● Codecs: CD, CD-R, CD-R/W, SACD, DVD, DVD-A,
-R, DVD-R/W, DVD+R, DVD+R/W
● MPEG Decoder: ST Micro Omega Series
● DACs: Burr-Brown
● Analog Gain Block: Burr-Brown
● Analog Output Block: Burr-Brown
● Power Supply: 13 Regulated Stages
● Dimensions: 4" H x 18.9" W x 12.75" D
● Weight: 24 Pounds
● MSRP: $4,300 USA Two-Channel, $4,700 for Multi-
Normally, Secrets reviews begin with a list of specs. Obtaining specs from
Muse, however, was no easy task. They're not printed in the component manual,
and they're not listed on-line. Nor has Muse updated its website since 2004.
The company doesn't even list a phone number on the web. All you can deduce
from the website is that they're located somewhere in Garden Grove, California.
Perhaps Muse has taken its cue from Greta Garbo, and wants to be alone.
Multiple e-mail exchanges with Kevin Halverson, CEO of Muse, produced some
highly technical information, such as what components are in the analog gain
In further correspondence, I attempted to obtain some simple basic specs
such as frequency response, signal-to-noise ratio, etc. I even sent Kevin the
specs I had included in my review of the Theta Gen. VIII DAC/preamp, asking
him to supply Muse's version of same when applicable.
Here are excerpts from Kevin's reply:
Analog inputs: "If equipped with the optional analog input module, there would
be two input pairs. One unbalanced via "RCA" connectors, one balanced pair via
3-pin female 'XLR' connectors. The input impedance of the unbalanced pair is
10k Ohms, the balanced path is 10k + 10k Ohms."
Frequency response: "This is highly variable, depending upon the mode of
operation. In the case of 44 kH source material, the upper frequency response
is dominated by the DF (digital filter) as opposed to the analog or
reconstruction filter. Typically, the filters stop band attenuation begins at
.454 FS and is 'flat' below that point with a passband ripple of +/- .002 dB.
At higher sampling rates, the analog filter begins to dominate this
measurement. In all cases the analog filters pole is - 3 dB by 75 kHz. The low
frequency is not high pass filtered so there is no pole at the low frequency
side. If you want a table of bandwidth let me know which sample rates (and
data types) are of interest."
THD, Noise, etc.: "Our FS (full scale calibration) point is 2 Volts RMS from
either the balanced or unbalanced (fixed) outputs. With the attenuator option
installed, the range is up to 6 Volts RMS from either output. Reproducing a 1
kHz FS sine wave, the fixed output THD+N (un-weighted) is less than .002%. With
weighting, this will change depending upon the weighting parameters used."
Dynamic Range and Signal to Noise ratio: When I told Kevin that Theta
claimed 125 dB ref 18 VRMS Balanced, he replied:
"This is an absurd specification as 18V RMS represents a level that would have
overdriven virtually any amplifier (or even most preamplifier) well before
this level was reached. This specification is also dimensionless in terms of
"A more "realistic" measurement would be either the weighted or un-weighted
noise performance compared to the typical FS output. This could be expressed
as "dynamic range" by inverting the sign of the noise floor. The Model Eleven
exhibits an "A weighted" noise floor of approximately 10 uV RMS. Contrasted to
the 2 Volt FS output, this would be a -106 dB. (Note: the difference between 2
Volts and 18 Volts would be an additional 19 dB difference). In the case of
the Model Eleven, the unbalanced and balanced outputs have similar noise
"The DF (digital filter) used in the Model Eleven is monolithic and concurrent
with the converter. It utilizes a different architecture than does a general
"The Model Eleven, being a multi-format device (and not one that converts DSD
to PCM) utilizes a mixed architecture configuration or 'Advanced Segment'
topology. In its PCM mode of operation, the DAC uses an 8x
interpolation (oversampling) filter driving an 'Advanced Segment DAC
Modulator' with differential outputs for both channels. The data path consists
of an upper 6-bit ICOB decoder and a lower 18-bit 3rd order delta sigma
Volume Control: "When equipped with the attenuator option, the Model Eleven
utilizes a differential pair of digitally controlled analog attenuators
(configured as ladder divider and programmable feedback gain combination
Digital Filter: "8x FIR in PCM mode, N/A in DSD mode."
Size: "Not inclusive of the rear panel connectors, the Model Eleven's
dimensions are 18.9" W, 3.5" H (not inclusive of the machined aluminum feet -
if so equipped), 12.75" D."
Weight: "Depending upon the configuration (and options) the Model Eleven has a
weight of 22-24 lbs."
Beyond the Technical
Until Scot Markwell of Elite Audio Distribution spoke to me about this player,
I had not heard much about Muse for a number of years. I still recall the
praise that several audiophile publications lavished on Muse's old preamp, and
welcomed the opportunity to review the Muse Model Eleven Universal player.
The Muse Model Eleven is not the first Universal player I've reviewed, but it
is the first I can comfortably call "high-end." After months of listening to
this component, I'm convinced that its price tag reflects quality of design
The Model Eleven is available in either two-channel or multi-channel
configuration. Owning a two-channel system, I requested the two-channel
version. This does not imply any value judgment concerning multi-channel
reproduction. Rather, it reflects the realities of financial, space, and
lifestyle constraints (the spouse acceptance factor, you know).
Were I to win the lottery tomorrow – with a California Super Lotto track
record as poor as mine, the only way to go is up – I would not hesitate to
assemble a multi-channel audio and home theater system whose sound would
hopefully surpass that of my current two-channel audio reference system. Given
current realities, however, this review reports my observations of two-channel
audio performance, which are my primary albeit not sole areas of interest.
Regular Secrets readers understand that this site cannot bench test every
piece of equipment submitted for review.
Since the Muse was shipped directly to Casa Bellecci-Serinus, which is not
equipped with sophisticated testing apparatus, bench testing was not an
The Muse comes equipped with both single-ended and balanced outputs. It also
offers the option of an internal, remote-controlled analog volume control that
enables the user to bypass a preamp and connect the player directly to a power
It took all of two minutes to confirm that, as good as my Theta Gen. VIII's
internal preamp may be, the extra circuitry it adds to the signal path
detracts from the level of transparency and openness achieved by directly
connecting the Muse to my Jadis DA-7 Luxe power amplifier. Connecting a CD
player's variable output directly to a power amplifier does not always
produce a benefit, especially if the output is just through some inexpensive
op-amp modules. However, in the case of the Muse, direct connections
produced the best sound.
I used Nordost Valhalla 1.5 meter single-ended interconnects between the Model 11
and power amplifier, and Nordost Valhalla 1.5 meter balanced interconnects between
the Model 11 and an AV123 Rocket subwoofer. When I wanted to listen to my tuner or my
regular Theta transport-Theta DAC/preamp-Jadis configuration, the interconnect
switchover took 90 seconds to accomplish. Most of the time was spent
untangling various interconnects and insuring that they weren't touching power
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