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To Jeff Fritz,

I am one of the many readers who greatly enjoy reading about TWBAS, from initial search to final listening impressions. While I may never be able to afford such a system, it is great fun to know what a system assembled with great care and no budget constraint looks and sounds like. Moreover, every industry needs an upper benchmark to which everything else can and should be compared.

Here's where my suggestion comes in. Why not pit TWBAS [2012] directly against a terrific-sounding system costing five to ten times less? It would be ridiculous to pit a $5000 system against TWBAS, but some of us might aspire one day to a $50,000 system and want to know whether such a system would give us 60 percent or 95 percent of the absolute best. I would propose the following system:

1) Oppo BDP-95 used purely as a digital transport. Why such a cheap machine? Because the Oppo has the advantage of being a very versatile player, and because independent measurements on data-reading accuracy and jitter suggest it would be hard to beat purely as a digital transport (its analog section is another matter, of course).

2) Devialet D-Premier, which Mr. Schneider raved about, handling the DAC and amplification.

3) Magico Q3 speakers, which you raved about.

Cost on cables should be much less than for TWBAS [2009], since here a single digital cable would likely replace one or two pairs of analog interconnects (and because, even if one accepts there are performance differences across digital cables, one does not need to spend thousands to get top performance, unlike with their analog counterparts). The total cost of this system, depending on the speaker cables you chose, should be around $60,000. If previous years are anything to go by, TWBAS [2012] could easily exceed $300,000.

So, are you in?

Jacques Miniane
Baltimore, MD

Jacques, you must be a mind reader. I was just having this conversation with fellow reviewer Randall Smith the other day. We were discussing TWBAS 2012 and the conversation gravitated to how much performance we could get right now for as reasonable a budget as possible. I told him that if I had to assemble a system with almost no performance limitations in a real-world room, I would get a Devialet D-Premier and a pair of Magico Q3 speakers. Then I got stuck on the source, but you might have solved that dilemma for me.

I don't know what TWBAS 2012 will ultimately look (and sound) like, but I do know that it will have to be darned good to surpass the system that you have proposed based on my listening. The Q3s driven by the Devialet D-Premier was featured this year at High End in Munich, Germany, and I got a good, long listen. You're right on track, Jacques. . . . Jeff Fritz