Most audiophiles will not be familiar with the brand Crane Song. That’s because David Hill, the chief designer,is known more in the pro audio world for producing quality compressors, EQ’s, AD/DA’s, and mic pre amps. He even tackled transparent audio monitoring with a Class A studio controller named the Avocet. Although other pre amps and monitor switchers exist, the Avocet provides accuracy and features that truly set it apart from other stereo monitor/DAC devices.
The DAC provided on the Avocet accepts sample rates up to 192Khz. This type of DAC locks to an incoming PCM signal and upsamples the data to reduce jitter while then running through a class A output path. The quality and sheer resolving power of the Avocet’s DAC is quite an achievement at this price point. You would have to spend considerably more to surpass the digital conversion contained onboard.
The Avocet ($2,800USD) comes in two pieces. A 2U mainframe houses all the physical inputs and outputs; 3 XLR analog, 3 AES/dual wire,1 RCA digital, 3 XLR analog outputs, and a headphone jack.. The RS232 compliant remote contains square buttons that are color coded. Speaker selection buttons are provided (expandable for surround), while other features include; dim, mute, phase, mono, and 16 bit truncation functions, even a talkback function. The highly accurate volume level is achieved through remote-controlled relays within the main chassis. A large green rotary knob on the remote has 24 LEDs and 2 dB level markings surrounding its perimeter. Even though only 24 LEDs surround the knob, 48 dB of level range is displayed by one or two LEDs being illuminated at a time. All in all, you are given a 48 dB range in 1 dB increments.
All the six inputs buttons serve a dual purpose. Pressing the button once selects that input. When you press and hold that button again, it begins to flash. This indicates level offset mode. Adjusting the level of that input is available in 0.5 dB steps. This is especially useful when comparing various sources. The way a mix sounded prior to the mastered (version) output with levels matched allows a mastering engineer to make qualitative assessments on his or her work. More so, this is a way audiophiles could compare various hardware and software sources. By level matching the two sources, you can easily switch between them and hear possible sonic differences. This is a great way to level match and assess various outboard DACs, SACD players, speakers, even different versions of the same recording.
Whether you work professionally with audio or use various sources to enjoy music, the Crane Song Avocet will provide you with original inventive features while always maintaining sonic integrity. This pre amp/monitor selector truly stands out with features that bring the user closer to the original recording.
-My highest recommendation!