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Inter.view with Marco Manunta and Giuseppe Rampino, new designers at Audio Analogue

by Lucio Cadeddu

[Italian version]

LC >
Audio Analogue has been completely re-organized and this New Deal has suddenly brought two new designers, Marco Manunta and Giuseppe Rampino, engineers also for North Star. How will you organize your work at Audio Analogue and which are the guidelines?

AA >
First, let us remark that our work for North Star (see the listening test of our Model 3 24/96 DAC here on TNT-Audio) continues and new products are on our desk.
The strict collaboration with Audio Analogue will allow us to re-cycle our know-how, bringing some new idea into the traditional Audio Analogue production line.
As usual the Audio Analogue product will have a very good quality/price ratio and the well-known originality of the design, together with the intensive use of new operating facilities rarely seen on other products, so that every new Audio Analogue component will be very different from the rest of the competitors.
For example, take the 96 kHz digital input in our new Maestro CD player (for further details, please browse the factory tour here on TNT-Audio): a new feature that allows to use the Maestro as a stand-alone 24/96 DAC.
Anyway, our final goal is the quality of the sound: for this reason we've decided to avoid op-amps or the ubiquitous and nowadays so popular minimalist structure on integrated amps: power amp + a volume control (power amp + passive preamp, that is).

LC >
Besides the new Maestro series, which are the guidelines you intend to follow to modify and update the old yet so popular Audio Analogue products (Puccini, Puccini SE, Donizetti etc.)?

AA >
As stated above, every single new product of Audio Analogue will be updated with new circuits and features. Every component will be equipped with a remote control, the power stages of the amplifiers will use better electronic overload protections while the power output will slightly increase.
The new Donizetti will be splitted into two monophonic units, since the market's request for this kind of components seems to be growing. List prices will remain almost the same.

LC >
The "Audio Analogue" name makes one think of HiFi components aimed to an "analogue" devoted kind of sound. Are you planning to design and build a new stand-alone phono preamp?
Will the new integrateds be equipped with phono inputs?

AA >
The average customer of Audio Analogue products does not make use of analog front ends so we think a separate phono preamp could be useless.
Anyway, all the integrated amps and preamps of the "Grandi Compositori" series (Puccini and Bellini, that is) will be equipped with a phono input as they are now.
As for the Maestro series, the new amplifier will not have any phono input and since the "target" is quite different we could start thinking at a high-quality separate phono unit here.

LC >
Both the new Maestro CD player and the North Star product seem oriented to the massive use of the latest technologies in audio such as computer-controlled features, 24/96 conversions etc.
Now that power DACs seem all the rage today, are you planning to design and build such a unit and, more generally, which are, according to you, the pros and cons of such an approach to digital amplification?

AA >
We've started to work around a project for a power DAC. The real problem with these devices is closely linked to the development of the future format for digital audio and hence the new digital interfaces.
Once this problem will be successfully solved we can foresee a brilliant future for the success of high quality power DACs.
The pros of this technology are countless: you just need to think at the very high efficiency of a power DAC, efficiency that will allow an easy reduction of costs and size with respect to traditional power amps, power output and sound quality all being equal.

LC >
As for digital sources, nowadays the situation is quite unclear. If I remind well you are in favour of the DVD-Audio format instead of the SACD (Super Audio CD). Which are the reasons that make you prefer one technology instead of the other one?

AA >
It is mainly a matter of compatibility between old and new digital formats: a PCM DAC 24/96 will easily convert a CD signal (16/44) while the DSD DAC is closely linked to the SACD format.
It sounds ridiculous to use different conversion formats, one for every digital source.
Then consider that, technically speaking, the performance of a DVD-Audio is virtually superior to that of the SACD: it is just a matter of time but we're going to see DAC chips capable of 130/135 dB of signal ratio and then the 120 dB of the SACD format will be suddenly obsolete and outdated.
Also, where is the sense of creating a new standard which is not compatible with the already existing multimedia and computer applications?
The keywords for the years to come are: integration and multi-media so we seen a non-sense to introduce a "closed" format like the SACD.
Anyway, since many claim the SACD sounds better...we'll wait and see what happens.

LC >
The new HiFi brand Stargate, firstly introduced during the factory tour at the Audio Analogue plants in Monsummano Terme, will offer the hi-end crowd a series of products designed by you, again. May you please underline the main ideas behind the new Stargate project?

AA >
Stargate will become a synonimous of no-compromise quality: for this reason the components we're designing for Stargate will have nothing in common with the Audio Analogue ones.
The quest for high quality will imply a paranoic search for the best passive components (caps, resistors etc.) and the use of exclusive circuits, designed taking a look at the future, without forgetting the excellent examples of the past.
The Stargate products will not be of the hi-end kind as commonly understood, i.e. good sounding gear with terrible craftsmanship and poor features. No, the Stargate stuff will offer the best sound quality together with extreme user-friendlyness and up-to-date features.

LC >
It seems there's no escape for a hi-end Company to have a look at the multimedia and Home Theater market, simply put, everybody's doin' it.
In which way are you thinking at the HT market? Are you planning to design and build HT-oriented Audio Analogue components?

AA >
Audio Analogue is widely distributed all over the World where the HT phenomenon seems to be more than a simple trend as it is considered here in Italy.
For this reason Audio Analogue is planning to enter the HT market with a series of new products anytime soon: the decision to transform the Donizetti stereo power amp into a pair of simple monophonic amps follows exactly this mainstream.

LC >
We've already seen the hot news of the Audio Analogue catalogue during the recent factory tour.
May you please tell us something about brand new projects you have in mind?

AA >
As for Audio Analogue we're designing a multichannel amplifier equipped with a selective choice of the required channels (2, 3, 5 or 6). For Stargate a complete line of hi-end components equipped with an intelligent user-interface, for North Star it is ready a sample-rate converter that will allow to listen to standard CDs at 24/96 (more about this on TNT-Audio soon).
This latest product will be available as a World premiere at the next Top Audio Show in Milan (September, 9th-13rd).

Courtesy by Audio Analogue for TNT.

Copyright © 1999 Lucio Cadeddu - http://www.tnt-audio.com

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