"As the first electronic product in our AvantGarde range", says John Mulcahy, Head of Engineering of TAG McLaren Audio, "we were determined to show that we could match Aphrodite's superb looks with equally superb sound quality. Our engineering team were set the task of producing uncompromised technical performance within the 'designer music system' AvantGarde package and took to their task with great enthusiasm, drawing from the best features of our established products and in particular reaping the benefits of the extensive development work done for the AV32R, DPA32RDAB and T32R."

This is how the task was achieved:

CD Transport

The first task was to define the CD mechanism. It was quickly established that to realise Aphrodite's potential a new mechanism was needed, and after investigating the alternatives the latest Sony OEM mechanism was selected. This employs their latest transport mechanism and chipset, with digital servo control. We use a special derivative that is suited to our unique mechanical assembly. This transport is placed in a very substantial diecast aluminium platter, with its carefully tuned isolating suspension, which provides an ideal environment for the laser sled. The precision turned aerospace-grade aluminium disc puck further enhances the stability of the rotating assembly and makes its own small but important contribution to the marvellous sound quality. The Aphrodite CD mechanism quickly established that Aphrodite is now the best CD transport we make, even beating our TAGtronic sync-link equipped CDT20R-T2L in back-to-back testing! As a CD transport, Aphrodite comes second only to the extraordinary ability of our new DVD32R.

Advanced Microprocessor Control

The processor within the Sony chipset is slaved to the much more powerful Siemens 80C161 microcontroller, as used in the AV32R and all TAGtronic products, that is Aphrodite's brain, delivering the full complement of replay features. The Siemens microcontroller is combined with our custom-designed, highly legible vacuum fluorescent display to provide a flexible and intuitive user interface with a great many features, right down to a clock that can be automatically set from the RDS time signals broadcast by FM stations. TAGtronic communications allows for future software upgrades and communication with other products - allowing the easy addition of our forthcoming multiroom products.

Digital-Analog Conversion

Having established the means of getting a top class digital data stream from the disc, the engineers turned to the task of d-a conversion. There was an obvious candidate, the truly excellent AK4393 96kHz, 24 bit, 128-times oversampling converter used in AV32R and our new DPA32RDAB. We knew from the AV32R and DPA32RDAB developments that this was the best sounding converter of all those we had auditioned, so it was the natural choice for Aphrodite. The 96kHz capability of the DACs guarantees their excellent performance when processing the 128-times oversampled cd data, which is digitally filtered within the DACs with full 24-bit resolution. The performance is all we have come to expect from our knowledge of the part in the AV32R and is state of the art for CD d-a conversion.

FM & AM Tuner

The tuner in Aphrodite presented its own challenges. The performance of the rest of the product is so high that a great deal is asked of the tuner circuitry. Naturally, our reference standard T32R pointed the way. The RF front ends in FM and AM are taken directly from the T32R, as is the convenience of twin fm inputs to accommodate an antenna and a cable feed. Space constraints prevented the use of T32R's extraordinarily linear demodulation circuits, so our Formula One RF experts developed new circuits specially for Aphrodite. The result is quite marvellous - a little 'kinder' than T32R when presenting some less than perfect material, but equally adept at making the most of those highcalibre transmissions that are freely available to all of us.

Preamplifier Section

The next challenges lay in input selection, as Aphrodite incorporates internal CD and tuner sources plus external TV and tape inputs, and volume control. Our brand new DPA32RDAB analog/digital preamplifier led the way in this regard, itself building on the excellent foundation laid by the AV32R. The same electronic source selection is used, eliminating the deleterious effects of relays in the signal path. Volume control is based around the CS3310, an Integrated Circuit which was carefully selected to offer the best possible sound quality. The CS3310 provides digitally controlled analog domain volume control over a very wide dynamic range, with precise 0.5dB steps and truly excellent channel balance. A great deal of effort was spent during the AV32R development in determining the optimum circuit configuration for the chip to extract the best possible performance, and during the lengthy auditioning phase of Aphrodite further refinements were made. The result is that Aphrodite contains a highly transparent and refined preamplifier to best convey the remarkable abilities of its CD transport and da converter.

Power Amplifier

The final component in Aphrodite is the power amplifier. Here we drew on the European amplifier of the year, the 60iRv, with the refinements picked up during the development of the 100x5R. Aphrodite also benefits from the same gold-plated, oxygen-free, highpurity copper (OFHC) loudspeaker terminals used on 100x5R and our F1 loudspeaker, with more OFHC employed in the wiring that connects the terminals to the amplifier outputs.


Overall, Aphrodite combines in one package the best elements of a great many TAG McLaren Audio products, and - even better - our listening panel confirmed that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, as Aphrodite delivers a superbly musical performance to match its technical and aesthetic excellence.

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