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AVA-Maestro 50. What is it with this little box?

This tiny box, about the size of your hand, has been taking up all of our attention since we received the very first prototype ever made back in December. The production models are literally flying out the door and for a while we had 100% hit rate on customers visiting our shop ,,, we are still close to that rate even 4 or 5 weeks into stocking it.

So it's small, very small. It comes in a machined from solid aluminium chassis (see above CAD), black anodised and laser etched logo and text, something unheard of at this price but rather associated with super high end products determined to get the absolute best shielding, stability and finish. So it feels and looks amazing, like 'real' quality, way over the expectation at that price.

It's 50W but I'm told, actually 65W so it packs a punch and delivers even with some impressive floor-standers. There is no remote and just two inputs, both digital (spdif & Toslink) and they are manually switched so it is very minimalist. This is what really surprised me when I started using it ... what a relief that it's so simple ... almost mechanical. Send a signal, it automatically comes out of standby and plays, I'm not searching for a remote because there isn't one. 

We are littered with music renderers (source products) in our homes, Sonos player, MacMini, Apple TV, Airport express, Smart TV, PS3, Boxee, LINN, naim, Simple Audio ... and so on. I have an embarrassing amount of ways to stream both music & film ,,, lets face it, just one or two is enough so do I need more renderers, more APPs, more remotes ... No!

When thinking about the above scenarios you start to see that Maestro is a simple box that just works with anything you have without ''butting in''! It just gives amazing performance from any of the products that have digital out and lets face it, that's just about everything. So yes it's a simple aluminium block with just one function ... to amplify a digital signal to your speakers. So if that's it's function, does it do it well? I'll answer that shortly! First lets just mention that this takes open digital code and converts it to an amplified analogue signal to your speakers. It does this without a DAC, well what we all understand a DAC to be ... it does it with a different technology, something they call 'pure-audio-stream' with a pulse-code-modulated (PCM) to pulse-width-modulated (PWM) converter called a modulator .. I have no idea what that means but it apparently has no digital clock so it has no clocking problems, no jitter ... I understand that!

So how good does it sound? Well with an airport express, an ipad, Spotify premium and a pair of LINN Majik 109 speakers (11450 Sek) ... I can fool any visitor into believing the Maestro costs 30,000 Sek and that I am playing high quality files! 

It's probably the cleanest sound I have ever heard from any HiFi and that is what this tini box is, it's a HiFi, the only HiFi you need in a home and it's a really good one. It's also one of the most pure sounding HiFi's I have heard. This sounds silly but a dog sounds like a dog, like a real dog! I watched 'Alla vi Barn i Byllerbyn'' hence the comparison but honestly I never heard Childred, birds, and music sound so REAL like this. For me this delivers completely uncoloured sound ,,, crystal clear! I'd say it probably ranks extremely highly as one of THE best studio tools around ... absolutely perfect for listening for detail and individual instruments and effects.

So it costs 2995 Sek, which is rather a bad joke, when you consider the chassis it comes in, never mind the amazing performance. Bearing in mind I make my living from sales of rather expensive equipment, is this a good thing? Well for the customer of course it is, for music ... of course it is because the ordinary family with an ordinary budget will now experience music at home way above what they dreamed was possible and get more out of their music! 

It's not even made in China, but rather in a small family owned manufacturing factory in Manchester, England ... I mean made there. I sent Gustaf to check! CNC machines, anodizing machines, design & IT, it's all there ... big raw aluminium blocks on forklifts queuing to be made into world class HiFi and IT solutions they provide.

2995 Sek, the size of my hand ... actually fits in with everything I use and want, film, music, multi-room with minimal inputs, one retractable knob (also made from machines-in-house aluminium) head volume control, which for most uses, is not used (I'm always streaming from media players with tablet control and digital volume control or simply with my smartTV) and an input selector switch which again you hardly use. 

I talked about showing off playing Spotify wirelessly comparing to 30,000 Sek boxes well what does it do when you play 24 Bit, 192 Htz direct from MacPro, MacMini or PC for example? It's totally insane and I have no idea what to compare it with ... it's really really good!

Henryk, the founder from Musicimatic (Gothenburgs oldest Studio with some, NO sorry Henryk ... it's ALL amazing gear and an impressive list of artists recording there) commented:

''I can't even lift my amplifier in the studio ... it sounds amazing, must be trickery, what's going on ... put me down for one'' :)


 

To give you an idea of size, that's the Maestro on the right with a small marker pen standing next to it. The AVA RipnPlay (again mystery price-tag, machined from solid RipNas) is shown on the left.
 


P:S: special thanks to Anders for tipping Maestro in this months HiFi & Musik page 32.

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