Digital Store

We sell more than the best media computers

After many years of auditioning just about every digital cable, DAC, or pre/pro – either directly or through our clientele -- we have become quite knowledgeable about the "front end" of the digital audio system. And we have managed or participated in many "rooms" at the various audio shows. As usual, when we audition anything, the auditioning takes weeks not hours, and we use a team of listeners that include a couple of people whose young ears are MUCH more sensitive the founder of Baetis, John Mingo. We therefore have a wealth of experience that is yours for the asking.

Over the years, we have also discerningly decided to become authorized dealers for a particular few makers of front-end equipment . We are permitted to sell their components only in the context of the sale of a Baetis server, and we can sometimes give you a discount on two or more pieces of equipment. Here are our lines:

Cables (mainly digital but also interconnects and speaker cables). These are listed in approximate order of price (most expensive to least).

  1. Shunyata Research™. We are great fans of the Anaconda models for either digital or analog signals. Shunyata also makes some of the best AC conditioning equipment and we use their conditioning equipment for our digital equipment in our own listening rooms.
  2. Revelation Audio Labs™. These cryo-treated silver cables are used both inside and outside our best models. Our Prodigy models also now use cables made by Revelation Audio Labs.
  3. Straightwire™ digital and analog cables. We sell many of these for our Prodigy models; they are a very good bang for the buck. We also now use the Straightwire brand for the AC cable going to the HD-Plex™ linear PSU.

We also have experience with other brands of digital cable and some of these are truly great and not extravagantly priced. We only recommend cable brands that are as good as each of the 3 brands above, in each price range.

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DACs. Regular visitors to our site will have noticed in the past that we are NOT fans of many DACs whose "main" input is the USB port. We also did not like USB outputs in general from computers. However, now we have developed USB outputs relying on Baetis-modified SOTM USB cards and clock boards that permit the best in native DSD and Multi-channel DSD. These USB solutions are not connected to the PCIe bus because these create way too much common-mode noise. Also, see our tests, below, on the new T&A DAC.

As a result of our research and AES-bias, we had been selling one brand of DAC – Berkeley Audio™. And we continue to recommend most highly the Berkeley Reference Series 1 or Reference Series 2 DACs. At the same time, we can highly recommend other brands and models of DAC, including the Schiit™ Yggdrasil, and the Bel Canto™ e-One™ models, which are the best ones we had heard under about $6k. We have auditioned other brands and models in our own rooms and we guarantee that the Baetis server will make them sound better via their AES inputs. We like the EMM™, Esoteric™, Bricasti™, Light Harmonic™, Soulution™, dCS™, and Playback Designs™ brands, among others.

Talk with Joe or John about these other specific models – there are MANY fine DACs out there at prices ranging from $2.3k up to >$30k. The very best of these DACs have been greatly improved over just the last 3 or so years. Moreover, we have no philosophic objection to using the USB input of a DAC for playing certain DSD files. However, we recommend USB for high-resolution audio only if the USB port of the computer is the new SOtM USBhubIN card (and clock) that does NOT use a PCI-bus. We install these SOtM USB ports in our physically larger chasses such as the Prodigy-X or Reference series, where there is sufficient room to add the USB ports and the associated daughterboard. We also have a new, modular Prodigy 3 model that can house one of these cards in lieu of the BNC and AES output options.

We now believe the DAC is more important than the speakers until you get to systems over about $50k in price. And the very last "rule of thumb" you want to apply is that the speakers should cost about 50% of the price of your whole system. This outdated rule is still adhered to by many dealers and the result is that there is no room left for a truly good DAC plus media computer plus digital cable. At show after show, we listen to $20K speakers that sound truly lousy because the dealer hasn’t progressed from using the USB port of his MAC™ or Sony™ laptop.

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The new T+A™ DAC 8 DSD

We had been promoting the Schiit™ Yggdrasil DAC as the very best bang for the buck we know of in DACs. And we have often described the Berkeley™ Alpha Reference Series 2 as the very best DAC we have ever auditioned, regardless of price. After completing a two-month audition of the new T+A™ DAC 8 DSD. There is no way around it. We have to say that the T+A is both the best bang for the buck (and we’ll tell you exactly why in a minute), and the Berkeley Reference DAC has a new competitor.

We continue to audition DACs since we do not really trust many of the reviews we read on the subject. First, some reviewers continue to use their factory computer’s USB port to play to the DACs they audition and you know how we feel about such factory USB ports. Second, many reviewers, even when using a decent music server, continue to use a separate pre-amp in the chain – and this might be a mistake when talking about the very best DACs with integrated volume control. Often, the pre-amp was chosen because the user "liked its sound the best". Often, this means that the pre-amp sounds artificially "tube-like" and, in most reviews we have read, the reviewer does not bother to listen to the DAC with and without its own volume control. One reviewer says that most music servers sound pretty much the same to him (not guessing that his pre-amp is one that has, well, a very special voice to it).

The Schiit DAC has no volume control of its own, and we have auditioned it with Schiit's own Freya model of volume control (a pre-amp in the analog domain). The sum of these two boxes costs $2990. We think these two boxes dominate most of the highly-rated DACs with volume controls in the $5000-$10k range. And, when we audition these boxes, the AES input of the Schiit is significantly better than its USB input(at least up to Gen4). The manufacturers themselves might not appreciate this fact, since they say in their marketing materials "try USB, you'll like it". We know they have never tried a Baetis media computer's AES output with their own DAC.

Now comes T+A, which stands for Theory + Application, a German company that is extremely well known and loved in Europe and Asia, but is relatively unknown in the U.S. T+A’s DAC sounds better through its AES input when playing PCM than through its USB input. But if you are fortunate enough to have a few albums that are high sample rate DSD (up to DSD512, which has a sample rate over 22 million Hz), the T+A will play those files at full DSD512 and do so as true native DSD, not the typical DoP (DSD over PCM) through its USB input.

Thus, the T+A can "do something" that neither the Schiit nor the Berkeley can do – play highest resolution true native DSD. But more importantly -- the T+A showed us two things we did not guess. First, we had always found that it sounded best to transcode any DSD back to the PCM in which it was mastered (since most DSD files were mastered in DXD, a fancy name for 352.8khz PCM), then play it via our AES output. We even agree with Cookie Marenco, the most noted producer of native DSD albums, that if it was mastered in PCM, play it in PCM, and vice versa. So, we were not theoretically surprised, but empirically impressed, when we heard Fiona Joy’s album, Signature-Solo, mastered by Cookie, played via native DSD on the T+A. This DSD album sounded better than the same album converted to PCM and played on the Berkeley Reference DAC Series 2 (which does sound better in all respects than Berkeley’s own Reference Series 1 DAC).

So, yes, having a DSD capability that does NOT involve transcoding a DSD signal back to PCM is clearly important, at least for the future, as more DSD albums become a reality. But there was a second question as well -- since well more than 95% of all music ever recorded, is mastered in PCM, how does the AES input of the T+A compare to the AES input of the Berkeley Reference Series 2? Answer – boy, is it ever close. Both DACs will allow you to hear detail you never heard before, and in a way that sounds more “musical” than you’ve ever heard before. Both yield great dynamics, especially with classical music, where dynamics are so important. Both have a similar, deep and wide sound stage. But the Berkeley Reference Series 2 is priced at $19,500 while the T+A DAC 8 DSD is priced at $4450. Is the Berkeley better for PCM? Yes. But not by much, and maybe only for 2-channel systems that involve really good (and really expensive) speakers.

So, yes, we became one of the few T+A dealers in the U.S. BTW, if you have seen that the T+A DAC 8 DSD is priced at $3995, that was before T+A raised the price to at least partially reflect current costs of production. Good thing T+A doesn’t think and price like most audiophile manufacturers, or the price would have risen to well over $15k!!

T+A DAC 8 DSD

T+A DAC 8 DSD

We think that a major contributor to this quality is the volume control in the analog domain, using a particular brand of resistors that are often termed the very best. The analog and digital domains are completely separate; galvanic isolation is used in several places. Similarly, the PCM and DSD processes are completely separate. Importantly, the over-sampling process of the T+A, like in other great DACs, can be a choice of the consumer. But the T+A proprietary "pure Bezier" process is the best of the choices, and does precisely what the maker says: "exhibits no pre- or post-echoes of any kind, and does not add coloration or timing errors to the original signal". The facts that T+A uses 8 separate 32-bit DAC chipsets, 4 for each channel, coupled with a 56-bit DSP engine for oversampling, tells you that this is no “ordinary” mass-produced DAC. True 1-bit DSD, plus one of the very best PCM DACs, at this price, will probably generate lots of rave reviews. If you have a truly great 2-channel audio system and are thinking of spending $20k to > $35k on a DAC, we urge you to audition this jewel of a DAC. You might then be able to purchase a truly great music server – one of the Baetis Reference models with our very special SOtM USBhubIN USB non-PCI card, with separate clock board, plus our proprietary daughterboard with what some think is the world’s best AES output.

Like some other superlative DACs, the T+A allows for turning off the volume control (Line level only), and it has all the necessary digital inputs as well as both RCA and balanced XLR analog outputs. A menu reached via either the remote control or the push buttons on the main panel also does things such as L/R channel balance control.

If you think you MUST have MQA™ then you can't wait for it in T+A, (and they have promised us this is the highest priority) buy one of the Berkeley DACs and pay an extra $615 for an MQA firmware upgrade (including for the very good Berkeley Alpha DACs Series 2 at $4995). In our auditions, the AES input of the T+A does beat the AES input of the Alpha Series 2 DAC by quite a bit. So, unless you think Tidal Masters streaming is somehow better than downloading any hi-res DSD album or PCM album, you don’t need the MQA capability. Years from now, when as many new albums are mastered with MQA as there are new albums in DSD, then you can address the MQA subject. Or, you can buy BOTH the Berkeley Reference Series 2 AND the T+A DAC 8 DSD to cover every kind of music format that the audio magazines are trying to sell you, and do so at the level of the world’s best quality in each. That is what we’ve done in our own best 2-channel room.

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Baetis Audio is now an Authorized Mytek DAC dealer

Mytek needs no introduction to most audiophiles. It is the DAC that, in pairs, Kal Rubinson of Stereophile uses for Multi-channel audio!! It was named by TAS as the “most significant new product” at CES 2016. It sounds, well, GREAT. And, at $2195 (for the Brooklyn DAC+), it is a true high-end bargain. You might also want to look at their new Manhattan DAC II which has an even better list of internal components.

MyTek DAC Front

The Brooklyn has features that other DAC makers are "promising" but have not yet delivered:

  1. Built-in MQA™ certified hardware MQA decoder. With Roon installed on your Baetis media computer this is the very best way to play Tidal Masters, along with the forthcoming series of MQA-encoded downloads.
  2. Digital inputs that include AES, not just the usual USB.
  3. The AES input can do PCM up to 192k and even DSD64 via DoP. The latter is something we haven’t yet seen in another DAC. USB does up to DSD256.
  4. The ESS Sabre DAC chipsets are used in some of the most acclaimed D/A converters.
  5. The Mytek Femtoclock Generator is highly rated and can even be used as a Word Clock output.
  6. Analog outputs are both RCA and XLR for the better amplifiers.
  7. The Mytek is also, like our other DACs, a first-class pre-amp and headphone amplifier. Please note that Mytek also has L/R headphone outputs that can be used with their great RCA to 4-pin XLR headphone jack adapter that can then use our preferred R.A.L. cryo-treated silver headphone cable. Try a Baetis media computer with the Mytek as DAC/headphone amp, using the R.A.L. headphone cable and your $900 headphones will sound like Focal Utopia headphones – your Focal Utopia headphones will sound better than anything that the editors of the headphone blogs have ever heard. The typical MacBookPro used for sending an audio file to the DAC does NOT have an AES output, and the AES input of the Brooklyn is great for PCM. Meanwhile, the Baetis SOtM USBhubIN process produces the best USB output in any media computer, some people believe (again, read Kal Rubinson). Only Baetis, and sure not Mac or Sony, builds computers that sound this great.
  8. The Mytek doesn’t stop there. It also has a separate 12v DC input so that, if you have a Baetis computer using our HD-Plex linear PSU, we can set the Baetis up to use the 16v output of the linear PSU to run the computer, then use the 12v output of this world’s finest linear PSU to run the Mytek, then run the SOtM USBhubIN ports via the 9V output of the same linear power supply, which, with 400 watts is one of the world’s most powerful linear PSUs. Only Mytek + Baetis can do this kind of stuff, folks. Pay attention.

And, as mentioned, the new Mytek Manhattan II has even more features and uses the very latest and best ESS Sabre DAC chipsets with an unheard-of high digital SNR.

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Speakers. We only started to carry a speaker line when Robert Harley of The Absolute Sound reviewed the Tannoy™ Revolution XT 8F speaker (retail $2600 per pair) and thought it sounded like a pair selling for 4 times as much. We were looking for a speaker that would complement a Schiit Yggy DAC and Schiit Ragnorak integrated amp, in a room where all the equipment sold for $10k or less. And, in such a room, the most expensive piece of equipment is the Baetis Prodigy 3, at $3350 . So, we became an authorized Tannoy dealer, after our usual, thorough testing.

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Here is an example of how Baetis people can help you.
Tired of hearing all the competing claims about how to put together a GREAT home theater room? We have a great system for you. It is not cheap, but it beats any other home theater system out there in the <$30k range (excluding the TV or projector and the speaker cables, and we can help with those). This system is all about truly great 2-channel AND multi-channel audio, along with video that equals or beats anything out there. And without spending extra tens of thousands for set-up or pretty in-wall installations. Forget all the brand name speakers you see in Sound & Vision or at those dealers who get a 67% mark-up over wholesale, at a minimum.

Recommended Speakers:
L/R: Tannoy™ Revolution XF 8T $2600

Tannoy Revolution XT Series

Center Channel: Tannoy Revolution XT C $800
Surrounds: Tannoy revolution XT 6 $550 x 2
Retail: 5.0 speakers = $4500.
Recommended Sub-Woofer = Seaton™ dual 15" HPI+ (120 volt model); $2695. Beats all those $10k woofers – we use Seaton in our own multi-channel room.
Recommended Media Server: Baetis™ Prodigy-X: $4995
Recommended Receiver: Marantz™ SR-7012 Receiver (with our favorite AKM™ DAC chipsets for the very best in digital to analog conversion = $2199 (Baetis is now an authorized re-seller of Marantz™)
Total retail = $4500 + 2695 + 4995 + $2199 = $14,389 and that’s before the great deal we can get you as a package. To improve this package tremendously, swap out the Marantz receiver for the latest Marantz Pre/Pro, the Marantz 8805, plus a MCh amp from, say Parasound™.

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Can you see the interesting thing about this string of prices? Your friendly dealer will say, "wait, the highest price in this system is the COMPUTER!!; that’s a huge mistake!!" Well that’s what these dealers believe and that’s why we see and hear, at every audio show, these really expensive speakers and pre/pros sounding really lousy. The quality of the digital signal going into the DAC, into the pre/pro, or into the receiver, is the MOST important part of the chain. Changing the media computer can be every bit as important as changing the speakers. And for the money, the lower your overall budget, the higher percentage of the budget should be on the media computer. We know what you think – because we see and hear these things everyday – you are thinking "wait, that HAS to be WRONG!!" See the brochure for Tannoy here to understand why these speakers are undervalued by every dealer out there. But it is the Baetis Prodigy-X that will make the difference.

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Very few of the systems you see described in Sound & Vision™ come even close in audio quality, and then only for at least twice the price or more (yes, quadruple the price of the speakers in the system above and it will sound better, maybe 10% better). For video, we are talking about 4K capability and storing Blu-ray movies digitally on your server (along with playing any kind of audio format at the highest sample rates, whether PCM or DSD -- including ripped SACDs in up to 5.1 channels). Don't forget that anything and everything that is available to be streamed CAN be streamed via a Baetis server – in 2Ch, MCh, and HD video up to 4K. Read the other parts of our website to learn about our servers as music servers – any possible format, any possible encoding, MQA™, DSD512, Roon™, JRiver™, MakeMKV™, dBPoweramp™, Dirac™ digital room correction -- all possible with every Baetis media computer. And the very best MDA™ (Mastering Digital Audio) training and support to get you up to speed in 90 minutes.

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If you want highest quality, greatest flexibility, most bang for the buck, and, most importantly, the most efficient knowledge-gaining process, there is only one choice in media servers – Baetis™ Audio Prodigy series. Our Reference line of servers are for systems that have much higher total budgets – especially for 2-channel audio. Either way, you get to listen to things and see things that you cannot experience any other way. Are we arrogant? No, we're just very confident; read our reviews to find out why. We don't have lots of dealers, because our margins are WAY less than 67% (the typical mark-up over wholesale). We do it OUR way, and we live for what people say after experiencing a Baetis computer for a few days.

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Of course, our taste in speakers runs to much more expensive equipment, given that some of our reviewers use such high-end speakers (Magico™, Wilson Audio™, B&W™, and many more). Also, a few of these speaker makers also use Baetis servers within their own showrooms (most notably, Magico; see our Reviews page).

As we became more educated about digital audio, we learned that old rules of thumb were becoming completely outdated, but dealers still peddle some of this equipment (like CD transports) to take advantage of sales from the highest profit-margin components. Please read our FAQs and White Papers section to get into the detail. The main advice we can give you is – don’t believe everything you read on the internet or hear from dealers. Trust only your ears, and yours alone. It’s true that dealers are quite necessary if you need to audition a pair of expensive, heavy speakers. The shipping/insurance costs of such equipment would prohibit manufacturers from allowing a trial in your own home. The local dealer, however, can deliver the demo units at low cost to him, and set them up properly for you. The same thing applies for amps that weigh 100lbs or more. But for digital equipment, the ONLY way to audition is in your own listening room, and there are no DACs, cables, or media servers that weigh more than one person can comfortably lift. Baetis does TWO things to make the audition worthwhile. First, we simply won’t sell you ANY Baetis server unless we understand your room and equipment. Second, we try to match the quality of the Baetis to the quality of your system. This pre-sale knowledge of your system is what guarantees us that your audio quality WILL be improved, unequivocally, by adding the Baetis server – and this process reduces our RETURNS to a minimum. While we now sell both our Prodigy and Baetis models online, you CANNOT buy a Baetis or Prodigy by simply clicking somewhere on the site and typing in your credit card number. You must talk with Joe about your existing system and your plans for improvement.

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