The Newest Boulder: the 1160 Power Amplifier

It’s a pretty big deal when Boulder Amplifiers announces a new series of amplification components, in this case the 1100 series.

Starting with the 1160 power amplifier you see here, weighing in at 140 pounds and producing 300 watts per channel, (doubling into 4 and 2 ohms) you can see that this is no pebble. As with past Boulder designs, it is fully balanced from input to output, using the same massive connectors as their larger amplifiers, there is no compromise in it’s design. It takes advantage of their latest 983 gain modules, which are unique to the 1100 series. And there are 28 discrete output transistors per channel, assuring that it is more than up to the task of driving any speaker load.

Even the casework is updated for an even cooler look. Boulder is the only amplifier company in the US that does every stage of their design and build in house along with a level of artisanship in their aluminum casework that is matched by no other manufacturer, period.

Taking advantage of everything they’ve learned on their flagship 3000 series, which we feel is the world’s finest amplifier, it will be exciting to listen to what they’ve produced in a single chassis with 300 watts per channel. Priced at $28,000, it is very competitive with the rest of the industry.

Stay tuned, we are really looking forward to this.

The Wyred 4 Sound DAC 2v2 SE

Based in California, E.J. Sarmento founded Wyred 4 Sound in 2007 with a goal of producing stellar audio components at prices within financial reach of many music fans. In the decade since the release of their first amplifier, their product line has grown substantially, now including preamplifiers, music streamers, integrated amplifiers, cables, audio accessories, and more.

Of course, they have also invested significant engineering time honing their digital components like the DAC-2v2 and the DAC-2v2SE (the subject of this review). To commemorate their 10th anniversary this year, a limited production 10thanniversary DAC-2v2SE was also released. Since the beginning, Wyred 4 Sound’s gear is designed and built in the United States, and they sell their products directly to the public from their headquarters. Because their production facility remains onsite as well, in the unlikely event a product should fail, a customer can also work directly with Wyred’s team in California to quickly resolve the issue.

Standard versus Special Edition

As suggested by the name, the DAC-2v2 builds upon the sonics of the previous iteration in many ways. First, the DAC chip upgrades to the ESS Sabre 9028PRO.  The green OLED display is not on the 2v2, it is exclusive to the 2v2SE.

The SE version takes things even further with the ESS flagship Sabre 9038PRO DAC. It also offers several internal component upgrades including Schottky diodes and higher-grade fuses supplementing custom capacitors and Vishay Z-Foil resistors. The SE also features an upgraded Femto-grade clock, offering greater precision, corraling the digital bits into an optimal stream, reducing jitter significantly. It also has a green OLED display, which Wyred says is quieter than the regular blue LED display of the default DAC-2v2.

Hefty build

Weighing in at 14 pounds, the small 8.5″W x 4.125″H x 13.5″D enclosure packs much goodness under the hood, combining minimalist aesthetics, with densely packed internals. A deep grey powder-coated surface provides the DAC with a subtle matte finish (black also available), interrupted only on the sides by angled ventilation holes – a W4S trademark. Two black-anodized accent sections placed on the front panel offer some spice to the edges of an otherwise boxy form factor. Between them, a narrow OLED display is flanked by small “up” and “down” buttons on the sides, and a standby power button underneath. In addition to controlling volume, these buttons double as menu navigation tools during DAC setup. For those who prefer making adjustments from the comfort of their listening seat, an included remote control allows changes on the fly.

The rear panel offers all the digital ins and analog outs one might need. Outputs accommodate both balanced and single ended connections. Input options include USB, Toslink, Coaxial, AES/EBU, and HDMI connections. With all these options at the ready, it is a breeze to connect any digital source to the DAC and get the music up and running. A 12-volt trigger and home theater bypass capability offer additional flexibility in a larger home entertainment setup.

Depending on the source material, the unit’s internals can process 32-bit files up to a sample rate of 384 kHz PCM and native DSD files up to DSD256.

Fine Tuning

The DAC 2v2 series offers a few menu items not available previously, including multiple jitter reduction adjustments. Wyred 4 Sound recommends the lowest possible jitter setting for ideal sonic performance. However, that setting does place an additional performance tax on the component. Wyred suggests trying the lowest setting, and edging up from there among the five remaining increments if needed. Following their suggestions, the lowest setting never introduced any stutter in the system, but the sound did become a bit more relaxed and smooth with the jitter-reducer working its magic.

Another handy feature on both the DAC 2v2 standard and SE DAC versions is the variable output. If connecting the DAC to a preamplifier through RCA or XLR interconnects, the DAC allows the user to override its internal volume controls in favor of letting the preamp take on that role. However, for those who listen to digital music only, the DAC allows the user to connect it directly to an amplifier, using the built-in variable output as the system volume control.

Increasing the flexibility of the DAC, Wyred also builds into the menu options seven different digital filters. The DAC owner can experiment with all the options to determine the one that he or she prefers. For those in doubt, the DAC2v2 manual suggests starting with the “Apodizing fast rolloff, linear phase” option, and the small tweak does offer fantastic sound.

If connecting your DAC to a computer via USB, note that both Mac and Linux-based systems have native support. Plugging the DAC into a Mac Mini offered not a single hiccup. The computer recognized it immediately through the Roon interface, providing music in a few minutes. For those with Windows-based systems, a required driver is available from the Wyred 4 Sound website.

Wyred 4 Sound suggests 200 hours of break in time for the DAC, and with several days under its belt, it certainly demonstrated its prowess. For the majority of our testing, the DAC 2v2SE was connected directly to an amplifier, using the variable volume control feature. Reducing the number of components and interconnects gives this DAC the straightest possible signal path between source and speakers. While the digital filters do offer minor variances to the DAC’s overall sound, the Wyred has a general sound signature at its heart. At first listen, the DAC 2v2SE demonstrates a natural, and relaxed presentation. There’s a slight warmth complementing a high level of detail retrieval. Those seeking a DAC that exposes every bit of detail, including of glare or stridency inherent in a recording, may prefer more stark voicing. However, potential owners wishing for a more analog-like interpretation in their audio system will welcome the 2v2SE’s ability to file down the sharp edges ever so slightly in the name of musicality.

Extensive soundstage portrayal is DAC 2v2SEs top strengths. Musical cues extended to the far left, right and rear of the speakers’ imaging limits give a convincing and layered presentation. Listening to albums like Silent Letters from Bliss, the rich soundstage created by the engineers demonstrates the DAC 2v2SE’s ability to ingest, process and share out the digital bits with aplomb, re-creating the subtle details contained within. Cymbal crashes generate a complexity of audio frequency transmissions, offering a solid approximation as if sitting several rows back in an auditorium at a live concert. Similarly, the woodiness of clarinets and the brassiness of trumpets roll forth as dictated by the quality of a given recording.

Both male and female voices are rendered with a natural quality. In the absence of sharp edges to the sound make the DAC 2v2SE a great friend for long listening sessions. Ear fatigue never enters into the equation, giving the listener a chance to settle into the music for the long haul.

Bass-wise, the 2v2SE maintains a solid grip on bass without mushiness or disappointment in impact. The balance of bass with the rest of the audio spectrum does not tilt in favor of low-frequency information through this DAC. Those with a powerful solid-state amp are likely to find the partnership between the two components a welcome fit. Potential owners with tube amplifiers like the Conrad-Johnson Classic Sixty-Two we had on hand for testing, will be delighted equally. The DAC 2v2SE does not appear to modify the sound of any amp it is mated with, it just gives the amp a chance to sing to its full potential.

Summing strengths

This base DAC-2v2 retails for $2,299, and the even more advanced SE edition in this review retails for $3,799. While we did not have the opportunity to compare-and-contrast the standard edition to the SE version, the SE version performs very well at its price point. This DAC combines excellent build quality, understated modern looks, and a confidence inspiring five-year warranty. Wyred 4 Sound also provides a generous trade-in program to those who own older DACs and wish to upgrade to these latest iterations.

Considering many high-end DACs today cost well over $10k, and the marvelous quality of Wyred’s DAC represents a substantial value. Yes, more money can buy a higher degree of refinement and realism. However, the Wyred delivers a lot of prowess for its price point. Because of the variable output capability, this DAC can also function effectively as a preamplifier. For those listening only to digital music, it is a bit like getting two products for the price of one. Additionally, for those who enjoy fine-tuning their DAC’s sound, the on-screen menu options give owners several ways to tailor sound to their liking. Those small tweaks can help an owner to best match the DAC’s sound to the associated gear around it, but bear in mind that the DAC 2v2SE sounds great even with the factory defaults. The core sound adjusted to the owner’s preferences make this DAC a terrific choice for those who may rotate other gear over time. Some things may come and go, but this DAC can hold its own for years to come.

Further listening

At first, I thought I was listening to the anniversary edition of the DAC 2v2SE and was impressed at that point, but finding out that this was a regular 2v2SE was impressive. While my reference DAC is the dCS Rossini with clock (retailing at nearly $40k), I have been very excited to hear just how far digital has come in the context of the DAC 2v2SE.

Truly engaging sound to an analog lover used to take five figures to achieve. Like the lovely Exogal Comet we reviewed recently, the DAC 2v2SE is another addition to the list of highly musical yet reasonably priced DACs that will make you sit back and take notice. Combining major dynamic punch with lifelike tonality and lack of upper register glare has me questioning if I’d even bother with a turntable with an equivalent price tag to the DAC 2v2SE. Especially considering the ease and availability of digital music options.

As Rob mentions, if you are a music lover that doesn’t want to be committed to vinyl, you can build a phenominal music system for $5,000 – $10,000 using the DAC 2v2SE as your core component. While I used the DAC 2v2SE in the context of the system in room two with the PrimaLuna DiaLogue HP integrated amplifier and a pair of Quad 2812s, it was equally impressive with a vintage Conrad Johnson MV60SE tube power amplifier and the Graham LS5/9 speakers. Adding a few bits of Cardas Iridium interconnect and speaker cable brought the whole system cost to just under $10k. If I lost my job reviewing hifi gear, I could easily live with this system for a long time. I’m happy to award this DAC one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2017 and look forward to sampling more offerings from this manufacturer sooner rather than later.

Publishers note:  Just as we are going live with this review, the guys at W4S have let us know that they will be sending an anniversary model by for comparison…  Stay tuned!

Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2v2SE

Please Click here to visit the WFS site….

MSRP:  $3,799


Digital Sources: Mac Mini, Roon Music Service, SimAudio 780D DAC, Oppo Sonica DAC

Amplification: Conrad-Johnson Classic Sixty-Two

Preamplification: Coffman Labs G1-B

Speakers: GamuT RS3i

Cables: Jena Labs

Power: Torus AVR 15 Plus, RSA Mongoose power cords

Accessories: ASC tube traps, Mapleshade Samson audio racks, Coffman Labs Equipment Footers, AudioQuest Jitterbug, Atomic Audio Labs Mac Mini stand

Cardas Crosslink Interconnect

One of the questions I’m often asked by fans of vintage hifi, is where to find an upgraded interconnect cable that sounds better than standard issue Best Buy/Radio Shack cable, but doesn’t have a four figure price tag.

Just as you can’t fit a pair of 19-inch wheels and low profile tires under the wheel wells of a BMW 2002tii, (if you have, please don’t send me a picture) it’s tough if not impossible to plug todays “audiophile” cables into the tightly packed jacks of a vintage audio component. And some home theater receivers, for that matter.

Cardas Audio solves the problem on both counts. Their Crosslink interconnects come terminated with RCA or XLR plugs and they are assembled with care by the same people that make their Clear cables. While these are very inexpensive cables at $159 for a meter pair, when you see the quality of the connectors and finish, you’d expect to pay a lot more.

The sound is pure Cardas. Ever so slightly on the warm side of neutral, but maintaining a great sense of tone. Connecting my Nakamichi 600 system together, using one pair between preamplifier and power amp, with the other between cassette deck and pre, the Crosslink cables reveal a lot more music than the garage sale cables I was using. I had a similar revelation with the Anthem MRX-510 HT receiver in my living room, but that’s another column.

Crosslink is the only cable that Cardas makes available in bulk, so if you need custom lengths for a new or vintage system, help is only a phone call away.

If you’d like to give that vintage system a tune-up, this is our suggestion.

Cardas Crosslink Interconnect


$159/1m pair, other lengths on request

The Coincident Dynamo SE 34Mk. II

There is a coherence to the single ended triode design that is tough to ignore. Passing the signal through a single triode in the output stage has a grain free purity that will have you converted in no time at all.

Critics around the world raved about the original version of this amplifier (Priced at $1,295) and though I haven’t had any personal time with the original, every other Coincident product I’ve auditioned or owned has been a top of class product. The current Mk. II version is now $1,495, and has had nearly every component beefed up. Bigger transformers, bigger capacitors, more power supply capacity, etc., etc.

And the chassis is beautiful. As Coincident’s owner Israel Blume comments, “While far more costly than chromed steel, stainless steel is non-magnetic, eliminating hysteresis distortion and the mirror finish is permanent – unlike chrome, which is prone to pitting and eventual peeling.” This is not only a component you want to put front and center – proudly, it’s a component you will probably hand down to a family member.

Heading straight for the female vocal tracks, Anja Garbarek’s Smiling and Waving proves a revelation, with Ms. Garbarek’s voice materializing between the two Coincident Dynamite speakers that have been sent along to review. My other favorites, Ella Fitzgerald, Shelby Lynne and Anne Bisson all seem to just walk out from inside the speakers in such an effortless, grain free, natural way. Even though they have a sensitivity rating of 90db/1-watt, the Mk. II drives them with authority.

It feels more like a 20 or 30 wpc amplifier, and my old Dynaco Stereo 70 (30wpc on a good day) runs out of steam quicker than this 8-watt per channel wonder. It’s amazing what solid vacuum designs coupled with modern manufacturing can produce.

Why the EL-34?

The Dynamo SE34 Mk. II takes a slightly different approach to the SET thing, using a single EL34 pentode, configured as a triode, with a single EL34 per channel in the output stage, driven by a 6SL7 tube. These days, a good supply of EL34s are available as new stock tubes and the Mk. 3 sounds great as it is right out of the box.

When asked about this seemingly off the beaten path choice, when so many SET amplifiers are built around a 300B or 2A3, he replies, “the EL-34 is widely available, inexpensive, and has exceptionally low distortion when used in single-ended triode mode. Most importantly, this tube has wide frequency response, offering a highly transparent and neutral tonality.”

The proof is in the listening. Removing my $20,000 Nagra 300B amplifier from the system and replacing it with the Mk.II doesn’t reveal a delta of $19,000. Much as I love the Swiss brand, the truth is in the listening. And with a couple of super high efficiency speakers in the system, I prefer the Coincident amplifier.

Extra credit

While this is essentially a budget amplifier from a price standpoint (though not in performance) it may not make sense to someone to invest in another $500 or more in NOS tubes. The Mk. 3s small tube compliment (2 – EL34s, 2-6SN7s and a 5AR4) makes this amplifier a tube rollers delight. Seeing I just happened to have some great Siemens NOS EL34s hanging around, as well as the other two, it was worth investigating. To make this clear, the Mk.II sounds fantastic out of the box and like some tube gear I’ve heard, it does not need a set of vintage tubes to make it sing. However, thanks to the Mk. II being gentle on tubes to begin with, investing in a few NOS tubes can be fun and rewarding. Think of it as replacing the Pilot Super Sports on your car with Cup 2s, or for those of you that aren’t auto enthusiasts, the icing on the cake.

Ultimate simplicity

Music lovers just playing vinyl or digital exclusively, can use the Mk.II as your sole component, as it has a single pair of RCA, line level inputs – no preamplifier is required. Most of the listening tests conducted running the dCS Rossini DAC/Clock straight into the Mk. IIs line level input went great connected directly. When switching between multiple source components, the Pass XS Pre was used. That these are 40 and 65 thousand dollar components speaks volumes as to how much music this diminutive box reveals.

Thanks to auto bias, the output tubes won’t need much attention. Combining this with the soft start function of the tube rectifier, tube life should be excellent, as it is with the rest of the Coincident product line. All wiring is point to point, so even if something should ever fail, repairs will be easy to troubleshoot and easy to diagnose, just as the best vintage components from Marantz and McIntosh are.

Better than the numbers

Have you ever met one of those scrappy little dogs that thinks he’s a big dog? That’s the Dynamo; this amplifier has a huge heart. Though a single ended design, this amplifier is affected far less by speaker and crossover loading than any other SET I’ve lived with. Your listening habits will dictate speaker choice, but I suggest keeping to 90db/1 watt speakers or better. Coincident’s own Dynamite speakers proves tons of fun, as do the equally efficient Vandersteen 1s. Thanks to that beefy power supply and the headroom it affords, Blume tells me that he has owners with 86db/1 watt speakers report they are more than satisfied with the Mk. II’s output.

As mentioned earlier, this amplifier has a more robust power supply than its predecessor and offers amazing grip in the bass region, something small SETs usually lack. Even when listening to heavy rock or EDM tracks, this amplifier offers up a solid musical foundation. Where some SET designs are notorious for loose, floppy, one-note bass, the Mk. II keeps a lock on things. I was pleasantly surprised at how loud I could play Led Zeppelin and Tool before the soundstage flattened out from being overdriven.

The magic is in the midrange and upper registers, and this amplifiers ability to reveal layer upon layer of musical texture is indeed sublime. Listening to the current remix of the Beatles’ Sargent Pepper, which for those not familiar is a more dynamic, forward mix than even the remastered discs from about six years ago is sheer joy. With so much more information at your disposal, it’s not only easier to hear all the individual instrument lines, the harmonies of the group are now more accessible as well. An equally pleasant rendition of the audiophile warhorse from The Fairfield Four, Standing in the Safety Zone is achieved with the Mk. II. Those four guys just seem to inhabit the listening space. If there was ever an excuse for the “less is more” attitude towards design, the Mk. II nails it.

Vintage fun

Making it a point to get a pair of Zu Druids in to experience what super-efficient speakers can do with 8 watts per channel, going back in time proves even more enjoyable. A recently acquired pair of mint, mid 70s Klipsch LaScalas mated to the Mk.II is some of the most fun I’ve ever had listening to music. Combined with the Simaudio NEO 260 CD player/DAC (purchased used in excellent shape from our pals at Echo Audio in Portland, Oregon) the entire system is about $3k.

Dynamics are definitely the fourth dimension in music, and listening to some of my favorite classic rock records with this kind of pure sock, is immersive to say the least. Whether jamming out to the alarm clocks on Dark Side of the Moon, or some Jimi Hendrix, the Mk. II paints a vivid, three-dimensional soundstage that is easy to swim around in. Hifi doesn’t get any more fun than this. Should you be a Klipsch lover looking for the perfect amplifier, this is an amazing choice and my personal favorite. I’ve never heard a pair of LaScalas sound better. I suspect the Mk. II would be equally great with Altec Voice of the Theater speakers as well. The only thing I didn’t get to try was a pair of single driver speakers. Maybe next time.


If you’ve got speakers that can live with 8 watts per channel, I can’t suggest a more enjoyable amplifier than the Coincident Dynamo Mk. II. It offers a degree of refinement that you’d expect from a tube amplifier with another zero on the end of the price tag. Along with being robustly built, the Mk. II is aesthetically pleasing to boot. Those with a huge room and average sensitivity speakers might consider a larger amplifier from Coincident, but if you can work within what the little Dynamo can deliver, it’s very impressive.

Considering that a decent, stand-alone headphone amplifier alone will set you back $1,500 these days, getting a power amplifier too makes the Mk. II a stone-cold bargain. Running through the gamut of headphones at our disposal, (Audeze, Grado, Koss, Pryma and OPPO) reveals the Mk. II has no difficulty driving any of them. Blume reveals that instead of an inexpensive op amp, the output of the amplifier drives the headphones directly, so that the output available is huge. This also gives the benefit of your favorite phones having the same sonic signature delivered to your speakers.

So, if this sounds like your idea of the perfect audio joy ride, give Mr. Blume a call and tell him we sent you. The Dynamo Mk. II is highly deserving of one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2017, and if we gave out an “Extra Effort” award, it would win that too.

The Coincident Dynamo SE34 Mk.II amplifier



Analog Source            Grand Prix Audio Monaco 2.0 turntable/Tri-Planar/Lyra Etna

Phonostage                  Pass Labs XS Phono

Digital Source             dCS Rossini DAC and Clock

Speakers                      Coincident Dynamite, Vandersteen 1Ce, Zu Druid, Klipsch LaScala

Cable                           Cardas Iridium

Power                          Equi=Core 1800

Trade Up Program at Audio Research!

For the next two weeks, Audio Research is offering a “trade up” program, with up to 75% of original MSRP on selected models.

This is a great way to get that system update you’ve been pondering, and we think this is a pretty cool way to make the process easier. How many times has the person you share your space with say “You can’t have a new toy unless you get rid of the old one?” You know what we’re talking about.

So, rather than go through the agony of Ebay or Audiogon, potential shipping damage, not getting paid, etc etc. (and don’t forget Ebay takes about 10-12% off the top anyway) why not stop down to your local Audio Research dealer and make this a painless upgrade?

Please click here for full details…