Audial Model S

Audial is a small audio company owned by Pedja Rogic and based in Belgrade, Serbia ( Well-respected as an expert in the digital domain, Audial has produced a variety of digital-to-analog converters (DACs), my reference unit being the superlative Model S. (A USB version  of the Audial Model S was released in July 2011, and the substantively similar Model S MkII was released in July 2012. A Model S MkIII was released in July 2015.)

The Model S is an ideal source: clear, clean, detailed, and free from spurious artefacts. Moreover, there is no digital harshness here, no undue sibilants, and no fuzzy bass register either. All frequency ranges are natural sounding, with all layers of the recording fully audible. The soundstage is deep and wide, and micro dynamics are excellent. Best of all, the Model S provides an absolutely clear window on the musicians—a sense of participation in the music making.

One of the most revelatory characteristics of the Model S is its resolution; for example, the ability to delineate different timbres even in similar pitch ranges. Among the many examples that could be cited, one can differentiate all three voices of the chamber organ in In dulci jubilo from The Baltimore Consort's Bright Day Star (Dorian). Or, on Louis Lortie's complete Beethoven piano sonata collection (Chandos), one can easily hear and appreciate the different pianos used. Likewise, concerted textures (instruments and voices combined) are fabulously clear; for example, in Concerto Palatino's marvellous recording of the Cavalli Vespers (harmonia mundi), the different voices, trombones, cornetti, and violins all weave together harmoniously yet remain clearly defined and individual. In short, the Model S's resolution of detail and portrayal of sound stage is extraordinary.

Due to its transparency, the Model S demands high quality ancillary equipment and recordings. Pair it with an excellent amplifier, decent cables, and of course, full-range high-resolution loudspeakers. And please be aware that whatever qualities a recording contains will be reproduced faithfully—joy, wonder, and exhilaration if appropriate—or poor microphone placement or editing on the other hand. Caveat emptor.

Given the difficulty of auditioning Audial products in person, I was initially worried about purchasing them unheard. All of my interactions with Audial have been excellent and straight forward. Contact me for a reference.

I formerly briefly enjoyed the entry-level Audial D-09 DAC (discontinued), and listening notes can be found here.


Postscript (summer 2014): I occasionally get asked whether I still enjoy the Model S, and the answer is an emphatic yes. It still has pride of place in our main listening system.

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