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Solo ULDE + Majestic DAC review

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    Posted: 02 Apr 2019 at 8:14pm
I just spent a great day.
Here's what happened:
The echo from Tommy Flanagan's solo piano emphasises the subtle reverb across the recording room. The first bars of piano - are struck at first gently, and then with increased emphasis. I'm already well into the track Pedalin' before an introductory soft brush on Gus Johnson's hi-hat is the subtle signal to cue-in Coleman Hawkins and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis.
A stunning audio assault then materialises from both sides - as Coleman and Eddie simultaneously breathe life into thirty-six inches of brass that we know as a tenor saxophone.
The staging is crystal clear with Coleman just a few feet directly to my right. Eddie is in front and to my left. I appear to be sitting somewhere near Gus, with Ron Carter and his big upright bass being plucked subtly just behind me and to my left. I can hear his fingers slide on the wire strings.
It's so lifelike, I'm instantly transported back to New Jersey just after Christmas 1960 - where these greats are really making the walls of the Van Gelder Studio echo here with sublime sax brilliance.
I just can't stop listening to the music, and a whole afternoon just disappears as I rediscover some of my old vinyl..
Hold on, NO! - it's actually far better than that.
It's actually digital - and the 16 bit,44.1kHz stream is direct from the Qobuz app on a bog standard Intel NUC PC.
Where it goes next is what makes the difference.
Using "Lautus" cables the signal gets transported to a Majestic DAC and thence onto a Solo Ultra Linear Headphone Amp  - all from Graham Slee.
Graham once said that "you get a free audio circuit design" every time that you buy one of his "gadgets" as he self-effacingly calls them.
And what a design.
No, I'm not talking about the externals - they're smart, functional and tough - but don't expect to see them gracing the cover of W*llpaper or other design magazines any time soon. The anodised silver cases are simple and straightforward - and exude an aura of plain practicality - fine by me.
No, I'm just talking about the MUSIC.
Remember that? When we listened to the music purely for the content, and were just so transported by the music that we forgot completely about how it was reaching our ears?
Yes, in my opinion (and judging by the reviews of Graham's kit - it's not just my opinion) the combination of Graham's vast experience, many hours of toil in his workshop and an attention to detail like no other - has just taken away all the equipment and then - ever so quietly and surreptitiously sat the artists right next to me for my own private audition.
I can almost feel the breath on my neck as the groove of jazz blues which is "Night Hawk" really gets underway.
The great jazz standard "In a Mellow Tone" is elevated to a duel with Eddie hitting some impressive highs, although the fluidity and tone of the Hawk's response is I think - unmatched. And it's all happening right here in my front room.
The Beyerdynamic T1's I'm using are not renowned for warmth and musicality, and at 600 Ohms can be really difficult to drive. Right now though, they've completely disappeared and I have just a slight ring of warmth around my ears to remind me that no, actually - I can't just reach across and shake Coleman Hawkins' hand at the end of a great session.
It is a revelation, and though I have a portable Onkyo DP-X1A player that drives the T1's well (especially in balanced mode), in comparison to this setup - it's striking. The Onkyo is totally transparent, it delivers a great accurate sound - which the T1's then reproduce with unerring German precision. The stage is there, the musicians are on it and its clear you are a privileged audience member with a seat directly in front of the sound stage. Superb.
However, what it lacks is the ability to transport you directly amongst the musicians and remove the invisible "wall" that the equipment can create. The ability to forget the equipment is even there...
Don't get me wrong, the DP-X1A is good - really, really good.
Where the Graham Slee magic happens I don't exactly know - it might be a secret incantation at the bottom of a Yorkshire garden, or a call to a higher power - but you should know that whatever it is, something in those silver boxes has the power of a Star Trek transporter that also does time-travel. All the musicians I have listed on Qobuz and in my FLAC files at home are just queuing up to use it.
Is it really that good? - I think so. I really do.
Don't ask me though - just lean across here to my right - and ask Coleman Hawkins yourself.

Edited by Farmer - 02 Apr 2019 at 10:03pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Graham Slee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2019 at 9:30pm
Than-Q Smile

Originally posted by Farmer Farmer wrote:

...it might be a secret incantation at the bottom of a Yorkshire garden...

And often surrounded by air of a bluish tinge... Wink

Edited by Graham Slee - 03 Apr 2019 at 7:44am
Not simple enough for Google-Bot to understand...
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Farmer View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Farmer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2019 at 9:51pm
And I thought the only blue tinge was the one you got from the HV rail in a valve amp....LOL
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ash Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2019 at 9:58pm
Not too shabby eh. The Majestic and Solo ULDE are both fantastic products and deserve the highest praise. Who cares about the pomp of the hi-fi industry; all that really matters is scientific research applied to real life to produce practical items that serve a useful purpose. Graham Slee products are set and forget. If music enjoyment is your first priority then this can only be a good thing.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Farmer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2019 at 10:26pm
Well Ash, you can say you contributed to the final “push” I needed to bite the bullet and sort out my “dream setup” I’ve been planning for a while. 
If you hadn’t listed the DAC on here - I may not have pushed the button and ordered the Solo ULDE too..
I need to fix up the house this summer and that includes a dedicated listening room.. after that a pair of Proprii will be sourced, and I’ll probably mate those to a pair of PMC twenty 26’s - which in conjunction with the Majestic and Solo will make a nice musical setup. Source will be the Intel NUC unless I bite the bullet harder and get an Auralic Aries G1 as source. 
I can dust off the old Rega Planar II for vinyl and rescue my old broadcast quality early Toshiba CD player - which has a direct optical output - which I think might just work with the Majestic.
Having spent a significant amount of my life on a plane - I have just sold the iMod player and Voyager headphone amp that in conjunction with my Sony MDR-NC500D digital noise cancelling headphones or my Denon AH-D2000 headphones gave me the rest, peace and connection with home I often needed. 
The person who now has the iMod and Voyager is an Aussie on walkabout here in the UK - so I think they will do some more travelling yet. 
I think that Voyager did well over 500,000 air miles with me (long haul only) - so that might be some sort of record!! 
Anyway - a big thanks to you - the DAC is fine.
Thanks too to FatMan Golf who lent me the Bitzie to try last year - which just triggered my research even further..
And a specially big thanks to Graham and his team - for the “free design” encapsulated in his hardware..
I am certainly a fan.



Edited by Farmer - 02 Apr 2019 at 10:28pm
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Ash View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ash Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2019 at 10:42pm
The Proprius are superb as well. I recently sold my spare pair but will be keeping my original pair of Proprius for a single driver (per channel) speaker setup. Going to stick the drivers in cardboard boxes so they don't sound like box speakers. Would love to have spherical enclosures but not sure how I can do this yet.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chris Firth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2019 at 10:59pm
Like this, Ash?


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