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47 Labs Shigaraki System Review

by Josh Ray, Dec 06 '07

Shigarakisystem

SONICFLARE REVIEW: 47 Labs Shigaraki System
4716 CD Transport ($1980), 4715 DAC ($1480), 4717 Integrated Amplifier ($1980)
Sakura Systems
by Sandy Greene

Soniccircle10-2

CONCLUSION FIRST
You really don’t get more unique in form, function and appearance than the 47 Lab Shigaraki system, combining the 4716 CD Transport, 4715 DAC and 4717 Integrated amplifier. The sound of the entire system (with Audio Note An/E-LX speakers) is not as unique as it is familiar… familiar because it is realistic, natural and revealing.

Musical elements are placed precisely in a visual landscape from left to right, front to back and top to bottom. The same musical elements are true to form (a vintage ride cymbal sounds its age, a Fender Twin miked on a sound stage versus computer-modeled, a pissed-off Jack White making you nervous). The defined soundstage and truthful musical timbres completely compliment each other delivering a full sonic performance that achieves my highest goal when evaluating a stereo system… transporting me to the performance and teasing out my emotions.

SONIC CIRCLE SOUND
The Vivid label for the 47 Lab gear is fitting with an overall sound that is truly exciting and with bass that is quite surprising. The flavor of the Shigaraki gear is a little drier and less robust and physical than you would find from a class-D amp like the Red Wine Audio Signature 30, which I reviewed about a year ago for SonicFlare.

The realism and truthfulness I described above is quite unique from the kind of accuracy you would find from other components in the Precise group. While Josh had described the potential ear burn of overly precise gear in his ATC19 review (not that the 19’s are that way, but Precise gear can be), the Shigaraki system never presents detail in a way that would make you wince. The Shigaraki gear seems to take the presentation right up to the point of hyper-detail while avoiding overloading the listener with that experience.

There’s a neutral evenness and flatness to the Shigaraki sound that’s more true-to-life in my opinion than you would find in the Emotional group. The sound is very much holistic and coherent with the Shigaraki system. If anything has sonic prominence, it is a pretty broad midrange. Yet that broad midrange prominence, even within itself, is very even (no low-mid, mid-mid or high-mid peaks; just plenty of midrange). That prominence in the midrange allows for some pretty impactful dynamic swings.

SYSTEM SYNERGY
With the complete Shigaraki system under review, all that is needed is a complimentary set of speakers. The best match, from a few different makes I’ve had in for review recently are the Audio Note An/E-LX speakers. The Shigaraki also did well, although not quite as well balanced, with the Verity Audio Rienzi’s and the Gemme Audio Tanto’s.

The appearance of the Shigaraki 4717 integrated amplifier alone would not lead you to believe strong low-end output is a defining characteristic. Surprisingly it is, and the Verity Rienzi’s and Gemme Tanto’s need no help in that area. The Audio Notes on the other hand rely on placement close to a rear wall or corner to help with low-end output. Matching them with the 4717 allows you to pull the Audio Notes out a little further from the rear wall and allow for a more open soundstage.

Numerous reviews of the Shigaraki gear recommend matching the 4716 Transport with the 4715 DAC and the DAC with the 4717 Integrated Amplifier. I’d have to agree. I tried the DAC with the help of a Hagerman USB fed by uncompressed audio from my Mac Powerbook G4. I also tried the transport-DAC combo through my Rogue setup. Lastly I ran the integrated off of my iPod with uncompressed files playing.

Without a doubt the magic happens when the 47 Lab Shigaraki CD Transport feeds their DAC on its way to their integrated amplifier eventually powering the Audio Note loudspeakers. There was simply a coherence and aural presentation that brought the individual strengths together as one.

LIFESTYLE
You’re an adventurous individual if you choose the 47 Lab Shigaraki system as your hi-fi centerpiece. You’re the type that searches out the very best designed objects from coffee mugs to computer bags to vacuums. You are the type who expects every detail of an object’s minimal form to be considered for its function as much as its aesthetic. No doubt you will buy the Shigaraki system to make a visual statement as much as a sonic statement.

No commercial rack out there is designed to cleanly hold the numerous components. Take a look at Sakura System’s “showroom” on their web site to see many users’ systems and you’ll see what I mean (http://sakurasystems.com/show.html).

Each unit has it’s own separate power supply. The DAC and transport’s power supplies are the same size and cased in Shigaraki dark grey ceramic material. The power supply for the integrated is a folded steel cube. The transport is also steel and like the integrated and its power supply, sits on a slab of Shigaraki ceramic.

As a whole, these components are completely opposite of the snap-and-connect ergonomics of the Resolution Audio system I reviewed for SonicFlare in May. You’ll have many exposed wires connecting numerous boxes of different shape and material. Sounds pretty messy but I for one love the look. In my opinion it’s sculptural and architectural and each piece is a beautiful miniature design statement unto itself.

BUYING RECOMMENDATION
Certainly as a complete system matched with more neutral and flat speakers, the Shigaraki system excels. As individual components, all three pieces… the 4716 CD Transport, 4715 DAC and 4717 Integrated amplifier hold their own and have their own unique sonic and ergonomic characteristics.

To help the buyer determine how to slot in the individual components into their system, the Shigaraki 4716 transport and 4715 DAC create a flat, direct and dynamic soundscape. The Shigaraki digital gear is not as airy or robust as some other digital pieces I have had, nor are they as dimensional. But they do carry good pace and present the music in a very neutral and matter-of-fact way.

In use the 4716 Transport is as fun and manual as a turntable without the need to flip sides after 20-ish minutes (really as a CD turntable). Once the CD is placed on the transport and the puck is placed over the CD, the user must press a button to tell the player to manually read the CD’s table of contents (this function is not available from the remote).

The 4717 Integrated Amplifier has a similar neutral sonic characteristic and resemblance to the Shigaraki digital components, and delivers surprising low end and dynamics for its size and power (20x20w).

The Shigaraki gear is really special and requires a specific mindset in aesthetics, use and sound. Obviously this gear has found its niche audience and will continue to do so as there really is nothing else like it out there in the high-end hi-fi world.

TECH TALK
The 4717 integrated amplifier uses op-amp based circuitry and achieves 20 watts stereo and will drive any speakers as long as the impedance stays over 4 ohms. Its power supply is housed in a separate enclosure. It uses a vertical mixer-style volume control slider. It has 3 inputs and one set of speaker outputs, and has no balance control and no remote control.

The 4716 CD Transport uses a hard suspension for its drive and laser; coupling them physically down to the Shigaraki ceramic base. It has two RCA digital outputs, one DC filtered one AC coupled to use with the 4751 DAC. The 4715 DAC is non-oversampling and uses no digital or analog filtering. The transport and DAC are designed to keep as much circuitry out of the way of the bits as possible.

ADDITIONAL NOTES
One great thing about the 47 Lab Shigaraki gear is that it is so even, clean and fair with any style of music. The gear is designed to let the music come through as unaffected as possible. Below are some great new purchases that I thoroughly enjoyed through the 47 Lab Shigaraki system:

Wilco, Sky Blue Sky
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, Lifeline
Feist, The Reminder
Andrew Bird, Armchair Apocrypha
Beastie Boys, The Mix-Up
White Stripes, Icky Thump

Shigaraki Albums

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