Tokyo’s Furutech puts out a more affordable line of products under the Alpha Design Labs (ADL) banner that made serious waves some years ago with its GT40 – a tidy unit that housed headphone amplifier, MM/MC phono stage and USB DAC under one roof, giving users a single-box solution for digitizing vinyl (or ANY analogue source). Inputs were a simple choice of either USB or phono.
The pricier Esprit took the GT40’s essentials to the next level by adding pre-amp circuitry, a second line-level input, coaxial and optical inputs and an optical output (for USB pass-through).
Both models were super-popular with the audiophile press and you could easily make a case for ADL being ahead of the vinyl resurgence curve on this one.
With comes product refresh time at Alpha Design Labs. Now featuring elevated USB decoding/encoding ceilings of up to 24bit/192kHz apiece, the GT40 has been switched up to the Google-confounding GT40α status, stepping into shoes vacated by the now discontinued Esprit. The GT40α will holds firm to its predecessor’s US$499 pricing. Down under it’s yours for AU$750.
The thousand dollar Esprit has been replaced by the all-new (and less expensive!) Stratos. Out goes the Wolfson DAC and in comes the ESS Sabre ES9018K2M for single- and double-rate DSD decoding as well as PCM up to 32bit/192kHz. DXD sample rates are absent.
“Indeed, the STRATOS is far more than a classic GT-40 with DSD capabilities—every square inch of the STRATOS has been reconsidered and rethought using the latest technology and the latest designs.”, promises the press release.
The ADC chip still comes from Cirrus Logic but this time it’s a CS5340 that replaces the Esprit’s CS5361.
ADL’s ongoing recommendation for use of 16 Ohm – 300 Ohm headphones suggests that little has changed on the headphone output front. The continued presence of a TI TPA6120A2 op-amp confirms this.
The Stratos’ specifications be all like:
- USB Playback Resolution: 32bit/192kHz (Max.)
- USB Recording Resolution: 24bit/192kHz (Max.)
- Frequency response: 20Hz ~20KHz (+/-0.5dB)
- SN ratio: >95dB (A WTD)
- Analog Output Level: 5.0 Vrms
- Line Input Level: 2 Vrms
- S/PDIF Input: 24bit/192KHz (Max.)
- MC/MM Input Level: MC: 0.4mV / MM : 4.0mV
- MC/MM Input Capacitance: 100 PF
- Line Input Impedance: MC :100 ohm / MM :47K ohm / Line : 47K ohm
- Headphone Output Level: 1% THD 1kHz (Max.) 156mW(16 ohm),224mW(32 ohm), 241mW (56 ohm), 130mW (300 ohm), 76mW (600 ohm)
- Power Supply AC Adaptor Rating: Erp step2 compliant, 2Wire AC Input Type, Class II, AC/DC Switching Adaptor output DC 15V / 0.8A / 12W
- Dimensions: 150 (W) x 141 (D) x 57 (H) mm
- Weight: 930g Approx
At US$719 the Stratos presents as a more wallet-friendly alternative to PS Audio’s more flexible NuWave Phono Converter. Note that the PS Audio can encode to DSD whilst the ADL cannot and the PS Audio offers variable gain and cartridge loading whilst the ADL’s is fixed.
Arriving in Australia this October the Stratos’ local pricing might raise some eyebrows: AU$1100. And despite being launched at the Munich High End Show in May, these new models have yet to be detailed on the ADL website. Moon Audio has the skinny instead. (Press shots were also thin on the ground at time of writing).
With such a varied feature set it’s worth reminding ourselves that both the Stratos and GT40α aren’t just for digitizing vinyl. You can just as easily deploy them as standalone DAC, phono stage, pre-amplifier and/or headphone amplifier.
Further information: Alpha Design Labs
EDIT October 2014. Shot a couple of snaps of the GT40α at September’s New York Audio Show ’14: