out, that the material was very little compressed, so you need to turn up the volume. I remember well that those were the same complaints as for the ECM recordings: that they are bright, little palpable. This is clear rubbish, but the information went to the world.

This is the reason, that it is worth to put the sound of Fidelio in the right perspective from the very beginning. Those are almost flawless realizations, with beautiful timbre and incredibly high dynamics. Those elements are nicely shown by going over from the CDs to the Master Flash – the timbre is similar, but the dynamics increases and we get much more information. After listening to the MF the CD sounds in a rather raw and “compressed” way. This is true, but only looking at them from the perspective of the high resolution files. Looking from the perspective of other CDs it is different. For me the CD, as well as Master Flash, are reference, each in its own category.


Fidelio Musique Inc.

René Laflamme

4610 rue Messier
Montreal (Quebec)

tel.: (514) 523-8114
fax: (514) 523-4086

e-mail :


As you can see not everything we planned we could deliver. The amplifier ModWright KWA150 Signature Edition, fell from the schedule, because it did not arrive in time. But we were able to test something else – the SACD player Soulution 540. Early enough we got also another novelty from Denmark, the loudspeakers Dynaudio Focus 260. Costing 12900zl a pair they are a turning point for the company – I encourage you to read the test. Why did we need to wait so long for such jumps in products from companies like Bowers&Wilkins or KEF? I do not know. But because Dynaudio did also let us wait for a long time and lately only improved one and other thing in their products, I assume, that the audio giants will surprise us with something shortly.

Plans for August 2011

I did not write about the plans for August before. Because I was not sure, if everything will be done as planned – but we did it! August edition will be solely devoted to one brand – the Austrian Ayon Audio. Until recently we done it only once – in August 2009 we had an issue (No 64) devoted to McIntosh.
And the fact, that this issue goes to Ayon we have to attribute to the incredible activity of Gerhard Hirt, who rebuilt the offerings of Ayon in a very short time, exchanging the models to versions II and III and adding devices, that were not there before. In Munich, when I saw how many new devices will be there, I was a bit woeful, as I could not really imagine to place one test of an Ayon device each month (with those numbers I would have been going on for two years). So the decision to devote a whole issue to them seemed reasonable.
Almost all devices have been picked now. Until the last moment I waited for the information, if the last hit, the file player S-3 will be available, but it turned out, that it won’t. The unit is ready, but it is in testing at Apple – because the device will be compatible with iPod, iPhone and similar units. Three players were sent for testing to the US. And they know now, that it will not go that quickly as expected – Apple labs are not efficient enough, they are not keeping pace in testing and licensing, because everybody wants to be compatible now. But this is not a problem, we will return to this for sure.

I have now confirmed the following tests:
- Power amplifier Vulcan
- Preamplifier Sphesir II
- CD player CD-5s
- Integrated amplifier Spark Delta
- Power amplifiers Triton Mono
- Integrated amplifier Mercury II
- Interview with Gerhard Hirt
- Integrated amplifier Orion II


Maybe you do remember the interview with Mr. Rafał Lachmirowicz and Damian Lipiński (HERE)? We talked about the re-editions of the Savage recordings (and not only that). I devoted a large part of this interview to the hi-res files. I wanted to know, how those files are treated by people who create them, by professionals. It turned out, that this seems simple only to us (me), the consumers. However Damian Lipiński saw something in my questions, because he prepared something especially for “High Fidelity” a DVD with files from his last re-mixes (generally Italo Disco) in three different resolutions: 16, 24 and 32 bits (the last one floating point). This last value comes from the fact, that Damian works with 32 bit material. All files have 44.1kHz sampling frequency. This is not much, but I will work on Damian… On the disc we can read: „Special high resolution audio data disc, made exclusively for „High Fidelity”. The disc contains 12 recordings, which were digitized from 12” vinyl maxi singles, and then were digitally restored and re-mastered using 32 bits floating point arithmetic. […] Lower bit versions were made each time from the initial version.”

KingRex UC192 – USB 32bits/192kHz converter

If it weren’t for the evolution of the systems playing audio files, the reproduction of such music would not be possible. Now having a laptop, a good virtual player and an appropriate DAC we can play almost everything. And the basis is the USB connection. Until recently regarded by the engineers as ideal, and by the users, including audiophiles, as the necessary evil, it got finally the required attention and money. As it seems, it will be one of the most important connections in the world of high resolution audio.
Recently, on the New York show EXPONA the company Pure Music, responsible for the Pure Music software, presented its newest version, 1.8, which allows to transmit DSD signal through the USB. Of course you need a device that can receive such an USB signal, and decode it. And it is there – the DAC from Playback Designs MPD-3. For the first time ever you could read on the display: “USB DSD”…
And it was not long ago, when it seemed that going over from the old receivers 16/48 to newer 24/96 would be painful. The computer world, and USB and computers as players, are the place, where it connects with the audiophile one, is developing very quickly. In the issue of “High Fidelity” you are reading we are testing the Antelope Audio DAC, which accepts signals up to 32 bits and 384kHz. And it was used to listen to the 24 and 32 bit files from Then I decided to use another combination giving a much better sound. I used the fact, that the DAC Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2 , a splendid unit, accepts 32 bit signals via SPDIF. The signal from the computer I led via an equally interesting product, the converter USB/SPDIF-I2S-AES/EBU UC192 from KingRex, which works with signals up to 32 bits and 192kHz. The company announced recently, that they have a converter ready which is able to work up to 384kHz. My older (although it is only 4 months old!) version works brilliantly. Interestingly this is an isosynchronous and not an asynchronous device. And that this can be a potentially best solution was lately told by Bent Holter from Hegel Audio (in the magazine “Soundstage” HERE), and he knows, what he is talking about… Anyway, I will tell you one thing – yes, the difference between 24 and 32 bits can be heard. It is much smaller than between 16 and 24 bits, but it is clearly audible. This is why I am sure, that recordings registered in that format will become available – the DXD format allows for that.

Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI – MC cartridge for “High Fidelity”

And finally, to get a little away from the digit, a few words about the newest cartridge, that became part of my reference system. Until recently the most expensive cartridge was the model Shilabe (review HERE). This is an incredible product, bringing so much life into the sound as no other. Recently, Mr. Noriyuki Miyajima wrote me, that he has something new, potentially even better than the Shilabe, the cartridge Kansui. He wrote then, that it is the better cartridge, but that the Shilabe has something, that allows it to be placed next to any other cartridge regardless its price without shame, so he suggest not to sell that one, and keep both – destined to different goals. And he was nice enough to prepare a version especially for us, for “High Fidelity”, what he certified with a special writing on the box. The cartridge has the serial number K00053. We will make a regular test of it for sure./p>

And finally I wish you, the readers of “High Fidelity”, a very nice vacation!!!

Wojciech Pacuła
Editor in Chief

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Our reviewers regularly contribute to  “Enjoy the”, “”“”  and “Hi-Fi Choice & Home Cinema. Edycja Polska” .

"High Fidelity" is a monthly magazine dedicated to high quality sound. It has been published since May 1st, 2004. Up until October 2008, the magazine was called "High Fidelity OnLine", but since November 2008 it has been registered under the new title.

"High Fidelity" is an online magazine, i.e. it is only published on the web. For the last few years it has been published both in Polish and in English. Thanks to our English section, the magazine has now a worldwide reach - statistics show that we have readers from almost every country in the world.

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