Written by Dan Schwartz

By now, it’s no secret that THE Show a few weeks ago was a mild bust. Too many events scheduled for the same place at the same time, etc. I went for a few hours, but again, the principle experience for me was the music. On the way down to Irvine and back, Neil Gader and I tapped our toes along with the Fabs. At the show itself, my favorite parts of the day were seeing a few old friends and listening to Dan Meinwald spinning Shakti’s “A Handful of Beauty” in Prana Audio’s room.

Oh! And seeing the Helius Designs Alexia turntable! I wish I could have heard it playing something good instead of — nah, I won’t say it. But we listened to it three times in a row.

One room I was very interested to hear but didn’t really have a chance to listen in was the Ryan Audio room. As soon as I walked in, someone read my “Press” badge, and pulled me right out of the room.

Guillaume Chalaron is a Parisian mastering engineer who has spent some seven years in search of his holy grail: an algorithm that straddles the difference between good digital and the best LPs. His goal is to give digital some of the sound of good analogue. He’s developed a process called “RootMasterSound”—and no, I’m not quite sure what that means.

He came by with a bunch of files and we did some listening. (He also was meeting with Bernie Grundman before and after he came here).

Let me first encourage people to go to his site and see what they  think.

The differences here were subtle, but they were also unequivocal. I’m not sure what words to use to describe phase, but M. Chalaron’s algorithm does something with it. The sense of space is, shall we say, “enhanced”. The edges of certain sound-fields were spread out and there was less clustering of images around my speakers. On certain recordings, there was also a clear bump in the very deep bass, one of the signs that made it obvious that something was different.

As I’ve written before, for usually better and occasionally worse, I find that the DirectStream DAC tends to diminish the difference between digital files, pushing everything, 44.1 or 192, up to a DSD-playback. Furthermore, these files all begin at the same resolution. So unless a pair of files is intended to demonstrate that — say 24- and 32-bit files — there’s little to no difference to be heard. But the phase difference, while subtle, is unmistakable — when you know what it sounds like.

Will anyone care? Time will tell. Even if he gets close to the sound of vinyl, it isn’t vinyl. It’s not the über-hep spinning piece of plastic with large, readable art. But for folks who care about sound first, it’s worth listening. I know I’ll be sending him a couple files to see what he can do with something with which I’m familiar.

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