The first Audionet ART was simply chic and good. The second looked the same and performed even better. The G3 still comes in as if nothing had happened. However, it does not only sound better once again, it even brings another medium into play.

Real consequence is hard to find these times and in our branch. All too often the design of a device line changes from generation to generation, following the spirit of the age or the currently lowest-priced case makers. The hip data format is constantly changed as well, and almost inevitably one has to wonder why for Heaven’s sake in music reproduction the wheel is being reinvented in ever-shorter intervals. Despair of an ailing branch?



Audionet is different. The first units from a good 15 years ago can still be easily combined with the current products, and it took no less than 13 years before the integrated amplifier SAM G2 lost its two rotary knobs and conformed to the otherwise prevalent four-knob dictate. The question if it’s necessary to have only four front panel buttons is something that probably only remote control lovers really won’t care about. As an avowing »haptician« I prefer some more options of direct function access. And yes, I prefer a stylish metal-bodied remote control with the basic commands over a freely programmable plastic jumble of tiny buttons. However, as I have recognised every so often that my rather conservative taste in this respect has anything but a majority appeal, my criticism should not pose a problem for Audionet. And after all I’m bickering about this marginal note only so vehemently to utter at least a touch of criticism at all. For the new Audionet player ART G3, that much be revealed already, is an audiophile good luck charm of the highest class which can forcefully pressurise even far more expensive competitors and gave me the most beautiful music hours.

Highend is Formula 1

Like I said before, its outward appearance has remained unchanged: the face is still characterised by a plain front of brushed aluminium which is only interrupted by a display and the four above pushbuttons. At best the little vent slots behind the drive compartment point to the fact that the cooling is now purely passive. Similarly they have hardly altered the basic mechanical design of the CD player – why ever should they?! Still we can see a heavy granite slab delivering a solid foothold and a bass performance which goes down into the frequency cellar just as boldly as you will imagine right now. The rest of the body is once again made of MDF – an excellent choice in view of the many ringing top lids of the competition. And the drive block, milled from aluminium and suspended from tightly strained bands, has also been left untouched. Only the previous Philips drive was replaced by the even better Pro version. In addition, Audionet modified the mechanical CD locating surface: the puck centres better now and also allows the use of the various CD mats available from specialist retailers. I couldn’t resist the temptation and checked out the Millennium carbon fibre mat: the spatial order was thoroughly tidied up in a clearly audible manner, and so the little disc was deployed for all the tests.

Ready for digital communication

At the beginning I was talking about other media. By this I mean the computer as a music supplier that is currently rising with giant steps from a toy to a serious signal source. The fact that it is now also a topical subject with Audionet, becomes evident by the USB port located on the rear panel. This may be the most important digital input on the ART G3 and should render the other SPDIF sockets jobless. The USB port is native which means for the users that they won’t have to install any drivers or other software on their computers. As soon as the ART is linked to the PC or Mac with a (preferably high-quality) USB cable, it will instantly appear as an external device in the corresponding menu of the system settings. When playing music over the computer, the ART will receive all the data previously clocked by the source to store them temporarily in a »pre-memory«. Freshly reclocked, they will then be fed to the D/A converter. »Asynchronous reclocking« is the magic word Audionet uses to lead off the fight against the music-endangering jitter. By the way: the data from the internal drive pass through the same memory – even on this short path the Bochumers don’t like taking chances.

In the G3 said multibit converter uses two mono modules, where the data which had been upsampled to 192 kilohertz are reconverted into analogue signals. In view of such an extravagance the sophisticated filtering before and the close-to-perfect decoupling from external influences only appears as the logical consequence. The output stage, too, is an entirely new development. An even higher limit frequency and the further minimising of the very last distortion residues were the stated aim of the Bochumers. Our laboratory will reveal if Audionet has met their own requirements. But when I think of the extremely fine resolution of complex harmonic structures the ART G3 delighted me with, I shouldn’t be too surprised at one or two outstanding lab specs either.

Character or acoustic peculiarities

The ART G3 can’t either lever out one of my favourite riddles of the digital world: irrespective of careful decoupling measures one can hear the base which the player sits on. Whether the little Lack table from Ikea, a massive rack filled with sand or the lighter solution by Phonosophie: all acoustic properties are clearly noticeable and hence, after some comparisons, the ART finally sits on the top Control Board of a Phonosophie rack. Here it performs freely and openly, unfolding airy harmonics and pumping out a well-structured, massive bass. When it comes to selecting a power cord, it appears to be less demanding than its predecessor, but reveals a certain soft spot for non-shielded cables. So it is finally supplied over an HMS Gran Finale. Apart from that, the sonic difference between the balanced and unbalanced outputs has dwindled further. True, via the RCA line the ART sounds a tadbit more openly and smoothly, yet with such marginal differences one is better advised to hinge the connection choice on the quality of the preamp inputs.

Knowledge of the source

A large concert grand is still an irksome banana skin for any hifi component. Just dare to embark on the adventure of getting to know such a grand piano really well. And with this I’m not only referring to the pleasure of listening to a lot of CDs or maybe even visiting a piano night at the nearest concert hall. No, I’m rather talking about a much more intimate contact from a very close distance like the one that also microphones will experience during a recording. Walk around the piano, lay down under it and try to truly fathom its very own sound. If you live in the vicinity of a music academy, it should be easy to get this arranged: simply approach one of the numerous piano students. Because only those who have ever experienced the sound of a grand piano quite closely and intensely, perceived its tonal shades and picked up the instrument’s force with every fibre of their bodies, will know the score right after the first piano note over a stereo chain. And in the vast majority of cases the verdict won’t be a good one.

Upon opening the massive drawer the CD is fixed by a puck on the spindle. The drive beneath features a sophisticated acoustic decoupling.

However, with such experiences in mind one will appreciate all the more what the new ART G3 is capable of doing. I’m listening to Beethoven’s piano sonatas featuring András Schiff (ECM) and already after the first few notes of the »Moonlight Sonata« I’m completely enthused. Because in those first seconds the ART G3 reveals everything which makes a concert grand in a hall: although touched only softly, the low octave in C sharp stands positively like a rock in the room. After this first note I would love nothing better than to send back some CD players on the spot. For certainly not all succeed in playing softly and substantially. But even with those soft volume levels the Audionet conveys a notion of the concert grand’s momentum and shows that a Steinway D grand piano does not put a hefty 500 kilos on the stage floor for naught. By the way, it’s not a matter of sheer bass or truckloads of moved air: if the source is good, you can also experience this rather intrinsic authority of a sound through a little Spendor.

András Schiff keeps playing, accurately following Beethoven’s pedal instructions; so he doesn’t change the damping with every harmonic shift, creating after a few bars an extremely complex haze of overtones. On lesser players this haze simply sounds cloudy, whereas the ART ultra-finely resolves it, virtually letting me listen around the discrete ramifications and yet merging everything into a logical entity. Quite en passant, the Audionet sketches between the loudspeakers a wonderfully credible and downright palpable image of the stage area of the Tonhalle Zurich where these recordings were made.

The ART G3 knows its craft

Even with complex opera recordings the ART G3 preserves this immense overview. With its help it becomes easier to follow the singers in Wagner’s »Lohengrin« (EMI, Wiener Philharmoniker, Rudolf Kempe) and to put them into a meaningful context with the accompanying orchestra. Because even from this – in audiophile terms not very successful – recording the player extracts a maximum of usable information, which in the end results in an enhanced musical density. Emphatically it demonstrates that a technically extremely well-designed component must not sound dead and unmusical, as is claimed so often. Rather the opposite is true: owing to its incorruptible and incredibly meticulous signal readout and processing, we can approach the artists and their intentions to a rarely witnessed extent. Whether I’m following the most delicate lines of the high strings in the prelude, realising the immaculate interleaving between soloists and orchestra or watching the action in the precisely imaged virtual room – the Audionet simply brings me closer to Rudolf Kempe and his colleagues. 



One point which I naturally care about after my experiences with the older generations of the ART is the sonic influence of the granite slab. It has always grounded the player soundwise, giving it an »analogue« tonal substance to take along, yet thwarting the ultimate contour sharpness in the bass range. This was never a tragedy nor a clear intervention – but audible after nitpicking comparisons. Now the new one shows that the Bochumers have taken care of this tiny signature and – however they managed to do so – compensated it. For also with Al Jarreau or the Red Hot Chili Peppers the ART G3 lacks the ultimate clarity in no department.

Substance instead of a fleeting fad

The last point on my list is the USB input. After several comparisons it becomes clear that it’s far from being a stopgap. With it Audionet expands your personal stereo setup with another source which – given a careful configuration – won’t have to take a back seat to the other signal suppliers. The easy plug & play design of the ART computer link should also free many music lovers from their reserve towards the new medium. In my final analysis, however, I give preference to the ART’s internal drive, because with it musical lines still flow a tadbit more smoothly, and in my discretion the inner suspense of the music is preserved more completely.

Its way of handling CDs makes it the »Master Silverling«. The sound quality is addictive.

Measured data CD player Audionet ART G3

Distortion:

Distortion (THD+N):   0.0018 %
IM distortion (SMPTE):   0.004 %  
IM distortion (CCIF):  0.0003 %


SNR specifications:

Unweighted S/N ratio (20 kHz):   -96.3 dBr
Unweighted S/N ratio (250 kHz):   -82.9 dBr
S/N ratio (A-weighted):   -99.0 dBr


Converter linearity:

-50 dB:   0.01 dB
-60 dB:   0.01 dB
-70 dB:   0.015 dB
-80 dB:   0.026 dB
-90 dB:   0.043 dB

Additional data:

Output voltage:   3.56 V
Channel deviation:   0.007 dB
Output resistance:   33 Ω
DC output offset:   < 0.5 mV


Power consumption:

Stand-by:   < 1 W
Idle:   21 W
 

Lab commentary

According to the best Audionet tradition, the ART G3 is a metrologically flawless hifi component, the guys from Bochum have a hang of that. Distortion figures, S/N ratios,  coverter linearity, channel equality – everything is impeccable, sometimes even on the verge of feasibility. A striking feature is the high output voltage of 3.5 volts which is clearly above the 2-volt standard that Sony/Philips once recommended for CD players. But on the other hand its standby power consumption is exemplary already today. No discussion, lab mark »very good«.

Playable formats:   CD, CD-R, CD-RW

Analogue audio outputs:   
2 x RCA, gold-plated, teflon-insulated
2 XLR balanced, gold-plated

Digital audio outputs:
2 x RCA, 600 mV / 75 ohms, gold-plated, teflon-insulated
1 x AES/EBU, 110 ohms, gold-plated
1 x optical (TosLink)

Digital audio input:
1 x USB, wired as USB audio or SPDIF
1 x optical TosLink (32 kHz-96 kHz/24 bit)

Other features:
Audionet-Link communication system
Connector for external power supply EPS

Model versions:
Body:   Silver or black
Display:   Red or blue    


Dimensions (W x H x D):   43 x 12 x 36 cm
Weight:   22 kg

Idektron / Audionet
Unternehmens- und Technologieberatung GmbH & Co.
Entwicklungs- und Produktions-KG
Alboinstraße 36-42
12103 Berlin

Telefon:   0 30 / 23 32 42 10

Internet:   www.audionet.de

Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/audionet.international/?fref=ts

Two weeks ago our fellow team member Olaf Sturm wrote about the new integrated amplifier SAM G2 by Audionet and put it on the in-house reference throne of the editorial staff. Now I know what induced him to do so, because the ART G3 follows his playmate right at the heels: its clarity and precision, the substantial smoothness of its tone, combined with a lucid transparency, simply make it the best CD player which has ever made a guest appearance at i-fidelity.net. And the incredible musical competence which this new ART utilises to carry us off into the realm of sounds, affirms the decision: the Audionet ART G3 is our new reference.   Stefan Gawlick

Audionet ART G3
Price: 6,990 EUR
Guarantee: 3 years (Audionet Plus)

REVIEW

CD-Player:
Audionet ART G3
Author:
Stefan Gawlick
Date:
30.11.2010
Manufacturer:
Audionet