I visited Ajasom last December for an audition of the Kharma loudspeakers. Back then, the Exquisite Midi (€92,000) stayed on the bench, and a pair of DP9 Signature (€40,000) played instead with McIntosh MA12000 amplification.
This time, I heard the more expensive Exquisite-Midi, supported by a fantastic sound system, amidst a curious display of turntables ranging from the affordable Projects to the unaffordable Nagra 70th anniversary Reference Turntable, including the air-cushioned Bergmanns with tangential arm. But none was used. The Pink Faun 2.16 Ultra streamer priced at €30,000 (a new distribution from Ajasom) took front stage at the event as a guest star.
Sound system on demonstration at Ajasom
- Pink Faun 2.16 ultra
- Nagra tube DAC + Classic PSU
- Nagra Classic PRE
- Nagra Classic AMP
- Kharma Exquisite Midi
- Interconnects & speaker cables
- Kimber Select silver
- Power cable
- Shunyata Sigma & Alpha
- Digital cables
- Shunyata Omega & Sigma
- Power filters
- Shunyata Everest
- Finite Elements Pagoda Edition
The Pink Faun 2.16 Ultra is a purist music streamer that doesn't have a built-in digital-to-analogue converter (DAC), volume controls, headphone output, a CD drive to rip CDs, or even a display. It comes with a 1TB SSD internal drive as standard, which was not used as storage for this demo. It also comes with an operating system based on the Euphony Audio app which takes some time to get used to.
Essentially, it's a 30-kg computer running the Linux OS that has been designed to eliminate any sources of noise, including jitter and vibration-induced noise. A honeycomb sub-chassis and three shielded transformers with a capacity of more than 800,000 uF based on Nichikon capacitors were used to make this happen. Even a 500W amplifier would not mind using them.
The concept is well known in audiophile jargon as 'overkill' because, as everyone knows or thinks they know, a streamer without an internal DAC can make no difference to the sound quality of the associated system. Or can it?
The engineers at Dutch company Pink Faun think so. That's why they have spared no effort (and expense) to develop what they believe is the best (and one of the most expensive) streamers on the audio market today. They use OCXO clocks to eliminate jitter and RAM instead of buffers for low latency.
I heard ‘things’ I had never heard before.
The name Pink Faun is perhaps weird, I admit, but I believe that, like the mythological unicorn, it's meant to convey the idea of the existence of something impossible turned possible. And the impossible has indeed happened: I heard ‘things’ I had never heard before in the Ajasom auditorium.
The interstitial silence is such that you hear things you wouldn't have noticed on other occasions. It is more about how you hear than it is about what you hear. I'll give you a concrete example that you can experience in your listening:
The Oscar Peterson Quartet
When I walked in, the album Alternate One with Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard and Oscar Peterson (what a quartet, eh?) was playing. I immediately realised that the instrumental separation was excellent. But when Sara Correia's voice came in on Era o Adeus, I heard elements in the mix that sounded clearly 'off-axis", with percussive components that seemed to sound not in front of me, but right next to me!
I made a digital recording with a Nagra SD (courtesy of Ajasom). Still, this holographic effect was lost in the translation, so perhaps it was an acoustic illusion. The original recording is also a little bright in terms of sound. I've decided to offer you ‘The Build Up' by Feist & Kings Of Convenience instead, so you can experience the sound of silence between notes.
However, after Erik Friedlander's Oscalypso and David Radcliff aka The Ghost Of Jimmy Cash, a voice that has haunted me of late, singing The Sound Of Silence, I left in apotheosis with the most beautiful performance I've ever heard of Barber's Adagio by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein.
The emotional depth that the theme arouses in us only comes close to matching the depth of the sound stage, which I had previously also experienced with a William Steinberg-conducted Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra performance of a passage from Beethoven's Pastoral.
Healthy drug habits
The question now is to what extent this incredible holographic effect and spatiality are due to the Pink Faun 2.16 Ultra, the fabulous Kharma Exquisite-Midi, or the system as a whole. Jorge Mendes and Nuno Cristina, who have experienced more hours of listening to this system than I have, think that the Pink Faun is the catalyst that was missing – not only in this system but in any system.
As these effects 'stick' like a drug, it is now the readers' turn to listen at their own risk and form their own opinions.
I left, eager to return soon. I had only heard of fauns in mythology, but it turns out they exist in the audio world, albeit in pink and, alas, with a hefty price tag.
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