ALPS analog volume controls and rotary switches

I love it when I see this kind of thing…  So I’m doing a little research on the new Marantz DSD DAC (bought it…  review here) and I see that it’s got a remote control, which makes me suspicious.

We all know that remote controls can spell disaster to high quality analog signal paths, so before I pull the trigger on this beauty, I’ve gotta know how it’s pulling off remote control of the volume, which is by definition directly in the signal path.

Many “audiophile quality” components pass this duty off onto an integrated circuit (IC) and I immediately call foul if that’s the case, so the internet search begins…  Of course, no one else on the forums is looking at this.  You can find out everything about this DAC from here to Sunday and a great deal about a lot of things that make absolutely no difference to sound quality.  But try to find out this essential ingredient and it’s neigh on impossible.

So, I start looking at nude pics of the circuitry, which usually tells the story (Nude photos of analog gear usually tell a big part of the story).  There’s nothing from any of the usual suspects on the USA forums, but I hit pay dirt on the Japanese ones (the general population of Japan just seems to care more… that’s why they came out with SHM SACDs (SHM SACDs – do they really sound better?).  And, loh and behold, there it is in all it’s glory, an ALPS motorized POT (shown in the upper left of the photo), exciting!

Exciting you say?  A 50+ year old technology (ALPS has been manufacturing volume controls and rotary switch since 1948) in a brand new, state of the art, DAC?…  Absolutely!  The folks at Marantz had the guts to concede that the technology of an era past far exceeds (in sound quality anyway), that of the present IC crap that fills all AVRs and even some “audiophile grade” components today.  It’s the same APLS potentiometer (POT) used on on my Nakamichi CA-5A preamplifier from the early 1980s (The Nakamichi CA-5A preamplifier), just with a motor on it to facilitate remote volume control (yes… when you push the button on the remote it actually turns the volume control with a motor, which is awesome 🙂


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