This review addresses the Boelen-modified EAD Ovation Plus’ 2-channel audio performance. Boelen-Noble Electronics offered me the Ovation in its original form for a first audition, which was returned later to them for modification. This review addresses performances of the Ovation in these two periods.
For background on Boelen Electronics, please see the Introduction section in the Digital-Precise Review.
In the 25 years since the first market appearance of separate digital-to-analog converters in the late 80’s to the present day, most manufacturers have been designing their products to serve 2-channel audiophiles, except for EAD (Enlightened Audio Designs).
EAD was founded by Alastair Roxburgh and John Hagelin of Fairfield, Iowa, in 1990, until its acquisition by Alpha Digital Technologies of Ashland, Oregon in 2001. Since then, Frank Boelen’s Boelen Electronics had been offering modifications and repair to EAD owners, until that portion of the business was taken over by Greg Palma’s Noble Electronics in late 2005. Though no longer providing modification and repair to EAD owners, Boelen Electronics continued to market the Boelen Digital-Precise digital cable that Dagogo reviewed in March 2005.
As the modification operations changed during the finalization of this review, Boelen/Noble will be mentioned simultaneously in this space.
The PLUS modification performed on the EAD Ovation was a collaboration between the newly formed Boelen/Noble Electronics and Midwest Research Corporation, the latter of which was also founded recently, and headed by Greg’s brother, Robert E. Palma Jr., MRC’s very own President and Chief Engineer. An important article authored by Robert E Palma Jr., titled Rocket Science Applied To Extreme Audio, will be published here on Dagogo shortly.
According to Greg Palma, EAD’s then-Director of Manufacturing, and Boelen Electronics’ Director of R&D, now Noble Electronics’ President and Director of R&D, EAD began work on Rotel’s then-$499 RCD-855 CD player as its first modification project. In light of positive reviews on EAD’s Accu-Linear™-based modification, Greg was hired in April 1991 as the third member of the squad to help with the demand growth.
EAD proceeded to create its first stand-alone DAC in the ensuing months and coined it the DSP 7000. Fitted with a gold faceplate, this unit was shown to audiophiles in a show in June 1991, and generated a number of orders so significant, that its payroll leaped from that of 4 employees to 20 in a matter of weeks.
As pointed out by Greg, who had the double duty as the QC Manager in charge of training new employees, 1995 was the year when EAD employed 54+ employees, many of whom were musicians selected by Greg to be trained as assemblyman, for their ability to demonstrate “good skills with their hands”.
Between the interim of September 2001 and December 2004, Alpha Digital Technologies of Ashland Oregon took over and relabeled several products. The original, 6-channel, TheaterMaster Encore/Ovation/Signature became the TM 6000 series for their 6-channel application, and similarly, TM 8000.
It was during the same period that Frank Boelen founded Boelen Electronics to provide repair and augmentation services to EAD products, until the founding of Noble Electronics recently.
Per Greg, Alpha Digital ceased EAD manufacture operations around December 31, 2004, and it was not yet known whether EAD would be revived at the time of this writing.
A rough history of EAD products:
1990 to 1991: Rotel 855 CD player
1991 to (no data): DSP 7000 DAC
1991 to 1992: T 7000 laser disc/CD player
1992 to (no data): DSP 1000 DAC (an economy version of the DSP 7000)
1992 to (no data): T8000 laserdisc/CD player
1992: Theatervision laser disc/CD player
1992: DSP 9000 pro DAC
1994 to 1997: TheaterMaster (classic)
1994 to 1997: Smart Cable RF demodulator T8000
199?: T1000 CD player
1996: DV1000 DVD player designed with Faroudja
1997: TheaterMaster Encore/0vation/Signature
1997: Ultradisc 2000 CD player
1997: Ultradisc 2000 T CD transport, PowerMaster 2000 (5-channel, 400 watts per channel), PowerMaster 500 (5-channel, 100 watts per channel), PowerMaster 1000 (5-channel, 200 watts per channel)
1999 to 2001: Theatervision P DVD player (with progressive scan output)
2000: Ultradisc Pro DVD player (which later became DVDmaster), PowerMaster (8-channel, which later became PowerMaster 8300 series of development), 8- channel Upgrade for the TheaterMaster E/O/S
EAD’s TheaterMaster Ovation offered audiophile 2-channel playback on top of the lower model, Encore-based 5.1-channel surround sound playback. Therefore, inclusive of the various Encore amenities, such as Dolby Digital® 5.1 surround sound, DTS Digital Surround™, Dolby Pro Logic®, MPEG2 decoding, DSP-based 4th order crossover networks, sibilance-reducing CINEQ™ equalization, 6-video-input integrated video switching and RS-232 compatibility, the Ovation was added HDCD® decoding, 6 precision Burr Brown PCM1702 20-bit DACs, EAD-exclusive AccuLinear current-to-voltage conversion chip, Digital Flywheel™ jitter reduction, balanced stereo outputs and remote volume control.
Boelen/Noble Electronics’ modification bestowed the PLUS designation onto Ovation, and its “Mods” sheet stated its goal on the modification of the EAD TheaterMaster Ovation in the following:
“By reducing the power supply noise, eliminating unwanted energy and reduceing the non musical content in the music pass band, what remains is a more transparent natural sound. Boelen Electronics has developed these components and techniques from many months of R&D in our lab. These mods have also been field-tested by many audiophiles who all agreed that the changes and improvements we have made that can be measured by our scopes, spectrum analyzers and other equipment indeed has a direct positive impact in the audio range.”
Modification involved the following:
• Replacing 8 original rectifier diodes on the motherboard with a Fairchild “Stealth” soft recovery Diode, to minimize switching transits and ringing in the main power supply circuits
• Adding 8 Boelen/Noble Electronics proprietary DNA (Dissipative Noise Attenuation) circuits to the DAC outputs on LF, RF (RCA & XLR), LR and RR, for reducing unwanted power supplies energy/noise
• Adding 15 Black Gate capacitors for power supply de-coupling in the DAC board’s analog output power supply circuit
• Adding 12 Rubycon capacitors for power supply de-coupling in the 6 DAC’s analog power supply circuit
• Adding low pass filter (LPF) to the LF, RF, LR, RR, Center, RCA and XLR outputs for reducing noise inherent in analog amplifier/driver amplifier, as well as the conversion noise of the DACs.
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